It may be hot outside, but it’s freezing on TV.
Winter has come with a vengeance as a new season of “Game of Thrones” gets underway on HBO. It’s been over a year since we last visited Westeros (you can catch up with TooFab’s primer here), and with only seven episodes this time around, they’d better not waste any time … so why did they?
This episode was a lot of establishing where everyone is and what the factions are in the coming war, but there was very little progression for anyone. The most satisfying moments came in the cold open when we got to see the aftermath of Arya’s assault on The Twins that saw her feed his sons to him and then kill Walder Frey.
The season opened with Frey, seeming alive and well, inviting his entire family for a feast. And then he poisoned them all, pulling off his face to reveal Arya underneath. The girl has learned the art of revenge, and she offered it every bit as bitter as Frey did in the first place. As a character arc, it’s a little disconcerting. Arya is one of our heroines and yet she’s going further and further down a very dark path with her revenge list. Is their redemption at the end, or is she too far gone?
While we wait to find out, she's throwing back drinks with a group of soldiers in the woods. One of those men: Ed Sheeran himself, playing a character named "Ed." He even got to sing and, yes, Arya's apparently a fan.
Elsewhere, The Hound’s redemption arc continues as he and the Brotherhood Without Banners found the same farmhouse with the father and daughter that Clegane screwed over when he was with Arya. Thanks to his actions, they starved and died. Torn by this, he buried the bodies that night. A reunion between these two might just see him voluntarily fall to her blade.
But Clegane’s biggest moment came when his new friends convinced him to look into the fire, and he saw the Wall, the White Walkers and the castle by the sea. Is this something anyone can do, or does he have some connection to the Lord of Light? It’s an interesting development for one of the show’s most nuanced characters.
While the hour was mostly setting the stage, the biggest breakthrough of the night came after Sam stole some books from the restricted section of the library (Hermione would be so proud). Dragon glass is the key to defeating the white walkers, and there’s a mountain of it in Westeros. A mountain that has sat abandoned and empty for years, but now has a new occupant.
Daenerys made her return to her ancestral home on the island of Dragonstone, and it is beneath this castle that the raw materials needed to fend off the series’ greatest threat can be found. Dragon glass. She didn’t do much else, as was typical for this premiere.
In the North, Jon sought fealty from those families who fought for the Boltons and fought publicly with Sansa when she offered some counsel. The whole exchange was uncomfortable, but this has repeated so many times with those in power ignoring counsel and then dying awfully. Is this bad for Jon?
How about Cersei?
She’s determined to decimate anyone who proves a threat to the Lannister name and dynasty. As Jaime points out, though, their family is essentially dead. There is no dynasty. It’s madness talking, and it will be her downfall. Jon Snow may choose to take the counsel of his sister, and it may yet save him, but Cersei has never been good at taking anyone’s advice. She is too petty and driven by her emotions. She has a more scorched earth approach to conflict.
“Game of Thrones” is one of the most beautifully produced series on television, and this episode proved no different. I have no specific complaints with what we were given, but it’s really disappointing after such a long wait when the highlight is Samwell Tarly finding something cool in a book and writing a letter to his buddy.
Okay, Euron Greyjoy promising to bring Cersei a present worthy of being her husband is pretty enticing, not gonna lie.
Not every episode has to blow our minds, but it would have been nice to give us some kind of moment to wrap our excitement around. Especially in such a short season. At least we got another moment of Tormund making Brienne uncomfortable with his wildling flirting. I could watch that all day.
“Game of Thrones” continues Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.