HOLY F**K YES ARYA F***ING STARK!
You beautiful thing. You beautiful, deadly thing. You’re like a snake. No, better than a snake. You’re like a cunning honey badger. You don’t give a shit. Except unlike the internet honey badgers, you hate MRAs. Oh you HATE THEM. And the Freys are MRAs, make no mistake. They would happily subdue your rights as an independent avenging assassin just trying to make her way in the world. They are exactly the kind of man-babies that would cry over a woman Doctor Who. SO YOU KILL ALL THOSE MR-FREYS and YOU KILL THEM GOOD.
Oh gods, I’m drooling.
When the first person to appear on my screen in Season Seven Game of Thrones was Walder f***ing Frey, I almost tipped over my Pepsi Max. My thought process over the next three seconds ran thus:
“What the HELL is going on, Arya just slit his THROAT, that piece of crap is DEAD, oh SHIT that’s ARYA, in Faceless Man mode, OHHHHH THEY ARE ALL GOING TO DIE.”
I have never been so happy.
Don’t worry, Jon Snow appeared not long after and I got happier, but OH ARYA BABY BIRD YOU GOTTA FLY.
Throw away the Dornish goon! Pour out the Arbour Penfolds! Everybody toast! Everybody drink! (Except you, innocent servant girl) Everybody choke! Everybody collapse! As the aforementioned Doctor might exclaim if s/he was feeling particularly persnickety - EVERYBODY DIES!
And with that, welcome to another series of Raven On, the recaps that aren’t so much measured, analytical critiques of Game of Thrones, as emotional dry-humping on a feverish level.
The credit sequence had barely started and I already felt like I needed a post-coital cigarette. Was it good for you too, beloved readers? Not so much la petite mort as LE GRANDE MORT several times over with a sensual massage afterwards.
I’m so happy our show is back. I’m so happy that my recaps are back. I hope you’re happy too, bizarre sexual fetishes aside. I couldn’t do this without you. You are the yin to my yang. The Sonny to my Cher. The Titanic to my iceberg. Let’s sink together and never let go.
Season 7, Episode 1: “Dragonstone” or “HASHTAG GIRL BOSS”.
Yes, there’s definitely a lot of ladies making their presence known and respected in this fantastic opening episode. It’s not a perfect all-encompassing theme, but what the hell, let’s start as we mean to proceed.
Can we take a moment first and appreciate the MOTHERF***ING GIANT ZOMBIE WIGHTS, trudging south along with the rest of the dreary foot soldiers in the White Walker’s frosty army? Now we know what happened to the valiant Stampy’s brothers and sisters… reanimated to become Soldiers of Chilly Doom. On the day we lost zombie maestro George Romero, it feels fitting to have this latest incarnation of that particular body horror placed front and centre in our minds.
Next let’s just get this out of the way: Bran’s back at Castle Black. Meera looked exhausted, Bran freaked out Dolorous Edd with some clever mentalism, they let them in, here’s hoping there’s a plot development next week. Done.
Now down to Winterfell, where there is much more hot Jon Snow action. The King in the North (oh, I go weak at the knees just writing that) is holding court in what appears to be the same gathering of lords that acclaimed him at the end of last season. I mean, it can’t be, given that events seemed to have moved on by two weeks and Brienne is now in attendance, but they’re certainly all dressed the same and seated in the same position. I guess if I could only have Jon Snow in one position, I’d still take it.
Anyway, Jon and Sansa, the SUPERIOR STARK SIBLINGS, are there, and they’re together, and it’s perfect, and I can’t get enough of it. Jon talks about the need to create a dragon glass inventory, and to train everybody between the ages of 10 and 60 in how to handle his weapon. I mean weapons, in general.
Yes, it’s true - my beloved is an equal opportunist. I’M SO PROUD. He saw Ygritte fight, he knows women are not delicate beings who couldn’t possibly swing a sword or pilot a TARDIS. Sure, it’s a numbers game more than anything, but that doesn’t stop me wanting to really Germaine Jon’s Greers.
Captain Darling, sorry, Lord Glover, attempts some ovary-shaming but cops a well-deserved spray from our Hero of Heroes, Lyanna Mormont.
“I don’t plan on knitting by the fire while men fight for me… and I don’t need your permission to defend the North.”
