Nothing gives me greater joy as of the moment than typing that phrase – Winter has arrived! And by that, I mean Game of Thrones – the epic medieval fantasy series filled with backstabbing (both literal and figurative), boobs, wildfire, dragons, and ice zombies – has returned to TV-land. It is particularly cathartic to say it considering the long wait I had to endure before its big comeback; I felt like Khaleesi stranded in the midst of the Red Waste. But it’s here, and my fangirl heart is now bursting at the seams. With HBO announcing that there will only be 13 episodes left (spread out over two seasons), I’m curious and excited as to how D&D (David Benioff & D.B. Weiss) will steer the show towards a satisfying (and hopefully, George R.R. Martin-approved) conclusion.
Episode 2 will air in a few hours but, for the meantime, let me go back and relive the Season Premiere with this recap~
Return of the Starks
In one of the best cold opens the show has ever had, we see Walder Frey hosting another banquet for his family members. This is kind of weird as cantankerous Walder is not especially fond of his brood for him to lavish them with another party. He even remarks upon it, saying “Since when does old Walder gives us two feasts in a single fortnight?” Most importantly, how could he be standing there when Arya slit his throat last season? For a second I thought this was a flashback to the aftermath of the Red Wedding but then I saw the glint in Walder’s eyes when his sons and extended family drank their wine and that’s when I knew that this is Arya in Faceless Man mode. True enough, he goes on to enumerate the Freys’ sins against House Stark while his men start gurgling up blood and collapsing on the floor. She takes off her mask and reveals herself to the women who were spared from the culling. “When people ask you what happened here, tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey.” Our girl Arya is savage AF!!! The scene ends with her walking away from the great hall, relishing the sight of dead Freys with a little smirk on her face.
Meanwhile, out in the far north, a massive horde of White Walkers, led by the Night King, are marching southwards, reminding us of the immediate and very real threat they pose to the squabbling and clueless lords and peasants in the south. Bran and Meera managed to escape their onslaught from the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave (with the help of Hodor – who I hope is not a part of this undead army) and has now arrived at the Wall. Dolorous Edd, newly proclaimed Commander of the Night’s Watch, is rightfully suspicious of this kid who claims to be the long lost brother of his pal Jon, but was eventually convinced after Bran shows off his newfound skills as a seer. Let me just note, though, that Bran’s return means that all four living Starks are now closer than ever! Will there be a happy reunion to this beleaguered family? If Jon and Sansa, the only Starks who found their way to each other, are any indication, well… not so much.
Back in Winterfell, Jon eases into his new role as King of the North by instructing all his vassals to prepare for the onslaught of the White Walkers. First on his list is to search and mine for dragonglass, the only thing aside from the rare Valyrian Steel that can kill those monsters. He then orders the heads of the northern houses to train their subjects for combat – and that includes the women, too. “We can’t defend the North if only half the population is fighting.” Naturally, an old white man objects, but fiery little Lady Mormont puts him in his place. Brienne looks like she’s ready to adopt her at a moment’s notice.
Next up on Jon’s agenda was the defense of the Wall. He sends Tormund and his band of free folk to man the castles along the walls including Eastwatch-by-the-Sea which Tormund happily accepts. Tensions rise between Sansa and Jon when the betrayal of Houses Umber and Karstarks were brought into the discussion. Taking her cues from Cersei’s ruthlessness and Littlefinger’s cunning, Sansa tells Jon to strip them of their castles and lands and award these to those who have been loyal to him. Jon, however, takes the honorable route and insists that the remaining Karstarks and Umbers should not suffer for the sins of their fathers; his only condition was for them to swear loyalty to him once again. Allyce Karstark and Ned Umber, who are both barely fifteen years old, happily oblige.
Sansa continues to badger Jon after the meeting, telling him that he shouldn’t make the same stupid mistakes that their father and Robb made. I am glad Jon prevailed earlier, especially upon seeing the petrified faces of the kids he could have punished, but Sansa does make a very valid point too and it is to Jon’s advantage to start listening to some of the sound advice she gives. However, it is also unsettling how Sansa is slowly transforming into Cersei 2.0. Even Jon senses it and points out how she sounded like she admires Cersei whenever they discuss her to which Sansa answers that she learned a great deal from her. I guess the only one pleased to see the siblings arguing is slimy sleazeball Littlefinger. Yup, he’s still there, lurking in the shadows of Winterfell, quietly observing everything that’s happening. His dream to seize the Iron Throne is still very much alive and it is highly likely that he is just waiting for the opportune time to strike. Good thing Sansa is immune to his charms and rebuffs him every time he sidles up to her.
A Whole Lot of Plotting and Pooping
Speaking of Cersei, she is trying to figure out how to strengthen her tenuous grip on the Iron Throne. With her children dead, there is nothing that occupies her days now other than to build a dynasty that will last forever – even if that “dynasty” only consists of her and Jaime, “the only Lannisters that matter.” Jaime reminds her that they are surrounded by enemies on all sides, which makes her the queen of three kingdoms at best; and with winter coming, waging war against the other more fortified forces will definitely spell their end. Cersei responds to this by saying that she has enlisted the help of Euron Greyjoy, the new King of Iron Islands and Ramsay’s successor as the next resident maniacal psychopath of Westeros.
