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Game of Thrones “Dragonstone” 

Game of Thrones “Dragonstone”
Photo Credit: HBO
Photo Credit: HBO

Historically, the season premieres of each season of Game of Thrones ends up a little thin. And by thin, I mean that bringing the audience up to speed on all of the storylines in this show is a daunting task, and the result is that these episodes can feel void of heft, flitting briefly from plot point to plot point. I want to commend this season’s premiere, “Dragonstone,” for mostly avoiding this fate. The contraction of the Game of Thrones universe which occurred at the end of season six serves the set up for season seven especially well.

I was never a huge fan of Arya’s multiple-season long arc concerning the Faceless Men, so the shift back to her original goal of avenging her family is a welcome change and the opening scene of “Dragonstone” makes it very clear how bloodthirsty Arya is. It was an exciting scene, the tension coming from anticipating the big reveal. But the scene was also the beginning of a running theme in which this episode, which attempts to overtly grapple with stereotypes about women and Arya’s turn is an interesting one here. In her physical transformation into one of the most violent, evil men, Walder Frey, she also displays some of same non-physical characteristics, murdering dozens of people without remorse.

Soon after, in a scene that I think was terrible (my notes say “ED SHEERAN WHY UGH this scene is trash), but that I admit I can’t accurately rate because I am so blinded by my distaste for Ed Sheeran, Arya is relaxed, drinking wine, laughing about killing the queen. Is this OK? Our moral compass in Game of Thrones is aways a little askew, but if we assume Arya must align with the Starks, is she justified? On a surface it’s fun as hell to watch Arya kill those that we the audience can agree are bad people. It’s thrilling to watch her get her revenge. But is it OK? Is there a chance in our effort to support the bucking of female stereotypes, are we too forgiving? Should we be put off by her violence?

The real fact is that Arya is incredibly hardened to the world. She is suspicious of the soldiers and they end up being the nicest people she’s met in a very long time. She is disconnected from the world, in terms of what regular people are like, as well as what is actually happening in terms of current events. She doesn’t have the luxury of perspective. And this changes how we can judge her. 

As far as the other Starks, Jon Snow and Sansa ruling the North together is going as well as expected, though I thoroughly enjoyed the friction that is forming between their governing styles. Here again, we get some heavy feminist undertones with Jon having girls learn how to fight and fan-favorite Lady Mormont taking a stand and convincing the remaining houses to get on board with Jon Snow’s request. But Sansa’s struggle to be heard is far more compelling. Jon Snow is the great savior, former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, King of the North, but Sansa knows what he doesn’t: how the enemy thinks. We’ve seen Sansa grow so much over the last six years, but Jon hasn’t. Although Jon Snow is certainly respectful of Sansa, he still sees her as a child to some extent.

Photo Credit: HBO

Over in King’s Landing, our mad queen Cersei is confident in her position as ruler over the seven kingdoms. Jaime, bless him, mentions it’s more like three kingdoms. Cersei seems drunk on power, delusional to the enemies around her. But it’s because she has access to the best fleet in the world if she wants, as long as she gets hitched to the always obnoxious Euron Greyjoy, who I still have yet to find interesting in the slightest. She rejects his offer, and he responds that he will return with a gift that will change her mind. What could the gift be? I suspect nothing would make Cersei happier than Tyrion’s head on a stick, but we’ll have to wait and see.

The namesake of the episode comes dramatically into play as Daenerys crosses the narrow sea with her army and takes up residence in her birth home of Dragonstone. The cinematography when it comes to Daenerys is always noticeably grand, with effort to get the full scope of size, whether it’s rooms, dragons, armies, or in this case, Dragonstone itself. It’s a beautiful closing scene and Emilia Clarke does impressive work emphasizing Daenerys’s emotional return while barely uttering a word. It’s a powerful message about how serious a threat Daenerys is. Daenerys walks the halls of her castle, slowly, carefully. She enters the disheveled throne room, gazes at her new throne, walks toward it, and then veers to the left, heading directly into the war room. And the episode closes on the only words she says: “Shall we begin?” Game on.

Other notes:

-Sam is having a pretty awful time at the Citadel. But he’s learned something that will certainly become important to both Jon Snow and Daenerys, which is that Dragonstone is surrounded by mountains of dragonglass.

-If you look closely at the pages that Sam reads, it seems dragonglass might have more uses than just killing White Walkers, maybe uses that the Jorah, who in some kind of quarantine at the Citadel with greyscale, might have interest in.

-The Hound is now a believer in the Lord of the Light and he’s seen visions of the Army of Dead crossing the wall. The real war is coming.

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.

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