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Here we are. The gang’s all back in town, and it’s time for another season of fights, hook-ups, and eviscerating burns. No, it’s not Vanderpump Rules. It’s the other one!
Forgive me for starting off this year’s Game of Game of Thrones with an admission like this, but I spent the first several minutes of season 7 thinking we were seeing a flashback to a conversation happening in the Twins just after the Red Wedding, and in spite of myself, I hoped something unspeakable: “Are they about to do Lady Stoneheart?”
I’m embarrassed about that, but I think we should start the new GOGOT league from a place of honesty. It’s never going to happen. I get it. I’m sorry about my confusion over this, and over the fact that Arya’s choice of poisonous wine, “Arbor Gold,” is a red, not a white. The first scene of season 7 is a points monster, with Arya netting +50 for using magic to try on Walder Frey’s dead body and hit the +50 points cap for random redshirt kills, effectively getting rid of what remained of the Frey family. She also delivers an icy (pardon me!) speech about the North. Cliffs Notes version: it still remembers, and “Winter came for House Frey.” (+10)
The North has been remembering for some time now (the writers blew it as an episode title five years ago, for some reason) and I’m not convinced Arya’s personal vendettas have much to do with what that phrase has come to mean on the show — i.e., that the old houses of the North remember their vows to the Starks, and will band together to defeat the Boltons. That, um, already happened. But it’s nice to imagine all the thousands of Tumblr reblogs some lucky young GIF artist will get after they line up Sansa’s season 6 slow walk and grin with Arya’s.
This is a lovely death tableau. I wish there were points for artistry, and that director Jeremy Podeswa were a draftable player. (He gets +500 for this sequence. I don’t care that it’s from another show.)
From there, this season premiere takes on the less-exhilarating but, yeah, necessary task of establishing the basic season 7 locations and job descriptions for all our major players. Bran and Meera make it to The Wall shortly after Bran has a gross vision (+20) of an army of wights crawling southward with some new additions — wight horses. Okay, sure. Zombie horses. I’m so glad this show can get away with just about anything by way of looking very expensive all the time!
The new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch — our guy, our sweet and loyal pal Edd Tollett — takes them in only after Bran says something ominous about Hardhome and this army of the dead. By the way, Edd looks sharp in Jon’s clothes. Unfortunately, the GOGOT scoring system has been simplified, and I’ve lost the ability to give points for good outfits. Sis, I’m already feeling it. Anyway, now they’re together, which is fun for exactly no one. Imagine getting a new job and then getting dealt Bran as your main co-worker for an entire year. Fuck.
This brings us to Winterfell, where Jon is organizing a dragonglass scavenger hunt in a hall full of Northern lords and assorted Team Jon dudes, and Sansa is silently rocking an extremely modern braid. When Jon starts saying a bunch of stuff that makes no sense, basically declaring that he’s too Good and Pure to kick people who tried to murder him out of their houses, the only political strategist in the entire Stark family pipes up to remind him that he should punish treason and reward loyalty. Feel free to sound off in the comments, but Jon’s facial expressions and flailing speech about Ned’s declassified head-chopping guide made it seem to me like he knew Sansa was right, and was shutting her down purely out of spite. Either way, I suppose I have to reluctantly award him a +10 for “I’m the king. That is my decision, and my decision is final.”
This conversation, loosely inspired by an Uber board meeting, is a timeless portrait of misogyny at its most sinister, and I hope everyone who drafted Jon to their teams feels really bad about it.
Even though this is a sibling rivalry scene in which not much is accomplished, we actually have quite a few points to give out. Sansa delivers a truly devastating own (+10) by asking Jon, “Joffrey never let anyone question his authority. You think he was a good king?” This backfires a little, as it hurts his feelings so much that she then has to spend a full two minutes complimenting him so he doesn’t cry.
