It’s back! Season seven has well and truly begun with its first episode, ‘Dragonstone’. Packed full of spoilers, here is our review of the newest episode.

After the stunning end to Season 6 with ‘The Winds of Winter’, this season starts with most of the main characters poised for greatness or failure. We have Cersei on the Iron Throne, Jon Snow declared King of the North, Arya back in Westeros, and Daenerys on her way. If there was ever a most anticipated start to a Game of Thrones series, this must be it. And as seems fitting, winter is here.

So, how did ‘Dragonstone’ live up?

Well we start with the striking decimation of the whole of the Frey family at Arya’s hands. As she says the words, ‘The North Remembers’, I can’t help but feel it is a symbol for the turn of the wheel of fortune. That old term being brought back in striking fashion, marking the first time the Starks have had a powerful advantage in many a season. It is a mark of just how powerful Arya has become, and a taster of what is to come.

The episode proceeds to catch up with each of the Stark children. We are presented with stunning visuals of a snow storm cloud enveloping White Walkers and their dead, reinforcing the approaching threat and impending doom that I’m sure will come to haunt all of the characters. The petty squabblings of the various houses seems more and more futile and like a subplot to the real enemy. On a cheerier side, we finally see Bran making his way back to the wall. Inching his way closer to Winterfell, and with Arya’s return to Westeros, I have my fingers crossed for a proper Stark reunion this season.

“That is my decision. And my decision is final.”

Jon and Sansa are already together in the newly-seized Winterfell, thanks to both of their handiwork in the ‘Battle of the Bastards’ last season. At a meeting of the Northern clans, both sit at the helm of the discussion, both perfectly comfortable in their home of Winterfell. A power struggle between the two is hinted at, with the two disagreeing on the use of two Northern castles. It ends with Jon’s words: “That is my decision. And my decision is final”. Snow stakes his claim as King of the North against Sansa, but their conversation after is much more cordial. Little Finger’s looming presence has not yet managed to turn the two against each other, and Sansa’s firm put downs of him are nothing more than cheer-worthy.

We return to the south to see a beautiful map being painted on Cersei’s courtyard floor, symbolic of her plan to reclaim the seven kingdoms. It is in conversation with Jaime that we see just how headstrong, and perhaps mad, she has become. The Mad Queen, who wants to build a dynasty when all of her children are dead. It is strange seeing the Lannisters in a significantly weakened position, and in their search for allies Cersei turns to Euron Greyjoy – the erratic sea lord who is staking his claim on the Iron Islands after killing his brother. His interaction with Cersei lives up to this erratic behaviour, after proposing to Cersei outright in exchange for his fleet. Is there a happy coupling on the horizon? It seems unlikely, but I am intrigued by Euron’s promise of a priceless gift for Cersei – and my mind can’t help but wonder if that gift involves Tyrion’s head.

Her deep words (“Shall we begin?”) form a powerful end for an episode that locates all the major players in the season to come.

Perhaps the most important development for the plot is given to us by the maester-in-training, Samwell Tarley. After stealing some books from the restricted section of the library, he finds that Dragonstone – the episode’s namesake – holds hidden resources of dragon glass, the only weapon except valerian steel that works against the White Walkers. Significantly, this is also the place that Daenerys chooses to land. It is the first time she has been on Westerosi land since she was a child. We see her approach a rocky throne, in a deserted keep. Instead of placing herself firmly in it – as perhaps Cersei would have done – Daenerys goes further into the keep to find the map room. Her deep words (“Shall we begin?”) form a powerful end for an episode that locates all the major players in the season to come. And I for one cannot wait until next week.

It was a good episode, bringing together several characters that are already the main players in the game. But its focus on other characters: Samwell, the Hound, and Ser Mormont’s return, are perhaps a sign of who else will play a big role in the series ahead. As the penultimate season of Game of Thrones, it is becoming clearer and clearer who will be in the running for the Iron Throne and who’s days are numbered. But, as we know, no one is truly safe – especially not your favourites!

Clare Clarke

3.5/5

Image: HBO 2017

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