Warning: This post touches on details of Sunday’s seventh-season premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Read on at your own risk. And yes, there be dragons.
Siblings. Can’t live with them, can’t have them killed.
At least not this week.
Let us begin, as Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) might say (if only to have something to say), with the two brother-sister acts featured most prominently in the episode “Dragonstone.” In the north, there was continued squabbling between (supposed) siblings Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington), as she tried to toughen him up a little, while in the south, those incestuous Lannister twins, Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), appeared to disagree on just about everything.
This isn’t to discount the neat trick Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) played on House Frey before the opening titles, as the girl who no longer goes by “a girl” used her hard-won superpower to take on the face of Walder Frey (David Bradley), whose throat she’d slit in last season’s finale, and to poison the Red Wedding host’s family.
In my Game of Thrones fantasy league, Arya’s worth at least two dragons. Maybe two-and-a-half. And she’s headed like a heat-seeking missile toward Queen Cersei, if, you know, heat-seeking missiles stopped off to listen to Ed Sheeran sing. (Did he win a charity auction to get the part of a soldier introducing a new song?)
But back to the siblings, who seemed eager on Sunday to demonstrate that there’s more than one way to lead a kingdom.
At Winterfell, Jon, eager to rally the North to defend them all against the Night King (Vladimir Furdik), was willing to overlook past betrayals, while Sansa was all about the revenge, recommending flip-this-castle tactics he saw as too harsh. He gave her an earful afterward about undermining him in public.
“You’re good at this, you know,” she said in an attempt to placate him. “You have to be smarter than father. You need to be smarter than Robb.”
I have not, I’ll admit, always considered Jon super-smart, but I’ll give him this: He’s smart enough to know when he’s being snowed, and he called her on it. And the former lord commander of the all-male Night’s Watch was also the one who called for drafting women and girls, which means that in some future episode we may get to see my current favorite Thrones character, preteen truth-teller Lady Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey), lead the men and women of Bear Island into battle.
Those White Walkers had better not touch a hair on her tiny head, though.
Other brother-sister acts worth mentioning include Targaryen allies Theon and Yara Greyjoy (Alfie Allen and Gemma Whelan), whose uncle, Euron (Pilou Asbæk) — who seemed to think he was on The Bachelorette this week — would like to kill them and hand all their ships to Cersei as a wedding present, and Daenerys and her late, unlamented brother, Viserys (Harry Lloyd), who figured in the recap at the top of the show for what seemed like the first time in a long while.
What all these pairings appear to have in common is that the sisters are tougher, though maybe in some cases also less pragmatic, than the brothers.
It’s Jaime, after all, not Cersei, who wanted to talk about feelings, noting that they’d not yet discussed the recent death of the last of their three children together. But it’s also Jaime who pointed out how weak Cersei’s current position is and that as the queen of the seven kingdoms of Westeros, she currently rules “three kingdoms, at best.”
Daenerys is almost certainly better off without Viserys and Yara’s relationship with the mutilated Theon, while interesting, doesn’t seem crucial.
But all the attention to siblings makes me wonder what would happen if, say, long-separated Starks Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Arya were to come together.
Something magical, perhaps?
A few other thoughts about the largely entertaining Season 7 premiere, which needed only to see poor maester-wannabe Samwell Tarly (John Bradley-West) empty a few dozen more full chamber pots to make it more so (or maybe we saw enough?):
- “You think you’re fooling anyone with that topknot?” Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann) got what I hope will be the final word on manbuns.
- Euron’s tone might not have been suitorly enough suit Cersei, but he did seem to be having fun as he dissed his own people and took shots at Jaime. When Cersei reminded him that he’d murdered his own brother, he replied, “You should try it. It feels wonderful.” Sure, he might have been talking about her other brother, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), who’s allied himself with Daenerys, but it could only have been the one-handed Jaime whom Euron meant when he boasted that he had “a thousand ships and two good hands.”
- It’s astonishing how far Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) has come in the world of Westeros without learning to control that smirk, at least in public meetings.
- I loved the choice of Jim Broadbent to express the timeless philosophy of the Citadel, as his maester character told the much put-upon Sam, who was assisting him at an autopsy, that he believed him about the White Walkers, but also that “every winter that ever came has ended.”
- Yes, I know Jon and Sansa aren’t actually half-siblings, but as long as they don’t know that, it doesn’t matter to their interactions.
- The dragons showed up, on cue, about 9:55 p.m.