THAT, my friends, is how you open a highly anticipated season of television. The cold open was one of the most satisfying things to happen on this show--and it was a cold open, all right. When we first see Frey up there drinking wine and talking, it was confusing…is this a flashback? What’s happening? And then the pieces start coming together…wait...Arya can change faces...that’s Arya...and then….”Tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey.” I was squealing with joy. Wintry justice! Justice comes so rarely in Westeros that when it does, it’s so rewarding. We have been waiting for Walder Frey to get his comeuppance since season three. It was perfect that Arya was the one to do it, and she did it in style.
This week I have seen a few articles on the interwebs tryna say we should be more upset that Arya is a mass murderer and a cold blooded killer and blah blah blah. WHATEVER. I just re-watched the whole series, and the Red Wedding is even gnarlier the second time around. They killed Robb’s dire wolf and attached its severed head to Robb’s headless body and rode him around the castle! Oh you forgot about that? Well, the North remembers. F THE FREYS! This was justice, damnit, and also it’s Game of freakin’ Thrones. I only have empathy for the Starks and their dire wolves at this point.
The Starks have all responded differently to Ned and Robb’s defeat. Jon Snow is trying to take after Ned and act with honor and loyalty to the northern houses. It’s painful to see Sansa and Jon at odds with each other, but they have entirely different perspectives—Sansa has the perspective of Kings Landing, and Jon has the perspective of Hardhome. Sansa watched them take her father’s head and put it on a spike, and Jon has seen the Night King. I think it’s a great play on the part of the writers to highlight this difference in perspective, and I just hope Jon and Sansa know better by now than to let it tear them apart.
Sansa is (as a few have pointed out online) wearing the same hairstyle that Cersei was wearing back in season two. She even sounds like Cersei when she quips to Littlefinger: “No need to seize the last word, I’ll assume it was something clever.” Even the way she says “clever” sounded like Cersei--utter disdain through gritted teeth. She tells Jon she has learned a “great deal” from Cersei. “Everyone who’s ever crossed her, she’s found a way to murder.” So here’s my question—who has crossed Sansa? I don’t really think she’s forgiven Littlefinger for handing her over to Ramsey.
Arya has a similar philosophy, except she’s not killing the people who have crossed her; she is killing the people who have the hurt the ones she loves. She is on her way to cross Cersei off her list, but my guess is that she’ll run into a few others along the way--namely Beric Dondarion and Thoros of Myr, of the Brotherhood without Banners. They made Arya's list when they handed her friend Gendry over to The Red Woman (also on the kill list). I suspect all of these folks will end up together before Arya makes it to Kings Landing. The Hound is no longer on her list since he was presumed dead, but I imagine that the relationship between The Hound and Arya is far from over. Will he persuade her to leave revenge killing aside and fight in “the battle to come”? Or will Arya take out the lot of them? Also--where is Gendry??
The Hound gets some great moments in this episode—and some great lines. (“You think you’re fooling anyone with that top knot?”) Ever since he met Arya, The Hound has been undergoing a transformation. He may not have actually died, but he has definitely changed. His vision in the flames is extremely important--we know now that The Wall has a weak spot and won’t be enough to keep the white walkers out (as Sansa and the Archmaester assume). Jon has just sent the Wildlings (led by Tormund) to Eastwatch by the Sea, which is exactly where The Hound sees the white walkers coming through. Looks like we have our season seven battle locale all picked out. I hope Tormund survives long enough to make it work with Brienne. We are shipping them so hard!
Meanwhile, Sam is hard at work in the Citadel, but unfortunately he’s not spending much time researching how to destroy white walkers. A brilliant and repulsive little sequence shows our Sam cleaning up chamber pots and filling up soup pots in Sisyphean fashion, until at last we are not sure which pot is which. He finally gets the nerve to break into the restricted area of the library, after an exchange with the Archmaester. A surprise to see the great Jim Broadbent here; looking forward to seeing more of him this season, though his character seems only slightly less irritating than Jonathan Pryce's High Sparrow.
Sam discovers that there is a mountain of dragonglass underneath Dragonstone. The good news is, he found something! The bad news is, Stannis told him about that like a billion years ago. Could have saved himself a lot of poop duty by remembering that little tidbit. I really hope he finds something more substantial before this battle breaks out.
As for Dragonstone, it is--finally--occupied by the Dragon Queen. Three cheers for leaving Meereen!! Good riddance. It has taken Dany an obscene amount of time to get to this moment, so I am glad they gave her (and us) some space to soak it all in. Even Tyrion is quiet!
As for what’s left of The Lannisters, they are surrounded by “traitors” as Cersei puts it, and they have no reason for winning, as Jamie points out. My guess is that despite all of the people that want them dead, it is the Lannisters who will destroy themselves. They die in each other’s arms as Jamie once wished--Jamie kills Cersei and then himself--the Kingslayer becomes a Queenslayer, and House Lannister has succeeded in utterly destroying itself. What do you think?
Ah, and of course there is the wildcard Euron Greyjoy. Some people think the gift he will bring Cersei is Tyrion, since he makes so many references to the killing of kin. There is another gift, however, that Euron claims to have in the books--I won’t spoil that for you, but it could be a gamechanger. Also--Sick Burn Award goes to Euron for his “a thousand ships and two good hands” line. Zing!
Other moments of note—Brandon Stark and Meera Reed arrive at The Wall, and we observe an army of white walkers making their way through a billowing cloud of snow. Jeepers creepers. Also, Jorah Mormont is wicked gray scale-y and quarantined at The Citadel. I wonder if he and Sam will team up at some point? If anyone can find a cure for grayscale, it’s Sam, and if anyone could convince Daenerys to give up some dragonglass, it’s Jorah.
Arya happens by some (bizarrely) friendly Lannister soldiers. There was a big deal made about Ed what’s-his-face making an appearance. Fortunately, I didn’t know who he was, so it didn’t take me out of it. (I'm not sure if that makes me more or less cool. I'm betting on more cool here). I thought the lyrics to the song “Hands of Gold” were pretty interesting--sounded like a love song about Jamie and Cercei! But in the books, this song is about Tyrion and Shae.
A couple of notes about the opening credits: Kings Landing still has a stag on it--why? Will Cersei rule for such a short time that it wasn't worth changing the banner? And seeing Oldtown was so cool. I got way too excited about a new item on the map.
And in the preview for episode two—no question that was Arya’s dire wolf, Nymeria, right?? We have been dying to see her since she ran off in season one, and here’s hoping she has a pack of replacements for the other Starks.
Also—it looks like Ellaria Sand makes her way to Dragonstone and plants a kiss on Yara Greyjoy! One theme we picked up last season was the emerging leadership of women in Westeros. Jon Snow may be King of the North, but Sansa is playing Hand of the King (he should make that offish!) Cersei rules Kings Landing, Ellaria and her Sand Snakes rule Dorne, Yara Greyjoy is trying to take the Iron Islands, Lady Olenna is in Highgarden, and of course Daenerys is trying to take over the world.