Game of Thrones s7 ep 7

*SPOILERS*

Everything I wanted, a few things I didn’t and plenty more besides: the biggest show on tv ends its biggest season with a super-size finale drawing together the past, the future and the forthcoming apocalypse in epic fashion, with a few extra helpings of fan service along the way.

At Kings Landing, it seems like Team Targaryen and Team Lannister’s parley is really just an excuse – like last week’s ill-fated Bravo Two Zombie expedition – for a series of charming reunions that I didn’t even know I wanted, ranging from the affectionately snarky (Tyrion and NotRobson Bronn! Tyrion and Pod! The Hound and Brienne!) to the moodily taciturn (Brienne and Jaime!) to the drowning in outright hatred (Cersei and Tyrion! The Cleganarama!). Oh yeah, and Theon’s there too. In fact, for someone absolutely nobody who ever watched GOT gives a flying raven about, there’s really quite a lot of Theon this week. Theon being needled by his nasty uncle; Theon having a heart-to-heart with the very understanding Jon Snow and learning that although he doesn’t have to choose between being a Stark and a Greyjoy, Starks are obviously much nicer; and Theon getting his face pounded by Iron Man (not that one) before becoming King of the Iron Islands Dinghy and sailing off to rescue his Iron sister…. Huh. Much like the show, suddenly I’ve spent ages banging on about Theon too.

Back to the rest of the story.

After Daenerys’s impressive entrance – although, did she really think Cersei Lannister wouldn’t be able to count to two? – and a bit of panto villainy from Euron (Boo! Hiss! He’s behind you! etc), there’s a mortifying moment when it looks like the guest of honour has passed his best before date and the mood is going to change from knife-edge anticipation to “wha, wha, whaaaa” farce but, after a few seconds of making me want to crawl under my sofa, the show relents and, with a little help from the Hound, out dashes Mr Wight in satisfyingly scary form, with even Cersei Lannister looking a bit worried. Well done Mr Wight. Sorry ’bout your arm. And your torso. And, er, everything else.

Of course, because Jon is Ned Stark’s son in everything but actual biological fact, he can’t make the promise Cersei wants so things don’t go entirely according to parley plan, but it doesn’t matter all that much because Cersei doesn’t really want it anyway. “I always knew you were the stupidest Lannister,” she tells the sorely-tried Jaime, who finally walks/rides away to join the fight against the dead because “Fuck loyalty,” says Brienne. Only if it’s loyalty to your homicidal psychopath of a sister, though, Jaime. It’s taken you long enough to join Team Living, don’t be getting any ideas about betraying them too.

On the topic of homicidal psychopath sisters, meantime, Littlefinger’s advice to Sansa is essentially to get rid of crazyface Arya and bump Jon from the Throne in the North. Sansa looks like she’s buying it, too, but – oh my God, at last! – turns out she isn’t, she hasn’t been and she won’t ever again, as the remaining Stark children unite to expose the man at the root of just about everything evil that ever happened to their family, and END him. It’s not unexpected, but it’s been a long time coming and all the more satisfying for it. As is Sansa and Arya’s (little sis now not so much crazyface as crazy like a fox) sweet, sad exchange on the walls of Winterfell. “The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.” Indeed. (And I miss Ned too.)

For his part, however, the current lone wolf is becoming a lot less solitary, as weeks of various GOT characters trying to convince me Jon and Daenerys have the hots for each other culminate in Jon and Daenerys showing me exactly how much. While Bran – with an assist from lovely, steadfast Sam that surely the know-all-see-all Three-Eyed Raven shouldn’t have needed? – solemnly confirms, for anyone not paying attention at the back, that the King in the North is actually the rightful King of everywhere else. And dude is having sex with his aunt. (Ewww.) Can Daenerys get pregnant? Is Cersei? *Shrugs* Family and parenthood have been recurring themes throughout all seven seasons of the show, and they’ve been particularly prominent this season and this episode, but let’s be honest, the people of Westeros have much bigger problems. Namely the DRAGON THAT JUST DESTROYED THE ENTIRE WALL AND THE ARMY OF THE DEAD NOW MARCHING UNCHECKED ACROSS THE PLANET!

