Game of Thrones 7.01: Dragonstone
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Six season in and the feeling that Game of Thrones has clicked into top gear continues. After the breakneck pace of events Season Six, the first episode of the new season shows no signs of slowing down.
If you haven't finished watching Season Six, be warned... Spoilers follow...
Dragonstone opens with an extension to the final moments of season six - having slit the throat of Walder Frey, Arya Start has no intention of letting the rest of the Freys get away with the murder of her Brother and Mother at the Red Wedding. Disguised as the elder Frey she throws a party at which she slips everyone who had a hand in their deaths poisoned wine, wiping out the entire bloodline before the opening credits have even started.
Back in Winterfell, Jon Snow and Sansa Stark set about forming their army to defend the Westeros from the White Walkers - we see the first signs of clashes between Snow and Stark as they argue in front of their audience about how to deal with the betrayal by the Karstarks and Umbers. It's an interesting switch of dynamic with Sansa taking the hardline approach, indeed, she later comments that she learnt a lot from her time with Cersei.
Talking of Cersei, over in Kings Landing, we discover that the Queen has invited the Greyjoy's new lord, Euron, and the half of the Ironborne army that he commands to discuss an alliance, much to Jamie's concern. He's worried that the Greyjoys can't be trusted - especially under the leadership of Euron. Cersei, having lost all of her children now has nothing left to lose and is set upon taking full control of Westeros - I pity anyone who stands in her way.
In the Citadel, Sam, makes the discover that Dragonstone is built upon a mountain of dragonglass - the one thing, other than fire, that can be used to kill the Whitewalkers; a discovery that nicely segues in the arrival of Daenerys army at their old home setting the scene for her return to reclaim the iron throne of Westeros...
We already know that this year is going to be of much shorter length than previous years, but each episode is a little longer. I can't say I noticed the increased length though as everything happened so quickly - Dragonstone is clearly an episode that sets up the final two season end-game; all of the players are now in place and we're now waiting to find out where alliances are made - will Danaerys join with Jon Snow in the North to take on Cersei and her dwindling support? Will we see the Seven Kingdoms reunite in time to form a sufficient defence against the White Walkers? Everything is now to play for, more than ever.
Much has been said about Ed Sheeran's appearance - that whole segment; which also featured This Is England's Thomas Turgoose; felt a little out of place compared the rest of the episode; it felt a little like an attempt by the writers to introduce some sympathy for people in the Lannister army but something felt just a little off. Given his lack of acting experience, though it wasn't Sheeran who made that scene feel wrong - he fitted in just fine.
In all Dragonstone was a cracking start to the season - loads to take in yet they still found time to make Dany's arrival in Westeros and her arrival at Dragonstone to be meaningful - there was a a full on five minutes with literally no dialogue and it was tremendous - there's a delicate balance here and the creative team have perfected it.
Next week can't come soon enough.