Game of Thrones: “Dragonstone” Season 7 Premiere Review

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Game of Thrones is nothing if not itself. The opening scene of season seven, a deeply satisfying, albeit very concerning, reversal on the Red Wedding is just the latest genocide in the show’s run. And it was committed by sweet little Arya Stark. Remember when she used to play with her sister and her wolves, not a care in the world other than those of being a young girl? Well now she’s a murdering psychopath (but she’s our murdering psychopath!). Welcome back, folks. It’s been a long 13 months, but this summer, winter has arrived, and Game of Thrones seriously isn’t playing around anymore.

“Dragonstone” was an hour of complex table setting, catching us back up with where pretty much everyone is right now (I want to say this is the first season premiere since season two or so that actually touched base with every current story thread). And these weren’t just routine check-ins of characters walking, they’re starting to arrive at their destinations. Bran and Meera arrived at the Wall. Sam read about a mountain made entirely of dragonglass. Daenerys, bless her, finally put her hand on Westeros soil. These moves have to be made now, and using a gap between seasons to push things along was a smart choice. After all, as of tonight, there are just 12 episodes of Game of Thrones left.

So, now what?

Two wars are brewing, one in the North and one in the South, and they’re the two most exciting wars the show has ever had to set up. But every character, save for Arya, is focused on fighting at least one of these wars right now. Bran has his warg eyes on the army of the dead. The Hound has a religious experience that shows him the most challenging opponent he’ll ever face. Sam’s whole reason for being in Oldtown is to gain the knowledge needed to defeat the White Walkers. Jon is marshaling the resources in the North. It’s all very exciting (well, except for Sam, who hilariously spends more time in the episode cleaning shit than doing anything important, a perfect metaphor for his role on the series). But for Jon, ruling the North might get pushback from places he didn’t expect. Sansa is ready to fight a different war, the one in which Cersei aims to wage on all of Westeros. She also has some different ideas as to how to fight winter’s war, which she openly states while Jon is leading in front of everyone. This conflict between the siblings is just one of a few spots where the show feels like it still gets to be totally unpredictable. Jon fighting the White Walkers with Sansa at his side would be exciting, but the problems arising here are interesting and point to things remaining complicated rather than turning into a cliche war between good and evil.

Another factor of unpredictability at the moment is Arya, who is heading to King’s Landing for Cersei’s throat rather than Winterfell to be with her family. Arya’s involvement down there is quite nerve-wracking, in a good way. With Daenerys and Tyrion looking to hit King’s Landing most likely by the end of the season, Arya is an unforeseen factor in what is already being built up to an insane climax. The question becomes, who is going to kill Cersei? Arya? Tyrion? Jaime? The number of interpersonal conflicts coming to a head here grows even larger when you add in Euron Greyjoy, possibly soon to be Cersei’s wife and who Theon and Yara certainly have a grudge with.

“Dragonstone” sets all this up under the gorgeous direction of Jeremy Podewsa, a veteran for the series. He treats the titular locale in the end, with Daenerys slowly accommodating herself with her home, with a perfect mix of mystery and history. We’ve already seen one ruler fall from this throne, and like Sansa says to Jon, she has to be better than the rulers before her. She’s already shown she’s better than Stannis, but if she’s to rule all of Westeros, she has to be better than the family she was born into. She has to be better than Robert. She has to be better than Ned. Game of Thrones has approximately 12 hours left to get her there, if she survives. But if you just look at the love and care put into the moments where she reaches home, you know we’re in good hands. It’s monumental. It’s emotional. Somehow, 61 episodes into its run, Thrones hasn’t lost even a hint of its luster. That’s going to make the end of season eight even more difficult for those of us who love this series (which undoubtedly will go down as the decade’s defining series, as fans crashed HBO’s site once again this year). But what’s left of the ride looks to be more than worth it. Grade: A-

Some Other Notes:

  • A testament to how truly wonderful this humungous ensemble is: Tyrion doesn’t even get a line in the premiere, and I was riveted for pretty much every second. That includes Sam gagging at poop.
  • Ed Sheeran’s cameo was cute but awkward. It’s a really bizarre thing to watch a high-concept drama series try to pull off a blatant celebrity cameo just for the fun of it.
  • Jim Broadbent, on the other hand, was a very welcome face as Sam’s mentor of sorts. No show doesn’t benefit from a little British acting royalty.
  • Prediction: Arya is going to meet Melisandre again, after the latter promised so back in season three, some point this season now that she’s heading south. They could also very well be tied to Gendry’s long awaited return.
  • Sansa and Dany’s outfits this week were AWESOME. The scale detailing on Dany’s shoulder pads had me swooning. #fashion

By Matt Dougherty


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