Forget your anti-capitalist-Wall-Street-bull-statues, here’s your real Fierce Girl. NO MAN will tell the Little Bear not to fight, and by the gods if we don’t get a Rocky-style training Mor-montage I am going to write to my MP. I am not a crackpot.
Jon then requests Tormund and the wildlings take the job of manning the towers along The Wall. Now, Jon, my love - you cannot be serious in sending Tormund Giantsbane to The Wall for this whole series? What about a little thing called “Tormienne”? You must care about this romance Jon. Tormund is never going to convince Brienne to ride his great free folk into the wild blue yonder if he’s hundreds of miles away in creaky old Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.
But somebody has to go because that’s the direction the White Walkers will come from, and that’s where the trouble starts.
Jon, in the blue corner, wants to forgive the traitorous houses and bring them back under the Stark banner. In the red corner, Sansa has a little Sansplaining to do about loyalty and reward, betrayal and punishment. It got awkward, even for Brienne.
Thing is, my girl Sansa has a POINT. The Karstarks and Umbers were vicious backstabbing pricks whose mouths were writing cheques BOO HISS RAMSAY BOLTON couldn’t cash. Good riddance, and a pox on both their houses.
Except Jon is right. Jon is always right. Sigh.
When he calls forth the heirs to House Umber and Karstark, they turn out to be SWEET LITTLE BABIES. There’s no point in punishing these children for the poor decisions of their fathers. The White Walkers won’t care they’re douche-spawn. The North cannot be divided by internal ructions that might grow in resentful kiddie minds. Much better to secure their loyalty now, while they’re young. But in an inspiring way, not a grooming way, don’t be gross.
Later, we see that Jon is not happy about being Sansplained to. “I’m the King now, don’t undermine me!” he says - and it’s got to be said - in a slightly whiny way. YES. YOU READ THAT. I JUST MILDLY CRITICISED JON SNOW. I am a grown woman and I can recognise when my beloved is being a tad bratty. I would offer to spank that out of him, but it turns out Sansa is way ahead of me. In an assertive way, not a Lannister way, don’t be gross.
She tells him that she loves and missed Ned and Robb but by jeez, by jingo, by crikey they were thicker than my thighs in lycra, and that’s not going to cut it against Cersei. Jon has to make like 90s pop star Des’ree: he’s gotta be bad, gotta be bold, gotta be wiser. Yes, he’s gotta be hard, he’s gotta be tough, he’s gotta be stronger. You could even say he’s gotta be cool, he’s gotta be calm, he’s gotta stay together (If I’ve done my job you’re now singing the end bit).
When Jon asks if he’s supposed to be smarter by listening to his sister, her answer is “Would that be so terrible?”
YES, SANSA, YES. PUNCH THE SKY. YOU ARE MY REIGNING RESOLUTE RANGA.
Jon gets a raven from Darth Cersei, demanding he go to the capital and bend the knee or suffer a traitor’s death. Jon’s jam is the Night King (I always thought it was Night’s?), but Sansa cautions him about his enemy to the south, someone she grudgingly seems to respect.
This is what I want - two siblings, both clever, both brave, both determined, supporting but challenging each other. Jon is used to fighting alone for everything, and always facing a battle in trying to convince people a maelstrom of frosty badness is heading their way. Now he’s got his chance to lead without question, but that’s exactly what Sansa needs to do. Question him. She may not be right, but it’s important he hear reasoned, experienced voices, and hers is more valid than most. She’s lived in the South, she knows Cersei, and she’s a survivor. She knows their war on the wicked winds of winter will be worthless if their army is whipped on another front, so damnit Jon, you listen to her or I’ll have to punish you. Oh please the Gods let me punish you.
I don’t know about you, but I got my second awwww-gasm of the episode with some casual Tormienne action in the Winterfell yard. Tormund casually mosied up to Brienne as she trained Pod, causing her to become slightly distracted. When Pod got a hit in, Brienne turned around and beat him the ground, prompting Tormund to exclaim “You are a lucky man.” BOOM.
