Episode one of Game of Thrones season 7 is titled ‘Dragonstone’, and as the name suggests, marks Daenerys Targaryen’s homecoming to the stronghold of the same name. However, that’s not the most chills-inducing moment of this season’s premiere.
That moment comes right at the start — with Arya Stark’s continued vengeance on the House of Freys. Season six had her (back now from Bravos) cutting the throat of Lord Walder Frey himself after she had fed him a pie in which pieces of his own sons were baked. As season seven opens, we see that her revenge is far from complete. At a banquet in which she takes on the persona of Walder Frey, she collects the entire family together, thank them for their ‘courage’ during the Red Wedding in slaughtering the three Starks, and ensures they all drink a toast — of poisoned wine.
As the Freys choke and die, she tells the one surviving member (one of Walder Frey’s painfully young brides) to tell anyone who asks what happened: “The North remembers. Winter is here.”
Winter is here indeed.
We see miles of frozen ice plains and a blizzard, and through the drifts, the Night King marching with his army of White Walkers and wights, to whose numbers giants have now been added. They cast a long shadow over the rest of the episode too:
At the Wall, where Bran and Meera have finally made their way and declared their identities.
At Winterfell, where Jon is getting all his bannermen together to prepare for the long winter and an invincible enemy.
At the Citadel in Old Town, where Samwell Farley is engaged in a slog of a search to find out what he can about the Night King and the White Walkers.
And through the north of Westeros, where ordinary folk must brace themselves for a hard, cold winter, and the prospect of starvation.
Winter is here, and it’s time for the Starks to show their might against the enemy not just to the North, but also the South.
In two well-juxtaposed scenes we see a brother and sister talking about what their father taught them:
Scene 1: Jon and Sansa are having a disagreement — she believes he should strip the Karstarks and Umbers of their ancestral homes (for having sided with Ramsay) and the castles to be granted to loyal families. Jon says the price for treason has already been paid, with death, and he won’t punish the Karstarks and Umbers further. Sansa counters his decisions publicly, and Jon is angry with her for undermining him in front of others. Sansa meanwhile, tells him that while he has learned to be good from their father, he must be smarter than Ned Stark and that in looking to the enemy in the North (the White Walkers), he mustn’t forget the enemy to the South — Cersei. It’s an interesting moment between the Stark siblings: Will Jon take Sansa’s advice seriously? What role will Sansa play at Winterfell while Jon is busy being King of the North?
Scene 2: Cersei, standing over a map of the Seven Kingdoms, is having a conversation with Jaime. Now that she is queen, she intends to exert her control over all the rebelling factions in Westeros. Highgarden must be brought back under control, Dorne must be quelled, and the North crushed. And then there is the new threat from the east — Daenerys Targaryen with Tyrion Lannister at her side, and an armada behind her is nearing Dragonstone, her old family seat. Jaime tells her what they need at this moment, is strong allies — to which Cersei replies that it is a lesson she learned from her father and has already acted on.