Game of Thrones 7.1: “Dragonstone” Review

NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Game of Thrones” are present in this review



It’s been an especially long wait for the seventh season of Game of Thrones, but it’s finally arrived! “Dragonstone” kicked off HBO’s ever-popular fantasy drama series on a pretty strong note this week, as we see where Westeros stands with the dawn of the coming Winter, while certain old conflicts also linger across the continent. Some developments in this season premiere are certainly expected, namely Daenerys, Tyrion and the Essos forces finally arriving in Westeros, though this doesn’t happen until the closing seconds of the episode. The arrival does have plenty of ceremony though, as Daenerys’ forces make landfall at Dragonstone, which looks like it’s going to become a significant point of strategy for Westeros’ remaining forces very soon.

This is revealed when Samwell Tarly, who is doing menial chores around the Citadel, defies orders to break into the restricted section of the Citadel’s library. It’s here that Sam finds evidence related to how previous forces in Westeros dealt with White Walkers, namely with the revelation that a massive mound of Dragonglass sits underneath Dragonstone. This likely places Daenerys in an optimal position for the coming of the White Walkers, especially since the rest of Westeros is no doubt unaware of both the kind of weapons they’ll need to oppose the Night King, as well as where they can get them.

As you can imagine, the only person preparing any kind of resistance against the marching White Walkers at this point is Jon Snow, who is beginning his efforts to train not just the men, but every woman and child to battle against the White Walkers when they reach the North. This made for an especially strong story arc in an already great season premiere for Game of Thrones, as we see Sansa urging Jon to exact more brutal consequences on the families that betrayed the Stark banner before the Battle of the Bastards, only for Jon to choose the route of mercy. This squabble in leadership is certainly interesting, since Jon is a bastard, with Sansa being the only actual Stark in the mix. Seeing as Jon is all but bluntly confirmed to be a Targaryen on his father’s side, I imagine that this is going to cause some unrest right when the North really doesn’t need it, especially since I doubt that the show would push that truth coming out past this season.

Meanwhile, Cersei and Arya don’t seem to have changed a bit, especially as Arya begins the episode with a pretty badass cold open. The show seemingly begins with Walder Frey toasting his soldiers and commending them on their loyalty as they observe the fallout of the Red Wedding, but if you saw how last season ended, then you should know that Walder is definitely quite dead. Sure enough, it’s actually Arya who is simply wearing Walder’s face, who poisons all of the Frey men, then declares to the remaining daughters to tell anyone who asks that Winter came for House Frey. Damn. Arya is definitely not someone to be messed with, and we are well aware of that at this point. Truth be told then, it was actually a surprisingly effective dramatic switch to have Arya subsequently come across some rather friendly Lannister soldiers, whom she casually declares that she will kill the queen to, which they take as a joke. Arya may be dangerous and determined, but it’s easy to forget that she’s also pretty young, and may not be considering all of the implications behind violently ousting Cersei from the Iron Throne. This scene with the friendly soldiers was a great reminder of that.

Cersei, meanwhile, pieces together just how many enemies the weakened House Lannister truly has at this point, especially with Tyrion now firmly on the side of Daenerys. House Lannister truly has enemies everywhere now, and adding insult to injury is the fact that they aren’t even aware of the coming menace of the Night King and his White Walkers! Granted, Cersei is at least farthest away from the undead army, but that’s not much of an advantage when King’s Landing is clearly going to be caught with its pants down if Jon’s defenses fail! I must say however that I’m quite intrigued at a potential partnership between Cersei and Euron Greyjoy, with Euron promising her an unspecified ‘gift’ in exchange for her loyalty, and possibly even her hand in marriage. This could be any number of things, and I’m looking forward to seeing exactly what Euron thinks he has to bargain with.

This just leaves Sandor Clegane, another especially strong element to this episode, as he settles into traveling with the Brotherhood Without Banners. Sandor and the Brotherhood seem to be the ones most burdened by Winter at this point, as they’re forced to seek shelter at an abandoned old house. This made for an excellent character moment for Sandor, since this house is revealed to be the same house that Sandor stole silver from with Arya back in Season Four episode, “Breaker of Chains”, with both the father and daughter since having committed suicide upon facing starvation, suggesting that Sandor is the reason that they’re now dead. The sad moment of Sandor facing what he did, and trying his best to give an awkward burial, was pretty poignant. It’s great to see that the series is already capitalizing on bringing Sandor back for this season, after he spent so much time laid up following Brienne of Tarth nearly killing him. That said though, the fact that Sandor immediately stared into a fire, and somehow immediately had a convenient vision of the White Walkers and exactly where they are, felt like a pretty considerable stretch. Is having a divine vision really as easy as staring into a fireplace for a few moments in Westeros?

Nonetheless, “Dragonstone” exceptionally began the seventh season of Game of Thrones in pretty much every respect, presenting tons of excitement for the arrival of Winter, and the coming march of the White Walkers. Some tired forces continue their tired fight, but others are readying themselves for the battle to come. Overall though, there were no weak story arcs in this episode, and everyone seems to be in pretty great positions for the season. As the North prepares to fight, King’s Landing prepares to defend, and both Arya and Sandor try to resolve their troubled pasts, Winter continues to move for all of them. There is hope yet with Sam’s findings at the Citadel, but with Daenerys now sitting on Westeros’ apparently biggest deposit of Dragonglass, with bargaining master, Tyrion standing at her side, one has to wonder what the price of defending Westeros is going to be when the White Walkers properly reach it.

Game of Thrones finally kicks off its seventh season on an exceptionally great note this week, as Westeros' factions prepare to defend themselves against threats both known and unknown.
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Daenerys unwittingly landing atop Westeros' most newly valuable resource
Brewing tension between Jon and Sansa
Sandor and Arya facing the implications of their agendas
Sandor's contrived fireplace vision