Please note: there are FULL spoilers for the first episode of season 7, as well as all preceding episodes.
In retaliations for the Red Wedding, and the murder of her brother, Robb, and mother, Catelyn, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) takes on the guise of Walder Frey (David Bradley) and summons “every Frey who means a damn thing”, before murdering them all with a toast of poisoned wine. Arya tells a girl at the slaughter, that when people ask what has happened, tell them that the North remembers, and that Winter has come for House Frey.
The Night King’s army has grown exponentially since Hardhome, and now consists of undead corruptions of both Karsi and Wun-Wun. Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) arrive at The Wall, and are taken inside.
In Winterfell, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), along with Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) mend broken alliances with allies-turned-enemy houses, before dispatching Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) to defend the fortress of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, the closest castle to Hardhome, the location of Snow’s battle with the Night King. Sansa dismisses advances from Petyr Baelish (Aiden Gillain) once more, while Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) continues to train Podrick (Daniel Portman) in the ways of the sword. Jon receives a raven: Cersei Lannister demands he come to King’s Landing and bend the knee – or suffer the fate of all traitors.
As King’s Landing deals with the fallout of Cersei Lannister’s (Lena Heady) explosive claim to the Iron Throne, Cersei’s brother -and lover!- Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has some concerns about the power plays by Jon Snow to the North and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) from across the sea. Cersei plans to counter Daenerys’ navy with an armada of her own, courtesy of Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk), though she rejects his proposal of marriage, causing him to promise her a “priceless” gift as he departs.
In Oldtown, Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) continues on his quest to learn how to defeat the white walkers. He steals a tome from the restricted area, and comes to the conclusion that the dragon glass he seeks can be found at Dragonstone. Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) has exiled himself to Oldtown to treat his greyscale, which has spread to at least his entire arm.
The Hound, Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) continues his travels with The Brotherhood Without Banners, and is forced to atone for his past sins. A vision from a fireplace tells him to head East, to a fortress by the sea.
Daenerys, along with Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), her dragons and army of Unsullied, arrives at Dragonstone, and begins her own plans to sit on the Iron Throne.
+ the scene with Cersei and Jamie discussing allegiances and plays for power while standing on the world map was a powerful scene with a great visual
+ comic book influences are everywhere, it seems, as Euron looked like Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang and Petyr Baelish was rocking the Doctor Strange/Mister Fantastic white sideburns
+ there was an Ed Sheeran cameo, which has surprisingly divided fans. Sheeran makes me swoon like a pre-teen girl, so I was all for it, double so since we heard him sing
– Sam’s cleaning duties montage in Oldtown was unecessary, and frankly disgusting, and the fact he it took him this long to figure out that something called dragon glass could be found at Dragonstone, the home of the family synonymous with dragons is an embarrassment to someone attempting to be a Maester
– the scenes with The Hound were, unfortunately, some of my least favourite for this episode. Using (some might say “wasting”) Ian McShane in a single episode last season really hits home how some of the main actors, though not at all bad, just don’t have that same presence on the screen
– I just don’t care for Dany at all. I know she is one of the major players here, but I find very little about her character appealing
Final thoughts: Though I feel we could have gone without a few-minute-montage of Sam cleaning up bedpans, this was a solid opener for what is sure to be a wild season. All the major trio – Cersei, Jon and Daenerys – made moves to secure their victory, though all are getting council they don’t necessarily want to hear. Some interesting reveals (Ygritte and Wun Wun in the Night King’s army, Jorah being in Oldtown) and Euron’s promise of a priceless gift should have very interesting follow ups sooner rather than later.