Welcome back to Westeros, the place where everything is made up but the tears are very, very real. We’ve waited. We’ve made predictions. We’ve read fan fiction. (Just kidding). ((Not kidding)). But at last, we’ve arrived. After what feels like an entire winter of suffering, Game of Thrones is back, and it’s not fucking around. With only one season left after this, shit is bound to start getting messy. You know, because everything has been so tame and mild-mannered up this point.
So without further ado, welcome back to our weekly Game of Thrones recaps. It’s this fun tradition where I spend three hours every Sunday meticulously taking notes and pissing off anyone who tries to watch an episode with me, just so some lifelong fan can pop up in the comments to criticize our analysis and let me know that I misspelled a made-up name with too many syllables. So glad you could join us, let’s dive in.
The episode opens on a Walder Frey who is curiously alive and hosting a lavish feast for his family. Neither of these things (living or generosity) are in his nature, so it’s only been six seconds and we’re all immediately on edge. It slowly becomes clear, through a speech drenched in resentment, that his is not a flashback of Walder, but a modern day Arya disguised as the Head of House Frey, admonishing everyone in attendance (all those who took part in the Red Wedding) for the murder of the Starks.
If you thought Season 7 was going to start slow, you were probably surprised to find Arya assassinating an entire household via a poisoned toast three minutes into the episode. Seeing as how this season only has seven episodes, it looks like we’re out of time for slow burns and gradual builds to havoc. No, they went zero to fucking sixty in the time it took Arya to say “The North remembers,” and honestly I have never felt more alive. BRB, getting my first and only tattoo: “Leave one wolf alive and the sheep are never safe.”
Arya: You didn’t slaughter every one of the Starks. That was your mistake.
Arya spares the poor raped wives of the Freys, but not before telling them to RT her message.
Arya: When people ask why I was here. Tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey. Tell them Arya Stark is the baddest bitch to ever walk these halls.
Walder’s Wife: Okay but like can you write that down.
Further North at the wall, the White Walkers make their first appearance. Honestly, could have done without them this episode, my blood pressure is already outrageously high. The only thing worse than them appearing in real time, we’re being offered this view through a warg-ing Bran. Remember Hodor? Yeah. Fuck Bran.
The gate to the wall opens and the new Lord of the Night’s Watch, Edd walks out. He’s skeptical of Meera and this kid claiming to be Jon’s brother, but instead of dropping some knowledge that only a true Stark could know, Bran goes full Yoda and just lists all the horrifying shit Edd has been through. Like cool trick but that still doesn’t prove you’re a Stark? It appears to be enough for Edd though, who lets them into Castle Black.
At Winterfell, Jon is explaining his plan to everyone on what they need to do to survive from this point forward, which consists of mining dragonglass day and night and teaching every man, woman, and child to fight. Lyanna Mormont once again steals the scene by shutting down any bit of misogyny that might have sprouted in response to that decision.
Northerner: You expect me to put a sword in my granddaughter’s hands?
Lyanna: yOu ExPeCt Me To PuT a SwOrD iN mY gRaNdDaUgHtErS’s HaNdS?
Jon asks Tormund to enlists the wildings to man the wall while the Northerners ready their castles for war, because what this show lacks in light-hearted moments it makes up for in irony.
Sansa, at Jon’s side, suggests giving the castles of the traitorous Umbers and Karstarks away to loyal families who supported them in the war against Ramsey. Weirdly enough, the son of the “honorable to a fault” Ned Stark isn’t down.
Sansa: Idk maybe let’s give those castles away to people who didn’t try to murder us?
Jon: But HONOR and TRADITION.
This first (of what I’m sure is to be many) public standoffs between Sansa and Jon is tense to say the least. Jon refuses to take away the ancestral homes of a family because of the sins of their fathers, which is nice in theory but literally not one single good deed has ever gone unpunished in this show.
