Game of Thrones 7.1: “Dragonstone”

Game of Thrones 7.1: “Dragonstone”

A Binge Guide for Season 7, Episode 1 – “Dragonstone”

by Greg Enslen

Details

  • Episode Number: S07E01

  • Original Air Date: July 16, 2017

  • Time: 59 minutes

  • Synopsis: Jon organizes the North's defenses. Cersei tries to even the odds. Daenerys comes home. Arya reminds the Freys "the North remembers." Sam adapts to life in Oldtown. The Night King makes his way south.

The Twins

In his banquet room, Walder Frey raises a cup and addresses the assembled men of House Frey, speaking of their bravery at the Red Wedding to murder Robb Stark, his wife and his mother, Catelyn Stark. Walder’s praise turns sour as he reminds them that they attacked guests in their home, invited to a feast and murdered in cold blood. As the men of House Frey enjoy their wine, one by one they begin to collapse—the wine is poisoned. When the last man has fallen, Walder Frey turns to his young wife and removes his face—it is Arya Stark, wearing Walder’s face after assassinating him in secret in S06E10. Arya turns to Walder’s now-widow and speaks: “When people ask you what happened here, tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey” before walking away, smiling.

  • Notes: This episode also features a rare “before the credits” scene—only four other episodes have a short scene before the opening credits: the season premieres for seasons one, three, and four, along with episode S06E07, which informs us that the Hound is still alive. The party for House Frey takes place in the same room as the Red Wedding and the recent feast, held a “fortnight” ago. Under the guise of Walder, Arya has used her skills to assemble every Frey “who means a damn” into one room, then provides them with poisoned wine. “Walder” toasts the men by saying “Stand Together,” the words of House Frey. Apparently Arya can also perfectly mimic her victim’s accent and speech patterns. It’s notable that she intentionally spares the women of House Frey and tasks them with passing along word of what happened here. This appearance, along with her recent assassination of Walder Frey, is the first time Arya is back in Westeros since she departed by ship for Braavos in S04E10.

  • Quotes: Walder Frey: “Yes, yes. Cheer. Brave men, all of you. Butchered a woman pregnant with her baby. Cut the throat of a mother of five. Slaughtered your guests after inviting them into your home. But you didn't slaughter every one of the Starks. No, no. That was your mistake. You should have ripped them all out root and stem. Leave one wolf alive and the sheep are never safe.”

Opening Credits

The animated map during the credits shows several important locations: King’s Landing, Dragonstone, The Twins, Winterfell, the Wall, and far to the south, Oldtown.

  • Notes: This is the first appearance of Oldtown in the opening credits. This is also the first time that all the locations in the opening credits are limited to Westeros.

  • Goofs: Even though Cersei belongs to House Lannister, these credits still show the sigil for House Baratheon, a stag, over King’s Landing.

The Wall

Bran Stark has a vision of a massive Army of the Dead, led by the White Walkers, marching south. The Army is comprised of zombie wildlings, members of the Night’s Watch, Thenns, and even giants. He awakens—he and Meera Reed are at the Wall, waiting to enter through a gate. Members of the Night’s Watch emerge and question the strangers. Dolorous Edd is surprised by Bran’s knowledge of where Edd had been and allows Bran and Meera to enter Castle Black.

  • Notes: Dolorous Edd is wearing the fur and cape worn by Jon when he was Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Bran mentions Edd was at the Fist of the First Men, which he visited with Jon Snow and others during episode S02E08. Bran and his crew have been traveling north of the Wall since S03E10 after passing beneath the Nightfort, one of the castles along the Wall.

Winterfell

In the Great Hall of Winterfell, Jon Snow, the King in the North, speaks to his assembled lords and followers. He wants them to search their teachings for any mentions of dragonglass and its ability to kill White Walkers. He wants them to mine it and make weapons from it. Sansa Stark and Davos Seaworth listen as Jon also orders his lords to train every able-bodied person in the North to train for the coming war.