This meeting also results in a renewed vow of loyalty and some vague responsibilities for the very young (and undrafted in The Verge’s league) Alys Karstark, who gets a generous +25 for her promotion to head of her house and friend of the “King,” which I’m comfortable with because I don’t imagine we’ll see her much after today. Lyanna Mormont gets, I suppose, a +10 for the seething note she gives Lord Glover: “I don’t need your permission to defend the North.” (I’m into the exchange of knowing looks between her and Brienne, but excuse me if I don’t cheer for the creation of a child army.) Most significantly, Tormund Giantsbane and The Wildlings get +25 promotion points each for their new assignment guarding Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, the castle nearest to Hardhome. RIP in advance to that guy, and +5 for “I guess we’re the Night’s Watch now.” I love a little ironic twist, and I love Tormund, who’s toast.
I know I can’t do anything points-wise with this, but I did find it disturbing that Jon’s main accomplishments in his first day as King in the North were sending his good friend to get killed by ice zombies, implementing a military state in which all children will be trained for war starting at age 10, and suggesting to his sister that she should please shut up forever. I know there’s been a ton of fuss over the Mad Queen Theory, but I’d just like to point out that Kit Harington himself told The Hollywood Reporter last week that Jon is “a bit of a psychopath.”
Meanwhile, Cersei is doing a whole lot of nothing much in King’s Landing (+5 for wine), and we find her getting a huge new map of Westeros painted on the floor. It bothers me a little bit that she’s walking on it while it’s still in progress, but it really bothers Jaime that she doesn’t want to talk about their “baby boy” Tommen, who killed himself last year. For whatever reason, the mass murder she did shortly before that suicide does not come up, but Jaime does seem markedly less interested in Cersei’s plan to take over the world than he was just a few episodes ago. When she declares her dominion over the Seven Kingdoms, he manages to quip back, “Three kingdoms, at best.” (+5)
That’s all a bit of a bummer, but it’s followed by my favorite scene of the episode, the debut of Hot Euron. Euron Greyjoy is in King’s Landing with a whole fleet of cool ships that all have wildly unnecessary aesthetic features, and he’s interested in marrying Cersei. Or in his words, “Here I am, with a thousand ships and two good hands.” (+5) I can remember only the general thrust of his zinger-riddled overture to her (+5), distracted as I was by his eyeliner and absolutely bananas cosplay as the guy from Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” video, but we’ll give him +5 for a bold come-on. He’s off to find Cersei a “priceless gift,” which I’m assuming is Tyrion, and when he gets back, they’ll likely get married, which I’m assuming is how we’ll see Jaime go fully rogue from Team Lannister. Hot Euron, already stirring up some shit.
Speaking of shit, Sam’s in Oldtown, scooping it. That’s his job now, and I’m sorry to say that he gets a walloping -25 right out of the gate for this unfortunate demotion from “Readerly guy who worries about his own personal development the majority of the time.” It really is incredible that we can be more than 60 hours deep into this story, and still have cause for lengthy expository montages. This scene is basically the Stomp of soup and poop, and God bless this weird, weird show. Two questions: is this the darkest sequence in Game of Thrones history, and when will I be expected to sit through a remix of it?
Sam works for Archmaester Marwyn (Jim Broadbent!), who’s just been added to the Game of Game of Thrones player pool, and he might even be a smart trade if he keeps it up with the speeches. His role in this premiere is to serve as the dissenting voice to the whole “the world is ending, the long night is coming, the army of the dead, etc.” narrative, and to cooly remind Sam (with his hands fully inside a dead body), “Every winter that ever came has ended.” Anyway, the main conflict in Oldtown is that Sam needs access to the hardcore library books, but unfortunately is not yet considered punk rock or philosophically jaded enough to handle them.
Back at Winterfell, Littlefinger is trying to talk to Sansa about something — likely how essentially everything that has happened on this show is directly his fault — and she’s not having it. “Why aren’t you happy?” he asks. “What do you want that you do not have?” It’s nauseatingly clear that he’s hoping she says something like “Love and companionship from a patchy-haired pedophile,” but instead she says, “At the moment, peace and quiet.” (+10)
Meanwhile, somewhere in the woods, Arya stumbles upon Actual Ed Sheeran singing the song about Tyrion and Shae that the book-only character Symon Silver Tongue was killed for writing. She gets +5 for eating some of Ed’s roast rabbit and swigging some ale to get through her conversation with him, then reveals that she’s headed to King’s Landing to kill Cersei. The sweet, big-hearted, summer souls who had been crossing their fingers for a Stark sister reunion are going to have to hold on a little longer.
