A Song of Ice and Hot Takes
Scene by Scene Analysis of GoT Season 7.01 “Dragonstone”
“Winter Came For House Frey”
This episode’s cold open was arguably the bloodiest in the shows seven year history. With one swift face swap we saw the elimination of an entire house. This scene worked to give us quite a bit of information: obviously first and foremost, all of House Frey is dead. Walder Frey (who we saw Arya kill in the final episode of the sixth season) was singularly focused on his houses legacy, so the fact that his house was essentially written out of the history books (and off the show) by a teenage girl is a bit of irony that has to have old Walder rolling in his grave. But more importantly this scene worked to set up Arya’s motivation and storyline for the season, she’s in the Riverlands and she’s dead set on vengeance. In many ways she’s filling the role of Lady Stoneheart, a role many book readers and George R.R. Martin himself wish was included in the show.
Arya isn’t looking for a heartwarming reunion with her sister and brother at Winterfell, she’s looking for everyone who has ever wronged her or her family. She is cold and calculated and armed with a death stare that sends shivers down your spine and all that Faceless Man technology that gives her access to the faces and voices of the dead.
They Are Bringing The Storm
“Our enemy won’t wait out the storm, they bring the storm.” — Jon Snow
Well, Jon was right. They brought the storm. The White Walkers have put together an army of the undead that now includes dead GIANTS! Well, fuck.
This scene, besides being shot brilliantly works to show us how large their army has become in the year and a half since we last saw them. They’ve added all the dead Giants, Thenns and Wildlings from the Battle of Hardhome to their army and are on the prowl, heading towards the Wall.
SIDENOTE: That Wall is definitely coming down. From a narrative perspective, something has to happen this season that will lead to the Wall crumbling. I suspect that towards the end of this season we’ll see the wall crumble, figuratively and literally bringing the War between the living and dead to Westeros. The stakes would be too low if the Walkers remain contained.
Bran the Bobsledder
Bran made it to the Wall. He met Dolorous Edd, the de facto Lord Commander now that his brother Jon bailed, so what does this mean? Bran has no idea that Jon Snow isn’t at the Wall. He’ll surely be surprised to learn that Jon is back at Winterfell with Sansa, and he’ll probably be even more surprised to learn that Jon was brought back to life after being murdered. But all this will surely add to Bran’s desire to find his brother and have a “we need to talk” conversation about his mom and everything he’s seen in visions of the past.
I think it’s safe to say that Bran and Meera will head to Winterfell in the next episode or two and continue his work with the trees there.
Snow v. Stark
The Sansa and Jon friction was apparent from the get go. As I mentioned in my Sansa Preview, Sansa has in many ways been transformed into the Cersei of the North. I mean she’s even rocking Cersei’s old hairdo…
Jon goes so far as to say it almost sounds like Sansa “admires Cersei” when she talks about her. Sansa craves power. She’s seen firsthand the death and destruction that the patriarchy has caused and mentions this to Jon when she tells him not to be stupid like her dad and brother (Ned and Robb).
Kings and Lords and Knights have all lost their luster for this girl who was once enamored with nothing more. She’s jaded and now only seems to truly trust herself which is sure to lead to an even greater power struggle with Jon than we could have anticipated. While Jon is focused on the White Walkers to the North, Sansa is focused on her enemies to the South, and her line about there being a Wall to the north protecting Jon from the Night King, but not one to the south, seems to be a nice foreshadowing of the fact we discussed above: that Wall is coming down, bigly.
“Three At Best”
Cersei is now Queen. She is also now childless. She has power and she has no emotional children emotionally encumbering her, which is a dangerous. All she has left is Jaime, and her quest to kill all those who have wronged her: Sansa Stark, Tyrion Lannister, Olenna Tyrell, Varys, Daenerys Targaryen, etc.
This entire scene atop the map as she plots out her next move with Jaime is a telling one as it’s the first interaction we’ve seen between the two of them since their son Tommen died, and the first since Cersei took the Iron Throne for herself. Jaime seems to no longer know who Cersei is. In the past we’ve heard Jaime talk about Cersei’s ferocity as a mother. In his mind “motherhood” was in many ways her defining characteristic. Her children were who she lived for, so what now? It’s almost as if Jaime is struggling to determine who this new childless woman is, and he doesn’t seem to be thrilled. At one point he even bluntly asks: “should I be afraid of you?”
