Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7 Episode 1, “Dragonstone”
Welcome to SEASON 7 of HBO’s prestige snuff series, GAME OF THRONES. This is a SPOILER-RICH scene-by-scene recap of episode one, “Dragonstone.” If you’re looking for a spoiler-free recap, sit back and consider what the word “recap” means.
Red Wedding 2: The Reddening
Lights up on Walder Frey — previously seen accepting the North’s “Bloodiest Neck” award — holding court over his, er, court. You’ve got all your best Freys there: Walders, Walters, Waldos, Wolavers Organic, and probably some non-W names as well. Walder has gathered them to thank them for murdering the Starks at the Red Wedding. Little late to celebrate something that happened two Baratheons ago, but how can you argue with free wine?
Pretty soon there are dead Freys all over the floor, suffering the realm’s quickest and worst red wine hangover — because the real Walder Frey is still mostly-decapitated, and the “Walder” at the head of the table is professional poisoner Arya Stark, putting her freelance Faceless skills to good work. She tells the widowed Frey ladies to spread the word that “the North remembers,” and strides out of there with like it’s the end of a movie. Credits.
(Opening credits, I mean.)
Snow Bodies Business If We Do
The White Walkers’ army of frozen dead soldiers, horses and giants marches towards the wall. They don’t seem to be in any particular hurry, but at this point “I Spy” must be getting kind of old. (“I spy something… frozen.”)
Bran Stark and Meera Reed, enjoying Westeros’ slowest and least scenic sleigh ride, arrive at the Wall ahead of the dead army — Bran having just “warged” (i.e., “Work From Home-d”) into the giant’s eyeballs to check their progress. Lord Commander Dolorous Edd is on the fence about letting them in until Bran intones ominous portents about armies of the dead, Night Kings, and seeing things in places there’s no way he could have been. At which point Edd is like, “Okay, cool.”
Family-Style Dining in Winterfell
Jon “I Woke Up Like This” Snow tells the heads of the northern houses that they need to do two things: research dragonglass, and teach their families to fight — including the ladies. There are some objections, but Lyanna Mormont, Most Valuable Bannerwoman of Season 6 (1–0–0), lays detractors low with her Bear Island Stare, and everybody gets pretty psyched about dying terrible deaths and becoming zombies.
Sansa and Jon disagree about what to do with the Karstarks and the Umbers, who betrayed the Starks and fought alongside the Boltons. Sansa thinks they should be cast out to die in the cold, whereas Jon thinks they should be welcomed back to fight for the North and then die out in the cold. Jon wins the argument — for now.
Sansa reminds Jon that every time a Stark has big plans about standing up to their enemies they end up dead. Instead of pulling a Moriarty and yelling “THAT’S WHAT STARKS DO!,” Jon has a think about it and decides he should at least try and listen to Sansa.
We don’t see this, but maybe he also remembers that she had Ramsay’s own dogs rip him to shreds in front of her, so, you know. Points.
Cersei Loves Maps
King’s Landing! The Capitol of Westeros, where Cersei helped lead the continent in explosion-based healthcare reform at the end of last season.
But now she’s strolling around a giant map of Westeros like Tom Hanks in Big (only moreso), trying to figure out what to do with Starks to the north, Targaryens to the east, Tyrells to the west and Sand Snakes to the south. Stuck in the middle with Qyburn.
Jamie’s there too. They get snippy, in that way that siblings / incestuous lovers do. Cersei throws Tyrion’s escape in Jamie’s face, while Jamie tries to talk with her about Tommen joining the dead kings club. Their pillow talk has really gone downhill since season one.
Jamie points out that the Freys are dead (news travels fast), the Boltons lost Winterfell, the Lannisters are out of allies, and Cersei seems to be playing whack-a-mole on a Risk board. But — to mix metaphors — she has an ace up her sleeve.
Never Trust a Sexy Pirate
Euron Greyjoy, the Sid Vicious of the 14 seas, sails into King’s Landing with the Iron Fleet and a full complement of swagger. He offers to join up with Cersei so they can murder their traitorous families together. Also, marriage.
The Rebel Without a Crown trades barbs with Jamie — perhaps hoping to fill a Bronn-shaped hole in the Kingslayer’s heart — but Cersei is unconvinced about what he can do for her. So he offers to bring her “a priceless gift,” which I imagine is either Tyrion, Daenarys Targaryen, or an NES Classic.
Samwell Tarly and the Chamber Pot of Secrets
Good old Samwell Tarly is learning the finer points of being a maester by way of the latrine. When last we saw Sam, Jon had sent him to the Citadel in Oldtown to research the White Walkers. The maesters have seen fit to start him out with grunt work — namely the grunt an old man makes when pinching off a loaf.
