It might be the dead of summer across the USA, but winter has come to Westeros with a vengeance.
After an extra-long break between seasons — time that appears to have been devoted to designing gorgeous new cold-weather wardrobes for every major character decked out with millions of teeny-tiny black glass beads — Game of Thrones returned on Sunday, July 16, in an episode that was white with snow, red with blood, and ginger with random Ed Sheeran appearances. Here’s everything that happened in the action-packed premiere.
A Taste for Murder
Keeping in mind that Walder Frey (David Bradley) was last seen getting his throat slit by Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), it was a bit of a shock to see him hosting a dinner party in this season’s cold open — until we remembered that Arya herself has developed a fun new talent for shapeshifting. Unfortunately for the assembled Freys, none of them noticed that Walder’s compliments on their excellent stabbing at the Red Wedding sounded a tad insincere, and by the time it dawned on anyone that he was being sarcastic, they had all barfed themselves to death on poisoned wine. Peeling off Walder’s face, Arya told his wife, “When people ask you what happened here, tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey.” And psst, winter isn’t done yet. In a chance meeting with a group of soldiers (including singer Sheeran in a musical cameo), Arya informed them that she’s on her way to King’s Landing to kill the queen … although luckily for them, nobody believed her.
Ready or Not, Here They Come
Meanwhile, the northern contingent in Westeros had bigger concerns than King’s Landing politics. The Night King and his undead army (now upgraded to include several zombie giants) continued to advance, as foreseen by Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and foretold by Jon Snow (Kit Harington). (Side note: Even the Hound caught a glimpse of the coming war in a fiery vision during his travels with Beric Dondarrion.)
Jon, despite his reputation for knowing nothing, did at least have a plan: to defeat the dead, they’ll need a) fighters, and b) dragon glass weapons. But while he can train the former, he’ll need help to find the latter; enter Sam (John Bradley-West), who had to bust into the Citadel library’s restricted section in search of useful information. (He may not be a maester yet, but he’s certainly King of the Outlaw Nerds.) The bombshell Sam discovered: Dragonstone, the former seat of Stannis Baratheon, is built on a literal pile of dragon glass. The problem: the literal pile of dragon glass may or may not have a literal dragon sitting on it. may or may not have a literal dragon sitting on it.
All Eyes on Dragonstone
If you’re looking to place a bet on the location of the next major Game of Thrones showdown, the hottest castle in the Seven Kingdoms is Dragonstone. As of this episode, multiple key players were set to eventually converge on the island stronghold — including the goth pirate hottie Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) from King’s Landing, where he offered Cersei (Lena Headey) the recaptured Ironborn Armada as an engagement present.
But for now, Dragonstone has just one occupant: Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is officially in the building, and she’s ready to rule. A long ceremonial walk brought the Mother of Dragons to the tower room where once upon a time, Stannis Baratheon planned his own ill-fated coup — and where, at the head of a table made for playing war games, she turned to her entourage and asked, “Shall we begin?”
Game of Thrones airs on HBO Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.