Warning: this article contains SPOILERS for the Game of Thrones Season 7 premiere, “Dragonstone”.
If you watched the premiere of Season 7 of Game of Thrones, you’ll still be reeling from the revelations. Here are five shocking moments from Episode 1.
Arya wearing Walder Frey’s face
Yes, fans predicted it but it was no less shocking. In the closing episode of Season 6, we saw Arya infiltrate The Twins. She baked Walder Frey’s sons Black Walder and Lothar into a pie THEN slayed Lord Walder Frey himself. Well, in the very first scene of the first episode of Season 7 – ahead of the opening credits even – we see precisely what we foretold. Arya Stark with WALDER FREY’S FACE ON.
Assuming the identities of others is a skill she acquired under the tutelage of Jaqen H’gar as she trained to become a Faceless Man. She’s used it adeptly up to now.
But this marks Arya’s crowning moment of the series so far – as she gathers all the remaining Freys “who mean a damn thing” under one roof, she pretends that she – posing as Lord of the Riverlands – is about to share plans. But what she actually does is finish the lot off in one fell swoop, with poisoned wine.
She makes it clear that it’s in retaliation for the murder of her family at the Red Wedding, and in encouraging them to cheer about the events of that fateful occasion, makes it patent that they all have blood on their hands. She tells them: “Leave one wolf alive and the sheep are never safe”, implying that because they didn’t do a proper job killing her off too, they will die today.
As Arya unmasks herself, she says finally to Kitty, Walder’s ninth wife, who she has kept alive: “When people ask you what happened here, tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey.”
The tension between Jon and Sansa
These two. They’ve been apart for fricking ages. They’ve lost loved ones. They’re finally back together, and what the dickens is going on? Sansa seems to have beef with Jon over his methods of leadership. Appointed King in the North with the backing of his people, Jon is undermined by Sansa in front of the gathered throng, which he doesn’t take kindly to.
Sansa’s time apart from her family has hardened her. A LOT has happened. She’s been held at King’s Landing, betrothed to a brutal king who badly mistreated her; she was handed over to the sadistic Ramsay Bolton who raped her and worse; and, perhaps most notably, she’s spent a lot of time with the unforgiving and conniving Cersei. She’s a world away from the spoilt little wannabe princess we met in Season 1.
Sansa is in favour of taking a much harder line than Jon when it comes to ruling. Jon is more reasonable and seems more capable of mercy. When Jon pulls her up on her confrontation afterwards, Sansa points out her father’s shortcomings and speaks about Cersei.
“You almost sound as if you admire her,” Jon says.
Sansa looks awkward then says, “I learned a great deal from her”.
Could we be about to see Sansa becoming more like Cersei than might be healthy?
Jorah Mormont locked up
When we last saw Jorah Mormont, he had been accepted back into the fold by Daenerys, who had previously exiled him when she uncovered the fact that he had previously been operating as a spy.
After revealing his greyscale to her, Daenerys sent him away to find a cure, so that he can be by her side when she takes control of the Seven Kingdoms.
It makes sense, then, that Jorah would seek out the Citadel in his hunt for a cure. It’s likely hidden within the pages of the vast number of tomes lining the shelves of the Citadel’s grand library. But it seems the Maesters weren’t willing to show Jorah much kindness – slinging him into a cell.
We see him – briefly – when Samwell Tarly is carrying out his dogsbody duties at the institution, collecting dishes from the cells. When he reaches one cell, as he collects the bowl, an arm projects forward from the serving hatch. It’s soon clear who the arm, affected by greyscale, belongs to.
“Has she come yet?” Jorah asks. “The Dragon Queen. Daenerys Stormborm.” Sam tells him he hasn’t heard anything. That’s the last we hear of Jorah in this episode, but, presumably, Sam will help not only to free him but cure him of greyscale.
Jim Broadbent as Archmaester
Fans knew Jim Broadbent would be taking on a prominent role in Season 7 – but we didn’t expect such a gory one. Broadbent pops up with Samwell Tarly in a scene involving an autopsy. His character is carrying out the autopsy, and Sam, in his lowly role, is assisting.
By this point, we’ve already seen Tarly carrying heavy books, serving food and – most grossly – collecting, emptying and cleaning bedpans in a stomach-churning extended sequence. But when the Archmaester hands him the liver he’s just cut out and instructs him to weigh it, then orders him to clean the whole mess up, it steps up a gear.
The pair discuss Samwell’s tales of White Walkers, and Sam is surprised to learn that the Archmaester believes him when no one else does. The Archmaester talks about how the Citadel is significant because they’re “this world’s memory” – and that when people have thought it was the end in the past, it very definitely hasn’t been.
“The Wall has stood through it all,” he says. “And every winter that has ever come has ended.” Sam wants access to the restricted areas of the Citadel so that he can unlock the secrets of the past to help save the future – and this key exchange with the Archmaester puts him a step closer to securing that authorisation. Although he promptly goes and steals a set of keys and nicks books anyway. Go, Samwell.
Daenerys’ closing line
Daenerys finally appears in the episode’s closing sequence – and it’s a majestic one. As her boat glides towards the coastline, Dragonstone – her ancestral home – comes into view. Dany’s face is a picture of pride, focus and excitement. The steely faces of Varys, Tyrion and Missandei look on as Dany’s dragons fly ahead. They know they’re home.
The boat lands and Dany – wearing heels, of course – kneels in deference, touching the sand before ploughing on towards the grand entrance flanked by stone dragon heads.
As the doors open, her heart is visibly racing and she leads the way up the winding walkway to the castle. Inside, she tears down the Baratheon banner erected by Stannis Baratheon, the last occupant of Dragonstone, and enters the throne room.
As she makes her way through to the strategy room, she caresses the large-scale 3D map sitting in the centre of the room, as Tyrion looks at the dragon carved into the wall beside it. Standing at the head of the map, she says, “Shall we begin?”
These are the first and only words spoken in her entire time onscreen – and not only do those words mark the kick-off to her battle for Westeros, but also the beginning of the final two epic seasons of Game of Thrones as it hurtles towards its thrilling finale. Yes.