Jon reminds the gathering the Night’s Watch castles along the Wall haven’t been “properly manned” in some time, and asks Tormund and the Free Folk to take up defending Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, the easternmost castle along the Wall. Jon also forgives the Karstarks and the Umbers, against Sansa’s wishes, and allows the younger leaders of the families, Ned Umber and Alys Karstark, to swear their loyalty to the Starks. Lord Peter “Littlefinger” Baelish watches the discussion with interest. Later, Jon asks Sansa to not undermine him in front of the Northern lords. He receives a raven from Queen Cersei Lannister: he must “bend the knee” and surrender to her rule, or face the consequences. Jon and Sansa discuss their enemies on either side, the Night King and Queen Cersei, and Sansa reminds Jon that Cersei has managed to kill nearly every one of her enemies and has taken the throne as leader of Westeros.

Later, the towering Brienne of Tarth trains Podrick Payne while Tormund, enamored of her, watches. Inside, Peter Baelish is talking to Sansa Stark and tells her his only concerns are for her safety. Brienne approaches and wants to know why Baelish is still around—she’s concerned that he wants something. Sansa knows what it is—her.

  • Notes: Apparently Eddard Stark never cursed in front of Sansa and Arya.

King’s Landing

In the capital city of Westeros, Queen Cersei Lannister paces across a painted map of Westeros. With her brother Jamie Lannister, she discusses the approaching navy and army led by Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister. Jamie doesn’t think they are ready for war, but Cersei is not worried—she’d convince Daenerys will pause at Dragonstone, the ancestral Targaryen castle offshore from Westeros, giving her more time to prepare. She lists off their enemies in all directions, but Jamie wants her to count their allies. He mentions Walder Frey and the massacre of House Frey.

Euron Greyjoy arrives at King’s Landing with his Iron Fleet. He is the new king of the Iron Islands. Jaime is not happy with an idea of an alliance with the Greyjoys, but Cersei listens as Euron pushes for an alliance and describes his betray by his niece and nephew, Yara and Theon. She declines, but Euron promises to return with a “gift” that will prove his worth.

  • Notes: The massive guard in the throne room is Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, or what’s left of him—he was fatally poisoned in the “trial by combat” with Prince Oberyn Martell in S04E08, and Qyburn asked to care for him afterward. He used unsanctioned arts to reanimate the man and add him to Cersei’s guard. Peter Baelish mentions that Brienne of Tarth “beat the Hound in single combat,” which happened in S04E10. King Joffrey’s seven-pointed star window above the Iron Throne has been replaced by Cersei with a window that displays a large Lannister lion. According to IMDB, Jaime is now carrying Widow’s Wail, King Joffrey’s former weapon. This sword and another were forged from the legendary Stark greatsword Ice, which Tywin Lannister had melted down and reforged during S04E01. Tywin gifted the swords to Jaime and Joffrey. Jaime gave the sword to Brienne of Tarth in S04E04, who named it “Oathkeeper” and still carries it.

The Citadel

Working at the Citadel, the training place for every maester in Westeros, maester-in-training Samwell Tarly carries out his humble duties: putting away books, emptying and scrubbing bedpans, and feeding others. While working, he’s keeping an eye on the restricted section, an area of the maester library that contains books he’s not allowed to look at. Samwell works with Archmaester Ebrose, who seems to believe that Samwell has in fact seen the White Walkers but still won’t help him. Later, Samwell steals a set of keys and searches the restricted section for information on the White Walkers. He takes several books and scrolls and puts them in his bag.

Later, in a room he shares with Gilly and her son Sam, Samwell reads the books searching for clues. Gilly reads in He finds evidence of a massive amount of dragonglass on the island of Dragonstone, and immediately sends the information to Jon Snow. The next day, Samwell is tending to men in the Citadel infirmary. One man reaches through the hole in the door and wants to know if “the Dragon Queen, Daenerys Stormborn, has come yet.” It is Jorah Mormont, at the Citadel seeking treatment of his Greyscale. Samwell doesn’t know anything about it.

  • Notes: According to IMDB, the page opposite the page Sam is reading states that dragonglass can “cure several diseases, including Greyscale.” There is a drawing of the “catspaw dagger,” the knife used in the attempted assassination of Bran Stark is S01E02. According to IMDB, Littlefinger probably still has it after taking it off Ned at the massacre at the Red Keep. Littlefinger betrayed Ned and his men in the throne room in S01E07, leading to Ned’s capture and execution.

