There are no books to work from on Game of Thrones this season — even George R.R. Martin might be surprised with what’s happening on the HBO series — and things could get confusing. To help you out, after every new episode, two resident Thrones experts will answer your five most pressing questions.
1. Can you please explain the significance of Dragonstone?
Ryan: I know, I know. It’s been over a full year since we’ve had a new episode of Game of Thrones and it’s hard to remember where the heck anyone is, where they’re going, or why. That’s what we’re here for. And for Daenerys, her five minutes of (mostly silent) screen time this week involved landing on the island Dragonstone, which is a big deal for a number of reasons.
First off, Dragonstone is the ancestral seat of the Targaryens, their first stronghold after leaving Valyria and the Doom that befell it. It’s also where Dany was born, so it’s a significant moment for her to finally return from exile. That’s significant for book readers as well, since we’ve been waiting 21 long years (or, as long as it feels like since A Dance With Dragons was released) for her to stop messing around in Meereen and finally get back to Westeros.
Most importantly, Dragonstone is the perfect place to launch a conquest of Westeros, as proved by Daenerys’ ancestor Aegon the Conqueror when he kicked off his Bend the Knee or Burn Tour way back when. Location-wise, it’s a really bad situation for Cersei Lannister as King’s Landing is literally where King Aegon landed after a very short voyage from Dragonstone. And it’s conveniently vacant, since former lord of the island Stannis Baratheon apparently took everyone up north with him to die terrible, pointless deaths.
Dragonstone also happens to be full of dragonglass, which may or may not come in handy over the next season or two.
Josh: If only another character, maybe someone with a close connection to one of Dany’s family members, could put the dragonglass pieces together.
A newly-emboldened Samwell broke into the off-limits section of the Citadel’s library, where he “borrows” multiple books, including one that tells him where a heap of dragonglass can be found: Dragonstone. (This may seem obvious, but to be fair, there are currently no kings in King’s Landing.) Like Ryan hinted at, this knowledge should come in handy, because dragonglass, or “obsidian,” is one of the few known ways to kill a White Walker. Sam sent Jon Snow a raven to tell him where he can find this all-important weapon against the ultimate evil, and the show moves that much closer to the King of the North and the Mother of Dragons finally meeting (and maybe more).
2. What were Jon and Sansa arguing about? Something about a Karstark?
Ryan: What we witnessed was Jon Snow making the same kind of wishy washy “Kumbaya” leadership decisions that got him stabbed multiple times back on the Wall. While Jon’s decisions could be seen as just and right, being “good” hasn’t exactly helped the Starks over the past several seasons of the show. Sansa sees this because she’s got a masters degree in cutthroat politics from the University of King’s Landing, along with more bonus mentoring from professional manipulator Littlefinger than she’d probably care to admit.
We’ve been right there alongside Sansa for most of that, so it’s hard to argue against her points. Being honorable and trusting didn’t save Ned or Robb Stark (or Jon, for that matter). People love Game of Thrones because it’s not just a traditional fantasy story featuring a king ruling some inert land. There’s over a dozen large houses vying for survival in the North, and if you read the books (or Wikipedia, if you don’t have the time) closely enough, you will often notice the effects of their behind-the-scenes machinations.
With that worldview clearly established, I have no doubt Jon is going to rue the day he left the traitorous Karstarks and Umbers in charge. (A reminder: Rickard Karstark was executed by Robb for treason in season three, and Smalljon Umber delivered Osha, Rickon, and poor Shaggydog to Ramsay Bolton.) Even if those dopey young kids, Alys and Ned, keep their vows, some power-hungry uncle is likely to step in, take over, and screw everything up. With the Karstark and Umber lands being directly in the path of the White Walker army, there’s a lot that could go wrong. The only question I have is whether Sansa Stark ends up staging a coup when it does… and how her actions will unwittingly play into Littlefinger’s secret grand scheme in the process.
3. Why was The Hound so worried about that house?
Josh: Our own Alan Sepinwall touched on this in his review, but The Hound and the Brotherhood Without Banners dropped by the same house he and Arya arrived at in season four. Back then, The Hound stole silver belonging to a farmer (whom he also assaulted) and his daughter because “a dead man doesn’t need his silver.” Unfortunately, the sort-of prophecy came true: the man killed himself before starvation could, and he took his little girl with him. The Hound is ashamed of what he did to this innocent family, continuing his multi-season existential crisis, and tries to make up for his misdeed by giving them a proper burial. It’s a nice gesture, but I think they’d rather be, y’know, alive.
Anyway, inside the farmhouse, The Hound, Beric Dondarrion, and Thoros of Myr (who have a long history together, as evidenced by Sandor telling Beric, “I don’t hate you, I don’t like, but you’re not bad,” which is the nicest thing he’s ever said) built a fire to keep warm and, for the purposes of the plot, discuss the Lord of Light. The Hound is a non-believer, but when he looked into the flames, he saw “where the Wall meets the sea, there is a mountain that looks like an arrowhead” and the army of the undead, “thousands of them.” He’s referring to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, which is also where Jon Snow instructed Tormund to go because the last place he saw The Night King was at Hardhome, and “the closest castle to Hardhome is Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.”
