It is no secret that Game of Thrones is not a tenth of the A Song of Ice and Fire. The show cut several story lines, characters, over simplified lore and history and is much easier on the politics than the books, and it is pretty tame in everything else. The difficulties of bringing Westeros to life on TV are so big, that even falling short of the books, GoT is still one of the best things ever produced.
As the show grew in popularity, the hype before every season starts, increased, and S07 has the added tension of being one before the last, and of being three episodes short.
So, it is natural that people expect that every episode of this season will be impressive, ground breaking. Besides that, season 06 was already off the books, into what we suppose would be the general outlines of Winds of Winter, the unfinished and unpublished sixth book.
The S07 ep01 kind of let me down. It was good, but I expected more. So many press releases, interviews, spoilers… that I expected adrenaline and fast pacing.
the episode starts with a banquet at the twins. All the male Freys who matter gathered to feast at the expense of Lord Walder Frey, whom we know is dead thanks to Arya in the last episode of Season 06. So lord Frey is actually Arya and she has dark intentions. “Walder Frey” has the servant girls pour all the men a cup of arbor gold, for a toast in honor of their house heroic deeds, specially the Red Wedding, where they killed a mother of five, a pregnant woman, their unarmed guests. While they are all drinking, “he” prevents a girl from drinking the poison, and unveils her true identity, telling that Winter has come to House Frey.
Arya avenged the Red Wedding by nearly wiping House Frey and sending the riverlands again in conflict, this time during winter.
When she meets a group of Lannister soldiers, she is wary at first, but they prove to be nice guys, fighting someone else´s wars, people who have parents, children, a home that is far away and which they miss. These boys humanize the enemy she is facing. If not for those who play the game of thrones, these people could be minding their own business, their own lives, and less blood would have been shed.
Jon holds court and has to decide on which family gets what castle, and refuses to take Karhold and Last Hearth from Kastarks and Umbers, claiming that the punishment should never pass from the parents to the children, and that as long as the heirs – kids Ned Umber and Alys Kastark – pledged loyalty to House Stark, they´d keep their homes. Sansa was strongly against that, cause she wanted to reward those who supported them using those castles, and also make an exemplary punishment of those Houses. While Jon rules with honor and mercy, Sansa thinks with cold pragmatism, as she had learned from Littlefinger, Cersei and even the Boltons. Both have a point, and they must be able to work together.
Sansa tries to play Littlefinger as best as she can, knowing that he wants her to rule and to rule himself by her side.
Tormund is still reaching out to Brienne…
Jon also determines that all children of 10 and older must train at sword, lance, spear and bow, including girls. Lyanna Mormont reminds the men at the council that she does not ask for anyone´s permission to defend Bear Island or the north, and they need every able living people to fight. The men finally agree.
They receive a raven from KL where Cersei commands them to go to court and bend the knee. Sansa reminds Jon that he has been so consumed with the threat from the north that he has forgotten the threats from the south, which are very dangerous too. She acknowledged that she has learned a lot from Cersei.
In the meantime we see Cersei on her version of Dragonstone´s map room. She tells Jaime that Tyrion is Hand of the Dragon Queen and that he is coming to kill them, as he killed their father and their first born child. She refuses to talk about Tommen, cause she believes that Tommen betrayed her when he killed himself. Jaime is like a whipped dog after her, unable to offer proper advice, unable to criticize her, looking hurt all the time, even jealous of Euron´s overtures to her.
Yes, she lures Euron into an alliance and postpones a marriage proposal until Euron can prove himself.
Bran and Meera get to the wall where a suspicious Ed Tollet receives them. Dolorous Edd as Lord Commander. The character seemed hardened by the years.
The hound and the merry band of brothers are going north and they stumble upon an abandoned house, which is recognized by Clegane as the same house where him and Arya once spent a night, and were offered a job, and which he robbed, claiming they would be dead come winter. Yes, they were dead, father and daughter, too weak to fend for themselves. But it did make him feel bad and sorry. He eventually bury the corpses.
Inside the house, Sandor asks Beric why does the God of Light keeps bringing him back, and Beric answers that he doesn´t know. Calling Sandor near to the fire, Thoros tell him to stare into it, and even against his will, Clegane has a vision of ice, The Wall, eastwatch by the sea, and the army of the dead crossing the frost fangs, I guess
At the citadel Sam is living the most excruciatingly boring life ever. He has no tuition, he works for a living, cleaning chamber pots, aiding at the kitchen and at the infirmaries. He learns under an archmaester who does not teach him much. He eventually looses his patience and steals the key to a restricted area of the library where special books are kept. He steals them to study at night and finds out that there is a whole mountain of obsidian (dragon glass) in Dragonstone, like Stannis once told him. He sends a raven to Jon to tell him about it.
In the meantime, as he helps in the infirmary a hand covered with greyscale stretches itself out to the whole and the man inside inquire about the Dragon Queen, whether she has arrived, and a scared Sam says he does not know anything about it.
Cut to Dragonstone and the Dragon fleet.
Dany is about to set her feet on her ancestral ground for the first time since she was born and whiskered away from it, escaping Robert´s wrath.
She is fulfilling his brother´s dream of taking back their home, and her own dream. All the others walk behind her in silent respect but also in awe of the place which was an exile to Stannis, and which it home to her. Dragonstone is home of the Targaryens, is made of dragonlore, it was built on stone and dragon fire and blood. The dragons flying above it look perfect, as if it was their right, their own home they were returning to.
All of them watch in wonder of the dark stone walls, decorated with dragon motifs, Aegon´s throne room bearing a cold simplicity that exudes even more power, one can almost imagine the dragons perched above the arched ceiling. Then they move into the map room, where Stannis used to hold court, and after the initial amazement, Danaerys says “Shall we begin?”