Instead, Jon asks the two surviving members of both families in question to rise and swear fealty to House Stark. Sure, a unified North is pretty vital at this point if anyone wants to survive, but I guarantee a happy Sansa will also play a significant role there. She is noticeably upset, which means Littlefinger is nearby, twiddling his
But don’t worry, these siblings and potentially soon-to-be lovers get over their little skirmish but mere minutes later. Tensions may be high but after almost dying ten times over each, they recognize that they need each other more than ever. Sansa reminds Jon that there’s a lot at stake here and that previous unnamed family members didn’t necessarily have the temperament to lead in situations that were half as stressful.
Sansa: Rob and Dad were great and all but they also continuously underestimated their enemies and then died painful deaths because of it.
Because nothing can be calm in Westeros for even one second, Cersei adds some more fuel to the fire, pun absolutely intended, with a raven from King’s Landing that summons Jon to come down a bend a knee to the Lannisters, or suffer the death of a traitor. Despite the conversation they JUST had about misjudging risk, Jon shrugs it off.
Jon: It seems like a lot of work for Cersei to get her southern army up here. She’s probably bluffing.
Sansa: Uh have you met her?
Sansa tells Jon what everyone in King’s Landing learned far too late through some fiery hell: don’t fucking underestimate Cersei or the lengths she will go for revenge.
Later, Brienne is schooling Gendry at sword fighting while Tormund stands nearby, daydreaming their impending nuptials. What would the wedding hashtag be? #WhenTormundMetBrienne? #BeautyAndTheWildling? #MustLoveSlaughter? #SleeplessInWinterfell?
Nearby, Sansa is trying to catch a single moment of peace in her wretched life only to be interrupted by Baelish. No one is surprised and yet everyone is still angry.
Sansa: What do you want.
Baelish: For you to be happy and safe.
Sansa: I am safe. Brienne could snap you.
Baelish: And what about happy?
Sansa: Increasingly less likely the longer you stand here breathing on my neck.
The look Brienne and Sansa share as Baelish walks away is the look that every pair of women have ever shared while trying to escape a creepy guy at a bar. Some things are universal even in fantasy worlds, and by some things I mean women’s collective distaste for lingering men.
Sansa reminds Brienne that, while an absolute creep, Littlefinger is the reason that they’re all still alive. It’s not the happiest alliance, but it is still a necessary one.
Brienne: He wants something.
Sansa: Oh I know exactly what he wants.
Sansa: Me. It’s me. I look like my mom and he wants me because of it. He is the Snape of Westeros.
Over in the crispy husk that is King’s Landing, Cersei is overseeing the painting of a giant map of Westeros in the palace as a reminder of her and Jamie’s destiny. I see her flair for the dramatic has not lessened at all in the face of the death of her last child.
Cersei: You’ve been quiet since you came home. Are you mad at me?
Jaime: For burning down half the city, committing the one crime I sacrificed my honor to prevent, and then inadvertently killing our last son in the process? Nah, what could I possibly have to be mad about?
Cersei: Okay what about scared?
Jaime: Terrified to the point of arousal, yeah.
Cersei takes this already less than tender moment to let Jaime know that the brother that he freed, the one who killed their father, is now working with their enemy and heading up an armada on its way to take back Westeros. The man just can’t win these days.
Jamie guesses that Danaerys and Tyrion will land at Dragonstone and he’s definitely right. Cersei proceeds to list out their enemies to the east (Dany), to the South (the Sand Snakes), to the West (Olenna Tyrell), and the North (the Starks). I don’t think she even knows that three of those four have teamed up together on a fun sailing expedition towards her demise.
Cersei: We’re surrounded by traitors.
Jaime: You killed just about all their family members but okay.
Jaime is trying really hard to tell Cersei that they are so clearly on the losing side of this battle. She’s burned every bridge (heh) that could possibly save them and even if they managed to survive, there’s no one to pass their dynasty onto. This would be a good time to bring up Tommen and maybe how his death could be affecting them, but Cersei has never talked about her feelings before and she’s not about to start now, dammit.