Eff. Me. What a show. What a season. And what a spectacular way to finish. This run hasn’t pleased all of the people all of the time, but I loved that the Game sped up, and I loved the way it mixed so many quiet, powerful scenes of significance and feeling with so much all-out bloody mayhem. Assuming the real world doesn’t end before then, I am very, VERY excited for season eight.

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Game of Thrones s7 ep 6

*SPOILERS*

“Smart people don’t come up here looking for the dead.”

A very cold, mitten-encased hi-five to the delightful, no-nonsense Tormund for pointing out what’s obvious to all except the rest of the Wight Recovery Team: the plan to catch an ice zombie and bring it along to Show and Tell is the STUPIDEST PLAN IN THE HISTORY OF PLANS. Yes, I understand that it’s an opportunity for the Snow men (sorry) to bond, chat and remind us of a few plot points and themes of profound significance (fathers and sons, the foolish pride of kings, nobody wants to hear whinging on a road trip, that type of thing) while enjoying the bracing air of somewhere incredibly beautiful yet quite clearly FREEZING. But, on the negative side, EVERY OTHER THING YOU CAN THINK OF. If these idiots needed to talk, could they not have gone to Dorne on a lads’ weekend?

But you’re not doing anything the easy way when you’re Jon Snow, are you? Fancy a challenge? Here have some Ice bears! Escaped with your lives? Try a Wight Scouting Party for size! Still not done? Ha! Bring on the DEAD HORDES.

A bajillion ice zombies against, er, six – since Gendry’s busy putting on a very special performance of The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner – dudes in fur coats should, of course, be a walk in the snow-covered park, but here comes Dany/NotDany to even up the odds and, wow, for all the sheer insanity of the plan and the plot, it’s still an astounding series of scenes to watch and listen to and feel in your very bones: the bleak, gorgeous brutality of the landscapes; the ominous rumbling of the enemy in the distance; the terrifying army of the dead in all its implacable, unstoppable glory; and, finally, the Dragon Queen swooping in to save the day, at unimaginably terrible cost…. That last shot of the giant, ice-blue eye? I can’t be the only person who screamed. Could you not have found an easier way to get a look at Jon Snow’s manly chest, Your Grace?

Mind you, if all that hand-holding and “My Queen” and “you know I can’t have kids, right?” business is anything to go by, I presume Daenerys will be seeing a lot more of her nephew (yes, her nephew, just a reminder) than just his chest soon enough. Whether this will be enough to assuage Tyrion’s worries about the succession, I don’t know, but for once I’m inclined to agree with Daenerys: Crown first, everything else later, dude. Calm down.

And as for you, Arya – sit down. And behave yourself. I’m surprised it’s actually taken this long for the younger Ms Stark to turn on the elder, but I’m also disappointed that Sansa is still confiding in Littlefinger and sending Brienne away again (although it does mean we’ll get a Brienne/Jaime reunion – yay!) and that Arya is now, in her own way, almost as frightening as the Night King. For all the terrors in this episode, the moment where she points out that “I could even become you” might just be the scariest of the season.

Game of Thrones s7 ep 5

*SPOILERS*

Dude…. where’s my battle?

After a few weeks of GOT surprising me with a big bloodbath at the end of each episode, I was ready for “Eastwatch” to whack me sideways with an all-out White Walker offensive, but, disappointingly, the closest we get is a brief Branfommercial about the Night King and his subjects being on the march – the Night Crew might want to be a bit more stealthy about it, now Raven-boy’s onto them – with the actual fighting put off till another time because this week is all about getting the gang(s) back together to prepare for the battles ahead. Yes, it’s reunion week on GOT, with a variety of people getting reacquainted, including a number of people who’ve been apart so long I’d forgotten they’d ever met each other in the first place.

Before we get on to the Friends Reunited segment of the ep, however, there’s the post-ep 4 clear-up and set-up to be done. At Winterfell, the Northern Lords are moaning again, the theme this time being that Sansa would be a better ruler than Jon is. Sansa, for her part, is pretending not to agree with them. Arya is furious with her for not pretending hard enough. And Baelish is playing them off against each other. Obviously, this can’t end well; the only questions are for whom and how quickly?