The last time we saw Euron, he was seething in anger after his niece and nephew stole a good number of ships from his fleet and fled to the East. Hence, he spent the lull in between seasons to rebuild a brand new Iron Fleet more formidable than his previous one and undergo a pleasantly surprising makeover at the same time. Please tell me I’m not the only one who loves the short hair, the dark eyeliner, the fashionable low v-neck suit, and the off-kilter douchiness that infuriates Jaime. This sexier version of Euron came to King’s Landing to seal a deal: he pledges to destroy Cersei’s enemies in exchange for her hand in marriage. To the great relief of Jaime, Cersei rejects Euron’s advances, citing his treachery. Euron is determined to prove his worth, though, so he declares that he will give her a very precious gift and he will not return to King’s Landing until he has it. I am slightly inclined to believe that he will go after Tyrion since Cersei has been lusting for his head ever since Joffrey’s death.
Then there’s poor Sam Tarly. When he journeyed to Oldtown to become a Maester, he thought he could have access to the world’s biggest library and learn more about how to defeat the White Walkers. Instead, he is stuck cleaning bedpans of sick old maesters and serving dollops of crude soup that looks suspiciously like the things he had been cleaning from the said bedpans (the sound of his retching is eternally engraved in my mind). The books he needs to read are in the restricted section of the library. Unfortunately for him, only full-fledged Maesters have access to them. He tries to win over the Archmaester, played by Jim Broadbent, over to his side so he can begin his research on the White Walkers but the old man dismisses his panic. While he believes Sam’s claims on the White Walkers, he argues that the world will not end with their arrival. “Every winter that ever came has ended,” he lectures Sam. Having no one to turn to anymore, Sam takes matters into his own hands. He creeps into the maesters’ sleeping quarters, steals the key to the restricted section, and takes all the books on White Walkers he could lay his hands on.
Caught in Between
Often lost in the power struggles waged by the powerful are the ordinary folks who just want to live a peaceful life. This episode reminds us of their vulnerability in the coming wars in two instances: first, through Arya’s encounter with Lannister soldiers in the Riverlands, and second, through the Hound’s return to the house of the man he stole silver from back in Season 4.
Arya passes by a group of Lannister soldiers while making her way to King’s Landing. Normally, this would have ended in a bloodbath. But the Lannister soldiers, led by a very recognizable Ed Sheeran, kindly invites her for a lunch of rabbit meat and blackberry wine. Her hard assassin heart melts for a moment after hearing their stories on home and family. These Lannister soldiers may have killed Stark men but they are also just simple people plucked out of their peaceful living to fight other people’s wars. She becomes so disarmed by the scene that when one of them asks her what she’s going to do in such a terrible place like King’s Landing, she tells them that she’s going to kill the queen. Fortunately, the men are so good-natured they actually thought she was joking; I guess it spared their lives from a possible massacre.
On the other hand, Sandor “the Hound” Clegane travels with the Brotherhood Without Banners in the midst of a snowstorm. Beric Dondarrion sees an abandoned cottage in the distance and he invites the men to camp there for the night. The Hound instantly recognizes it as the house of the poor farmer he swindled for a bag of silver not so long ago. He confirmed it upon entering the house and saw two rotting corpses – one adult and one child – huddled in a corner. Thoros surmises that they may have killed themselves rather than suffer from hunger during the coming winter. His exposure last season to the kindness of Brother Ray have transformed the Hound into someone more human. In an act that would have been impossible to imagine in the first few seasons, the Hound takes out the bodies in the middle of the night and buries them as an act of contrition. He apologizes to the bodies, saying “I’m sorry you died. You deserved better.” Could this change of heart be also the reason why he saw visions in Thoros’ flame?
Dragon Queen in Dragonstone
There is a reason why Dragonstone is the title of the episode. Yes, it is the ancient seat of House Targaryen, which makes it very symbolic but in Sam’s startling discovery, Dragonstone plays a much more important role in the war to come. Apparently, the little island contains a huge deposit of dragonglass – the same dragonglass his BFF Jon is looking for! Finally, Sam gets his well-deserved breakthrough. He immediately writes a letter to Jon, hoping it reaches him before the White Walkers cross the Wall.
That’s not all, though. Sam makes another discovery… although he’s unaware of it. We hear a very familiar voice during Sam’s rounds in the Citadel’s “mental ward.” Jorah Mormont is alive – and he’s not looking too well. The greyscale infection has spread out and fully covered his arms. The old bear is still as lovelorn as ever for his first question to Sam was if the dragon queen has arrived. Jorah never gets his answer, but we all know what happens next.
Daenerys Targaryen and her entourage of advisers, unsullied soldiers, Dothraki warriors and her three dragons make their grand entrance to the shores of Dragonstone. Six seasons have built up to this moment. I swear I’m getting *kilig* all over just seeing her step off the boat and touch the sand of Dragonstone for the first time. There is no time for too much sentimental thoughts, though; the castle awaits. A remnant of its former occupier welcomes her crew but she simply pulls it down and leaves it on the ground. She then proceeds to the Painted Table – the same table her ancestor Aegon the Conqueror used to plot the conquest of the Seven Kingdoms – and, like the queen that she is, gets down to business straightaway. “Shall we begin?”
Yes, yes, and another yes! I’m so positively ecstatic on how this season premiere managed to set the stage for the grand finale. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. 🙂