Can’t believe it’s been another whole year, but Game of Thrones is back! HBO’s adaptation of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, with its feuding houses, Stark siblings, a Khaleesi and her dragons, has finally returned. And so have my Monday morning recaps. Like last time (since George hasn’t gotten the The Winds of Winter out yet) I’m completely in the dark. We’re all non-readers now. So then, “Shall we begin?”
As usual the night is dark and full of SPOILERS.
Our episode, Dragonstone, starts off just where we left things. Sort of. We’re back at the Twins, where the treacherous Walder Frey has invited the whole Frey clan out for feasting and making merry. Except, waaaaitaminute. Last we saw Walder Frey, our heroine Arya was carving a nice smile in his neck after serving him up some Rat Cook justice all fine and proper.
So we know that can’t be Walder. And a slow smile starts creeping across our face.
The elder Frey greets the members of his house, and invites them to drink with him–some of the finest wine in Westeros. They take some big gulps, and as his teen bride (remember, Walder is disgusting) tries to drink he chides her saying, “Not you, I’m not wasting good wine on a damn woman.”
As the gathered Freys drink in toast, Walder starts remarking on their bravery: most notably their deeds at the Red Wedding. (Go to your happy place now). They cheer in memory of slaughtering the Starks, until Walder starts bringing up how they killed a pregnant Not-Jeyne-Westerling. Some of the Freys are like, “that ain’t cool man.” Then as Walder goes on listing their nefarious deeds, of betraying those to who they had given the guest right of salt and bread, folk start feeling funny. Men are grasping at their throats. Some are choking. Others are spitting up blood. Poisoned! As we watch, the whole damn Frey clan gets laid out–dead AF. Walder Frey tells them that the one mistake they made, was not killing all the Starks that day, for leaving one wolf alive.
We all know what’s coming, but it’s still damn good when Walder rips off his face and it’s Arya beneath. As Walder Frey’s stunned young wife looks on, the young Stark turned assassin tells her: “When people ask what happened here today, tell them The North Remembers. Tell them, Winter Came for House Frey.”
You ain’t never lied.
Arya then struts out that piece smiling her ass off, because she’s just single-handedly cancelled the whole of House Frey. It’s about then that we realize, we haven’t even gotten to the theme song yet.
The episode starts in earnest somewhere far to the North, beyond the Wall. As a winter storm brews, we see figures on horseback–White Walkers, leading an army of the dead. They’re heading somewhere. Among them are even dead giants, all zombified in service to the Night’s King.
Turns out we’re watching Brandon Stark have one of his famous visions. He and Meera Reed have finally arrived outside the Wall. And who’s there to greet them but Dolorous Edd and some of the Night’s Watch. Edd asks the two if they’re Wildlings, since they’re decked out in furs and are coming in north of the Wall. When Meera introduces herself and then Brandon (as the son of Ned Stark), Edd is skeptical. But then Brandon starts telling Edd about his battle with the dead, about Hardhome and the approach of the Night’s King, that’s just enough creepiness to convince them to let he and Meera inside.
At Winterfell, Jon Snow, the recently dubbed King of the North, is speaking to the varied lords and ladies about what’s to come. He wants everyone to find dragonglass to defeat the White Walkers. He also wants every man, woman and child to train and learn how to fight. When one of the lords objects to sending his daughter into battle, bad-ass ten-year old Lyanna Mormont of House Mormont jumps up and declares “I don’t know what ya’ll gonna do, but I’m going to fight.” That just about shuts everyone the entire f*ck up. Because that’s what Lyanna does. She shuts everyone the entire f*ck up. Every time.
Jon makes some other decisions that make folks grumble–especially in sending Tormund Giantsbane and his Free Folk to defend parts of Castle Black. But his biggest challenge comes when he attempts to pardon the young leaders of House Umber and House Karstark, who had betrayed him to aid the bastard Ramsay Bolton, who we last saw getting his face eaten by dogs. Let’s take a blissful moment to remember how Ramsay got his evil face eaten off by dogs. Ahhh. Good times.
Some of the other gathered lords and ladies don’t like letting the Umbers and Karstarks off the hook. Sansa Stark, who is seated beside her half-brother Jon, objects the strongest–arguing that they should be stripped of house and title. But Jon is like, I ain’t killing no kids for their fathers’ deeds. Things get kinda contentious, until Jon puts his kingly foot down, makes the adolescent Umber and Kaystark heads swear fealty, and gets everyone to nod and rapp knuckles in approval. In the corner, Littlefinger is making little faces.
Jon and Sansa have words a bit later and a bit of sibling word-jousting. Jon asks her not to undermine him in front of others. She points out that he needs to be smarter, and reminds him what happened to their Pops. And to Robb. True sh*t. Compassion ain’t rewarded much in Westeros. Sansa also warns Jon to beware Cersei Lannister, pointing out she’s killed everyone in her way. Also, true sh*t. After all, we all just watched Cersei pull an end of Godfather 1 on half of King’s Landing. When Jon comments that it sounds like she almost admires Cersei, Sansa responds: “I learned a great deal from her.” Later on in the episode Littlefinger shows up to whisper doubts and other stuff into Sansa’s ear. She rebuffs it, and him. For now. Oh, and Tormund is still making googly eyes at Brienne.