While the Stark girls consider their next moves, Daenerys does one of her “I’m not like Cersei, I don’t murder people” speeches before being exactly like Cersei and murdering people, and if I didn’t already detest her and her hypocrisy, this week’s matter-of-fact but merciless “Dracarys” would have sealed the deal. (Goodbye Tarlys, we barely knew you.) With the smell of Mad King in the air a little too pungent for both Tyrion and Varys to ignore any longer, then, they have a great scene where they fret about their own roles in providing Drogon and co with flambé fodder, and for a moment, I’m hopeful that Varys at least will start looking for a new saviour of the realm sooner rather than later. Disappointment number two of the week, however, is that he doesn’t, and the current plan is apparently to continue to try and talk Daenerys into sanity instead – good luck with that one, boys.

Jaime and Bronn meanwhile, can apparently breathe underwater a lot longer than most people since they somehow survive last week’s dragon/drowning combo, manage to swim to the other side of the lake undetected by Team Barbecue, and head safely and quickly back to Kings Landing. Despite their losses, Cersei’s still not for surrender – in fairness, she has a point about fighting and dying, or surrendering and dying being the only two options, or at least she does till the Dragon Alliance comes up with crazy option number three – and instead reels Jaime back in with talk of another child and formally going public with their relationship. Since the child part only comes after Jaime’s fraught but not unproductive meeting with Tyrion – another great scene – and is followed by a deeply menacing “Never betray me again,” I’m not sure I believe her. If it’s just a ploy to keep him on side, it’s a good one, but how long it’ll work is another matter.

Not that Cersei’s the only Queen using her offspring for political gain, of course. Back at Dragonstone, it’s time for Not-Actually-A-Bastard-At-All Jon to impress Daenerys by petting her “child” Drogon like he was an overgrown puppy – wait till she finds out what Gilly found out! – and for Ser Jorah to interrupt the, uh, family affair, by popping right back up to “serve (his) queen.” And stop her getting any “service” from anyone else, if you know what I mean. Ugh. Guys, Ser Jorah’s obsession with Dany is not noble. It’s creepy. And now that it involves him having eye-wars with Jon over which one of them gets to “serve” the Queen (I’m even grossing myself out now) it’s even creepier. I’ve been struggling to see the much-vaunted chemistry between Jon Snow and Daenerys this season, but since Ser Jorah and the King in the North are now ready to arm-wrestle for the privilege of leading a suicide mission for her, I guess they must think it’s there. Ugh again.

Anyway, love triangle between Jon and two people who suck aside, my initial reactions to the “Kidnap a Wight, Show Him to Cersei” plan were a) “WTF, this is a stupid idea”, b) “Cersei won’t give a stuff” and c) “will he not melt?” before I remembered that, regardless of whether Wights can be destroyed by fire, they are, in fact, zombies not snowmen, and it’ll take more than the balmy weather in Kings Landing to finish one off. At which point, I went back to initial reactions a) and b). I appear to be alone in my scepticism, however, since everyone at the Dragon Court is somehow immediately convinced that interrupting the Lannister-Targaryen hostilities by going off on this bizarre tangent is the way to go, so off Jon and Ser Jorah trot – obviously squeezing in a quick competition as to who can take flirtier leave of the Dragon Queen on the way – to gather up some pals. As well as Tormund (whose hopeful, hilarious “The big woman?” makes both Jon’s and my year, HEE), the Hound, Thoros of Myr and Berric Dendarrion also happen to be ready and waiting to go kidnap a bogeyman, but since they’ve only been missing for a couple of weeks, the much bigger news is the return of fan favourite Gendry, last seen rowing a boat about twelve centuries ago, and now ready to rock’n’roll. Gendry! Well! Not only had I forgotten about Davos being the one who saved Gendry from Melisandre, I still can’t remember Thoros and co handing him over to the Red Witch in the first place, but never mind. As Jon – who’s getting funnier, better one-liners every week – points out, “We’re all on the same side…. We’re all breathing.” Heh.

It’s a very good place to end a very good episode but, intriguing and important to the story though it is, “Eastwatch” can’t really compete with the rush of the past few episodes. Which doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, of course I did. I just wish we could have fought some zombies along the way.

Game of Thrones s7 ep 4

My. God.

