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The big 'Game of Thrones' breakdown: Season 7, Episode 1

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It’s back! It’s finally back! After our very own version of the long winter, Game of Thrones is on our TV screens again, and it returned with arguably the best season opener in the show’s history.

We’ve been told to expect a much faster pace and more action-packed episodes this season, and while ‘Dragonstone’ didn’t have anything like the drama of ‘Hardhome’ or ‘Battle of the Bastards’, we learnt a lot from the season premiere.

Each week we’ll be breaking down the episode into its key talking points, highlighting things we’ve learned, questions which have been raised, and little nuggets of detail you might have missed. This is the first in our series of big Game of Thrones breakdowns – let’s get to it!

What have we learned?

Arya isn’t going home anytime soon

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Arya has no intention of heading home to Winterfell just yet – she’s looking for vengeance, and is doing a pretty fine job of finding it so far. The cold open (something we almost never see in Game of Thrones) was easily the most satisfying scene of the episode, as we saw Arya don Walder Frey’s repulsive face and poison every last one of his men. “If anyone asks what happens here, tell them winter came for House Frey”, she says, before dropping her mic and moonwalking out of The Twins.

She later tells a band of Lannister soldiers – which includes Ed Sheeran and Shaun from This is England – that she is heading to King’s Landing to kill the queen. Of course, they all think she’s joking, but they don’t know Arya Stark. I don’t see Arya fulfilling her task – I think that might be left up to Jaime – but I’d be surprised if she doesn’t cross off at least one more name on her kill list before the season’s out.

Casting Ed Sheeran was a terrible, terrible decision

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Speaking of that Ed Sheeran cameo, I have to say it was one of the worst moves Game of Thrones has ever made. While he only had a couple of lines, it was still very easy to tell that he can’t act – but that wasn’t even the main problem. The real issue was that you were always so conscious of the fact that it was Ed actual Sheeran sitting there on Game of Thrones that it ruined the reality of the scene – it took us out of Westeros and thrust us back into the real world. It’s a shame, as it was meant to be a nice moment reminding us of Arya’s humanity – we got to see her as a little girl again, if only for a brief flash of time. Still, don’t be too surprised if we tune in next week to find every last one of those men dead.

The rumoured Jon and Sansa conflict is 100% on

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For me, these were some of the strongest scenes of the episode, which is surprising, as I really wasn’t looking forward to Jon and Sansa feuding. You can see a case for both points of view when they argue publicly about the Umbers and the Karstarks, though Jon eventually appears vindicated when the two children eagerly bend the knee for him – Jon had a look in his eye similar to the one we saw him sometimes give Olly, back before the little bastard betrayed him.

Then later on, Sansa is speaking about Cersei and her relentlessness. "You almost sound as if you admire her,” Jon tells her. "I learned a great deal from her,” his sister/cousin replies. And it’s true, she has – which is exactly why I think she will see through Lord Baelish’s plans to unsettle her and Jon this season. She will beat Littlefinger at his own game, and I can’t wait to see that play out.

We should all be worried about Tormund

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Sweet, sweet Tormund. Find yourself someone who looks at you the way Tormund looks at Brienne. The big, bearded ginger brute has bashed his way into our hearts, which is why we should all be very worried about Jon sending him and his Wildling army to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea – the exact same castle The Hound later sees visions of the Walkers marching towards. It doesn’t look good, does it?

The key to defeating the White Walkers could be sitting right underneath Dragonstone

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So Sam discovers what he had already been told by Stannis bloody ages ago – that Dragonstone sits atop a big mountain of dragonglass, one of the few materials we know is capable of killing White Walkers. It feels like this can’t be the only big discovery Sam makes while at the Citadel, though – it was a bit too anti-climactic, and the idea he somehow works out how to forge Valyrian steel is still one I like a lot.

Also, I can’t not mention Sam’s poo montage – we’ve never seen anything quite like it in Game of Thrones before, and sorry Sam, but it was hilarious.

Theories about what comes next

Jon and Daenerys are going to come into contact very soon

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On the subject of dragonglass, it may well be the catalyst that pushes Jon and Daenerys together for the first time. We know mining it is one of Jon’s priorities – he said so himself – and Dany has just landed back at her ancestral home. There’s a good chance Jon is going to be in touch with one hell of a truth bomb extremely soon – remember, Dany has no idea the White Walkers even exist. “Uh, hey Dany, welcome to Westeros. Just so you know, there’s a huge army of ice zombies heading down to destroy the whole kingdom and kill every last one of us. Gonna come dig up your house and make weapons out of it if that’s cool? OK bye! Jon”.

Who or what will Euron’s ‘gift’ for Cersei be?

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Cersei turned down Euron’s proposal of marriage, so Euron told her he’d be back with a gift – you know, to let her know he’s serious. My immediate, worried thought was that he meant Tyrion – he is excellent at getting captured, after all – but what is probably more likely is he will bring her one or all of the Sand Snakes. Cersei would certainly be keen to get payback for what they did to Myrcella, and it would also be a convenient way to wipe them out of the story for good – something I think we’d all be glad of.

