After last year’s incredible, explosive, monumental season finale, last night’s quiet season seven premiere almost seems like a PG fantasy film… even despite it beginning with bit of mass murder. But watching it closely, you can see the new problems that will plague the characters this season, and will likely lead to their downfall—assuming an army of the dead doesn’t get them first.
“Dragonstone” won’t go down as one of the show’s grander season premieres, as it’s more interested about reestablishing where its main characters are before rushing into the game’s “final round,” as it were. It’s certainly understandable, and since we had to wait an extra four months before the new season began, it’s probably not the wrong choice, either. But it’s hard to think about the explosive (often literally) events of the season six finale and not find “Dragonstone” a bit too sedate and prologue-y.
Which is funny, because the actual prologue of the episode—one of the show’s few pre-credits scenes—is so full of death. Arya, now masquerading as Walder Frey himself, calls a feast and invites every single Frey involved in the Red Wedding. Once they’re all there, “Frey” raises a toast to them, and their accomplishments, and how they slaughtered the Starks, and by that point dozens and dozens of Freys are dying because they’ve all been poisoned.
So when I say the season seven premiere was quiet after another gig in Arya Stark’s Westerosi Murder Tour, it should tell you exactly how quiet things were. Jon and Sansa address the Stark bannermen. Bran and Meera are let through the Wall. Cersei and Jaime get ready for war. Sam empties chamberpots at Oldtown. Euron Greyjoy offers an alliance to Cersei, based primarily out of a shared desire to murder family members. And the Hound takes a good, long hard look into the Red Priest’s fire, and what he sees is ice and death.
Even if these scenes didn’t follow the simultaneous murder of 50 people, there’s still a disturbing undercurrent to them. Okay, Sandor getting a vision of the White Walkers and their armies crossing through the Wall where it meets the sea—that’s not so much an undercurrent, it’s straight-up rapids. But more disturbingly, Jon and Sansa’s alliance is already starting to show cracks when the holds of Umber and Karstark are brought up. Jon wants to give them back to their families, despite the fact their houses betrayed the Starks and fought for Ramsey; Sansa wants to give them as rewards to families who were faithful. The two squabble in front of all the lords to everyone’s consternation, until Jon decrees he’s going to do it his way.
Sansa does not like that, although Petyr Baelish likes that Sansa doesn’t like it, which should tell you all you need to know about how problematic this is (Littlefinger actually looks aroused by seeing Sansa tell Jon he’s making the wrong decision in front of all his bannermen). Even when it’s revealed that “Lord Umber” and “Lady Karstark” are just two kids who couldn’t have possibly been complicit in their parents’ actions, it’s clear Sansa doesn’t find their ages or innocence relevant at all to the discussion.
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