Another episode starts deceptively slowly and sedately, with every scene a significant, compelling one, heavy with import but light on actual action. Till Bronn hears something, faint at first, but louder and more ominous as it nears. And yet another episode I thought might be quiet turns into a cacophony of whoops and hooves, and the Lannisters’ first encounter with the Dragon Queen a breathtaking, nerve-shredding spectacle of flames and carnage.

I should have guessed, I suppose, going by the last couple of weeks, that there would be even more to “The Spoils of War” than the Lannisters scooping up the fruits of the Reach and the long-awaited Stark sibling meeting. But in the calm before “Dracarys!” there’s so much going on that it seems like calm is all there can or needs to be.

At the Reach, there’s Bronn wisecracking, Jaime in an Olenna-induced depression, and Lord Tarly wanting to flog stragglers. At the Red Keep, Cersei’s entertaining Mark Gatiss and reminding us that the Lannisters pay their debts. And at Winterfell, the Starks are having another family reunion, with Arya bamboozling a couple of justifiably suspicious but unconscionably stupid guards, before a sweet, moving, hopeful reunion with Sansa with both sisters, having survived unimaginable horrors, reminding each other (and us) that their “stories aren’t over yet.” Aw.

Arya’s reunion with Bran is slightly less emotional, of course, since Bran is “not really” Bran any more, and his main job is to creep everyone he knows the f**k out. (He is awful, Meera, but you’re better off. Safe travels!) But at least Arya gets Littlefinger’s dagger out of it, and everyone keeps saying “it’s Valyrian Steel,” so we can all shout “that kills White Walkers!” and get very excited about who she’s going to stick it into. Ideally of course, she’ll use it on Littlefinger himself first, since NotBran clearly knows enough of Lord Baelish’s activities to promote him to Arya’s kill list. And Baelish knows he knows; Littlefinger’s smirk is now so permanent, I tend to struggle to work out what he’s thinking, but his abject fear at “Chaos is a ladder” breaks through very clearly.

Three live Starks in one place being something of a record, nobody has time for Littlefinger this week, though; no time for a ceremonial jousting tournament to celebrate either, albeit Arya and Brienne make do with a sparring session which delights both of them, if Sansa not so much. No Sansa, your baby sister isn’t joking about the kill list. And you probably aren’t the Stark with the most darkness in your heart after all.

Big “brother” Jon, meanwhile, stuck at Dragonstone, forgoes fun with one set of relatives for an increasingly awkward, prolonged stay with another, as he tries to give Auntie Daenerys a hieroglyphic-based history lesson about the importance of doing things together – albeit not the kind of things Davos is suggesting. Daenerys’s record-player being stuck on “Bend the knee,” however, I’m not sure how much progress he makes. Especially since the irony of Ms Targaryen suggesting it’s Jon’s pride preventing him from saving his people when she’s the one insisting she rule the world is apparently lost on everyone in the show, and even Davos is beginning to believe the Missandei propaganda machine.

The silver halo does slip a little when Daenerys starts to throw her Valyrian Steel toys out of her Dragonglass pram over the fall of Highgarden, but it’s Jon who talks her round this time, reminding her that she’s different. Is she, though? Well, she doesn’t attack the Red Keep. But her attack on the Lannister forces is astonishing and merciless nonetheless, and all the more shocking for its unexpectedness: relentless Dothraki hordes, panicked Lannister forces and the Dragon Queen herself atop one of her children, swooping down and setting her enemies ablaze. My GOD.

Are we supposed to root for her? I didn’t. Bodies, spears, horses, flames everywhere and through it all, Jaime Lannister refusing to abandon his men, while all around him fell and burned – my sympathies and my screams were with the Lannister forces this time, at least.

Bronn ultimately brings the beast down, though, and we’re left with two possible deaths of significance. Or are we? If Drogon dies, there are two more dragons to replace him, but there’s nobody to replace Jaime, and he can’t possibly be done yet. For what it’s worth, no matter how bad it looks, I don’t think either of them is gone – we’ve been here before with Drogon, and Jaime’s Kingslayer/Realmsaver arc can’t just end in a pointless, random death now, can it? As Jon Snow taught us, even death on GOT isn’t immune to some of the rules of storytelling, and I think those rules means Jaime Lannister lives. For now. Either way, though, this was astounding, incredible television and I’ll be thinking about it for days.

