We begin with revenge-genocide at the hands of a child, and here is why I love this show.
Arya the Many-Faced Homicidal Tween exacts her alcoholic, genocidal revenge on the Walder Frey clan: in disguise, with poison, in the same hall where her family was ambushed and killed. Red Wedding revenge for the win. Every time she pulls a mask off her face, I think ‘Are we all really falling for this idea that Arya is a skilled death mask magician who has the time, resources, and energy to create these masterpieces in the woods?!’ I can’t speak for anyone else, but a resounding yes is my answer. I want to believe.
Whenever Arya pulls her mask off, my Game of Thrones amnesia kicks in because I always shriek like these are new to me, when really she spent an entire season in that creepy death palace with Killer Bitch and Hipster Jesus.
“When people ask you what happened here, tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey.”
When Arya dropped that medieval mic, I heard it hit the ground the world over. YAAAAAAS BIIIIIITCH, y’all were screaming; I heard you, don’t deny it. Everyone loves an underdog. Everyone loves a Stark. Everyone loves a strong girl #LivingHerBestLife in this unforgiving landscape.
Credits and song and Game of Thrones open: oh, how I missed you.
Dark weather blooms on the horizon, and with it, winter and the undead army. Through the fog: White Walkers, White Walker horsies, and holy shit, White Walker giants. I actually screamed because they’re enormous and looked like oversized Christmas pirates from a popular Johnny Depp movie franchise that will not fucking die. Also, they’re monstrously huge and frightening, did I already mention that?
Cut to Bran at The Wall, doing what Bran does best – Professional Mood Killer – a right ray of sunshine, that one. Meera is cold and probably tired-slash-totally traumatized from dragging Bran a thousand miles through sleet, snow, detonating fairies, the undead, and Hodor’s unnecessary demise. Please give those teens some counseling and mead.
Jon Snow gives a class on what kills White Walkers (dragonglass) to his Northern bannerpeople and drops the bomb that little girls will fight this battle, too. Old Man Rivers (can’t remember his name, looks like Frasier wrapped in furs) is like but I have girls in my family who can’t fight with swords, only dolls! and Lyanna Mormont, one of my favorites, is all I’M TEN AND FIGHT LIKE 40 BEARS ON THE REG, OLD MAN and then everyone is like “Ladies be fightin’!” Huzzah for, um, is this feminism???
All I want is to see Bear Island with my own two eyes, which I assume is like Themyscira but with adorable fighting bears and fierce child warriors in bear suits. Just bears, bears, everywhere. This leads me to believe there are also a lot of carbs on this island (warriors and bears need to eat?) but that is just conjecture.
It is determined that Tormund Giantsbane and the wildlings will go back to be the first line of defense against the dark arts — namely, the Night King and his fancy ice hair.
Jon and Sansa have a skirmish, one of many to come, I assume.
Him: I’m in charge.
Her: You’re in charge, but…
Okay, why is Littlefinger still so…Littlefinger? Also, why am I so attracted to him? He’s slimy and has that hair and such a porny mustache, but I’m like ‘Yeah, that’s probably the one I would end up with.’ Eyeroll.
Cersei sends a friendly raven that reads BOW TO ME, STARK BITCHES. The next moment she is standing on a gigantic map of all Seven Kingdoms that’s literally being painted a foot in front of her. The old painter is like “HELLOOO, WET PAINT” but she is impervious to such things. I pause the show so I can get a better look because I’m a full-on map nerd, yes, it’s true. My solemn belief is every book with a map at the front is worth reading, plus books about maps (The Island of Lost Maps, Maphead, etc) are really fascinating. I’m convinced we need this map on the floor of our apartment but my husband disagrees.
Jamie and Cersei fight about their allies and enemies; I’d forgotten they had any allies. “I’m the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms,” she says. “Three, at best,” he replies. Ouch. Cersei says Euron Greyjoy, that creepy saltwife rapist, is coming to King’s Landing — to find a Queen, presumably her. Pan to their impressive Iron Island ships, covered in blackness and fighting octopi, sailing into the harbor.
Euron, as per usual, acts like a King’s Landing rock star, who’s ever-so-slightly drunk on wine and ego and tight leather pants. He dangles his Iron fleet in front of Cersei with a sick burn at Jamie – “So here I am, with a thousand ships and two good hands.” Rude, but she eventually says nah. He vows to bring her a priceless gift to show his dedication and leaves, not once taking off his shirt so I can make a more educated judgment of him. Loved that actor (Pilou Asbaek) in Borgen, as well.
Now we’re at the Citadel with Samwell Tarly, which means:
MIND-BLOWING POOP MONTAGE!!!!!!
