Game of Thrones season 7 episode 1 ‘Dragonstone’ recap: Arya Stark’s chilling message

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The first episode of any season of Game of Thrones is a brutal affair, tossing you around so much between what’s passed and what’s to come that you invariably end up with a mild case of whiplash.

The pre-credit sequence here begins with a scene straight out of season three. There’s Walder Frey (David Bradley) presiding over a gathering of his kith and kin, raising a goblet in honour of the “brave men” who helped kill the Starks at the Red Wedding.


Trailer 2: Game of Thrones season 7

Wintery battles abound in Game of Thrones season 7.

But hang on, didn’t Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) slash his throat at the end of season six? Well yes, but she’s got that spooky Scooby Doo false-face trick up her sleeve, hasn’t she.

She’s led Walder’s baying pack into a trap, dropping the pellet with the poison into the chalice in the palace. As they choke and splutter, she whips off the Scooby faux-face and turns to the Frey daughters she has generously spared. “When people ask you what happened here, tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey.”

And so we’re off. Time elapsed in season seven so far: three minutes 44 seconds. Body count: about 70. This could get ugly.

Speaking of death, the Night King and his army of White Walkers emerge from the fog immediately after the opening titles. Never a good sign, I’m sure we’re all agreed.

We learnt last season that the Night King can summon the dead, and who’s that in the middle of his army but Wun-Wun, the wildling giant who fought so valiantly alongside Jon Snow in the Battle of the Bastards before dying from his wounds inside Winterfell. The nitpicky among us might wonder how the hell he got his rotting corpse up north so quickly, but let’s not get bogged down in details.

Back in the Starks’ ancestral home at last, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) is laying out his plans for defending the realm of the living from the coming onslaught. Top of the list, get digging for dragon-glass, which is the only thing known to kill White Walkers. “It’s more valuable to us now than gold,” he says. “We need to find it, we need to mine it, we need to make weapons from it.”

He seems so commanding, so king-like, this King of the North, but the women aren’t about to let him hog centre stage.

Tiny Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) is ready to do her bit. “I don’t plan on knitting by the fire while men fight for me,” she says.

Sansa (Sophie Turner) has had enough of playing second fiddle, too. She wants the castles of those who supported her villainous ex Ramsey Bolton to be reassigned to those who supported her and Jon, but he’s inconceivably wedded to the idea that inherited property is untouchable (an odd position, you might think, for a bastard to cling to).

“So there’s punishment for treason and there’s no reward for loyalty,” asks an incredulous and frankly not-very-subservient-to-her-brother-king Sansa, as Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) smirks approvingly.

Jon has his way, though, and the surviving heirs of House Umber and House Carstark pledge their loyalty, and with this pair of tweenies onside, the White Walkers are surely as good as dead.

Oh wait, they are already.

So here’s a question: what exactly do you call a dead person after they’ve been killed again? Dead-dead? Re-deaded? Dead-undead? Hmm. Suggestions by raven mail gladly welcomed.

Down in King’s Landing, Cersei (Lena Headey) has had a map painted of Westeros. “It’s ours,” she tells brother-lover Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). “All we have to do is take it.”

She paces the map. Enemies to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

She’s found a potential ally, though, the least likeable of the not-very-likeable clan from the Iron Islands.

Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) has his cold heart set on marrying the most beautiful woman in the world (we presume he’s talking about Cersei). She’s not so sure about that; they can sail, that mob, but they’re not much for loyalty.

“You murdered your own brother,” she notes, while hers stands beside the Iron Throne she has finally claimed as her own.

“You should try it,” Euron says. “It feels wonderful.”

Meanwhile, we find Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) lapping up monastic life in The Citadel: retching as he empties bedpans in the infirmary, recoiling as he weighs autopsied organs in the morgue. The manuscripts he desperately wants to get his hands on are just on the other side of a locked door. If only he could get his hands on a key. Like this one, on the table next to this dying old codger …

Later, we see him burning the midnight tallow, reading a purloined book. There’s a map of Dragonstone, and on it is marked a deposit of the most precious resource known to GoT man: dragon-glass.

“A mountain of it, beneath the ground,” Sam tells Mrs Sam, Gilly (Hannah Murray), whose offspring seems to have aged about four years since we last saw her. “This is important. Jon needs to know.”

As plot points go, it’s not one of GoT‘s finest moments.

Out in the woods, Arya comes upon a medieval Ed Sheeran, played by Ed Sheeran, singing “hands of gold are always cold, but a woman’s hands are warm”.

“It’s a pretty song,” she says. “I’ve never heard it before.”

“It’s a new one,” says Ed. “It’s a hidden track on my latest CD.”

The soldiers invite her to eat.

“Why is a nice girl on her own going to King’s Landing,” one asks.
“I’m going to kill the queen.”

Awkward silence. Oh, right, she’s joking. “Ha, ha, ha, ha.” She’s not joking.

And who’s this riding through the snow? Why if it isn’t Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann) and the Brotherhood Without Banners.

The priest Thoros (Paul Kaye) offers the Hound a drink, and almost gets his hand bitten off.

“Why are you always in such a foul mood,” he asks.

“Experience.”

Burnt, stabbed, left to die. Well, he does have a point.

Huddling from the cold in a house whose previous tenants are now corpses, The Hound asks Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) about his inability to die. “I’ve met better men than you, so why does the Lord of Light keep bringing you back?”

“I don’t understand Our Lord,” says Beric. “I only know he wants me alive.”

By way of explanation, Thoros beckons The Hound to the fire. He’s none too keen on the idea – losing half your face to flames has that effect – but finally agrees.

“What do you see,” Thoros asks.

“Logs burning.”

“Look again.”

Now he sees a vision – the Wall, and an army of the dead walking through it.

“Do you believe me now Clegane,” Beric asks. “Do you believe we’re here for a reason?”

Apart from the residuals, he means.

Finally, Daenerys and her armada land at Dragonstone, the Targaryens’ ancestral home on an island off the coast of Westeros, and more latterly (and briefly) the seat of the late Stannis Baratheon.

She and her posse – including Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) – walk through the abandoned clifftop castle, past the dragon carvings and into the Chamber of the Painted Table. Said table is in the shape of Westeros, and while it’s not as big as the map Cersei has had painted, it’s more impressive – what with being carved of Valyrian stone and all.

Danny wanders around. She’s imagining how the place might look with some curtains in that nice Laura Ashley fabric she saw the other day, and maybe that lovely urn Khal Drogo gave her could stand by the fireplace and…

“Shall we begin,” she asks.

Oh, yes please. Let’s. My neck is killing me.

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