Is ice (the Walkers) on a collision course with fire (Beric)?
Ryan: Beric Dondarrion probably just represents another faint glimmer of hope. Based on what we’ve seen up to this point, Westeros is clearly and unambiguously screwed. But while The Night King killing everyone would be the most George R.R. Martin way to end this story ever, factors are finally starting to appear that may give the living a chance at staying that way.
That cache of dragonglass on Dragonstone sounds useful. So does the power of fire magic, which appears to be diametrically opposed to ice magic of the White Walkers. With Jon Snow around and similarly resurrected, Dondarrion probably won’t be the one to defeat The Night King. But he is a reminder that humanity has a few supernatural tricks left hidden up its sleeve.
4. Am I crazy, or was that Jorah in Oldtown?
Josh: Even with the padded run length, the premiere felt somewhat overstuffed. That’s what happens when you check in on nearly every main character, minus Theon, Melisandre, and some random others. Even Jorah — JORAH! — logged his first appearance since midway through season six, when he left to find a cure for his greyscale. It’s not looking good for the Mother of Dragons’ biggest fan, though. Jorah’s arm has turned into cracked pavement, and he sounded positively delirious when he asked Sam about whether “she” has come yet. Daenerys gives him the will to live, and lucky for Jorah, he might be able to live much longer than expected. In one of Sam’s books, there’s a passage about how dragonglass is used as a possible “cure” for illnesses, including greyscale. Shireen was afflicted with the same disease, but because she lived on Dragonstone, which as we established is rich with dragonglass, she halted the deadly effects (if only there was a cure for sh*tty fathers).
Hopefully they figure this out before Jorah almost touches anyone else.
5. Seriously, what is going on with Euron’s outfit?
Josh: Before the episode started, I somehow went down an IMDb rabbit hole that led me to remembering Lee Pace was in multiple Twilight movies. That, in turn, brought me to this photo, which I thought would be the most ridiculous outfit worn by an actor I enjoy I’d see all night. Boy was I wrong. As anyone who’s watched Borgen knows, Pilou Asbæk is a talented guy, but in this episode, he was overshadowed by his outfit. Euron looked like Captain Jack Sparrow in a leather bar, or Coldplay in their goth phrase. I had to rewatch his scene with Cersei and Jaime twice, because I wasn’t listening to what they were saying the first time; I was too transfixed on what he was wearing. (I’m glad I did, too, because his “two good hands” line was wonderful.)
Ryan: Game of Thrones receives a lot of love and accolades for the costumes. Rightly so. But every so often a character will come along with an outfit that looks way too polished and modern for the era. A realistic portrayal of medieval cleanliness would have everyone looking greasy and gross like the Freys, and that would seriously mess with the level of sexiness we expect from this show. Fair enough. But when Arya’s beggar outfit in Braavos looked fresh and spotless and distressed like a pair of overpriced Parasuco jeans, it bugged me. Same with Euron Greyjoy’s dreamy pirate look. He’s the head of a great house courting a queen, though, so who’s to say he wouldn’t have some of the slickest leather pantaloons in Westeros at his disposal?
Josh: I hate to segue away from Euron’s “sexy steampunk” discount Halloween costume, but I guess we should talk about his relationship with Cersei. The queen welcomed him into her court, under Jaime’s protest, because if she’s going to take down Daenerys, she’s going to need help. Still, Cersei doesn’t trust Euron (she learned from her father), so she asked for a sign of loyalty. He said that he’ll bring her a gift to prove his allegiance. What could it be?
Ryan: The only thing I can think of is Tyrion’s head. Whatever it is, Euron better be able to deliver quick because as we mentioned earlier, Dragonstone is right freaking next door to King’s Landing, and there’s no time in an abbreviated season of Game of Thrones (oh God, only six episodes left) for dilly-dallying.
BONUS QUESTION: Was this the most disappointing “brief nudity” ever?
Josh: In his list of “Game of Thrones Characters Ranked By How Devastating Their Death Would Be,” Brian Grubb put Sam number two. That’s an apt place to put the Samwise to Jon Snow’s Frodo: the poor guy can’t win. In the season six finale, he finally achieves his lifelong dream of living in a library; in the season seven premiere, he’s in television’s most expensive poop montage.
Not only that, but he also had to watch Archmaester Marwyn disembowel an old guy. This is the “brief nudity” viewers were promised in the pre-episode parental warnings. How disappointing. Look, I’m all about equal opportunity nudity — The Leftovers knows what’s up — but I think I speak for both men and women when I say: no more corpse penises, please.
Talking about corpse penises? Yup, Game of Thrones is back.