For Game of Thrones fans, the break between seasons was long and full of questions. None of which were answered as the show returned for its seventh season last night. Instead, new intrigues emerge as the board resets for the next round. And for once, Daenerys Targaryen can see the board with her own eyes.
But first, let’s discuss the Citadel. Few sequences on the show have been as nauseating as Samwell’s days of cleaning bedpans and serving slop to the Maesters. Once or twice would’ve been bad enough, but to see his routine repeat upwards of ten times — each with its own special shot of human waste — was almost too much to take. You have to hand it to Sam, though. He found the intestinal fortitude to clean, aid Archmaester Marwyn with an autopsy and receive a speech from Jim Broadbent.
And, man, what a speech!
As someone obsessed with histories both fictional and real, the notion of becoming “the Memory of the World” appealed to me. Though the Maesters aspire to some dopey ascetic principle, their breadth of knowledge is the greatest storehouse of all. And as Marwyn put it, what they can remember is the bulwark against the darkness. It reflects a purpose of the Church when Rome began its slow-motion descent. Going by that example, though, knowledge can easily become useless when hoarded by those who believe they are superior. That lack of vision would seem to be true of the Citadel.
Which is way it’s quite alright for Sam to steal books from the restricted section. I assumed it would get him expelled right quick. Instead, he found a long missing Mormont covered in greyscale and asking of his dragon queen.
Meanwhile, up in the North, the Lady of Bear Island continues to be the best hype man a king could find. Lyanna Mormont’s support of Jon’s plan to train all the children to fight quieted a number of his bannerman. But the real test of wills was between Jon and Sansa for the fate of Houses Umber and Carstark. True, they sided with House Bolton when the chips were down. At the same time, Jon is right in calling out how the unflinching justice of Ned Stark fails to inspire loyalty. It failed Rob. It failed Jon. Sansa’s point is equally valid. She lived under the Bolton/Umber/Carstark regime. It was a horror she knows, where the threat beyond the Wall is still an abstract. This, to me, is one of the toughest calls the Starks have had to make yet.
Especially if Little Finger can use it to widen the wedge between Jon and Sansa.
Down in King’s Landing, Drunk Queen Cersei finds herself in a pinch. Enemies at all sides — including, it seems, Sam’s father Randyll Tarly. The only sensible option is to invite Euron Greyjoy to the Red Keep for a … date? Of course, Euron is deliciously mad and in full possession of all the Lannister gossip. In some ways, it feels like Pilou Asbæk never really played the Crow’s Eye until now. Well, not that he’s really playing the Crow’s Eye of A Song of Ice and Fire, but at least he’s now playing a properly pleased with himself conqueror. One wonders if Drunk Queen Cersei will ever be desperate enough to unite the Salt and Iron Thrones.
Really, she should consider an alliance with the Sand Snakes, then blow them up before they can cut her and Jamie. They’re a sad pair now, aren’t they? I wonder if he’ll ever wake up and realize how perilous their situation really is. I mean, she’s relying on a zombie for protection!
The forever-wanders known as Arya and the Hound continued their separate journeys. Arya’s path from the Twins leads south to King’s Landing with the stated mission to kill Drunk Queen Cersei. She told a bunch of soldiers as much. I wonder if they’ll still be alive next episode. Well, they’ll likely have better chances than the Freys since the show humanized them to her. The Freys, on the other hand, have joined the late Walder in whichever of the Seven Hells holds the unfaithful. Between his brief performance as Arya and his upcoming turn as the First Doctor, this is the year of David Bradley. But Maisie Williams steals the scene back with her saunter out of the hall. The North remembers indeed.
For the Hound, his travels with Beric Dondarrion and Throros of Myr led back to the hut he and Arya stayed in during the late Fall. True to his prediction, the family who sheltered him are dead and rotting. Certainly getting rolled by Sandor Clegane didn’t help their chance of survival. But amidst this new-found sense of guilt, the Hound also experienced the power of the Lord of Light. Seeing into the flame and observing the first strike of the Night King is no accident. Will it mean the Brotherhood will make for Eastwatch-by-the-Sea? I’m prepared to believe that’s exactly where the White Walkers are headed. But beyond the movements of the board, will witnessing the power of R’hllor convince the Hound to believe in the supernatural?
One wandering, however, has come to an end. As I said last year, I’ve never been a follower of the Dragon Queen. My sigil is a Kraken and my words are “We do not sow.” And yet, seeing Danerys finally come home was a breathtaking moment. Her journey began so long ago on Dragonstone. And as readers of A Game of Thrones will tell you, our journey with her begun there as well. Her memories of the place are more potent than the actual bath she sits in when her first chapter began. Seeing her kneel in the sand may mean more than seeing her take the Red Keep and sitting the Iron Throne.
Of course, I’m willing to retract that statement if she sits the throne anytime soon. Or ever, for that matter.
As always, the first episode of the season is the setting of the board. But at least no one was hidden from view this time. Okay, the Sand Snakes were. And Randyll Tarly. But that’s what, four characters? Five? Better than skipping the Meereenese Knot entirely for two episodes. And with all the players finally in Westeros, it makes sense to keep all of their storylines alive each episode. Yes, even Bran. He’s armed with one of the biggest shocks of all. Well, provided he gets to Winterfell in a timely fashion.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO.