Before we begin, let’s take a moment to discuss the premiere’s absolutely epic opening with Arya eliminating House Frey in one fell swoop. The beauty of this sequence is the fact that it makes you wonder if you’re watching a flashback, only for the slow realization to creep in that Arya is very much disguised as Walder Frey himself. The manner in which she poisons everyone after that kickass speech (found below) is satisfying in every way imaginable, and the scene is beautifully bookended with her triumphant smirk as she struts off towards her next target (with the goosebump-worthy musical theme that was used when Arya told Jaqen she was going home playing in the background). What’s especially gratifying is that this scene pays off the Red Wedding – a scene that traumatized us all the way back in season three. Wow!
Cersei’s conversation with Jaime is another standout. As they look down on the map of Westeros, the queen hilariously recounts all their enemies and the current, volatile status quo. Sure there’s a lot of exposition, but the scene is packed with layers from Cersei feeling “betrayed” after Tommen killed himself, to Jaime expressing subtle hints of fear with his sister on the warpath. The scene is terrifically juxtaposed with Euron Greyjoy’s arrival and marriage proposal. The old Cersei would have probably never entertained such a sleazy suitor, but all bets are off now that she’s got nothing to lose. It’s also fascinating to see Euron insult Jaime so candidly, and Cersei doing nothing to stand up for him. Any guesses on what exactly Euron’s “gift” will be?
Unfortunately, the premiere fails miserably when it comes to Ed Sheeran’s cameo. I get that the show’s producers wanted to surprise Maisie Williams (who is a big fan of the singer), but it feels like Thrones selling itself out after carefully maintaining its dignity for six years. This is especially true when it comes to Sheeran’s line about a “new” song; it’s a line that makes absolutely no sense in the context of the show, and only serves as a meta wink to the audience. It’s groan-worthy in every way, and barely salvaged by Arya using the truth (“I’m going to kill the Queen“) to make the soldiers laugh.
And then there’s The Hound. His travels with The Brotherhood Without Banners are immensely slow, but they do help frame the brute as a man on a path of redemption, particularly after stumbling onto the bodies of a father and daughter he once robbed. More intriguing is the notion that Clegane actually sees the White Walkers in the fire. Melisandre would be proud.
Finally, Dany gets only one measly scene in the season premiere, and it’s her majestic arrival at her birthplace of Dragonstone. It’s kind of disappointing because I wanted her to arrive at King’s Landing already and start barbecuing everybody, but the premiere’s final moment (“Shall we begin”?) is blood-pumpingly good.
Bits & Beheadings
– Notice how Arya (as Frey) prevents Frey’s wife from drinking the poison. Can’t say she doesn’t have a heart!
– Hauntingly beautiful: Bran’s vision of the White Walkers approaching, culminating with reanimated giants. Also, Bran and Meera have finally arrived at The Wall. It’s about damn time!
– Lyanna Mormont might not get much screen-time, but she sure steals every one of her scenes.
– The fact that Sansa even brings up Joffrey’s name when discussing Jon’s rule is not okay!
– So does Sansa really admire Cersei? That’s definitely an interesting dimension to explore.
– I love that The Mountain is still so loyal to Cersei; Euron can’t even approach her majesty when he tries.
– Yup, Tormund is still in love with Brienne. Who else is rooting for these two?
– It’s sad that Jon and Sansa have so much tension between them now, but neither has any idea what the other has been through leading up to this point. Thankfully, Sansa is still aware that Littlefinger is trying to cause trouble.
– I genuinely can not stand Sam, and his subplot definitely took up far too much screen-time that could have better been served with Dany for example. Nevertheless, the editing with his Citadel duties was hilariously on-point, and the subplot did at least give us a sneak-peak of Jorah who is transforming into a full-on Stone-Man thanks to his Greyscale infection.
– The Hound burying the farmer and daughter was somewhat touching wasn’t it?
– Sam discovers that there’s a whole lot of Dragonglass at Dragonstone (shocking I know) and sends a raven to Jon. Bring on the big battle!
– Oh dragons how I missed thee.
Kings & Quips
Arya (as Walder Frey): You’re my family, the men who helped me slaughter the Starks at the Red Wedding. Yes, yes. Cheer. Brave men, all of you. Butchered a woman pregnant with her babe. Cut the throat of a mother of five. Slaughtered your guests after inviting them into your home. But you didn’t slaughter every one of the Starks. (The men start to choke) No, no, that was your mistake. You should have ripped them all out, root and stem. Leave one wolf alive and the sheep are never safe. When people ask you what happened here tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey.
Sansa: You’re the military man, but I know her. If you’re her enemy, she’ll never stop until she’s destroyed you. Everyone who’s ever crossed her, she’s found a way to murder.
Jon: You almost sound as if you admire her.
Cersei: Enemies to the east. Enemies to the south Ellaria Sand and her brood of bitches. Enemies to the west Olenna, the old cunt. Another traitor. Enemies to the north. Ned Stark’s bastard has been named King in the North and that murdering whore Sansa stands beside him. Enemies everywhere. We’re surrounded by traitors.
Cersei: I’m the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
Jaime: Three kingdoms, at best.
Cersei: Should we spend our days mourning the dead Mother, father, and all our children
Cersei: I loved them. I did. But they’re ashes now and we’re still flesh and blood. We’re the last Lannisters, the last ones who count.
Euron: But I must say when you rushed through the breach and started cutting people down it was glorious. Like a dance.
Jaime: The people I was cutting down were your own kin.
Euron: The place was getting crowded.
Cersei: What do you want in return?
Euron: Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to grow up and marry the most beautiful woman in the world. So here I am, with a thousand ships and two good hands.
Cersei: I decline your proposal.
Cersei: You’re not trustworthy. You’ve broken promises to allies before and murdered them at the nearest opportunity. You murdered your own brother.
Euron: You should try it. Feels wonderful.
Littlefinger: What about happy? Why aren’t you happy? What do you want that you do not have?
Sansa: At the moment, peace and quiet. (He tries to speak) No need to seize the last word, Lord Baelish. I’ll assume it was something clever.
Thoros: Bad night to be outdoors.
The Hound: You’ve got real powerful magic to figure that out. Did the Lord of Light whisper that in your ear? “It’s snowing, Thoros. It’s windy. It’s gonna be a cold night.”
Beric: You’re a grouchy old bear, aren’t you, Clegane? You want some rum?
The Hound: Don’t like that shit. It’s too sweet.
Beric: Why are you always in such a foul mood?
The Hound: Experience.
Beric: For a big, hard man, you scare easy.
The Hound: I’ll tell you what doesn’t scare me… bald cocksuckers like you. You think you’re fooling anyone with that top knot? Bald cunt.
The Hound: It’s my fucking luck I end up with a band of fire worshippers.
Beric: Aye. Almost seems like divine justice.
The Hound: There’s no divine justice, you dumb cunt.
A well-made but admittedly underwhelming season premiere that is more concerned with table-setting than any explosive developments. It’s a bit disappointing after a 13-month wait and only a dozen episodes to go, but I have faith that the Powers That Be won’t let us down so close to the finish line.