In a way, the long-awaited Game of Thrones Season 7 premiere began in surprising fashion
In another sense, however, it delivered just the kind of jaw-dropping bad-assery that fans have come to expect from TV’s most obsessed-over series.
We kicked things off with, a pre-credits sequence featuring … a flashback?
As the pre-episode recap reminded us, Walder Frey died in the Game of Thrones Season 6 finale after noshing on pie made of his sons.
Of course, fans who recall Arya’s shape-shifting abilities likely sensed something was afoot from the start, and sure enough, what looked to be Walder was actually the most vengeful Stark in disguise, crossing a whole lot of names of her list at once.
The scene almost felt like showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss offering an apology to fans for the extra-long wait between new episodes.
We’ll take it.
From there, Dragonstone (a title that would prove to be loaded with meaning) updated us on the goings-on across Westeros at breakneck speed:
White Walker giants! Bran back in civilization! Political strife threatening to tear the Starks apart!
“No punishment for treason, no reward for loyalty” Sansa mutters at one point, indicating to the audience that she’s plannng on taking a harder line against enemies than her King in the North brother, Jon Snow.
Sansa is clearly bearing the emotional scars of the abuse she suffered from a succession of monsters, as she even goes so far as to compare Jon to Joffrey while admonishing him for his leniency with supporters.
Jon is briefly outraged, but Sansa remains his most trusted advisor, and the Stark siblings are able to keep things civil … for now.
At that point, Jon, concerned about threats from the North, receives an ominous message fro the South
He and Sansa have different concerns for good reason – he’s come face-to-face with the Night’s King, she knows just what Queen Cersei is capable of.
And with that, we shift focus to Westeros’ other powerful, divided family, the Lannisters.
Cersei is surprisingly reserved from a Mad Queen, but talk about Tommen reveals just how unhinged Cersei has become.
She forges an alliance with the Greyjoys in a scene that provides some much-needed comic relief.
Euron Greyjoy emerges as the show’s latest in a long line of charismatic rogues, arriving at King’s Landing with a load of hilarious smooth-talk and an unexpected marriage proposal.
Cersei is interested in alliances, but understandably done with marriage.
From there, we catch up with Sam in a montage that probably featured a few more poop close-ups than we needed.
A restricted area of the library that’s caught Sam’s attention quickly proves to be of tremendous importance, as we continue to lurch toward the series’ end game at a remarkable pace:
Littlefinger is scheming; there’s an Ed Sheeran cameo that we knew was coming, but was somehow still surprising; and the Hound is back, alongside Thoros of Myr, still thirsting for booze, and now rocking a comb-over man bun.
Sandor Clegane is his typically cheery self, telling tales of friends who “shat themselves to death in fields.”
Thus far, there hasn’t been a throwaway scene in what might be the most entertaining place-setting episode in TV history, and the Hound’s time at a secluded cabin in the woods proves no different:
The father and daughter are the same impovierished pair he and Arya encountered during their travels, and his vision spurred by the flames offers a portentous reminder of the series’ central motif (ice and fire).
(We know about the White Walkers and their relationship to ice; George R.R. Martin recently revealed that the death-averse Beric Dondarion is a fire wight.)
Speaking of impending doom, Sam’s discovery of dragonglass under Dragonstone (duh!) sets up the alliance between Jon and Daenerys
And just when you thought the premiere would end with no further mention of the Khaleesi, we get, in rapid succession:
A heavily-grey-scaled Jorah, Daenerys arriving at Dragonstone, complete with triumphant dragon flights … and the Stone Throne, which we didn’t know existed before now
“Shall we begin?” Dany asks Tyrion a final line that no doubt gave many fans chills.
Like the Mother of Dragons, GoT is back, and it’s wasting absolutely no time.
Watch Game of Thrones online to get caught up on a season that likely won’t slow down.