So, let’s get to Cersei. The self-installed queen of whatever’s left of the Seven Kingdoms is in King’s Landing overseeing the painting of a floor map of Westeros. She’s joined by her brother-lover Jaime Lannister. As Cersei points out that they have enemies in nearly every direction, she asks Jaime’s advice. He tells her bluntly that they’re on the losing end of things. He doesn’t add, because you’ve made enemies outta everyone. When Cersei says she intends to fight on, to build a dynasty, Jaime tries to bring up their dead children. But Cersei ain’t hearing none of it. She says her children betrayed her, and they’re the last Lannisters that count. A shocked Jaime tries another tack, pointing out they need allies–strong allies. Turns out, Cersei’s been thinking the same thing.
We then see an armada of ships entering the harbors of King’s Landing, all bearing the black sails and golden kraken of House Greyjoy. Euron Greyjoy has arrived there at Cersei’s invitation, to make an alliance. Euron shows up and does his strutting about thing in front of Cersei, who sits now on the Iron Throne looking like Evil-Lyn. Says he knows what its like to be betrayed by family. Jaime talks some smack to him. He talks some back, including alluding to taking Cersei as his queen–pointing out he has “a thousand ships and two hands.” Ouch dude. In the end Cersei doesn’t rise to the bait, knowing that he ain’t loyal. But she has an alliance in mind and plans to put the Greyjoys to use.
We’re taken next to Samwell Tarly with Gilly and baby at the maester Citadel. Turns out training to be a maester is a lot like being an intern at a library, a school lunch lady and a port-a-potty cleaner. After sitting through perhaps the singly most disgusting (an honestly unnecessary) set of scenes in this show’s history, we finally see Samwell engage in some conversation over a dissected cadaver with a maester I’m just going to call Maester Slughorn (same actor). Turns out Maester Slughorn is the only one who really believes Samwell has seen White Walkers. He also doesn’t care, as he believes ages will come and go, lots of people will die, but the Citadel is eternal. Talk about your “ivory tower academic.”
Samwell though, is determined to get his hands on some secret texts, to find out more about where he can find dragonglass. He decides to take the initiative, steal some keys and a get a hold of them. It’s Gilly, of all people, who stumbles on the reference to dragon glass in a text. Turns out there’s a mountain of it–in abandoned Dragonstone, one-time seat of Stannis Baratheon. Oh, also, Lyanna’s first cousin Jorah Mormont is imprisoned in the Citdael and all Greyscaled. Still stalking a certain Khaleesi.
Out in the wilderness, Arya comes across a band of young soldiers from King’s Landing. They’re in the Riverlands to keep the peace since the mysterious (ahem) death of Lord Walder Frey and his whole kin. They offer Arya food and kindness, sharing their stories of being sent out to soldier in “someone else’s wars” while leaving family at home. It’s a different take than we’ve seen so far on soldiers in Westeros, who are usually a pretty unscrupulous, murderous, rapey bunch. We’re left to wonder if assassin Arya is gonna murk them all. At times, as she glances as their weapons, she seems to be wondering the same. Finally, one of the boy soldiers asks why she’s out here all alone on the way to King’s Landing? Arya replies all matter-of-factly, “I’m going to kill the queen.” Everything goes still and quiet. Then the boy-soldiers burst out into laughter. Arya joins them. But seriously tho, she’s off to kill the queen.
Elsewhere, it’s the return of none other than Release The Hound–who we found out was alive after all last season. He’s joined up with the Red Priest Thoros and Beric Dondarrion. Mostly he spends time cussing out the two, making fun of Thoros’s man-bun and the Red God in equal measure. When the odd band comes across an abandoned house where they might take refuge out of the winter, the Hound is hesitant. They go in any way, and find the bodies of dead farmer huddled with his daughter. Beric deduces that the two were starving through the winter, and rather than suffering, the father killed his daughter then took his own life.
The Hound gets into some philosophical spiritual cussing talk with Beric, about why the Red God keeps bringing him back to life. Why Beric, the Hound cussingly asks, and not better people who deserve better? In the middle of the interrogation, Thoros invites a skeptical Hound over to gaze into a burning fire. We all know the Hound’s feeling about fire, and he mutter-cusses about his luck to end up with a bunch of fire worshipers. When Beric jokes that its divine justice, the Hound cuss-snaps if there was any divine justice that he (Beric) would be dead. And the farmer’s little girl would be alive.
He goes over to the fire anyway, though not too close. At Thoros’s insistence he looks into the flames, not expecting to see anything. But he does. A wall of ice. An army of the dead. On the march. Coming for them all.
Whatever spiritual revelation this gives to the Hound, we next see him outside that night digging graves for the bodies of the farmer and his little girl. A confused Thoros eventually joins him. Sometime in the middle of all this, we realize that they’re the farmer and daughter who the Hound stole from in a previous season–leaving the two to starve and die through the winter. No divine justice after all.
Finally, somewhere off the shores of Westeros, an entire fleet of Unsullied, Dothraki, three dragons and one Khaleesi have arrived. In sweeping dramatic fashion with lots of fanfare, the dragons wing past the stone turrets and Daeneyrs Stormborn, last of the Targaryens (but not really) enters Castle Dragonstone–built by her ancestors upon arriving in Westeros, and complete with dragon monuments and motifs (fitting). She walks into Dragonstone now abandoned by Stannis Baratheon and everyone since his defeat, pulls down the Baratheon standard and walks out to find the stone map table Stannis had once carved to lay out his battle plans for taking the Seven Kingdoms. It’s all Dany’s now. She assumes her place at the head of the table, with her advisor Tyrion at her side, then asks:
“Shall we begin?”
Till next week, in which Westeros gets introduced to the Mother of Dragons.