game of thrones dragonstone review 6

The Invader in Dragonstone

There’s no dialogue when Daenerys Targaryen finally sets foot on Westerosi soil for the first time since she was an infant. She has nothing to say when she returns to Dragonstone, the Targaryen castle where she was born during a massive storm and carried away from by a few remaining allies as it became clear that Robert Baratheon’s rebellion was going to be a successful one. There’s no need for words. After six seasons (and for the Mother of Dragons herself, a lifetime), Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen is finally home.

Team Fire and Blood make their way into the stronghold without saying a word, pausing only to tear down a banner left behind by the late Stannis Baratheon. They’re a dream team of warriors and thinkers: Daenerys, the steely conquerer and her trio of dragons; Tyrion Lannister, the smartest and cleverest man in Westeros; Varys, a mover and shaker and spymaster who knows every dark corner and every secret; Missandei, a translator and advisor fueled by total loyalty; Grey Worm, a skilled general who owes his freedom to the woman issuing his orders. Wearing snazzy new uniforms, this dream team has finally achieved what we’ve been promised since the pilot episode of Game of Thrones. The Targaryens are back. And they’re gathered around that totally rad war table where Stannis and Melisandre once conceived a shadow baby.

Daenerys and her new stronghold (and old home) don’t have much to do in “Dragonstone,” but they loom over the episode like the shadow of an incoming tsunami. From here, Daenerys will conduct her war. From here, Tyrion will betray his own family. From here, the war against the White Walkers could be won, if only the armies of the north could have access to that deposit of Dragonglass. From here, the end game of Game of Thrones will begin. And things are looking very, very good for Team Fire and Blood.

game of thrones dragonstone review 3

The Assassin in the Riverlands

“Dragonstone” begins with perhaps the most satisfying cold open in the show’s history. Walder Frey, who died last season after unknowingly devouring the flesh of his dead sons, is somehow alive. And he’s gathered every notable member of his house in one place for a feast. It’s time to celebrate their accomplishments! How they have defeated their enemies! How they control the Riverlands! How they murdered a pregnant woman and a mother of five after inviting them into their home! By the time Walder gets to this part of his speech, his entire family has already drank the poisoned wine served to them. And then Arya Stark pulls off his face (Braavosi assassin Hogwarts training FTW) and tells the only survivors that the North remembers.

And like that, the formerly pint-sized Stark girl has removed a piece from the board and has actually entered the game of thrones as a proper player after six years of just trying to survive on the fringes. House Frey is dead and may it rot in hell. Ramsay Bolton and Joffrey Baratheon were evil, but they were also psychopaths. The Freys were just craven opportunists, useless scoundrels with too much power and too little talent. It’s telling that a single wily young woman could take them all out.

Of course, Arya’s journey to the dark side is probably something we shouldn’t be cheering. Should we be happy that the young tomboy of the first season has grown into the most talented assassin in the Seven Kingdoms? Surely not. But revenge feels good. Watching her avenge Eddard and Catleyn and Robb and Talisa feels good. That’s the moral complication at the heart of Game of Thrones, isn’t it? We abhor violence until it feels like justice. Until it feels good. What will become of Arya Stark when she’s killed her enemies? What will be left of her?

Still, Arya’s little pow-wow with a group of young Lannister soldiers feels like a necessary diversion, a reminder to her (and to us) that the little folks are just cogs in a machine. The foot solders wearing red and gold have no real stake in the machinations of Cersei and her ilk – they just have a job to do and they miss home and they like singing songs and they’re played by English pop stars in cameos that work far better than they should. Game of Thrones is about the men and monsters at the top of the heap. It’s helpful to be reminded of the ordinary folks they chew up and spit out every single day.

Game of Thrones Season 7 Trailer Breakdown 3

The Players

So, who is currently winning the game of thrones? The obvious answer seems to be Daenerys, who has arrived in Westeros with her dragons and her army and seems poised to conquer everything in her path. And yet, she hasn’t actually done anything yet. Check back with me next week.

Up north, Jon Snow and his team are getting their act together, but they’re between a Wall and a hard place. They have too much to worry about to even think about the game right now. Jon may be noble and good and possibly the fairest ruler on the show, but he’s not a player. Sansa, with her heated reaction to House Karstark and House Umber, also needs to start thinking about the bigger picture rather than the petty squabbles. Sorry, guys.

Down south, Queen Cersei takes herself out of the running by stating the obvious: she’s surrounded by enemies and short on allies. Maybe Euron could change her position in the weeks ahead, but maybe that will only propel the leader of the Iron Islands to the top of the heap, not the queen herself.

Samwell? Ha. Hahahahahahaha. When the game of thrones is decided by library research and cleaning up poop, Sam will be the clear winner.

Honestly, only one character emerged from this episode in a position to achieve their goals: Arya Stark. Not only did she singlehandedly wipe House Frey off the face of the continent, she is heading south, blending in, and seems poised to do the impossible: assassinate the Queen. If anyone can do it, it’s her.

Currently Winning the Game of Thrones: Arya Stark

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