This scene exists almost entirely to spotlight Actual Ed Sheeran, which offends me deeply. But it also gives us a little insight into the lives of random soldiers, who tell Arya that they have had lots of adventures, but really miss home, and do not know the sex or names of their own children. You can actually swap a scene from the 2013 One Direction documentary This is Us in at this point if you want. The episode will still make sense, and also Ed Sheeran won’t be in it.
From here, we go to a much more fun place: a snowstorm in the middle of nowhere! The Hound, Thoros of Myr, Beric Dondarrion, and the rest of the Brotherhood Without Banners are trudging around in the blizzard having emo conversations about the meaning of life and the powers of the Lord of Light, which normally wouldn’t appeal to me, but Thoros and The Hound are a really fun duo. (“Why are you always in such a foul mood?” “Experience.”) Their banter doesn’t quite approach the point where I’m ready to give out a slew of points yet, as it’s regularly brought down by questions about why Beric is still alive and which god is real, but this is going to be fun. +5 to The Hound for calling out Thoros’ man-bun. We’ll start from there.
The Hound also nets some eating points (+5) and, impressively, some vision points (+20) for staring into the flames at Thoros’ request and seeing an army of wights at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. (Tormund, I love you. You are loved.) I imagine we’ll also be giving the Hound some “adopting a new religion” points soon, and though the Lord of Light went undrafted in The Verge’s league this year, anyone who does have “him” on their roster gets a +20 for that vision as well.
And sure, another +5 to The Hound, whose only consistent character trait has been his fear of open flames, for “It’s my fucking luck I wind up with a band of fire worshippers.” That’s the last you’ll see of my generosity today, as the next scene takes us back to Oldtown, where Sam has stolen some of the secret books. One of them has a map of Dragonstone, which doesn’t strike me as particularly confidential or scandalous information, but Sam is alarmed to find that the map depicts a “mountain” of dragonglass in the castle’s basement. Stannis told him this before, but he didn’t think it was important. Sorry, but there are no points for the incredibly dumb breakthrough of “Maybe there’s dragonglass at the ancestral home of the dragon guys,” nor for traveling hundreds of miles to learn something you already knew, but forgot.
To round this scene out, Jorah’s greyscale-covered arm shoots out of the wall of the Citadel, and he growls a question about “the dragon queen,” like “Is she here yet?” Sam doesn’t know, and I don’t know how I resisted giving Jorah demotion points for becoming what is essentially an ‘80s haunted house jump-scare.
Finally, Daenerys and crew arrive on the shores of Westeros, which are beautiful and totally unoccupied, and she rolls in (+25) as the new Lady of Dragonstone. A solid +25 to her dragons as well, the first official dragons of Westeros in hundreds of years. This scene is what we’ve been waiting for 60 episodes, and I am with Dany even when she makes the melodramatic choice to kneel down and caress the sand. I am especially with her when she strides into the throne room (which someone has been dusting, I guess?) without even unpacking, and turns to her crew like, “Shall we begin?” Hell yeah, and as I think I’ve said: this is going to be fun.
The Verge League Standings:
Michael Zelenko: 115 points
Top scorer: Arya Stark, 115
Special team: The Royal Army, 0
Sarah Smithers: 60 points
Top scorer: The Hound, 35
Special team: Dragons, 25
Kwame Opam: 55 points
Top scorer: Tormund Giantsbane, 30
Special team: The Dothraki, 0
Andy Hawkins: 25 points
Top scorer: Euron Greyjoy, 15
Special team: The Unsullied, 0
TC Sottek: 25 points
Top scorer: N/A
Special team: Wildlings, 25
Liz Lopatto: 20 points
Top scorer: Sansa Stark, 20
Special team: The Old Gods, 0
Bryan Bishop: 10 points
Top scorer: Lyanna Mormont, 10
Special team: The Night’s Watch, 0
Tasha Robinson: 5 points
Top scorer: Jaime Lannister, 5
Special team: White Walkers, 0
Chaim Gartenberg: 5 points
Top scorer: Cersei Lannister, 5
Special team: Wights, 0
Loren Grush: -5 points
Top scorer: Bran Stark, 20
Special team: Brotherhood without Banners, 0
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