Cersei’s life has been one dictated by prophecy; you might not remember, but season five opened with a flashback of Cersei as a child visiting a woods witch who told her her future. Both Cersei and the viewers have known what would happen to her in the end all along: she’d marry the King, have three children (although none with the King), all three of her children would die, she’d be Queen until a younger more beautiful one came to take the throne from her, and in the end she’d be strangled by a “valonqar” which is High Valyrian for “little brother.” I suspect that in the end that little brother that kills her won’t be Tyrion like we all suspected, but will more than likely be Jaime.
Jaime killed the Mad King for the good of the realm, in the end he may kill the “Mad Queen” for the same reason.
What Was He Wearing?
After explaining to Jaime that she‘s on the hunt for allies, none other than Euron Greyjoy Extreme Makeover Edition shows up. Euron has a fresh cut, trimmed beard and hot new wardrobe from the Rag&Bone Fall Collection. He promises Cersei his 1,000 ships in exchange for her hand in marriage, to which she says “nah.” Euron beats up on Jaime a bit and then promises to bring Cersei a valuable present to prove his loyalty… So what could this present be?
- “His big cock.”
- A certain Dwarf’s head.
- A dragon.
- A ring from Jared (he went to Jared).
- A mythical horn that is said to control dragons.
That last bullet point may seem like it comes out of nowhere, but in the books Euron is said to have a horn called Dragonbinder that when blown makes a sound that binds a dragon to whoever blows it. So while this could be the “gift” Euron has in store for Cersei, it would also feel in the context of the show like a bit of a deus ex machina since the lore of this horn has never been mentioned. My bet is on Tyrion’s head.
Sam the Shitmonger
The montage of Sam dealing with a bunch of shit at the Citadel worked to show us that a significant amount of time has passed since last we saw him. He’s dealing with the day-to-day grind (Monday’s amirite) and is struggling to stay motivated. Sam came to Oldtown to forge his chain as a maester and learn as much about the White Walkers as possible to help fight them, but the fact that he hasn’t been given access to the “restricted section” of the library makes him feel like no one believes his story, that is until he meets our most prominent new character thus far, Archmaester Ebrose.
The Archmaester explains to Sam that he believes his story about the White Walkers, which seems to go a long way in giving Sam the courage to take matters into his own hands and steal a few books and get to work. Knowing that he has at least one ally within the Citadel is huge for Sam who is on a quest for knowledge. At the present he’s searching for information on the White Walkers, but it could be that in time he’ll find more prominent info on certain prophecies like “The Prince That Was Promised” and “Azor Ahai.”
Back at Winterfell, Tormund swoons over Brienne and Littlefinger continues his quest for Sansa, but it seems both women are a little too strong willed to subdue to the charms of these lotharios. Sansa knows that Littlefinger is trying to stir up drama between her and Jon, but still seems a bit susceptible to his persuasion. That said she knows what his motive is and that gives her a bit of power over him. It’s worth noting that Sansa has once again channelled her inner Cersei when she tells Littlefinger there’s “no need to seize the last word” because she’ll “assume it was something clever.” This is a verbatim line that Cersei once said to Littlefinger in King’s Landing.
Sansa doesn’t trust Littlefinger and feels empowered by the fact that he’s become “vulnerable” to her in finally telling her what he wants last season (“me on the Iron Throne and you by my side”), the issue is Littlefinger is too smart to make himself vulnerable or his plans transparent. He’s a master of chaos and is likely playing Sansa and Jon like a fiddle for some greater gain we can’t yet see.
There are a few pieces of canon we know about Littlefinger. Firstly, the only person he’s ever longed for or cared about was Catelyn Stark. Secondly, all the chaos and bloodshed in the realm is the direct result of his scheming. The conflict between the Starks and the Lannisters which began in the first episode of the series was orchestrated by him. He started the War of the Five Kings by framing the Lannisters for the death of Jon Arryn. His goal in doing so was likely to have Ned Stark die so he could finally have Catelyn to himself. And my guess is that isn’t the first war he’s started to try and get Cat’s hand.
I think we’ll soon learn that some 15 years prior to the start of the show, Littlefinger schemed to have Ned’s older brother die in a similar way (since Ned’s older brother Brandon was originally betrothed to Catelyn). My prediction is that Littlefinger was the puppetmaster behind Robert’s Rebellion as well.
He saw Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark riding off together like lovebirds in the Riverlands and decided to create conflict between the Starks and Targaryen’s by telling Brandon Stark that he saw his sister in the Riverlands and she’d been kidnapped by Rhaegar. This of course led to the death of Brandon Stark as well as a massive war that would end of taking the lives of both of Jon Snow’s parents.
