‘Game Of Thrones’ ‘Dragonstone’ RECAP, Plus, Watch Magnificent Ending, Dragon Queen Is Home, “Shall We Begin?” (VIDEO)

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It’s finally here, Game of Thrones returned Sunday night with the best season 7 opener we could have hoped for, that featured nearly every major character and set the stage for a brutal clash of queens and an epic end game in Westeros. There were maps, mass murder, surprise meetings, an unexpected callback, sibling tension, an improved Euron, and even more maps.

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 Is this a flashback to the Red Wedding? Is Walder Frey still alive somehow? As Frey gives his speech honoring the death of Robb Stark, it rather quickly becomes apparent something is amiss. At the Thrones premiere screening in Los Angeles last week, viewers were tittering almost immediately during this “cold open” (placed before the GoT credits quite deliberately to make viewers think it might be a flashback).

Arya triumphantly whips off her mask, like a psychotic Ethan Hunt, her seemingly impossible mission of killing all the Freys complete. We cheer, and lucky for Arya there wasn’t one soldier in the room who was like, “You know, I’m just going to pretend to drink this wine, I’m trying to cut back on drinking, been working on bettering myself.”

Thrones smash-cuts to the credits. There’s nothing like kicking off a new season with hundreds of people being killed by a teen girl who is, of course, our hero. If that isn’t GoT for you, not sure what is. Arya has leveled up her murderousness once again and we cheer.

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Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, Queen Cersei is having a giant map of Westeros painted so she can visually keep track of everybody who hates her — and she doesn’t even know about Arya yet! She literally strides across the Seven Kingdoms like she owns the world, stepping on the little people at her feet. Jaime looks disturbed at her new James Bond villain decor as she lists her enemies. Can you imagine if Cersei had dragons instead of Dany? She’d just roast everybody so nobody would be left alive to threaten her. Jaime tries to temper Cersei’s Donald Trump-ian impulses, pointing out she can’t just piss off everybody; you need at least some allies to rule. Cersei has one in mind, but Jaime’s not going to like it.

Enter Euron Greyjoy, clad in all black leather pants and low-cut pirate shirt, looking a bit like an R-rated Captain Hook from Once Upon a Time. (No, George R.R. Martin fans, Euron still doesn’t have an eye patch, which in the books the character wears just for the hell of it; I think that would be one pirate trope too far.) I’m very curious to hear the reactions to his physical and personality makeover. I’m a fan. Euron last season was like an angry ambitious warrior, something we’ve seen before on this show and others. As showrunner Dan Weiss points out in our interview with actor Pilou Asbæk about his return in this episode, “We haven’t had somebody with a rock star swagger who doesn’t give a s— before. Everybody in this world cares very deeply — whether they’re awful, wonderful, or, most of them, somewhere in between — they all care deeply about the politicking and give a lot of thought into everything they do. To have somebody traipse onto the stage with a swagger and the attitude that Euron has, it’s a lot of fun and lets a lot of air into the room.” got-dragonstone-2

He pitches himself to Cersei, not treating her like a queen worthy of respect, but like a woman in a tavern he’s hitting on while she sits right next to her boyfriend (in this case, Jaime). Euron has seemingly been reading pick-up artist forums and is peacocking and negging all over the place, trying to demonstrate his social proof. The man’s totally showing up next time in a fedora. He can’t help but test Cersei’s boundaries by advancing on her, watching The Mountain step protectively forward. He amusingly insults Jaime’s lack of hand and suggests Cersei kill her brother. Even his apparent praise of Jaime for his combat skills years ago is actually a subtle put-down — Jaime before his dismemberment was a very different man, and they all know it. Jaime may have privately engaged in some delightful Seven Kingdoms trash talk with Cersei, putting down the Iron Born to Cersei as “bitter, angry little people.” But he recognizes the desperation of their situation and, despite his misgivings, knows that they have to accept any help they can get.

Euron declares he’s willing to do some work on speculation, saying he’ll bring Cersei a gift. The Lannisters are cool with this. They have nothing to lose. What will this gift be?

In the Great Hall at the Castle of Winterfell, Jon Snow deals with a matter before the Northern lords — what to do with House Umber and Karstark after they betrayed the Starks to side with Ramsay Bolton. Jon declares they will be forgiven since the traitors who made the decision are dead and now they all need to band together to fight the army of the dead. But here comes Sansa, objecting to his judgment like a lawyer for the prosecution, wanting to throw those adorable teen lord-lings out of their castles and into the freezing winter for their relatives’ betrayal. She presses the issue, making Jon look weak.

Jon mopes up to Sansa and they have a very natural-feeling chat about his verdict. His leadership is both progressive and traditional. Arming women and sending Wildlings to man The Wall is revolutionary thinking for this country. Yet his handling of the traitors feels like classic Ned Stark. Sansa’s objection is understandable — her hatred of Ramsay still burns so bright that anybody who helped him is automatically her enemy.  Both Ramsay and Cersei annihilate any perceived enemies. Sansa’s correct that Jon needs to avoid the naive mistakes of Ned and Robb, but in this I side with him anyway — he needs a united North, and his decision in the Great Hall is the type of move that makes people love their leader. Still, Jon could have avoided all this if he spoke to Sansa about his decision in advance.

Later, in the courtyard, Tormund leers at Brienne as he prepares to leave for Eastwatch, because that’s what he does. Meanwhile, Lord Baelish sidles up to Sansa, trying to play on her fears and aspirations. “Why aren’t you happy?” he whispers. She’s totally onto him and doesn’t want to hear it. I love her line as she dismisses him: “No need to seize the last word; I’ll assume it was something clever.”got-dragonstone-8

At Castle Black at The Wall, Bran meets Dolorous Edd and gives him a quick Sherlock-esque mind-freak cold reading. He doesn’t say anything to prove he’s a Stark, like Edd asked, but does prove he creepily knows a bunch of things he shouldn’t, so they decide to bring him in.

Meanwhile, in the Riverlands, The Hound is making fun of Thoros and they come upon this familiar farmhouse, his first instinct is to bolt, noting the occupants don’t want their company. But the farmer and his daughter are long dead, having killed themselves to avoid starving. Is their fate the Hound’s fault? He sure didn’t help. It’s impossible to know if this outcome would have happened anyway. got-dragonstone-6

This leads to an intriguing debate with six-time resurrection champ Beric Dondarrion, who in addition to wearing Euron’s eye patch has totally out-messiah’d Jon Snow. The Hound is angered by the fact of Beric because he’s seemingly walking proof that a higher power exists. But if that’s true, as the timeless and impossible question goes, why does he/she allow such horrible things happen to good people? The Hound wants to know why Beric has been saved. The Hound has come a long way from the man we met in season 4. The Brotherhood reassured him last season that it’s not too late for him to do more good than the harm he’s caused. He sees those bodies in the corner and wonders if that could possibly be true.

The scene lingered in the most beautiful way, but why tell you, check it out below:

Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: Helen Sloan/HBO
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