Date aired: July 17th 2017

Arya continues to hone her skills and reclaim her family name. Jon Snow and Sansa prepare for war. Cersei makes news allies. Daenarys returns to the place she once called home. Let’s begin…

Tell them the north remembers.”

You can’t blame a girl for trying. Sansa Stark‘s confidence and strategic mind has never been extensively covered in the show, but damn it if the horror of her journey hasn’t bolstered her incredibly – fighting as she does with Jon Snow, the king in the north, over gifting castles to families loyal to House Stark and the perils of dealing with Cersei Lannister as queen.

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It’s a surety that Sansa knows just how terrifying the woman is to deal with and to ignore in turn. But Jon is entirely focused on the Night King and his White Walkers, understandably. But just as many online have done, you notice that while Sansa tells us she has learned a great deal from the queen, her hair styling is very close to Cersei’s own from season 1.

Arya, using skills learned as a student assassin in the House of The Many Faced God, delivers necessary revenge on the Lord of the Crossing and the members of his House the only way they know pain – with a mass slaughter. Watching them perish in pools of blood shows how far she has come, and how far she willing to go to reclaim her family’s name. Comparitively, later, she comes across some singing soldiers telling of how Kings Landing is paved with pigs blood and shit, swings the tone the other way as she laughs and eats with them. Now, some have decried Ed Sheeran’s cameo, but he just and has a couple of lines. He can’t act but it’s not overbearing – it didn’t affect immersion in the story too much, though his part as the siren song of human warmth beckoning Arya would have worked enough. After the Frays, she needed humanising again, if briefly.

Cersei and Jaime argue over allies, in that with Denerys to the south, Jon to the north and others circling, they need other houses to help them keep or even conquer the kingdom.

Samwell Tarly is now well established at the Great Library of the Citadel, though for the most part as a base worker – returning books to their place in the shelves and emptying chamber pots of the old and infirm. Aside from the murder and political posturing of the episode so far, this sequence of daily grinding disgust and denigration is the second-most stressful thing to watch in the episode. He tires of the cycle and waiting for a chance to access the books that he needs to investigate the White Walkers and their possible weaknesses. After enquiring with the Meistersinger he serves during an autopsy for scientific investigation, we can see him weighing the risk of sneaking into locked portions of the library as he weighs organs. With the Meister’s arrogant dismissal that all disasters and winters attacking Westeros have passed, Sam knows he has to. Stealing out books on ancient histories, Samwell discovers that Southern Rock is in fact a huge slab of Dragonglass, the only thing that can kill White Walkers.

The most shocking scene comes as we rejoin The Hound and his begrudged companions who serve the resurrecting Lord of Light, as they travel into cold wastes, they discover the house that The Hound stole from long before, and warned the peaceful family that they would not survive the winter. The shock extends to him finally looking into the fire as his companions do, and learning of the impending doom to the world coming from the north. While questioning why the Lord of Light would bring back men who were nothing special, he may now have his answer – that bad or ordinary men may become more, may become better, and that the danger ahead means the living need all men, not just the good. This also brings a newly-reinvigorated Hound to Jon Snow’s cause. Another deft set up and one that may not immediately become apparent until much later.

Finally, her ships reach land and Denerys enters the abandoned palace of King Stannis, then we realise that it looks like the Dragon Glass mountain Sam mentioned earlier. On the south shore of Westeros with her compatriots, she asks Tyrion in the King’s war room beyond the throne, ‘shall we begin?’. There it ends, and Season 7 is begun in all it’s glory.

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The shows slow start may be just positioning itself before a strike – be assured that this opener sets up the biggest and most explosive clashes between the series’ biggest characters. GoT is back and ready to blow your mind all over again. Special mention goes to Lyanna Mortmont for being the most kick-ass 9 year old in television, just as Arya was in the beginning. She doesn’t take anyone’s crap, and we could all do wth being like her when we grow up.

Archmeister is played by the always excellent Jim Broadbent, you’ll have the same moment of elation as you did when Ian McShane appeared last season.

VERDICT

More vital than it may first appear, Game of Thrones ‘Dragonstone’ gets a slow burning start, so while it’s rests calmly now it may rise to 10 in retrospect when all the setups pay off in bloody spades.

RATING: 8 out of 10

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