Game of Thrones – Dragonstone Review
"A smart start to season seven"
It’s no secret that I was disappointed with elements of Game of Thrones
last season. Several stories stuck around past their sell-by dates (namely, Ramsay Bolton’s Reign of Terror and Arya’s Assassin Training), and I think we can all agree that the series had begun actively putting roadblocks in place to prevent Day from making her inevitable journey back to Westeros. But if the rest of season seven provides the fun character moments and smart plot movement that “Dragonstone” gave us, I think we are in store for an excellent penultimate season of television’s biggest drama.
Before I get into the review, some housekeeping notes. While the show has left the book series in its dust, I don’t think there’s a need to warn against revealing book secrets in the comments. But I will say that I don’t read spoilers, and won’t comment on spoilers. If you post a potential spoiler in the comments, I’ll delete it. Feel free to speculate all you want- but anything that crosses the line into spoiler territory will be removed. Basically, just don’t be a dick. Now, onto the episode.
I loved that the episode opened on the continuation of Arya’s Westeros Revenge Tour. I can certainly get behind wiping the rest of the Frey line from the chessboard (particularly after watching the genius juxtaposition of Walder Frey slitting Catelyn’s throat and Arya slitting his in the “Previously On” segment). But the sequence also highlights how incredibly cunning Arya has become. She isn’t just a killer. She’s able to effortless blend into any environment she enters. She’s just as at ease impersonating Walder Frey as she is shooting the breeze with soldiers around a fire.
Each remaining Stark had a particular skill that makes them particularly adept at survival in this world. Jon has a penchant for leadership, Sansa understands the inner workings of courtly life and political intrigue, and Bran can see beyond the veil of the present (which might actually make him a target, but is certainly a really impressive skill). I’d argue that Arya and Bran have the two skills that would make them invaluable to any leader in Westeros. Assuming they return to their family, Team Stark is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
I do question if she has fully lost her humanity to her thirst for revenge. If she kills those soldiers, one could argue she only cares about her list at this point, damn the consequences. But I like to think that she didn’t kill them. I suspect there’s still Arya Stark under there. While she’s traveling South at the moment, I can’t help but assume something will make her turn North. Perhaps she’ll run into the Hound. Perhaps she’ll just decide she wants to protect her family rather than avenge long-dead ghosts. Perhaps she’ll run into Nymeria and remember she’s a Stark, and she needs to be with her pack to help them survive. Perhaps I just really want a big Stark reunion before we inevitably start losing more characters.
Speaking of Starks, there certainly appears to be some tension in the Jon-Sansa alliance. And the troubling thing: both of them had important points to make, yet only one is King of the North. First, Sansa shouldn’t have questioned Jon in front of the Lords (although she made a solid point: can you really trust the Umber and Karstark men to fight for kids and stick with the fight when they’ve shown a propensity to change allegiances in the past?). But Jon, ultimately, was correct in that instance: they need bodies, even if some of those fighters aren’t trustworthy. When the choice is kill a White Walker or kill a man, one assumes even the most fickle of person will opt to battle the actual threat.
But when it came to their discussion of Cersei, Jon would be smart to listen to Sansa, because he has no one else in his employ who understands the inner workings of King’s Landing and Cersei’s mind as well as her (Littlefinger likely does as well, but who is going to trust him?).
Here’s how I see things falling out. Jon is going to eventually need to plead for help from King’s Landing in the fight against the white walkers. Only Jon, like poor Ned, doesn’t understand how Cersei’s mind works. He doesn’t understand that she doesn’t care about what happens to the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. She cares about one thing and one thing only: Power. She has spent every moment of the series attempting to grasp power. And now that she has it, she isn’t about to make alliances with other so-called kings. She isn’t about to send off her army to fight a war at the Wall. But she will certainly agree to help and stab you in the back if she thinks it will rid her of a threat. Sansa knows this. She knows Cersei is the ultimate snake. And Jon is just the type of person to trust her when she agrees to help. And that would be an utter disaster. Now, I’m jumping the gun a bit here, but I suspect this discussion between Jon and Sansa (coupled with the colorful chat between Cersei and Jamie) is laying the groundwork for Sansa warning him about Cersei’s lies and thirst for power. And for Jon choosing to believe Cersei despite that.
Now Cersei might be looking out for only herself at this point, but that doesn’t mean she’s not still discerning towards Krakens that come bearing offers of marriage (along with two working hands). I have to say, I don’t remember being so enthralled with Euron last year, but boy was he fun! I suspect he knows there are only three gifts he could bring Cersei to make her reconsider his offer: Dany, one or more dragon heads, or Tyrion. I have a hard time envisioning any of those falling into his lap, so I suspect the best she’ll get is either Theon or Varys (or maybe Olenna?) to torture. But I also think we’ll be getting a fun sea battle at some point this season. And that will be delightful.
— Considering there were only thirteen episodes remaining, I figured Sam would stumble across the key to defeating the white walkers sooner rather than later. I didn’t expect it right off the bat, though. That throne in Dragonstone appeared to be all dragonglass. Chekhov’s dragonglass, to be precise.
— The big question surrounding Sam’s discovery is how long it will take that information to get to Jon. When Sam first arrived at the Citadel, we found out they still hadn’t heard that Lord Commander Mormont was dead. Sam left before Jon died, rose from the dead, and headed off to Winterfell. He, presumably, doesn’t know where Jon is. Sending a raven to the Wall will delay the news reaching Jon- possibly missing him completely. I really hope we don’t get a season’s worth of telephone, but it’s worth noting that this could be the case.
— Between Cersei’s discussion of the remaining players in the game of thrones and the Hound’s generally cheery disposition, that was some excellent dialogue. While Game of Thrones
will likely be remembered most for its epic battles, it really does have some of the best dialogue on television.
— Lady Momont remains the best character. Although something tells me her speech was more fan service than anything.
— Oh Tormund. I can’t help but think you aren’t long for this world.
— It was nice to see Littlefinger acknowledge Brienne as a badass fighter. And it was just as nice to see Sansa continues to have a steel backbone and some excellent one-liners of her own.
— In case you didn’t catch it, that was Ser Jorah (now seemingly very affected by greyscale) in the cell Sam visited. Still pining for Dany. But likely never getting cured. A pretty depressing end for him.