Game of Thrones s7 ep 3

*SPOILERS*

In this week’s sleek, stunning episode, Game of Thrones continues to clear the board apace, with Queen Cersei and her two rooks capturing a number of pieces, and taking the wind literally right out of the Dragon fleet’s sails.

Yes, its a spectacularly successful week for the Lannisters as Euron gleefully delivers Ellaria and the sole Sand Snake still standing – it’s a measure of how poorly-executed (sorry) these characters were that, even in the final Snake’s final hours, I have no idea what her name is – to the Queen’s Justice, the Queen’s Justice being a terrible, symmetrical, almost elegantly cruel affair. And the Queen herself, not just enjoying it, but aroused by her cruelty and convinced her absolute power protects her absolutely, proving once again that Joffrey was very much his mother’s child, lest there had ever been any doubt.

His father Jaime, by contrast, takes no joy in the pain of Cersei’s enemies. But he will kill them regardless because he loves her. He really does love her. “Poor fool. She’ll be the end of you,” the Queen of Thorns notes without rancour in her own final scene, as Ser Jaime, having taken Highgarden in a sleight-of-hand as clever and unexpected as it is devastating, provides the redoubtable, magnificent Olenna Tyrell with a quiet, merciful, even more elegant exit. Only for her to deal him and his beloved Cersei one last, piercing barb on her way out. What an actress Diana Rigg is. And what an utterly majestic, glorious way to go.

One biting, brilliant Queen gone, then, but the Dragon Queen persists, spending her week trying to strong-arm Jon Snow in a series of arrestingly beautiful Dragonstone scenes remarkable for a number of things, the most significant of which being the fact that the more times Daenerys or Missandei or anyone else insists that the Mother of Dragons is the one true queen who will rule Westeros, the less I believe it. Her speech about faith in herself has the ring, once again, not of well-founded confidence but insanity fed by unshakeable ego and petulance, and her attitude to Jon is both stubborn and stupid. Thank goodness then for the other remarkable things at Dragonstone: Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion, whose intelligence and chemistry with Kit Harington’s blunt, earnest Jon makes their odd couple encounters a delight, and Liam Cunningham’s Ser Davos, perhaps not as refined as the youngest Lannister, but as fiercely intelligent and fantastic in his own right. The truce reached may be an uneasy one, but it’s a truce nonetheless, and Jon, knee resolutely unbent, gets the Dragonglass he came for; it’s a bad week for Team Fire, but it’s a pivotal one for Team Ice.

In more ways than one, too, as Sansa proves herself an astute, able winter commander – “She’s smarter than she lets on,” says Tyrion; “She’s starting to let on,” says Jon – planning for the war and the weather ahead, while doing an equally fine job dampening Littlefinger’s pretensions to any sort of special insight or intellect. I laughed out loud at “the woman who murdered my mother, father and brother is dangerous? Thank you for that wise counsel.” If she does look a little more impressed at his Schrodinger’s war speech – “every possible series of events is happening all at once” – at least Bran, possibly useful for the first time in seven seasons, turns up to break the spell, and weave a new one of his own. I find the new Three-Eyed-Raven and his Glassy-Eyed-Stare tedious, but I’m hoping the effect of his secrets on Sansa and Jon, and the story as a whole, will be worth the years of mystical meandering we’ve sat through. And even if it isn’t, at least poor Meera Reed, having put up with the most boring Stark for several seasons, will get a bit of a rest. Go on, Meera, love, put your feet up. You’ve earned it.

Game of Thrones s7 ep 2

*SPOILERS*

“It won’t be long till the fighting starts,” says Lord Tarly, Father of Sam, Friend of Olenna, and, in a week where we are reminded prophecies are tricky things, something of a soothsayer himself. Before we get to the actual fisticuffs – and the stabbing! So MUCH stabbing – though, much of “Stormborn” is taken up with various factions trying to consolidate and organise their teams for the war to come.