  • Quotes: Archmaester Ebrose: “Everyone in the Citadel doubts everything. It’s their job.”

In the Woods

Arya rides through the woods on her way to King’s Landing. She finds a group of young men singing around a fire—they are Lannister soldiers. Nervous, she accepts the offer of food and learns that they have been sent north into the Riverlands to help “keep the peace” after there was “trouble with the Freys” at the Twins. Sitting with them, she learns that these soldiers are just people—one misses fishing with his father, and another’s wife has just had a baby at home. They ask her why she’s headed to King’s Landing, and Arya answers: “I’m going to kill the queen.” They look at her funny and then all laugh—they think she’s making a joke.

  • Notes: One of the soldiers is played by singer Ed Sheeran. Another soldier mentions the Dragonpit, a legendary King’s Landing location—this is the first mention of it on the TV series. Arya is making great progress on her kill list; Arya thinks the Hound is dead, and technically the Mountain already died once but has since been resurrected.

The North

A troupe of men walk through a snowy landscape. Sandor “the Hound” Clegane, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr and other members of the Brotherhood Without Banners are traveling north and find shelter in an abandoned farmhouse. But the Hound has been here before—he and Arya took shelter and shared a meal with a farmer and his daughter. Inside, they find their bodies. Thoros of Myr asks the Hound to look into the fire. He’s surprised to see a vision of a wall of ice, seeing the castle where the Wall meets the sea. He also sees a mountain, one shaped like an arrowhead—and an army of the dead are marching past. Later, his guilt gets the better of him, and the Hound takes the bodies of the farmer and his daughter outside and gives them a proper burial.

  • Notes: In S04E03, the Hound and Arya stayed with the farmer and his daughter, but the next morning the Hound beat the farmer and stole his money, making Arya furious. Clearly, the Hound taking their money probably lead to their death.

  • Quotes: Thoros of Myr: “What do you see?” Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane: “Logs burning.” Thoros: “Keep looking. What do you see?” ‘The Hound’: “Ice. A wall of ice... the Wall.” Thoros: “What else?” ‘The Hound’: “It's where the wall meets the sea... there's a castle there. There's a mountain, looks like an arrowhead. The dead are marching past. Thousands of them.” Beric Dondarrion: “Do you believe me now, Clegane? Do you believe we're here for a reason?”

Dragonstone

Riding in a small boat, Daenerys Targaryen approaches her family’s ancestral home of Dragonstone. Her advisers accompany her—Tyrion Lannister, Missandei, Grey Worm and Varys—as her dragons circle overhead. Ashore, she reaches down and feels the sand. They make their way up to the gates, finding them open, and enter the abandoned castle. She passes through an ornate throne room, tearing down one of Stannis Baratheon’s stag banners, then walks into the map room. She looks at the table and fallen pieces, then turns to her Hand, Tyrion. “Shall we begin?”

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  • Filming Locations: The beach of Dragonstone was filmed at two locations in northern Spain: Itzurun Beach in Zumaia and Muriola Beach near Barrika. According to the website travelwheretonext.com, the beaches are about 60 miles apart. The stone walkway and bridges that lead up to Dragonstone were filmed at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in Spain. It leads up to a small church.

  • Notes: This is the first time Daenerys has been on Westerosi soil since she was an infant. She was also born in this castle. The map room and the table specifically is where Stannis Baratheon made love to Melisandre in S02E02, thus impregnating her with the “demon” that would be later released and kill Stannis’ brother, Renly Baratheon in S02S05.


Critique:

Okay, that’s how you start an episode! I was confused to see Walder Frey back, but it was Arya all along, exacting her family’s long-awaited revenge. I feel like there should be a saying in there somewhere: “you kill my mother and brother and I will literally come back years later and wipe out your entire House.” I loved that she used Walder’s skin to take charge of the household, making sure that everyone followed her commands to the letter. I’m not exactly sure how she can fake Walder’s voice and accent—and his height—but I’ll just write that one off. And she was smart enough to leave a few people alive to tell the tale of what happened to the Freys.

Bran FINALLY makes it to the Wall—he’s been wandering north of the Wall for several seasons. Maybe he’ll finally make it back to Winterfell and start telling people all these important things he’s been learning, right?