There’s an amazing montage of Sam cleaning chamber pots, and I hope we can all spare a thought for the Game of Thrones prop master, who — with his big budget and HBO salary — was tasked with providing log after log of realistic-looking poops.
Anyway, Sam is trying to get to the books about the White Walkers and The Long Night, but they’re stuck behind a locked gate, so he has no choice but to keep biding his time on the chamber pot express.
In a very hands-on anatomy class, Sam brings it up to the archmaester. At first, the archmaester seems open to the idea — but then he lays out the Citadel’s nihilist philosophy: instead of worrying about what just happened, or what will happen next, maesters should worry about nothing at all, other than the weight of organs.
And he doesn’t even record the weight of the heart he asked Sam to weigh. Hypocrite.
Undeterred, Metal Gear Samwell sneaks into the Citadel at night, where even his clumsy key grabbing and (one would have to assume) acrid shit-smell can’t wake the dumb old maester. He heads straight for the “Maester’s Picks” section to borrow every Long Night book he can carry.
Vale-d Around and Fell in Love
Back in Winterfell, Petyr “Trying Too Hard to Be a Sexy Dad” Baelish creeps up to Sansa and tries to play the nice guy card. “I only want what’s best for you,” he softboys into her ear, with the implied “as long as you end up with me, because you owe me and I deserve it,” bubbling just below the surface.
Drinking Out Loud
Arya is riding towards King’s Landing and comes across a group of soldiers. When they invite her to join them for a bit of rest, Arya forgets she’s in Game of Thrones and accepts the offer. But it turns out she’s safe, because Ed Sheeran is here!
This is how I imagine Sheeran’s meeting with producers Benioff and Weiss went:
SHEERAN: I’ll be in a scene as long as nobody gets murdered, raped or tortured.
BENIOFF/WEISS: Okay. Hm. That’s going to take some work. Tell you what, we’ll write all the murder and rape out of this scene on one condition: stare deeply into our eyes and sing ‘Stay With Me.’
SHEERAN: That’s not me. That’s a Sam Smith song.
BENIOFF/WEISS: You have heard our offer.
So nobody gets murdered, raped, tortured, incested, boiled alive, burned to death, beheaded or patricided. Instead they all share some rabbit and wine, and it is the most uplifting scene in the entire series, because everybody is nice and Ed Sheeran doesn’t talk much.
Hound Dog’s Blues
The Hound, Beric Dondarrion and the Brotherhood Without Banners are traveling through the wilderness looking for problems to solve, like a Westerosi Route 66. They come upon a house with some starved corpses inside — victims of the realm’s neverending wars — and they have a deep, affecting conversation about the needlessness of war and the futility of violence.
Nah, just kidding. But they do have a conversation about how the hell Beric Dondarrion keeps coming back from the dead, and the Hound manages to drop a C-Bomb and insult pretty much everyone in the room.
Then, finally, we get some mystical prophecy up in this piece. The Hound stares into Fireplace GO and the Lord of Light shows him streaming 4K footage of the White Walkers marching to Eastwatch by the Sea, where the Wall meets the Sea, with no buffering issues.
The Hound can’t sleep, so he buries the poor smallfolks’ corpses in the yard. That shit is like a glass of warm milk to him.
Oldtown Paces, Read This Book, Doo Doo
Sam pores over his purloined books and finds out that there’s a huge store of dragonglass on Dragonstone. It’s almost like they both have dragon in their names.
In another crazy coincidence, out of the thousands of pages in these old books, he finds this information right after the scene starts.
The next morning, Sam is on his food delivery and chamber pot retrieval rounds when he runs into Jorah “One-Star Airbnb Guest” Marmont in one of Oldtown’s cells. Suffice to say, his grayscale is not looking good — either on his body or where some of it fell off.
There’s No Place Like Dragonstone
Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen, the Stormborn, Mother of Dragons, owner of some totally dope boots, lands on Dragonstone. Tyrion, Missandei, Gray Worm, Varys and the rest of her retinue are all looking pretty good too, dressed to the nines for this landing party. Maybe there’s not much to do on the trip across the Narrow Sea besides practice tailoring and take advantage of Rhoyne.com’s one-day shipping.
Dany travels through Dragonstone’s Red Door — one of the strongest memories from her youth — and makes her way to Stannis Baratheon’s Fun Time Map of Westeros. And finally, taking it all in, she says: “Shall we begin?”
And Tyrion Lannister says NOTHING.
That’s right, Tyrion — the cleverest, funniest master of bon mots on either side of the narrow sea — says nothing. Thanks for waiting, suckers.
NEXT WEEK: Stormborn This Way
All images: HBO