In Kings Landing, Cersei tries to recruit the unimpressed Tyrell bannermen, but with Tarly’s glorious “We’re not oath breakers, we’re not schemers. We don’t stab our rivals in the back or cut their throats at weddings” speech suggesting they might not be too keen on being recruited, Jaime falls back on a “Brexit! Stop the foreigners!” type argument which looks suspiciously like it might work. In art, as in life, I suppose. Sigh.

Team Daenerys, or at least Tyrion, is alive to the sensibilities of the “Westeros for the Westerosi!” brigade, however, and comes up with a plan to send the Martell, Greyjoy and Tyrell forces to Kings Landing, while Grey Worm and the Unsullied are sent quietly off to Casterly Rock on the basis that since we haven’t seen it in 7 seasons, presumably nobody in the rest of Westeros is watching it that closely and/or will care.

Before Grey Worm heads off into the night, however, he and Missandei come off the subs bench and score a couple of goals of their own (yes, that is a euphemism). With only 11 episodes to go, ever, I wouldn’t have thought there’d be quite so much time for these two to fill and I would frankly rather there hadn’t been – separately, I find each of them dull, and as a couple, they’re soporific – but hey ho. This particular pairing has a lot of fans, and with its season one-esque display of breasts and backsides, this particular episode might have won them even more.

While the quietest couple in the cast seek solace in each other, meantime, Dany sulks a bit and threatens Varys (who is more than capable of holding his own – TEAM VARYS FTW) with fire, and I wonder why it is people on this show keep choosing to follow someone so teenage and vicious as their supreme ruler. I don’t suppose I’ll be getting to select my own monarch at any point but, just in case there is anyone out there with aspirations to the title, please note that the promise of doughnuts is far more likely to win my undying love and loyalty than the threat of immolation.

This show has no such qualms – at the moment, anyway – however, as this week we find out the “Prince that was promised” might actually be a Princess, which fills the feminist in me with pride and the GOT viewer in me with dread because, FFS, Daenerys Stormborn, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, already thinks she has a divine right to rule, and now you’re telling her she’s even more special? Never mind crowning her Queen – there won’t be a crown in the Seven Kingdoms big enough.

Since last season hinted that the Targaryen madness hasn’t skipped a generation, though, I’m hoping this is a feint, Daenerys is a fake, and the real Prince is a King, the King in the North being an entirely different type of ruler. When he’s summoned by Tyrion to “bend the knee” to the Dragon Queen, neither Sansa nor Davos are too keen on the idea, and when Sam’s Raven makes it a foregone conclusion that Jon will go anyway, everyone’s apoplectic. (Except Littlefinger whose smirk remains firmly in place.) Jon seeking Sansa’s counsel in private first shows he has learned some lessons from last week, bless him, but Jon announcing he’s changed his mind without warning her shows he needs to learn some more. Still, the look of understanding that passes, along with the reins of Winterfell, between them when he tells her he’s leaving the North in her hands is – since I love them and I don’t want them to fight – significant and reassuring. Although not quite as significant and reassuring as Jon Snow almost killing that reptile Littlefinger with his bare hands. Violence is a bad way to settle your differences, kids. Unless it’s Littlefinger, in which case, carry on.

Of course, talk of violence brings me to Westeros’s assassin du jour Arya who somehow passes the week without killing anyone, reconnects with Hot Pie and his, er, hot pies, has some sort of existential crisis when she bumps into the long-lost Nymeria, and finally heads off towards Winterfell – which Jon has just left, natch. Remember when the Starks in this show kept just missing each other? I’m hoping we’ve moved on from that and she’ll meet him on the way. Ideally in less violent fashion than the Greyjoy family reunion, which might prove Lord Tarly right but still comes as something of a jolt at the end of this otherwise quiet but compelling (apart from the Grey Worm sex and Sam and Jorah’s horrible adventures in scale-scraping, that is) episode. Since we’re not going to blow the whole budget on the Greyjoys, the battle isn’t as heartstopping as Blackwater or Hardhome, and it does have a very studio-based apocalyptic rock video look about it, but the fireballs, blades and blood spurting everywhere – so much blood spurting everywhere – are pretty impressive nonetheless, and if it does for the unspeakable Sand Snakes, I’m down with it. Even if the whole gory business proves too much for Theon, who is living proof that what doesn’t kill you (unimaginable torture at Ramsay’s hands, unimaginable danger at Euron’s) does not, contrary to popular belief, necessarily make you stronger. Never mind Theon, not long to go now – another gripping episode, another week closer to the end.

