Major spoilers ahead for “Game of Thrones” Season 7 premiere, “Dragonstone.”
There’s a definite moment of tension in the Season 7 premiere of ‘Game of Thrones’ when Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) comes across a group of Lannister soldiers.
She’s been essentially running from Lannisters for six seasons and has made a point of taking down the whole family — and all that cross her — so when she decides to sit down with the soldiers for a meal, you, as an audience member, have to wonder where it’s going to go. Are those men going to end up dead?
However, Jeremy Podeswa, the director of the episode, said the scene was not to move the plot forward or give the youngest Stark daughter a chance to show off her assassination skills after dealing with the Freys. It was to give Arya a break.
“In the scene with Walder Frey, you see this young women who’s hell bent on revenge and who has a very single-minded purpose. We almost forget that she’s just a girl, she’s a young woman,” Podeswa told TheWrap. “What the scene conveys so beautifully is that she and these Lannister soldiers are, by virtue of their age, very similar.”
The audience glimpses snippets of Arya’s anxiety throughout the scene. She scans the campground looking for their weapons, which she sees are off to the side. She hesitates a bit when taking a bite of their meal, which they offer to her first. By the time they give her some of their homemade wine, she’s relaxed and even tells them she’s off to kill the queen — which they think is hilarious.
It’s tough to say whether she’ll leave the group, which includes a soldier played by singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, in peace — Podeswa couldn’t comment on anything further than the episode although he is set to return in the season finale — but the scene is meant to be positive, showing Arya in a moment of relative peace and camaraderie.
“It gives you an insight into her character, the fact she can kind of relax and enjoy being with young people who are in her peer group that is entirely unexpected,” Podeswa continued. “You don’t see her as a girl out for revenge. You see her as a young girl finding her way in the world and maturing and being challenged in a way too by her unexpected relationship with these young guys.”
The episode, called “Dragonstone,” is full of these small, quiet scenes. Besides the cold opening where Arya dispatches with the rest of the Freys she didn’t take out in the Season 6 finale, not a whole lot happens. Plot points are put into place, character relationships are built up, we catch up with some of our favorites, but for the most part, it functions as set-up for the rest of the season.
For example, when Daenerys gets to Dragonstone at the end of the episode — a moment seven seasons in the making — it’s played like a meditation. The Dragon Queen runs her fingers over the sand, the table where Stannis last left his battle plans and she silently looks from one corner to the other. At one point, Grey Worm goes to follow her, but he’s held back by Missandei, who realizes that this is something Daenerys needs to work out alone. Compared to where we began in the episode, it’s relatively calm.
“I knew music, the bold composition and Emilia [Clarke’s] performance would drive the sequence and that’s what really what it’s about,” he said. “It gives you time to think about what this really means… It gives you something incredible to look at.”
Podeswa credits showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff with creating a show that can balance different kinds of scenes, with almost violently different levels of pacing and different tones. “Dragonstone” alone goes from thrilling to comedic (the scene in the Citadel where Samwell is shoveling poop certainly counts) and back to dramatic and quiet. In a way, the episode slows down as it continues. This isn’t the first time “Game of Thrones” has played around with pacing and tone — the whole series is like this — but it’s unique. In a time where audiences expect the show to pick up, Podeswa helped to slow it down.
“It’s so elastic that you can accommodate things like the Citadel sequence, which is very snappy and sharp and funny, and [the Daenerys scene], which plays with time in a different way,” he said. “It exists very comfortably within one episode. One of the great things about what Dan and David have created is a kind of cinematic language that the audience will go with you down.”
“The tone can shift, it can be all things at once and I think that’s a remarkable quality of the show.”