Game of Thrones premiered it’s seventh season and it was, pretty much exactly what we expect from GoT premiers at this point. Everything is still too up in the air to figure out exactly where we’re going this season, so this is more of a reintroduction to the characters and the first threads of where this season might go, as the name of the episode suggests, it alludes to everyone with any dragonglass teaming up.
The show has so many primary characters it struggles to get anything done without leaving at least one storyline out for a week. With it being the opening episode it couldn’t leave anyone major out, so we visited every corner of the Seven Kingdoms for a whirlwind tour of storylines we can expect to see in the next five episodes. While all the major players appeared in this episode, some got more screen time than others, Arya, The Hound, and Samwell Tarley seemed to be the three characters who got the lion’s share of the spotlight, each one confronting what they knew/expected about the world in subtle ways and despite the glacial pace of the episode there was some solid and interesting developments from the trio.
Arya made her appearance as chameleon assassin and we got to see her serve out more satisfying vengeance before she went to the woods to sit around a fire with Ed Sheeran and Thomas Turgoose (of This is England fame). Sheeran was a bit jarring as a cameo, being so instantly recognisable as a real person rather than a character, but it was one of the best scenes in the episode. Jeremy Podeswa is an established director who clearly knows how to lead an audience, and this scene feels incredibly similar to the final scene of The Sopranos; everything is leading towards an obvious conclusion, building pressure until it becomes unbearable, but nothing comes to relieve that tension. Arya confronts every lesson she’s been taught since she’s been out on her own, she KNOWS that everyone is out for themselves and will murder everyone in their way; she KNOWS that she has to kill everyone around that fire; she KNOWS this chat will end in blood, but it’s all wrong and it’s a relief to see this juxtaposition to the rest of the grim, dark world.
The Hound also starts to soften, but by looking at someone from his past rather than finding someone who goes against it. Tagging along with Beric Dondarrion and The Brotherhood without Banners, The Hound comes across a farm he visited some time ago with Arya. The Hound here confronts the consequences of the man he used to be in a way he hasn’t had to since he changed his ways; he does this in traditional Hound fashion, grumpily and while trying to be alone. The Hound also confronts his fear of fire here, potentially laying foundations for him becoming a convert/champion of the Red God alongside Beric, which would be all kinds of cool.
Sam’s story stands out from the three as he finds himself disillusioned with what he expected from the world. Sam’s drudgery is established through a montage of him repeating his daily routines that’s one part toilet joke and one part begining of a Stomp-esque song. While Arya and The Hound have begun to display change towards having stronger morals, Sam continues on his spiral towards breaking his meek, rule-abiding shell; he breaks into the ‘forbidden section’ of the library to steal/borrow books on the white walkers. Despite his story about white walkers being believed by one of the Archmaesters (Jim Broadbent, who is always fantastic), he is still not allowed to look up information on them. This seems completely ridiculous from an organisation dedicated to remembering things about the world and from a nation who thinks that the white walkers are a fairy tale, also why in seven hells is that information in a forbidden section? Unless Sam finds some amazing magic that controls the dead or something that deserves to be locked up (so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands), all that white walker knowledge belonged in a forgotten corner of folk tales gathering dust among a group who care about facts over stories.
Elsewhere Cersei continues to spiral; Jamie is giving her ever-intensifying dirty looks; Euron and the Greyjoys try really really hard to be relevant; Daenerys continues to do basically nothing in a very empowered kind of way; and the Starks are giving this whole ‘King in the North’ lark another go. Jon and Sansa have developed an interesting dynamic. He’s proving too forgiving, and she’s too harsh, between them they make one decent ruler, but if they keep debating in public their rule won’t last. Jon’s only problem might not be that he’s too much like Ned, he’s also finding himself a king in a world ruled by queens, and how he adapts to this will be the making or breaking of the latest King in the North.
Finally, the stand out character of the episode is once again Lyanna Mormont. Bella Ramsey has a fantastic angry voice and seeing her shut down sexist ideas and leave opponents speechless is always going to be amazing. The more Lady Mormont we get to see the better.