Is there anyone who wasn’t just a little freaked out when Jorah’s arm leaped out of his Citadel cell toward poor, put upon Samwell Tarley (John Bradley-West)? Yikes! A small moment, but what a moment and a spectacular commencement of season seven’s Game of Thrones, which premiered Sunday night on HBO.
The season opener sets the stage for much to come, and does it in a way that brings viewers back from a very long hiatus. The opening montage reminds us of where the battle for Westeros stands, highlights the main encampments, players, and relationships.
Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) is undisputed King of the North, Winterfell is back in Stark hands, with his half-sister Sansa (Sophie Turner) by his side. Jon is much the disciple of his father Eddard (remember him from season one?), showing Eddard’s essential nobility–and his adherence to Eddard’s principles in war. Sansa has grown into a strong, resilient woman from the girl we first saw fawning over Joffrey in the series’ early days. Sansa is more flinty and far more cynical than Jon; she learned a lot from mother-in-law Cersei (Lena Heady) as we see in their argument over whom of their former allies to trust. Sansa wants to cut them off, forfeit their lands to more loyal families; while Jon takes a broader view based on long alliances and the fact it’s a new generation, and a good time, with the really, really bad guys encroaching the wall, to wipe the slate clean. They need all the friends they can get (and a few enemies as well!)
Sansa is more flinty and far more cynical than Jon; she learned a lot from mother-in-law Cersei as we see in their argument over whom of their former allies to trust. Sansa wants to cut them off, forfeit their lands to more loyal families; while Jon takes a broader view based on long alliances and the fact it’s a new generation, and a good time, with the really, really bad guys encroaching the wall, to wipe the slate clean. They need all the friends they can get (and a few enemies as well!)
Meantime, Jon’s friend Tarley, who is so excited to be sent to the Citadel where there are all the books in the world, and he might be one day a great Maester, while having a stable enough home life to raise his family. Would that it were so easy! Instead, Tarley finds life in the Citadel to be a tedious and rather revolting routine of cleaning chamber pots and serving up a soup that looks like it might have been recycled from one of those same pots! (To be perfectly honest, this was the one set of scenes I thought went on far too long.)
We get it! Tarley, shelving books, serving up slop, cleaning chamber pots, rinse (literally) and repeat. Eventually, our Tarley pinches a key to a locked room where a very, very important book resides. And in it are the secrets that might save all of Westeros from the Walkers.
In the meantime, Arya (Maisie Williams) continues to exact her revenge on Walder Frey’s (David Bradley) crew. I have to admit, I was scratching my head a bit to see old Walder alive and well (again) after Arya had already slit his throat, but of course, Arya, too has learned, and taking on persona Frey (or any other persona) is but one deadly arrow (or dagger) in her quiver.
Back in King’s Landing, Jaime Lannister ( Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) watches Cersei take the throne for herself, and she is more the ice queen than ever. And their scene in the map room serves well to provide viewers a geographic frame for where the story stands right now. Cersei is all about Cersei, but Jaime sees that the future has them isolated–and understand that Winter has indeed Come. He has changed–a lot–since season one. Cersei is the same Cersei. All through the last couple of seasons, we’ve seen Jaime being more and more troubled by his conscience. But he still so very much loves his sister. I can’t help but think, though, that the relationship will fracture in the in the episodes to come.
And that brings me to Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) She has amassed armies, navies (and even an air force–the Dragon Squadron), and acquired the brilliant, too-oft-dismissed Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) as ally and the Queen’s Hand! She is poised to make war on King’s Landing and claim the Iron Throne for herself, reclaiming it for her family, murdered in Robert Baratheon’s war against her father. But can she stake her claim?
And with word that the Walkers are literally pawing at the gate, will any one of these sides be able to fight them alone, or will they need to, in the end, unite? For whoever vanquishes them (or survives them) will ultimately win the Game of Thrones.
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