This recap contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 7, episode 1, titled “Dragonstone.”
Who run the world? The ladies of Game of Thrones, duh.
After multiple seasons of mansplaining, rape and abuse, the women of Westeros are finally in positions of power in the Season 7 premiere, and it’s every bit as exhilarating as watching Wonder Woman stride through No Man’s Land with bullets bouncing off her gauntlets.
The first new episode in over a year opens with Arya Stark doubling down on her spectacular murder of Walder Frey last season by killing all of his remaining bannermen and supporters — and she does it in the most deliciously devious way possible, by impersonating the old traitor himself. The mic drop moment comes when Arya tells Walder’s poor, long-suffering wife, “When people ask you what happened here, tell them the North remembers; tell them winter came for House Frey.” If you didn’t cheer, you may be a wight.
But Arya’s not the only one who gets a showstopping moment in the Season 7 premiere (okay, she really gets two, when she hangs out with Ed Sheeran and tells a bunch of Lannister bannermen that she’s heading to King’s Landing to kill the queen — slaaaaaay!), her big sister, Sansa, is also serving up plenty of regal fierceness.
Newly crowned King in the North Jon Snow is a natural born leader, and he’s wasting no time giving orders to the Lords of the North — instructing them to seek out dragonglass for the war with the White Walkers, and informing the northerners to begin training all their able-bodied men and women for the battle to come. When crotchety Lord Glover balks at the idea of training girls along with boys, scene-stealing Lyanna Mormont easily shuts him down.
But while Jon has no issue recognizing that women are every bit as capable of fighting as men are, he’s still slow to listen to Sansa’s opinions — she suggests that they take two of the North’s most valuable castles and give them to families who stayed loyal to House Stark after the Red Wedding, instead of the Umbers and Karstarks, who betrayed Robb and sided with the Freys and Boltons.
Jon, meanwhile, doesn’t want to hold the younger members of those families responsible for their fathers’ actions, and would rather have the new generation swear fealty and prove themselves loyal to him.
The tough part of Sansa and Jon’s disagreement here is that both of them are right — there’s something to be said for rewarding loyalty, but equally, the sins of the father shouldn’t automatically be applied to their sons and daughters.
While Jon’s right that Sansa shouldn’t question him in front of the other lords and undermine his authority, he also owes her the chance to weigh in on his strategies, and after she saved his ass at the Battle of the Bastards, her opinions should hold some weight. Given everything she’s been through — surviving King’s Landing with Joffrey and Cersei, the Vale with Littlefinger and Lysa Arryn, and the North under Ramsay Bolton, she’s one of the most experienced political operators in the realm at this point.
In previews leading up to the new season, both Kit Harington and Sophie Turner have played up the idea that Jon and Sansa will be at odds, but from the honest conversation they have in this episode, when she calls him out on not listening to her, it seems like these two are actually going to work well together as long as they keep communicating.
This is especially obvious when we see Littlefinger skulk up and try to manipulate Sansa again, and she shuts him down instantly — even making fun of him when he tries to get in the last word. Jon and Littlefinger are both underestimating her, but Jon at least seems willing to learn from his mistakes, and I don’t see her betraying her family when we all know that the Starks are stronger together.
Back in King’s Landing, Cersei has gone off the deep end, and it’s clear that Jaime is FREAKING OUT about it. She’s so confident in her power and political acumen, she seems to have walled herself off from the emotion of losing Tommen and her other children — instead of mourning him, she’s painted him as an enemy just like Tyrion, deciding that he “betrayed” her by caring for Margaery.
This (plus her paranoia) would be disturbing enough, but we then find out that she’s invited Euron Greyjoy over for a pow-wow, hoping that she’ll be able to use him and his Iron Fleet to help her defeat the newly-arrived Daenerys, along with her other enemies — Olenna Tyrell, Ellaria Sand and Jon Snow — surrounding them in every direction.
While you’ve got to feel bad for poor Jaime, who basically spends the whole episode getting shade thrown at him from Cersei and Euron, it’s kind of spectacular to see Cersei in full-on Mad Queen mode, and it’s refreshing that she doesn’t immediately say yes to Euron’s proposal of marriage, instead making him work for it, the way a woman in Westeros rarely has the opportunity to do when it comes to a political union.
Last season, Dany ditched poor Daario because she knew she’d probably have to marry someone for political reasons too, and with Jon searching for dragonglass (which is apparently buried in copious quantities under Dragonstone, as Sam discovered this week), it seems like a wedding of Fire and Ice could be on the cards before the season is out.
While we didn’t get to see much of Dany this week, director Jeremy Podeswa did an exquisite job of capturing the overwhelming emotion of her return to the castle where she was born (and the homeland she feels compelled to reclaim) with no dialogue.
The final minutes of the episode are a haunting, poignant summation of everything Daenerys has been through up to this point, and while there’s an obvious relief for her at finally returning to Westeros, you can also feel the weight of everything she still has to accomplish bearing down on her. The episode is undoubtedly a scene-setter for the season to come, but I still felt a chill when she asked “Shall we begin?” This is the moment we’ve been waiting for since the show began, and from this point on, everything will change.
We’re ready, khaleesi.