Sophie Turner at the Game of Thrones premiere in Los Angeles
Warning: spoilers ahead
After more than a year of waiting, Game of Thrones finally returned to our TV screens with a sombre season seven premiere.
The first episode, Dragonstone, focused heavily on Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) establishing her stronghold at the Targaryen ancestral seat of Dragonstone. It also signalled the first signs of sibling rivalry between Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), saw a heavy-handed cameo by Ed Sheeran, and featured plenty of doomy reminders that “winter is here”.
The opener also raised some Key questions for viewers.
What is the significance of Dragonstone?
The first episode focused on Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen reclaiming her ancestral home of Dragonstone and, in so doing, altering the balance of power in Westeros.
Dragonstone had been in the control of Stannis Baratheon, after he helped his brother King Robert in the rebellion against the Targaryen’s. But Stannis left Dragonstone unguarded when he pursued his ultimately ill-fated campaigns, first to oust the Lannisters and take the Iron Throne and then as Melisandre’s “Lord of Light”, to fight the White Walkers in the North.
When Daenerys turned up she found her old home abandoned and reclaimed it with ease. This marks a historical moment, as Dragonstone had belonged to her family for hundreds of years, long before the fall of the magical kingdom of Valyria. Perhaps it signals that Daenerys is finally ready to be the true leader of her people.
What’s so special about Dragonstone?
Aside from being the Targaryen seat, it turns out that Dragonstone could be very significant in any upcoming battles with the undead. As Night’s Watch braniac Sam Tarly (John Bradley-West) discovered as he was labouring in the Citadel, a restricted book described how Dragonstone conceals a supply of the Walker-slaying dragonglass. Surely, that’s the sort of knowledge that could be very useful in conflicts to come.
Will Sansa and Jon fall out?
Things are a bit tense between the siblings after Sansa and Jon disagreed about what to do with some pesky associates. Sansa wanted to take the Karstarks and Umber lands as punishment for swapping their allegiance to the Boltons. Thinking more in terms of strategy than revenge, Jon however argued that the ancient families should keep their lands, because they might be useful allies in the battles to come.
This understandably annoyed Sansa and prompted Jon to put his foot down. “You are my sister but I am king now,” Snow told Sansa, after she compared him to Joffrey. Meanwhile, Lord Baelish waited in the wings, possibly planning to exploit the rift.
Will the Lannisters’ repair family bonds?
Speaking of sibling rivalry, things are pretty edgy in the Lannister household as well. When Cersei (Lena Headey) asked her brother (and sometime lover) Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) if he was afraid of her, he replied: “Should I be?”
Meanwhile, brother Tyrion, who Cersei tried to dispose of, but Jaime freed, is sailing back to Westeros as Daenerys’ advisor. But the family dynamics seemed to make Queen Cersei more determined than ever to hold onto power as she surveyed the map of the kingdoms and outlined her plans to keep the empire in family hands.
“It’s ours now, we just have to take it,” Cersei told Jaime.
Jaime seemed to be wondering what family she was talking about, given that all their incestuous offspring are dead.
What is Euron offering?
Cersei admitted she can’t win the war alone, and even though the Lannisters have burned a lot of bridges, there’s one ruthless leader still lining up to join her.
The dastardly Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) successfully knocked off his relative to take control of the Iron Islands, but Yara and Theon escaped and pledged themselves to Daenerys Targaryen. Given that Cersei and Euron seem to share a common enemy, an alliance makes sense, but a marriage might be taking it a step too far.
Euron has arrived with his new fleet and plans for an alliance via a marriage proposal, but Cersei has had enough of marriage. Undeterred, Euron offered to return with a precious gift to seal the alliance. What could it be?
Are the Stark sisters going to the dark side?
When he saw Sansa determined to extract her revenge, Jon started to worry that his sister was sounding a little like Cersei.
“You almost sound as if you admire her,” Jon said.
“I learned a great deal from her,” Sansa replied.
But it isn’t just Sansa who is struggling with her dark side. Arya also seems consumed with vengeance.
Dragonstone began with young Arya musing on the best way to get revenge, reminding us of how she wreaked havoc on the Frey family. Certainly, they’ve had a lot of have things happen to them, but can the Stark women overcome their growing appetite for revenge and find their better selves, or will they fall prey to their own bloodlust like Cersei has?
Will the Hound be redeemed?
In one of the most poignant scenes in the episode, we saw the Hound, having joined the Brotherhood without Banners, (along with Beric and Thoros of Myr), arrive at a stricken farm. It was there, in Season 4, that The Hound had met a starving farmer and his daughter, and stole their remaining silver.
The two are now dead, and the Hound, no doubt troubled by his role in their deaths, decided to make a small gesture of amends by burying the two in the frozen night. Perhaps this small gesture indicates the road to salvation for the Hound.
It’s also significant that the Hound is now seeing visions in the fire of the dead marching past a castle near “where the Wall meets the sea”. Perhaps he’ll become a believer after all.