There was also a moment with Littlefinger trying his usual sleaze on Sansa. “Oh, sweetie, you’re not happy, you should smile more, oh pretty baby, how can Uncle Petyr make things better?” OH F*** OFF BAELISH YOU UNEARTHLY CREEP. Brienne shares our attitude, but Sansa is pragmatic. While Littlefinger controls the Knights of the Vale, she has to put up with his leering and negging. Thank heavens Sansa appears to have already read “The Game”, so she was able to shut him down before his clever final remark, which probably would have been a backhanded compliment or a magic trick.
Let’s turn now to King’s Landing, Darth Cersei, and the GIANT WAR ROOM FLOOR MAP.
Can I say how much I enjoyed the fact that the GIANT WAR ROOM FLOOR MAP was being finished as Jaime turned up? Normally those things just *exist* in movies and TV shows, you never see them being created. Picture it now, Cersei on some interminably dull home renovation show, demanding new bathroom fittings for the Red Keep, a cheeky timber deck, and an extra-detailed GIANT WAR ROOM FLOOR MAP on pain of death?
Cersei seems more confident than we’ve seen her in a while, but then I suppose blowing up all your capital city-based enemies is bound to be a better motivator than the cheesiest of Anthony Robbins self-help tapes. She’s cognisant of their many broader enemies (hooray for Olenna Tyrell that “old c***” traitor!), and reserves her deepest hate for their brother Tyrion, now at the right hand side of Daenarys Targaryen.
Jaime is more circumspect. He’s not angry at his big sis’, but he is concerned that her judgement is clouding, and she’s not seeing the very real dangers faced by her Seven, sorry Three, Kingdoms. Cersei’s gone into full emotional shutdown, even blaming Tommen for his own death. When Jaime Lannister is the 1990s-style Sensitive New Age Guy, you know you’re in trouble.
But Cersei has a Plan to conquer recalcitrant, independent types in Dorne, the Reach, the North and on Dragonstone. She’s invited Old Mate Euron to court.
Euron, as we remember, was last seen telling his followers to chop down all five trees on the Iron Islands and build him a thousand ships. The Salties seem to have come through, complete with fancy calamari duco on the prows. Quite a feat for a broke-ass shitpile of a kingdom.
In all black with a tight leather jacket open to show off his chest, Old Mate Euron is dressed like the ultimate self-confident mouth Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park. Whisk off the ostentatious moustache and add some thick-rimmed specs and you’ve got Dr Malcolm in the middle of the Throne Room.
Like Sam Neill in Jurassic Park, Jaime is cynical of Old Mate Euron’s ability and trustworthiness, but the Ironborn just proposes to Cersei and sasses back about having two working hands. Dr Malcolm flirted with his hands - remember the chaos theory demonstration with Laura Dern? I swear this analogy has got legs.
Cersei rejects Euron’s offer of marriage and wow how could you when it was just so appealing.
But Euron’s not going take no for an answer. He’s got a lot of love (cock) to give, so he’s going to go find a fancy-schmancy engagement present and then Cersei will surely forget everything she just said and jump his salty bones. BECAUSE LIFE FINDS A WAY.
The Hound faces an inconvenient truth, and not in the form of the severe climate change currently wending its way south. The Brotherhood Without Banners turns up at a cabin he once stayed in with Arya, before beating up the farmer who owned it and stealing all their valuables.
That clearly ended well for the farmer, who appears to have stabbed his daughter then himself rather than let them die of starvation. This makes Sandor Clegane feel emotions he’s not used to, such as… regret, and is that… sadness?
He’s helped along by Ser Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr, who tell him while they have no idea what they’re meant to do, the Lord of Light knows they’re meant to do something. The Hound then sees a vision in the flames, particularly impressive given his natural reticence to fire. It’s The Wall, and shambling dead zombie bastards, and there’s thousands of them… and oh shit, he’d better bury those nice farmers to make amends for his previously shitty behaviour.
You know the one gourmet dish I cook is a chicken recipe where I cover the pieces in heated brandy then set fire to the whole bally lot of them. I’ve never seen anything in the flames except for some scorch marks on the splashback. Denied.
And now for something completely different. Sam Tarly’s new song!
When you're alone, and life is making you lonely
You know you are there
When you are cleaning, in ways so demeaning
Like a chump you’re in
Just look around and see the Citadel is really gritty
Linger in the washroom scrubbing chamber pots so shitty
How can you win?
