WINTER. IS. HERE.
Game of Thrones came back this past Sunday prepared to begin wrapping up six seasons of political upheaval, the Will They or Won’t They relationship between Daenerys and Westeros, and the impending zombie apocalypse. We’re finally in a place where at least SOME people are acknowledging that the Long Night is a real and possible thing, and while at the moment it seems like the white walkers are in a much better position to win, maybe just maybe our heroes (and villains) have a chance of defending humanity from joining the Night King’s army. The premiere episode came to let us know that they are getting right to business. Sure, a church was blown up in the episode before this, but what’s that next to undead Giants?? Anyway, plenty of other things continue to happen while we all prepare, so let’s get into that.
The Riverlands/The Twins
We start this episode at the Twins, and I’m not gonna lie I was confused for the first fifteen seconds. I stopped the episode to make sure it was the right one and then tried to figure out why we were still watching a world where Walder Frey was alive. But then a light bulb went off in my head the longer Walder kept talking to all his family gathered in the hall and I was like ohhhhhhhhh.
Plot twist: it was Arya wearing Walder’s face.
I think the moment I knew for sure was when Arya-as-Walder turned to his new teenage wife and told her not to drink the wine. While after all of the Freys drop dead, Arya leaves her with a badass “Tell them Winter came for House Frey,” I also understood it as her not wanting to kill this innocent girl who was being abused by Walder Frey - Arya realized that the women there were also victims and left them alive, further pushing the show’s relatively newfound love for the Ladies of Ice and Fire.
After murdering an entire family - and earning her own version of the Rains of Castamere - Arya travels through the riverlands and runs into some foot soldiers for the Lannister army, one of who was Ed Sheeran for some reason? When Arya stops to speak with them, at first I was like oh no Arya what is you doin? But then she refused to eat their meat and I remembered who the fuck she was. I was convinced Ed and his homies were gonna die the minute she denied the guest food, but again we see that Arya is not a heartless assassin, just a faceless one. After speaking further with the soldiers, she realizes that they are just people - they’re husbands and brothers and fathers fighting in the highborn’s wars. Arya has dealt with a lot of horrible Lannister men and she initially read them all as the same. But she - and we - see how much the Game of Thrones has affected the lowborn, those who really just want to live a full life. We’ve seen before how these everyday people get caught in the crossfire, but up until now we hadn’t really seen the actual people fighting - especially not on the Lannister side - who don’t necessarily agree with or even know what they’re fighting for, just that they have to fight.
We also find out that Arya is traveling to King’s Landing to kill Cersei, which was both exciting and a let down for me. Like yes, Cersei gotta go. But also, what about the Starks? Arya, your brother is King in the North and there are ice zombies coming! They need you! And you need them!
Beyond the Wall/The Wall
Speaking of ice zombies and Stark siblings, we also see the white walkers coming, and literally bringing winter with them. Bran is the one who sees them coming, but when he comes back to the here and now, he and Meera have made it back to the Wall! Lord Commander Dolorous Ed and some of the 20 men of the Night’s Watch still at Castle Black meet Meera and Bran to see who they are. Meera tells them who they are Bran gets all Dumbledore-y, sounding more and more like Jojen Reed (RIP). Also, I’m not gonna lie, but I really thought Bran was going to bring the Wall down with his magical connection to the Night King. While that actually didn’t happen, I am curious about the magic that is a part of the Wall and whether that will continue to keep the white walkers out - so maybe the Wall will metaphorically fall to the walkers, but not physically.
A little further south, Jon and Sansa hold court in Winterfell in preparation for the Night King. Jon speaks about looking for dragonglass, sending the wildlings to defend Eastwatch-By-The-Sea, and training the women and children to fight as well. Of course there is dissent from salty-ass Lord Glover, but Lady Lyanna Mormont sets him straight. While Jon didn’t have to defend himself at that point, I will say that it was pretty consistent for his character. He was the one who had a sword made for Arya and he fell in love with Ygritte in part because of her tenacity and ability to fight. Of course, he still feels as if he has to protect the women in his life - including Ygritte - and it shows through his interactions with Sansa, but I don’t think that desire is because he doesn’t think they can’t protect themselves. It’s because he loves and feels a responsibility for them.
While Jon and Sansa do love each other, they still clash, which is shown when Sansa suggests that they take Last Hearth and Karhold from the Umbers and Karstarks for their loyalty to Ramsay Bolton. Jon disagrees because he feels that both the Umbers and Karstarks have paid for those crimes, and ends up having the new heads of those houses, Ned Umber and Alice Karstark to re-pledge their loyalty to House Stark. While I do understand Sansa’s anger at their betrayal and her desire for revenge, I also understand Jon’s thinking. For one, it was a very Ned move, and for another, we can’t be dividing the North and sowing discord when THE NIGHT KING IS AT THE FIST OF THE FIRST MEN WHICH I REALIZE WE DON’T KNOW AT THIS POINT BUT GUYS THIS IS SERIOUS.
