Game of Thrones: The great game finally returns with a big, if predictable opening gambit
WARNING: THERE'S GOING TO BE LOTS OF SPOILERS.
Game of Thrones finally returned to the world after a year-long absence. Much of what happened in the first episode was a bit predictable, but we do now know where everybody's at, and everything is set up for an epic season.
It's all about the White Walkers
Four different storylines are now primarily concerned with how to defeat this pesky Army of the Dead: Those at Winterfell, the Brotherhood of Banners, Samwell in Oldtown and, of course the Night's Watch, who now have Bran and Meera for company.
So how are they going about this?
On the day Doctor Who got it's first female Doctor, Jon Snow, King of the North, insists that everyone, and that includes women, should be equipped and trained to fight the white walkers. Fair enough, too.
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When one northern bannerman speaks against this, the still-awesome Lyanna Mormont bites back saying she doesn't need anyone's permission to learn how to fight.
Well you need all the people power you can get against the Army of the Dead.
At the wall, Bran gave Edd the creeps by telling him he'd seen him at Hardhome and the Fist of the First Men. Nothing else really happened, so it seems like they're just waiting until the White Walkers get to the wall.
The Brotherhood without Banners are travelling north with the Hound, who possibly has a visit from the Lord of Light in the flames he fears so much, telling him the Army of the Dead is near the most easterly castle on the wall. Incidentally, that's where Tormund is heading too.
And in Oldtown, Sam, when he isn't cleaning out bedpans or feeding the scaly Jorah Mormont (it's good to have him back), enters the restricted section of the Maester's library and finds a recipe for polyjuice potion. Madame Pince didn't even catch him.
However, as much as that scene was straight out the annuls of JK Rowling, he does confirm that Dragonstone has a mountain of dragonglass, which can kill White Walkers.
He sends a raven to Jon, which seemingly sets up him going to Dragonstone (his second ancestral home) for a chat with Aunt Daenarys.
Cersei is forced to make friends
The most interesting part of this episode was before the intro. Walder Frey has gathered his whole family to drink some wine. Well it turns out Walder is Arya, the wine is poisoned and now the Freys are all gone. Thorough job Arya.
What this does is leave Queen Cersei Lannister without any allies in the Seven Kingdoms. Until the Iron Fleet shows up.
Euron sure got those ships built quickly. He sails to Kings Landing, dressed in a rather fashionable black sports jacket-like top and asks Cersei to marry him in return for alliance. He also points out he has "two good hands", clearly a swipe at Jaime.
Cersei refuses him until he can prove himself loyal and worthy, and Euron promises to get a gift.
What that gift might be is open to interpretation, but my best guess is that Euron intends to get her Tyrion, who was himself a gift to Daenarys.
Sibling bickering benefits Baelish
It's been hinted at so much in the build up to this season, and it didn't take long for the cracks to appear between Jon Snow/Stark/Targaryen and Sansa Stark. She openly questions his decision to pardon the Umbers and Karstarks, and confronts him about not listening to her advice.
They both sublty compare each other to Joffrey and Cersei and don't reach any kind of resolution.
This situation is perfectly suited to Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish, who self-admittedly thrives on chaos.
He's lurking in the shadows for now, and Sansa is still standoff-ish with him, but he will bide his time to capitalise on the power struggle at Winterfell.
A few quibbles
Let's just deal with this right now: why did Ed Sheeran have to show up? Why did he have to talk? And why was he a Lannister?
There really wasn't any need for it. Game of Thrones is already the biggest TV show in the world. It doesn't need the biggest pop star in the world to boost its (or his) ratings. No-one is going to start watching because of it. At least I hope not.
Seeing Ed Sheeran in #gameofthones was the biggest wtf moment of my existence— Jenny Winter (@JennyPWinter) July 17, 2017
I'm all for cameo appearances from non-acting celebrities. So long as they're an extra in the background. Then it becomes a nice Easter egg for devoted fans.
Will Champion of Coldplay was in the band that played at the Red Wedding. That's how you do it, Ed.
Also, some of the writing was also below the quality we're used to. Lines seemed to be put in for no real reason at all. "Are you old enough to drink?" a Lannister soldier asks Arya. Does it matter?
The swearing also seemed far more cutting and unnecessary than in previous seasons.
It's not really a huge issue, but it does grate slightly. At least they saved the best line for last, with Dany's "Shall we begin" before the credits roll.
We have begun, my queen, it really is just a huge relief to do so. I can't wait for next Monday already.