'Shall We Begin?' Takeaways From Game Of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1.

Welcome back to Westeros! Arya is taking revenge, Cersei is taking leave of her senses, and Daenerys is taking her time. Its almost as if we never left. 

Heres your rundown of Season 7 Episode 1: Dragonstone. I think it goes without saying… there will be spoilers.

Last season, the rivalry between Jon and Sansa mostly bubbled beneath the surface. The Starks were too busy marshalling an army against Ramsay Bolton to worry about which of them would rule when the dust settled. But Dragonstone brought the inherent tension in their relationship to the fore. 

After second-guessing one of his decisions in public, Sansa rips into Jon on the walls of Winterfell, admonishing him not to follow their father and brother into the grave. 

I loved them, I miss them, she says, but they made stupid mistakes and they both lost their heads for it. 

Just as Sansa tried to inform Jon of Ramsay's sadism last season, she now tries to explain Cerseis indomitable brutality. 

You almost sound like you admire her, Jon observes. 

I learned a great deal from her. 

If Jon is too much like Ned, maybe Sansa is becoming too much like Cersei. 

The extent to which Sansa is prepared to defer to Jons decisions remains an open question, but Dragonstone clearly sets the stage for a power struggle - especially since Littlefinger is still skulking around, trying to drive a wedge wherever he can. 

He wants something, Brienne of Tarth warns.

I know exactly what he wants, Sansa replies. 

Thats the thing about Littlefinger: everyone thinks they know what he wants. Maybe they do, but they also consistently underestimate how far hes willing to go.

The episode opens with another spectacular pageant of House Frey revenge porn. Disguised as the late late Walder Frey, Arya excoriates the men who carried out the Red Wedding, even as they succumb to the lethal effects wine she poisoned. Their big mistake: they didnt kill every Stark. 

As much as I love Arya, I cant be the only one whos begun to worry about her mental health. I mean, she ended last season by baking two guys into a pie. Revenge is one thing; Sweeney Todd is another. Going into this season, I seriously wondered whether she could continue brutalizing herself (and everyone else) so totally and still retain her humanity. 

Thankfully, this episode gave Arya the first normal human contact shes had in quite a while, and one of the least obnoxious celebrity guest appearances you could expect. (continued…)

Keep reading on the next page!

Riding through a frosty wood, Arya hears a voice that may sound familiar. It belongs to singer Ed Sheeran, who plays a soldier in a small company of Lannister men who are camped out in the Riverlands. 

When the soldiers invite Arya to come share their food and fire, I have to admit it raised my hackles. What do they really want? Are they going to rob her? Have their way with her? 

Aryas motives are equally questionable. Is she just waiting for the right moment to stick them? They are Lannister men after all. For a moment, she seemed to be wondering that herself.

But instead, we got a brief respite from the inhumanity of war and the vanity of ambition. The soldiers spill their guts out to Arya. Theyre not fearsome lions: theyre scared boys who want nothing more than to go home.

For a moment or two, we see that same weariness in Aryas eyes, perhaps a hint of longing to retrace her steps back to a time when there was such a thing as home. 

I hope its a girl, says one soldier of his newborn child. Girls take care of their papas when their papas grow old. Boys just go off to fight in someone elses wars.

Dragonstone is an especially interesting episode because, at its heart, its really about the Smallfolk, the ordinary people who are so seldom the focus of the show. The soldiers by the river; the father and daughter Sandor Clegane once robbed, but now feels compelled to give a proper burial; the wordless painter who fills in the map of Westeros while Cersei looms overhead, pontificating about her barren, childless dynasty.

Cersei makes her first appearance standing astride a map of the realm she claims as her own, but Jaime is having none of her delusions. 

Nobody wants to fight on the losing side, he points out, and right now we look like the losing side.

Im the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, she protests.

Three kingdoms at best, he corrects.

When Jaime pleads with her to open up about Tommens suicide, she dismisses it as a personal betrayal and seems little interested in discussing the matter further. 

This lack of remorse may seem incredible from a woman who we were so often reminded loves her children, but this is the real Cersei: a desperate psychopath in a corner. And psychopaths dont love people - they possess them. Any human object who rebels against this form of 'love' becomes worthless and must be severed like a gangrenous limb. 

The question now is whether Jaime will reject her too. (continued...)

Keep reading on the next page!

His concern for her stability is more in evidence than ever. As Cersei strolls around her giant map railing against traitors (allies she has willfully driven away) and fantasizing about building a dynasty (without heirs), Jaime confronts her with the simple truism that an army marches on its stomach. 

How can they fight a war, let alone win, if the Tyrells have all the grain and livestock? Soldiers cant eat dynasty, and the Lannisters have no more allies to supply or reinforce them.

Jaime is no more comforted by Cerseis overture to the wickedly blunt usurper Euron Greyjoy. Although she has taken other lovers in the past, Jaime has only ever been with his twin sister. If Cerseis madness doesnt force Jaime into throwing off her yoke, Eurons courtship just might. 

Then again, Euron wont be back to Kings Landing until he has "a priceless gift" for her. What offering could possibly win Cerseis favor? Tyrions head, perhaps?

And so we arrive at last on the isle of Dragonstone itself, Daenerys birthplace and the staging ground for her invasion of Westeros. Her advisors keep a discreet distance as she tours the ethereal fortress in silence, with the expression of one rediscovering a forgotten dream. 

We have almost nothing but questions where Daenerys is concerned, since the episode literally ends where her task begins. Where will she invade? How quickly will she move? Will Eurons fleet hit her before her men can hit the beaches? 

But this episode made one thing abundantly clear: Daenerys and Jon Snow will have to team up. As Samwell Tarly discovered in the library at Oldtown, the island of Dragonstone is rich in dragonglass, an obsidian-like substance that can kill White Walkers. If the Northerners are to have any hope of turning the tide against the dead, an alliance with Dragonstone will be paramount. 

There's also the question of how Jon and Daenerys will react when they figure out that she's actually his aunt. The only living person privy to that information is Bran, but he's bound to share it with Jon at some point now that they're both in the North.

Theres another emerging question concerning Team Dragon that sticks in the back of my mind after watching 'Dragonstone'. At some point, its going to come down to Daenerys vs. Cersei and Jaime. That would make sense as the climactic, decisive battle of the season.

But would Tyrion really stand aside and watch as Daenerys executes Jaime? Or, should the Lannisters and Greyjoys prevail, would Jaime really stand aside and watch as Cersei executes Tyrion?

Can the love between brothers withstand the vicissitudes of war and feudal politics?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Whoops. That snip was just a hair too far....

Your first bad haircut probably made you want to die a little when you looked in the mirror. Imagine how the person cutting your hair must have felt. Although, maybe they didn't care at all, as evidenced by the bs excuse they gave you when you finished in the barber chair.

Keep reading... Show less