The thing I do appreciate about this scene between Jon and Sansa, and the one after it, is that while they may disagree and become frustrated with each other, those disagreements don’t seem to have a lasting damage on their relationship. They trust and love each other and want each other to do well. In a lot of moments Sansa is wrong about what to do, and in others Jon is wrong. There are a lot of parallels between Jon/Sansa and Ned/Catelyn that I appreciate, and it came up a lot for me in this episode. They’re going to need to keep their relationship strong in order to defeat not only the white walkers, but Cersei, who wants them to swear fealty to her, and Littlefinger who is still around for some reason.
While we do get a small reprieve with Brienne training Pod and Tormund still flirting with Brienne, we also get Littlefinger, smirking in the background, trying to sow seeds of distrust between Sansa and Jon, and to get back on Sansa’s good side. Before this episode I was a little worried that it would work, but now I see that she’s basically just putting up with him for the Lords of the Vale. I do wish Littlefinger would get some perspective though, because he’s in the North to get the Iron Throne and Sansa but you can’t have the Iron Throne or Sansa if you're the icy undead.
Also in the North are Sandor Clegane and the Brotherhood Without Banners. On their way up they stop at a house we’d been to before during the Adventures of Arya and the Hound, and Clegane recognizes it as the house of a man and his daughter who he stole from. At this point, the man and daughter are dead, the father having killed them both because they were starving. Clegane has some guilt about that, and even apologizes to them when burying them (which NO, burn the bodies PLEASE). He also is coaxed into looking into the flames by Thoros. The first thing he sees in the fire is ice - which is a great tie into the overarching theme of the story - but he also sees the Wall, Eastwatch-By-The-Sea, and that the white walkers are passing the Fist of the First Men. He is finally convinced that Winter is Coming.
You know who doesn’t realize Winter is Coming? Cersei.
Instead of worrying - or even knowing - about their impending conversion into zombie-cicles, she is having a map of Westeros painted in the Red Keep - clearly taking inspiration from Aegon the Conqueror and the Painted Table at Dragonstone. Here to bring her back to the reality that she isn’t Aegon the Conqueror is Jaime, who is clearly not comfortable with the things Cersei has done. While he says he’s not angry with Cersei, it’s clear that their relationship has been damaged beyond repair at this point. It seems that he’s frustrated and hurt by Cersei more than anything - not only is she not showing remorse for Tommen’s death (there’s a moment where she says he betrayed her? And I’m not sure if she means his suicide is a betrayal or his love of Margaery was the betrayal), but she speaks of dynasty and her father’s legacy, and ruling the Seven Kingdoms when, as Jaime tells her, they have “three kingdoms at best.” They not only have enemies everywhere, but they also have no one to pass their rule onto when they inevitably die. There is no sustainability to Cersei’s rule and she doesn’t seem to care.
While Jaime is the Kanye to Cersei’s Sway, Euron Greyjoy arrives to King’s Landing in his newly and quickly built Iron Fleet to forge an alliance. Jaime very clearly doesn’t like any of this, especially not Euron with his new haircut and eyeliner. I noticed that Euron wasn’t wearing his crown and wondered if he didn’t as a way to appeal to Cersei, but the main thing I was watching for were the traits that make him worse than Ramsay Bolton since we were warned that he would be. We got a mention of Euron’s strong desire to murder his niece and nephew, Yara and Theon, and some shit talking between Jaime and Euron, but other than that he seemed a little jovial in a way we haven’t seen in our Clearly Horrible characters. I honestly don’t think we need another terrible character when AGAIN. THERE ARE ZOMBIES. MADE OF ICE. TRYING TO COVER THE WORLD IN AN ETERNAL WINTER. ON THEIR WAY TO THE SEVEN KINGDOMS. Anyway Cersei turned down Euron’s wedding proposal and he said he’d be back with a gift for her or something.
Meanwhile, further south in the Hogwarts of Westeros, Sam is having a hard time. Because Sam is not a maester, he doesn’t have a lot of access in the Citadel. The problem with that is that he’s not only there to learn to be a maester, but to find information on how to defeat the Long Night - information that is in what is essentially the Restricted Section. And so Sam goes to Archmaester Slughorn to try to get a note to admit him. While the Archmaester does believe that the Long Night is coming, he believes that the Wall will stop it (pretty much foreshadowing that it won’t) and doesn’t grant Sam access, so Sam steals some keys from a sick maester and grabs what he needs anyway.
Later, he and Gilly read what he stole and they find out that not only did the Targaryens use dragonglass as decoration, but that there is dragonglass at Dragonstone. Sam writes to Jon, which makes me wonder whether he’s caught up with the soap opera that is Jon Snow’s life since he left the Wall. Either way, the information is still valuable, and I’m sure once it gets to the Wall, Ed will pass it on.
We also see that Jorah is at the Citadel all grayscaled up but I didn’t want to see him in this episode so that’s all I’m gonna say about that.
Dany finally sets foot on Westeros! And there are dragons!
That’s pretty much all that happens at Dragonstone, but I did appreciate getting to see more of Dragonstone than we did when Stannis was there. Dany walks into her ancestral castle, pulls down Stannis’s banners, walks into the room with the Painted Table, and asks “Shall we begin?” To which I say, hell yes.
*P.S. shout out to all of y'all who used the #MBGMD tag during your live tweets! You're all the best for furthering our cause for More Black Girls and More Dragons.