Game of Thrones s7 ep 1

*SPOILERS*

“Shall we begin?”

Since we only have thirteen episodes of Game of Thrones left, it’s tempting to complain that much of this first one seems, at first blush at least, a little self-indulgent. Arya (who has somehow managed to make bloody, brutal revenge a little dull, she’s done it so often) obliterating the repugnant House Frey with such ease; Ed Sheeran popping in with a bland new ditty (Galwesteros Girl?); the Hound’s somewhat unpredictable conscience making one of its sporadic visits – come on guys, I thought. Move it along! You don’t think the Night King’s hanging around knocking out ballads or apologising to skeletons, do you?

But, thinking out loud (sorry), it turns out these moments are as important in their own way as any battle. Ok, the Ed Sheeran cameo is jarring because, like him or not, he’s there because he’s an international pop star not because he has anything to contribute to the story, but so soon after her mass Freyicide, his band of Westerosi buddies are essential to reminding increasingly amoral killing machine Arya (and the rest of us, hardened by years of this show’s ruthlessness) that there is still humanity and life and decency out there and, even in the Seven Kingdoms, people don’t always have to be enemies or victims; sometimes they can just be people too.

The Hound’s lesson is along similar lines. Faced with the all-too-vivid consequences of past misdeeds, he offers up an atonement of sorts, albeit too little too late for the unfortunate skeletons, and a reminder to the audience that Arya for her part has humanised him too. Which is just as well, since if there’s to be a Cleganebowl, we need to be able to root for one of them, eh?

Sam’s endless pee, poop and soup montage, however, may be a step too far for me; did finding the Dragonglass book or what became Jorah Mormont really require so many “comedy” bedpan shots? Still, these are minor quibbles over what is, on the whole, a cleverly-structured, gorgeously-shot, calmly measured but hugely significant start to the season as, while Arya, the Hound and Sam all learn lessons which might help their chosen sides and everyone else plans for War in earnest, the show demonstrates that it has learned a lot of lessons of its own.

In what’s left of Kings Landing, Cersei plots and flirts with the charmless Euron Greyjoy that they might “as rightful monarchs, murder (Team Dany) together.” Jaime’s disgust and incredulity are magnificent, the one thing he and Euron having in common being their (delightfully meta) contempt for the Iron born. After years of Theon and the Greyjoys getting on the audience’s nerves, it may be fan service for Jaime to acknowledge that they’re “angry, bitter” people “not good at anything” but it made me smile. (And simultaneously wonder if, with Daenerys and Tyrion’s help, they might prove him, and the rest of us, wrong.)

At Winterfell, meanwhile, Jon – still a Snow for now, but given Bran’s arrival at the Wall to creep Edd the eff out, possibly not for much longer – lays out his plans for the defence of the North, and never mind Sansa and Jon, Lyanna Mormont is the true queen as far as I’m concerned. I’ve written a lot about Game of Thrones’ terrible attitude to women over the years, but Lyanna – and Sansa, Brienne and Davos’s smiles as they watch her – is a reminder that a lesson’s been learned there too. As last season suggested, the show seems to have grown out of its casual misogyny; sisters, be they Northern, Southern or Dragonborn, are now most definitely doing it for themselves.

Although that’s not entirely without its challenges, at least as far as the Starks are concerned. Sansa and Jon arguing in front of the Northern lords isn’t a good look for anyone (except Petyr Baelish, for whom it’s tremendous) but their scene afterwards is quite sweet and even a little comforting for those of who are worried Lady Stark might mean the King in the North any harm. And for those of us worried about the influence of others who do, Sansa’s dismissal of the slimy, malevolent Littlefinger afterwards is a joy: “No need to seize the last word, Lord Baelish. I’ll assume it was something clever.” HEE.

With the few remaining Great Houses manoeuvring into position then, Daenerys’ arrival at the eerily silent, beautiful Dragonstone to resurrect House Targaryen is a terrific, apt way to finish up. I’ve no love for Miss Born to Rule, but her return home has been a long time coming, and its quiet power ends a great episode on a momentous, majestic note. Brilliant.