Game Of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1 Dragonstone review – A solid opening that leaves you wanting more
Game of Thrones is finally back on our screens, and after 13 months we finally return to the land of battles and backstabbing.
Winter is here, the dead are marching on the realms of the living, and the Dragon Queen is returning to claim her birthright. Also, some of us are spending seven weeks getting up at 2am every Monday to watch it so we don’t get spoilers at the office.
If you’re not caught up yet, don’t read on.
For the night is dark and full of spoilers.
First up – the opening pre-credits scene. It was every bit as satisfying as you could want from a season opener. From the initial confusion – is this a flashback? – to the slow, glorious realisation that this is Arya’s plot to wipe out scores of her enemies in one swoop. It’s classic Thrones drama that has you screaming when the punchline hits.
After that we settle into a pretty colour-by-numbers season opener. The episode lays the land for the season ahead, showing where we are and what the characters’ motivations are going to be for the year. Last season’s finale was a massive shake up, so this is a run through of where the pieces now lie.
The relationship between Jon and Sansa is going to be a particularly interesting one to watch out for this year. Sansa seems frustrated that she is getting sidelined by Jon, who is making the same “honourable” mistakes that got both Ned and Rob killed. Forgiving the Umbers and Karstarks is probably going to come back to bite him later.
Sansa – who “learned a great deal” from Cersei – clearly knows how to play the Game a lot better, but is making the same kind of rash emotional decisions that has got Cersei into the mess she is in now. Hopefully Jon and Sansa can work it out, but while Littlefinger is still trying to dig his claws in, it’s hard to see how.
Back in Kings Landing, Cersei and Jaime are having a family row of their own. Cersei is making some tactically dubious moves, blindly assuming that now she’s queen she’s right. She either doesn’t see or doesn’t care that she’s pushing her brother/lover away, while she makes pacts with the dubious pirate Euron Greyjoy. I don’t see this season panning out well for her, but then when was this show ever predictable?
Meanwhile Daenerys has used the season break to finish sailing over the sea and has landed on Dragonstone.The writers’ choice not to have anyone speak until that final killer line “Shall we begin” was top notch. The statement hits: she’s found her home, and she’s going to take over the world. Although Dany got precious little screen time, you know this is going to be an explosive story as the year goes on.
Also, she managed to get off a ship that had been sailing for weeks with PERFECT hair. The Dothraki clearly have some fantastic stylists among them.
In other news, Sam is cleaning chamberpots and sneaking into secret bits of a library. I’ll be honest, I’ve been pretty bored with his storyline for years now. We’ll see where it goes.
Ok. So with the basics out of the way, on to Ed Sheeran’s cameo as a singing soldier.
It was a bit too clunky. The show has done musician guest appearances before – Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody sang in Season 3, and Coldplay drummer Will Champion was at the Red Wedding – but they were incidental background characters. With Ed we got this exchange:
Arya Stark: It’s a pretty song, I’ve never heard it before.
It’s a new one .
It could only have been more awkward if he’d winked at the camera after and said “Available at all good record stores”.
Ultimately the scene did work though, and the exchange with the soldiers did add something to Arya’s character. She seemed to learn that not all Lannister soldiers are evil, and it added depth to a simple vengeance mission. Maisie Williams managed to take what should have been an awkward pop star cameo and make it believable.
It’s worth a mention that the scenes with Arya, Sansa and Bran show just how far the young stars behind the Stark children have developed over the last seven years. Like many fans, I used the new series as an excuse to catch up on old episodes, and it is clear that all three have become very talented actors as they’ve grown with the show. Promising futures when the show ends in a mere 12 episodes’ time.
Speaking of young stars, Bella Ramsay stole the show once again as Lyanna Mormont. Fast becoming my secret favourite of the series (now Hodor is gone and Oleena Tyell doesn’t get enough screentime) this week we learn she introduced feminism to the bannermen of the North.
The young noble snaps at Lord Glover: “I don’t need your permission to defend the North” and firmly puts him in his place. When Game Of Thrones ends, I want a spin off which just follows Lyanna around as she puts the world to rights. Or make her a judge on Winterfell’s Got Talent or something – it’ll be awesome.
As well as setting up characters for the year, we also get the set up towards the climax of the whole show. The white walkers are definitely coming, and they’re bringing the storm with them. Jon mentions building up the fortifications, and training everyone to fight. The Hound sees in the flames that the undead are marching on the Wall.
We actually see the Night King has ZOMBIE GIANTS in his army. The whole episode is filled with a sense of things to come, and it’s testament to the quality writing that the feeling of dread appears natural and not forced.
One little thing that bugged me about the episode – and it was a problem last year too – is the speed of communication and travel in what is basically a medieval society. The Lannister soldiers are immediately halfway across the country ‘keeping the peace’ in Frey territory while Arya is still making her getaway.
Last year we had Varys zipping across the sea and back again between one episode and the next. The show would do well to find a better way of showing the passage of time, as it feels like events that would have to be weeks apart happen very quickly.
It doesn’t help that the Night King’s zombie invasion is the slowest attack in the history of warfare. Since their meeting at Hardhome in Season 5, Jon has sailed south, gone to Castle Black, waved Stannis off to die, been killed himself, come back to life, marched on Winterfell, beaten Ramsay, become King In The North, and started organising a defence.
Meanwhile the zombie army has been walking for a bit. They almost caught Bran, but a boy who can’t walk and has to be dragged along on a sled by his exhausted mate managed to outpace them.
But much of the criticisms are nitpicking. This episode was an opener, and it did its job – we want more, and we’ll be tuning in for the rest of the season.
Game of Thrones Season 7
It was never going to match the explosive finale of last year, or the traditional episode 9 epic battles of other seasons. All of that is still to come – and if rumours are to be believed those episodes will be bigger than ever.
This episode was about putting the dominos in place, so we can blow them up later with wildfire.
As Daenerys says at the end: “Shall we begin?”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey” – Arya
DEATH OF THE WEEK: No important deaths this week. Apart from my appetite when Sam was doing his cleaning duties….
GENDRY WATCH: Still rowing his boat (31 episodes and counting)
Season 7 episodes will be shown live at 2am every Monday on Sky Atlantic, starting 17 July 2017 and repeated at 9pm on Monday evening on Sky Atlantic. You can also watch the new series on NOW TV.
- What we know three days on from Manchester Arena terror…
- Desperate families plead for information on…
- Doctor Who Series 10: 12 questions and theories before The…
- London Bridge ‘suspect’ pictured with…
- In their own words: The remarkable NHS heroes whose…
- Defiant Manchester music venue to host gig tonight just…
- Big Brother 2017 housemates: Full line-up revealed including
- iPhone 8: Release date, price, specs, rumours and news about