With all the Freys dead, and the apparent killer still unknown, the Lannisters have no allies to back them. Jamie doesn’t see any hope in recruiting but Cersei has a plan, and it’s an unfortunate one.
It looks like Euron Greyjoy did in fact manage to build an entire fleet of ships on an island without a single tree in sight, so maybe I’ve been underestimating him all this time.
Jaime: The Greyjoys aren’t good at anything. Not one single thing.
Cersei: Except for making a fleet of ships appear out of thin air. Oh and marrying me.
In the between last season and now, Euron has transformed into what looks like the bastard son of Pacey Witter and Jack Sparrow. Not quite blonde enough for Cersei tastes, but he’ll have to do.
Euron thinks that two rightful monarchs with shitty and treasonous (read: actually good) family members should team up to take down everyone and everything in their path. This is a very on brand move for Cersei, but not so much for Jaime.
He isn’t sold, to say the least. Euron is a traitor and the man who started an unsuccessful rebellion against the Lannisters which resulted in his own exile. He also happens to be the single most confident piece of shit in the world, who proposes to Cersei by telling her that he’s always dreamt of marrying the prettiest girl in Westeros and then thanks Jaime for killing his own kin. Definitely a guy you want around for family holidays.
Cersei: Idk. You’re a liar, a cheat, and you murdered your own brother.
Euron: You should try it. Good shit.
Cersei: Literally my lifelong dream but thanks for reminding me.
When Cersei denies him, Euron promises to return to King’s Landing with a gift that will convince her to marry him. If it’s the head of another Stark direwolf I swear to GOD. Honestly kind of a cliché at this point.
In another storyline that I never needed to see again, Sam is effectively living life as the Citadel’s worst unpaid intern. He cleans chamber pots, serves gruel, and shelves books. Real talk, every single master at the Citadel needs to see a doctor. Poop shouldn’t look like that.
After what has to be months of abuse and gallons of feces, Sam finally decides to investigate the gated area in the back of the library. It’s like the restricted section at Hogwarts except twelve year olds can’t break into it with minimal effort and almost zero consequences.
During a truly gruesome autopsy, Sam asks an Archmaester if he could be granted access to the restricted section, considering he’s fought White Walkers firsthand and winter is here and other such things vital to the survival of humanity. The man isn’t swayed.
It sounds like everyone at the citadel is annoyed with Sam and his obsession with the White Walkers. Honestly, same, and we all know he’s actually telling the truth. The arch maester, while being the only who believes Sam, doesn’t seem to really care. His logic: Winters come and tragedies pass but people survive and the Wall keeps standing. It’s cool that, even in Westeros, there’s still eccentric old white men who listen to Bob Marley and think they know everything, but not particularly helpful in this situation.
Once it’s become abundantly clear that no one is going to help him, Sam grows a pair and steals some keys to the restricted section. Harry Potter would have managed much quicker and without cleaning out all the old man shit in the Citadel but not everyone can be a hero, I guess.
His hard work pays off, because one of the stolen books reveals something rather important: the location of all the naturally occurring dragonglass in Westeros.
Sam: This seems important. Jon should know.
Gilly: I can’t even fucking read and I managed to piece that together. How are you the one in charge here.
Later on his rounds, a mysterious arm attached to a very familiar sounding man scares the shit out of Sam and demands to know if Danaerys Stormborn has arrived yet. It looks like Jorah’s search for a greyscale cure landed him in a locked room in the Citadel. Not sure how productive that will be but at least we don’t have to listen to him urgently whisper anymore.
I had two thoughts when a new scene opened on Arya riding her horse through some light snow. The first being “PLEASE BE HEADED HOME” and the second “when the fuck did Game of Thrones start using Ed Sheeran songs on its soundtrack.” Turns out they didn’t, they just started casting Ed Sheeran to play minor side characters who will likely die gruesome deaths because happy cameos aren’t a thing in Game Of Thrones land.
Turns out Ed is amongst a band of friendly warriors who offer Arya food and shelter, which immediately makes me suspicious. They tell her that they’re part of the army sent to help keep peace at the Freys, still not knowing who killed them all. Walder’s wife had one job and she clearly didn’t follow through.