It is clear from last season that Littlefinger knows that Rhaegar didn’t really kidnap Lyanna and that the two of them were in love as he says as much in the crypts to Sansa: “How many tens of thousands had to die because Rhaegar chose your aunt …” Littlefinger says, to which Sansa replies: “And then he kidnapped her and raped her.” And at this point Littlefinger almost rolls his eyes. He knows the truth, and maybe it was he who caused the death of tens of thousands, not Rhaegar Targaryen.
Fucking Ed Sheeran
I mean, fuck. Why? Why did he have to be here and totally ruin a significant scene within Arya’s character development?
This scene is important because it is the moment Arya realizes that the smallfolk, the average common soldier has no allegiance and bears no responsibility for the things their Lords do. These are Lannister men, and it’s clear that at the start of the scene she’s planning on killing them all merely because of the color of their cloaks, but as she talks to them and gets to know them she realizes that what the one dude said is true: “All boys just grow up to fight other men’s wars.” It’s a striking parallel to the earlier scene in which Jon decides to give the Umber and Karstark castles back to the children of those families, refusing to punish them for the crimes of their parents.
Arya’s realization is that in this world, the people most often punished had nothing to do with the crime. She was planning on killing them because they were Lannister soldiers, but none of them played a part in the death of her father, mother or brother. None of these men had anything to do with those crimes in the same way that the young Umber and Karstark children had nothing to do with their ancestor’s betrayal of House Stark and this is a fundamental Stark belief that Ned holds dear to himself: You don’t punish someone for the crimes of someone else.
Fire and the Hound
For those of you that forgot, the Hound hates fire. As a young child his brother Gregor Clegane shoved his face against burning hot coals which is where his scars come from, and thus he hates both his brother and fire.
This sequence with the Hound allowed for us to see his transformation in full effect. From season 1 to the present he’s gone from a crass, hateful person who believes in nothing and cares about no one to a sensitive, thoughtful and profoundly regretful person who wants to make amends for the things he’s done as we see when he buries the father and daughter he left for dead in the middle of the night.
The Hound also seems to have found something he can finally believe in on a spiritual level, and all it took for him to find it was to confront one of the two things in life he’s afraid of and hateful towards: fire. It would only make sense that for the Hound’s transformation to finally be complete, he’ll eventually have to confront the other thing in life he hates and is scared of: his brother. It seems very likely to me now that we will in time get that Clegane family reunion we’re all pining for.
You Have to Go South to Go North
Sam finally found what he was looking for, a reminder that the infamous castle Dragonstone is built atop dragonglass. As soon as he reads about it in the book he remembers Stannis Baratheon having told him about it and immediately starts writing a letter that he plans on sending to Jon. Naturally we can assume this letter is going to tell Jon to go to Dragonstone and plead with whoever is there to let you mine the dragonglass, like we predicted in our earlier preview.
The issue for Sam is that since he’s left the Wall, Jon has been murdered, resurrected, abandoned his post as Lord Commander, reunited with Sansa, won a battle at Winterfell and been crowned King in the North, and Sam is none the wiser. As far as Sam is concerned, Jon is still the same Jon that he left at the Wall and still Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, so it would only seem fitting that Sam will send this raven to Castle Black given that’s where he thinks Jon is. So who’s at Castle Black right now that might raise their hand to deliver this letter to Jon at Winterfell?… Is there maybe someone that might already have a few things they need to talk to Jon about? That’s right Bran. I’m looking at you.
Jon will no doubt get this letter in the next episode and make the decision to go south to Dragonstone before going north to fight the White Walkers.
This short but sweet scene told us the Jorah is in Oldtown getting treated for greyscale at the Citadel. He’s still sick, but he’s in the same place as Sam which means Sam will probably work to find a cure for greyscale in some of those library books he stole. As of now there’s only one character we’re aware of who was able to survive greyscale: Shireen Baratheon, Stannis’ daughter. Is it a coincidence that she was born and lived on Dragonstone, the very same island Sam just read about?
Dragonglass must have something to do with the cure or remedy that saved Shireen’s life and I’m sure Sam will do his best to find it. Because in case you forgot Sam met Shireen at the Wall when Stannis was there and thus knows that a cure exists.
Daenerys, by no coincidence ends the episode at the very place of significance mentioned by Sam two scenes prior: Dragonstone. This is the ancestral castle of House Targaryen, their Winterfell so to speak, so it is of great significance to Dany. She clearly is emotional walking around, thinking about all the past generations that once walked the halls and sat on the throne. She’s back where she was born for the first time since she fled as a baby. Now it’s time for her to begin planning her seige on King’s Landing, and more than likely greet a few visitors from the North.