Jaime and Cersei’s relationship looks like it may finally break down

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The signs are there in this episode – the ones that may finally lead to Jaime fulfilling the prophecy and killing his ever-so-slightly-older twin sister. He seems increasingly worried by Cersei’s blind pursuit of power at any cost, and looked particularly concerned by her speech about building a dynasty – she’s forgotten they have no one left to build one for. Cersei’s parallels with the Mad King keep growing stronger and stronger – surely it’s going to reach breaking point, and the Kingslayer will become the Kinslayer.

As an aside, I feel like I have to mention this excellent exchange:

Cersei: "I am the queen of the seven kingdoms."

Jaime: "Well, three at best."

Truth hurts.

A Sam and Jorah buddy-up looks a very good shout

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I am very happy about this one, as I mentioned in my Season 7 predictions piece that Reddit user u/redragebar had an excellent theory about Sam and Jorah discovering the secret to Valyrian steel together, and by placing them together in the Citadel in the very first episode, that theory has turned from a fun but fanciful idea into a genuine possibility.

Here’s what he wrote: “Sam leaves for the Ruins of Valyria to search for information about the creation Valyrian steel. He read about the Doom of Valyria and in the process finds the cure for greyscale, a maester seems to have known something already via Shireen. He meets Jorah, not quite fully consumed yet, and helps to cure him. Jorah, now immune to greyscale, enters Valyria and finds the secret to Valyrian steel.”

I liked it then, and I like it now. Make this come true.

What burning questions do we have?

Why has Euron joined Fall Out Boy?

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Seriously, his journey to King’s Landing has turned him from rugged sea captain to a swashbuckling Pete Wentz lookalike. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. We’re getting a lot of Jack Sparrow vibes, too.

Has Wun Wun been turned into a White Walker?

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That White Walker giant we saw in Bran’s vision only had one eye – and Wun Wun met his maker in ‘Battle of the Bastards’ when an arrow to the eye finished him off. Surely Jon would have burned his body though, and if he didn’t, how did he get from Winterfell back out to Beyond The Wall? Thankfully it looks like this White Walker giant was missing the wrong eye, though – guess there must just be a few one-eyes giants roaming around Westeros.

What’s Beric and The Hound’s purpose?

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The Hound asked this question himself – Beric is, by all accounts, not really that special – so why does the Lord of Light keep bringing him back? And why did he grant The Hound those visions in the flames? Clearly Sandor is destined for big things, and he’s well set up to be a dark horse in playing a big part in the war against the dead – has Beric been kept around purely to push him towards the right path?

Last week, George R. R. Martin dropped a very big piece of news about Dondarrion, saying that he is, in fact, a fire wight. What the fuck is a fire wight, you might be asking? And rightly so. Well, this is what Martin said:

“Poor Beric Dondarrion, who was set up as the foreshadowing of all this, every time he’s a little less Beric. His memories are fading, he’s got all these scars, he’s becoming more and more physically hideous, because he’s not a living human being anymore. His heart isn’t beating, his blood isn’t flowing in his veins, he’s a wight, but a wight animated by fire instead of by ice, now we’re getting back to the whole fire and ice thing.”

Whether this will be the case in the show we do not know, but if fire wights really are a thing that we’ve just added a whole other layer to this story.

Details you might have missed

The poignancy of this line from Jon

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“I will not punish sons and daughters for the crimes of their fathers” – that’s what Jon told Sansa when he gave his reasons for not seizing the Umbers’ and the Karstarks’ castles – a line which becomes particularly poignant when you remember how he was hated by Catelyn his entire childhood because she believed him to be the creation of his father’s misdeeds. It also alludes to how cruelly Joffrey treated Sansa because Ned was a traitor.

The two queens and their maps

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The first time we see Cersei she is walking across a giant map of Westeros being painted on the floor in King’s Landing, and the episode ends with Dany standing at the head of a table shaped like Westeros, both queens plotting their paths to total domination of the land. 

A certain famous knife makes an appearance

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Remember this? That’s the knife that was used in the attempt to assassinate Bran way back in Season 1 – the one that used to belong to Littlefinger, but was last seen with Ned Stark. What’s that specific knife doing in the book Sam’s reading about dragonglass? We don’t know yet, but what it does tell us is that it must be important.

And where is it now? Well, in some promo shots for Season 7 Arya actually has it hitched to her belt… Are we going to see Arya kill a Walker this season? I wouldn’t put it past her.

A nice nod to The Gravedigger from the books

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So, in the books, there is a moment when Brienne and Pod stay at a monastery and they see a huge man digging a grave. The head septon tells them that he found Sandor Clegane, but that The Hound died, implying that this man is him, and that the personality of The Hound is gone, but Sandor lives on. It’s just a small moment in the show, but a nice little easter egg for book readers now that the show is no longer beholden to the novels.

Dany very pointedly avoiding the throne at Dragonstone

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Did you see how Daenerys had absolutely no intention of sitting herself down on that throne? She’s not interested in ruling just one part of Westeros, she wants all of it, and she very pointedly walked straight past the throne and into the Chamber of the Painted Table to plan her next move. We’re ready...

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