The Season 7 premiere of Game of Thrones was both more and less than we wanted, functioning mostly as an episodic prologue to the shitstorm that will presumably rain down on our dearly beloved characters later in the season. As a “where are they now,” it functioned fairly well, though, and especially interesting was how it showed the women characters are, after years of violence and submission, are rising up and about to fully wreck shit.
If an opening scene were a statement shoe, Arya’s use of her Many-Faced talents to pose as Walder Frey and murk out his fam would be this studded Gucci bootie from Spring 2008. At the end of last season, the look of probably psychopathic satisfaction that overcame her sweet visage as Walder pumped blood from his jugular seemed like foreshadowing, and her vengeful obliteration of House Frey—and, later, her dispassionate declaration that she is traveling to King’s Landing to “kill the queen”—indicated that something’s askew in Arya’s internal monologue. Does wearing someone else’s freaking FACE SKIN too much turn you cold? Seems like maybe!
Before we continue, I would like to address the elephant in the room, which is that “Ed Sheeran cameo” is the new term for “jumping the shark.” It’s incredibly disappointing that Thrones, which has mostly relied on relatively unknown actors to great success, would drop in a 2017 pop cultural signifier as an extra and then ZOOM IN to his freaking FACE as though breaking the fourth wall. Game of Thrones has been successful because of its ability to fully immerse the viewer into its magical, horrific world, and to drop in a cameo from a man whose fake-reggaetón song is currently blasting from Subarus across America is a cynical move that fully distracted from the rest of the scene. Are the casting agents feeling themselves too hard? Do they realize that they mostly film in the UK and Scandinavia, where the ratio of singing, acting gingers to the rest of us is higher than anywhere else in the goddamn world? They could have hired anyone, and they hired the man who wrote Rita Ora’s latest single! HOW MUCH PANCAKE MAKE-UP DID IT TAKE TO COVER UP HIS FREAKING HEINZ KETCHUP TATTOO? This is some bullshit and I hate everything about it.
Therein lay the central problem with this episode, though—the pacing was all wrong, the storyline too rushed. I understand why the showrunners want to break up the final season into two seven-episode blocks, with half airing now and half in 2018—hopefully, it’s because it will take that long to craft and stage its unparalleled epicness, and of course because HBO likely wants to milk its popularity as long as possible. But here, it made me fearful that the shift will end up compromising the storyline, as evidenced by Samwell’s funny-but-odd shoveling-shit montage at the Citadel, an odd choice by director Jeremy Podeswa (who, for what it’s worth, did a fantastic job with “The Red Woman” and “Home,” among others).
Character development, though, I’m not sweating a bit. Aside from the great Maisie Williams transforming Arya into the ultimate assassin—like, Jason Bourne for the Medieval generation—we have tiny boss bitch Lyanna Mormont advocating for swordfighting equality among the girls and women of the North, inventing Second Wave feminism like 3000 or so fantasy-years before the fact. (“I don’t plan on knitting by the fire while men fight for me.”) Jon Snow is doing fine at leadership as ever but frankly he needs to listen to Sansa more—his dismissal of her warnings about Ramsay Bolton ended up in near-defeat, and now as he anoints some 12-year-olds from House Umber and that other House against her advice, you know that shit’s gonna come back and bite him in the ass.
Then we have Cersei, who is FULLY the Mad Queen, so set on ruling the seven kingdoms that she’s having some artist-serf incorporate a map of it into her design scheme, and fully calling Olenna Tyrell, a 79-year-old matriarch, an “old cunt.” Don’t hold back, my G! Her potential union with conniving Euron Greyjoy—the fun guy you talk to at the bar until it gets weird and you have to sneak out while he’s in the bathroom—will get her own revenge (the head of Tyrion) and some ships to boot. His Jaime diss—that he has both hands—both unsettles Jaime and underscores that everyone is triply ruthless and intense at this juncture. (Even Sansa’s tongue is sharper, when she dismisses Littlefinger: “No need to seize a last word, Lord Baelish. I’ll assume it was something clever.” Yow!)
Here’s the most important thing, though. Dany’s at Dragonstone and ready to rumble. Samwell has discovered there’s a whole mountain of dragonglass at Dragonstone, and is dispatching a raven to Jon Snow about it, since Jon Snow knows they’re gonna need it to combat the White Walkers. At some point, Jon Snow is gonna go to Dragonstone and meet Dany. AND THEN, BY MY CALCULATIONS, THEY’RE GONNA FUK. I’M SO READY!
Boners: Fucking none!!
Murders: The entirety of House Frey. Me, after the Ed Sheeran cameo.