It’s nice to see Jon solidifying his grip on Winterfell and forgiving past betrayals. He’s right, of course, but it’s hard for people to see the big picture—everyone just wants to hang the Umbers and Karstarks for their recent betrayal. The person pushing hardest is, of course, Sansa, but it makes sense—she hated Ramsey and therefore hates anyone who sided with him and his army. But she doesn’t understand, and Jon makes a point of saying it again for everyone to hear: he’s preparing to fight the coming war, and needs every “living” person in the North on his side.

Cersei and Jaime are bickering again. I hate it when Mommy and Daddy fight. Jaime’s the smart one here, but Cersei’s the one with the plan. She knows that she’s screwed and starts plotting how to worm her way out the trap. It looks like forces are approaching from all sides, but she’s clever enough to know she needs allies, even if they’re as duplicitous as the Greyjoys.

Samwell Tarly’s situation is SO frustrating. He’s the only person in the Citadel who ACTUALLY knows what’s going on, and they’ve got him scrubbing bedpans. Also, for the record, that sequence of shots nearly made me throw up. Great job, guys. But it’s like an undercover mission for him—he’s just there long enough to get the information he wants. I have a feeling that Samwell won’t be sticking around forever. He does manage to make an important discovery—there’s dragonglass on Dragonstone—and we find out what Jorah has been up to.

I really enjoyed the “Ed Sheeran” scene and watching Arya learn how normal the Lannister soldiers seemed to be. When she arrives, she’s eyeing all of their weapons and clearly doing her “Terminator-style scanning” (Patent Pending) to figure out how she can kill all of these soldiers with the minimum amount of fuss. By the end, she’s laughing along with them, and I felt relief. Thank you for not killing Ed Sheeran and his merry band of travelers!

Oh, I do love a good callback, and the Hound gets one this week with his whole “I’m REALLY responsible for killing these two innocent people” storyline. There are lots of great moments in this sequence, but the best is when the guilt finally gets to the Hound and he goes out alone and digs a grave for the farmer and his daughter. Wow. PLUS he gets a vision and the best line of the episode: it’s just his luck to “end up with a band of fire worshipers.”

Danny’s triumphant return to Dragonstone was played for full “epic-ness,” with the sweeping shots of her dragons flying over the castle and her armada of ships in the harbor. Walking through the castle, we get to see several new dragon-style decorations, including those awesome front gates and the sweet throne room. Although logically shouldn’t we have seen some of this during season two, when half of the scenes seemed to take place on Dragonstone?

Episode Notes:

The title of the episode refers to Dragonstone, the ancestral castle home of the Targaryen family—Daenerys takes control of the castle at the end. The word “Dragonstone” refers to both the island and the castle upon which it’s built.

According to IMDB, production on this season of Game of Thrones was delayed to “allow for seasons to change for exterior filming.” This delayed the season debut into the summer instead of the normal March or April. This also meant that the episodes, aired in 2017, would not be eligible for Emmy awards for 2017, which are announced in September. These episodes will be eligible for the 2018 Emmys.

When this episode aired, it was watched by a record number of viewers, 10.1 million, according to IMDB.

Nudity and Violence:

  • Payback—Many members of House Frey are poisoned (5:30) and spit up blood as they perish

  • Bowls and Bedpans—in a truly disgusting sequence, Samwell Tarly empties and cleans bedpans (31:20), interspersed with scenes of him feeding others using similar bowls. The effect is vomit-inducing.

  • Liver Time—Sam assists Archmaester Ebrose with an autopsy (33:25)

References:

Notes: All sites accessed November 26, 2017.

This article, “Dragonstone, A Binge Guide for Game of Thrones, Season 7, Episode 1 by Greg Enslen” is copyrighted by the author and displayed here for informational purposes only. Do not share or distribute without the written permission of the author.

Greg Enslen is an Ohio author and columnist. He's written and published eight books, including four fiction titles and four collections of essays and columns. Several are available through Gypsy Publications of Troy, Ohio. To receive updates on upcoming titles, sneak previews and appearances, subscribe to Email Goodies. For more information, please see his Amazon Author Page or visit his Facebook fan page.