On the real, though, I may never eat soup in any form again. Sam appears to be stuck in some kind of nightmarish shit-themed Groundhog’s Day and not saving the fucking world like he’s supposed to. It’s all about access, which he does not have yet. MAYBE YOU SHOULD RESORT TO STEALING – oh hey, that worked! Stolen keys in hand, he pilfers some books in the hopes of keeping his Mission: Impossible alive. Most exciting: Jim Broadbent, a masterful actor, as Marwyn the Mage aka archmaester of the Citadel. I first saw him in ‘Enchanted April’ as Mr. Arbuthnot a hundred years ago, one of my favorite films to this day.
Back at Winterfell, Brienne whomps Podrick Payne easily during swordfight training, leading Tormund Giantsbane to say “You’re a lucky man” with admiration after she throws Podrick to the snowy ground. Whatever writer pulled that line, I salute thee. Sansa and Littlefinger exchange more words; hers sharp, his weasly. I kind of love how she’s like eyeroll, over it at Littlefinger and he’s still baby, we can work it out.
Enter: Ed fucking Sheeran. That moment made me cringe, even though he was fine overall. I’m just not sure if Game of Thrones needed some honey-voiced British pop star singing the medieval version of Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ in the woods. Arya handles herself with that group of soldiers – Ed’s compatriots – and I keep waiting for Bruno Mars to show up. Of course, this is Game of Thrones so who knows what will happen next week.
The Hound, being The Hound, is riding with those bannerless, Lord of Light regenerating fellas and being a total dick. They come upon a house in the snow – it’s the same one The Hound stayed at with Arya with that poor father and daughter. Naturally they’re dead, but it really seems to bother him.
“How do you think it ended for them?”
The Hound puts some truth on Lord Dondarrian – “I always thought you were dull as dirt, there’s nothing special about you” – and then shit gets fiery and real with Thoros. Sandor looks into the flames and actually sees something – a vision of The Wall and also White Walkers. The guys are all SEE WE TOLD YOU SO and The Hound is like GUYS, I RECENTLY WENT THROUGH A TRAUMATIC RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE WITH AL SWEARINGEN but whatever, the jig is up.
“Do you believe me now, Clegane?” Woof. I think he does.
In a sweet bit of ice-cold therapy, The Hound buries the bones of the father and daughter he had previously stole from, thus sealing their doom. He recites an incomplete prayer and barks out a simple apology. I’m sorry you are dead; you both deserved better. It’s an odd moment of humanity from the show’s biggest curmudgeon.
Cut back to Samwell, who discovers a Dragonstone map of what looks like Dragonglass Utopia. Victory! Then we see a greyscaled Jorah Mormont – or his nasty arm, at least – in the Citadel jail (or quarantine? hospital? not sure what it is). He coughs out Daenarys’ name and inquires after her. Sam is like WTF and I’m like JORAH LET IT GO, YOU’RE SUCH A FANBOY.
We now join Daenerys Targaryen – finally! – standing on the bow of a ship, presumably having stood in the same position since we last saw her 55 weeks ago. After much sailing and majestic choral music, they land at Dragonstone, her ancestral home. Dialogue isn’t needed here – it’s an emotional homecoming she’s been planning her entire life. She’s got her gothic rubber warrior suit on and she’s rocking the I-mean-business hair flair. They walk from the beach up to the city gates and okay — no biggie, now we just climb The Great Wall of China winding upwards for like five miles until we somehow reach the front door. Adjusts rubber suit.
You’d better believe if I’m THE MOTHER OF DRAGONS, I’m riding a dragon to the top floor and everyone else is invited to walk. How are you gonna have the best mode of transportation, outside of a luckdragon (who is surely a distant cousin), but then use your own two feet to get someplace? Where are the perks? Take the shuttle to work, girl, you earned it.
Inside Dragonstone – an exceptional, cavernous castle built on the sea – there are dragon motifs and reliefs everywhere. When Stannis was holed up there, I’d forgotten it wasn’t his, but he never seemed to fit his surroundings. It’s a true coming home story for Danaerys as she takes in her family’s legacy, while her dragons circle the castle above. Some serious shit will be planned in this place, you can definitely feel that. Plus, the Dragonstone throne is straight-up #thronegoals – architecturally beautiful in design and also powerful in its intimidation. This is the throne I want in my house. Forget that one filled with janky knives.
It was nice to see both ice and fire in Episode 1 – White Walkers and dragons, respectively – even if the Viperous Sand Queens and Lady Olenna were not. Of interest to me right now: If the Seven Kingdoms will battle the White Walkers in this season or “next season” (technically still this season but a hundred years from now), what priceless gift Euron could possibly bring Cersei to make her marry that psychopath (a third hand? Hand of The Queen aka Tyrion?), what the Stark sibling reunion might look like (I MAY CRY ALL THE TEARS), and when Samwell will get a promotion because goddamn, I can’t go through that many bowel movements again. Last night, my dreams were filled with disgusting old man bedpans. Hard pass.