You should steal some Maester’s keys
You can sneak into the library, steal all that you please
Get some good books in that
Try to help Jon from that
Gilly is waiting for you
That repeated montage (mon-Tarl-age? Yeah, ok, that’s a stretch) of Sam doing his entry-level Maester training was really cleverly done. Good bit of filmmaking that, well done team.
But hey, am I going blind or was that JIM BROADBENT as Sam’s friendly autopsy instructor? I loved the way he describe the corpse’s cause of death: a triumph of transitory pleasures. Oh man, I could do with some transitory pleasures. I’m such a nerd I don’t even drink properly. How can I possibly hit on that Game of Thrones trivia host who was dressed as Jon Snow without at least a chardy under my belt? Erm… did I write that out loud?
The point is, Sam doesn’t think anyone will believe him when he talks about the White Walkers. But the Post-Mortem Maester reminds him that the people of the Citadel are different. He also makes the valid point that every winter that has ever come has also gone. The prospect of helping end winter faster emboldens Sam to take the risk and break his way into the restricted section of the library and AMAZINGLY find the right kind of books straight away.
Later, Gilly helps him comb through the weighty tomes even though he probably needs his rest after shovelling diseased ordure all day (I hope he at least washed his hands before opening those books or playing with wee baby Sam).
He miraculously happens upon a very important piece of information, which is that Dragonstone is home to a shitload of shiny dragon glass, just buried and waiting for an incredibly handsome and noble King in the North to go there and dig it out with his strong, powerful hands that would give such good neck rubs if only I could convince him I exist.
“Jon must know!” Sam declares, before heading back to work.
Did anybody else FLIP THE F*** out when that stony arm came bursting through the isolation cell window? I KNEW Ser Jorah would wind up in Old Town! “Has she come yet, the Dragon Queen?” he asks hoarsely (does greyscale affect the vocal chords?) “Errr… no?” Sam replies, moving hurriedly on. For Gods’ sake Sam, stop and have a chat. I know he’s a diseased and intense old bugger, but he could HELP YOU.
Which brings us to the final sequence of this episode: Daenarys returning to Dragonstone.
The mise-en-scene was suitably grand and imposing for the prodigal daughter. Dany stopped on the beach to touch the sand of her home island. Like all other sand, it was wet and gritty. So she moved on, Tyrion, Missandei and Grey Worm at her side, up the long windy parapets to the castle.
Kudos to Dany for not even breaking a sweat despite those thick winter robes; if that were me I would have been panting “Show me...the throne room...what’s this Baratheon… banner…. Sorry does anyone have any water?”
Finally, she and Tyrion enter what was once Aegon’s RPG conquering table, but more recently was Stannis and Melisandre’s nookie desk. Placing herself at the head of the table, she glances at Tyrion and simply states “Shall we begin?”
GIRL HAS COME HOME. THIS IS HER HOUSE. HER RULES NOW, BITCHAZ.
It was a grand finale, although I have to admit that for me it didn’t quite match the visceral exuberance of Arya’s opening number. But then, what could?
Yay! Best Moments
Clearly Arya takes this one by a large bottle of the finest pinot gris. Also, I should mention that sweet little dinner break scene she shared with a gaggle of Lannister soldiers, including Ed Sheeran (as you do). Far from beating her, taking her sword or worse, they offer her food, drink and company, and basically turn out to be nice, everyday chaps just doing their bit to keep the peace. When Arya tells them she’s off to King’s Landing to kill the Queen, you just knew the tension would be broken by disbelieving laughter. Oh, you sweet summer children.
Zing! Best Lines
I have to give this to the Hound for his stinging rebuke on Thoros of Myr. “You’re not fooling anyone with that top knot, you bald c***”. Top knots, man buns, it’s a hipster hair haven here in Westeros.
That Citadel is a turd-world facility.
There’s… there’s not going to be any nudity at all this season, is there?
Thank you so much for reading, Beloved Throners, I know it’s been an epic long one. A special thanks to all my Patreon subscribers, particularly Vicki R, Mark B, Elle W, Paul K and Ghalia N. You are sexier than Tormund in bear fur. If you want to jump onboard the Patreon love train, head over here and pledge!