Arya eats their rabbit and drinks their wine and I get that she has spent seven seasons becoming self-sufficient but she’d last about thirty seconds at a frat party. Never trust the shy guy who offers you homemade wine, Arya. Literally the first rule of survival in any situation.
Stranger who could be dangerous or a Lannister ally or literally anything bad: Why are you going to King’s Landing?
Arya: Oh I’m gonna kill the queen.
Everyone: * jovial laughter *
I’ve discovered the first real thing the Hound and I have in common, and it’s a natural distaste for rum. Maybe he also acquired his on an ill-advised spring break bender? Unclear. He’s still rolling around with the Beric and Thoros and their crew, deadest on ruining anyone’s attempt at a good time.
The second real thing we have in common, despite existing in an alternate universe in a medieval time period, is that the Hound has a significant distaste for man buns and all that they represent. Not all heroes wear capes, but they do universally hate douchey hair trends.
The party discovers a seemingly abandoned cabin to camp in for the night, but this is clearly a farce because nothing is seemingly abandoned in this God forsaken world. Inside they find a skeleton of what looks like a man holding his daughter after a suicide of necessity. Man, I forgot what it was like to suffer through a full hour of extremely somber and heart wrenching scenes every Sunday night. Missed it.
To make things, if possible, even more sad, The Hound realized that this man and his daughter took pity on Arya and himself a couple seasons back, offering them food and shelter for the night. By way of paying him back, the Hound beat the shit out of him and stole all his food. Is this man possible wrestling with, dare I say it, such complex emotions as guilt? Talk about character development.
To immediately make up for any signs of progression, Clegane continues his streak of not making any friends by telling Beric that he’s not special and definitely not worthy of being resurrected by the Lord of Light.
The Hound: You ain’t shit.
Beric: Dude I am quite aware.
Before he can get much further into questioning every aspect of this fiery religion, Thoros summons Clegane to the fire to teach him some life lessons. The Hound hates a whole lot of things in this life, but learning lessons is probably close to the top of the list.
He stares into the fire, unimpressed, until he’s struck by a vision. The Hound sees the Wall in the fire, specifically at a point where the White Walker army is marching past a castle. It’s clear that an internal battle is raging inside his icy heart: gut-wrenching fear or general annoyance that he now has to believe in something
Instead of addressing either emotion, the Hound decides to dig a hole in the subzero temperatures and bury the family who likely died because of him. Choosing manual labor over any kind of recognition of feelings: the straight man’s eternal struggle.
Finally, what we’ve all been waiting for. Dany and her mighty armada have arrived at Dragonstone, with actual dragons in tow. It’s an emotional moment for me and I’m not the one returning to the rightful home of my ancestors, so I can imagine she’s feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment.
I could watch Dany majestically stroll into this castle on loop for the rest of the week, tbh. The only thing glaringly missing from this moment is Daario, but lets not reopen old wounds. After tearing down the lingering Baratheon banner, she walks into the throne room that her family was slaughtered in and looks upon what is honestly a way cooler seat than the Iron Throne, with her loyal inner circle in tow.
Instead of sitting down she marches straight back to what I’m assuming is the war room, complete with the giant Westeros-shaped table that every major family appears to own. There must be a West Elm in the seven kingdoms.
Tyrion follows, potentially lost for words for the first time in his life. Like, what do you say when a woman gets to momentously return to her home after years upon years of hardship and suffering. “This is pretty dope” doesn’t seem to suffice. Luckily he doesn’t have to worry about it, because as always, Dany knows exactly what to say.
Danaerys: Shall we begin?
Me: YOU DESERVE THE WORLD AND MORE BUT ALSO DAARIO
What will next week bring? Heartbreak? Death? The thwarting of another shitty Internet rumor? All are likely, but nothing more so than the fact that we’ll be here watching, drinking, and crying. Probably all at the same time. See you there.