‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7 Premiere Recap: Shall We Begin?

Here’s what happened at the start of the penultimate season of the biggest show on TV

(WARNING: This post is 100-percent spoilers.)

Here we are. After an extra long wait between seasons that lasted about 13 months, “Game of Thrones” is back with its seventh and next-to-last season. Let’s go over everything that went down.

As most of the season openers of “Game of Thrones” do, we get a cold open in the season 7 premiere. It’s a bit of a head scratcher at first, with Walder Frey apparently alive and well and holding a feast for a bunch of members of his family. He talks about how he splurged for the good wine from the Arbor, not the Dornish swill they’re used to. Though Walder won’t let his new young wife sample this good stuff, because, he says, he wouldn’t want to waste it on a woman.

It’s all a trick, of course. Walder Frey is dead, his throat cut in the season 6 finale by Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). Once Walder begins ranting about how they didn’t kill all the Starks at the Red Wedding, it becomes pretty obvious that that’s actually Arya up there at Walder’s table, doing her Faceless Man thing. She’s there to get revenge on the rest of the Frey’s who were responsible for the Red Wedding massacre back in Season 3.

The wine is poisoned, of course, and before long everyone in the hall is dead aside from Arya, the servant girls who had served the wine, and Walder’s young wife. And it’s to Walder’s wife that Arya delivers her message:

“Tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey.”

Cue the opening credits.

Now we get a shot of an apparently empty wilderness in the far north beyond the wall. A cloud of ice and snow approaches, and after Hardhome we all know what that means: the army of the dead is on the march, with the White Walkers had the head. The camera pans through the crowd and we see a new, terrifying wrinkle among the undead — the White Walkers now command three giants in addition to all the normal-sized people we’d seen previously. That’s upsetting.

A bit further south, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Meera Reed have finally made it to the Wall — specifically, the part of the Wall where Castle Black is. Good ole Edd comes through the tunnel to greet them, but of course he’s never met them so he’s skeptical when Meera introduces them.

But Bran uses his cool Three-Eyed Raven psychic vision powers to convince him that he really is Bran Stark, by reminding Edd of the places Edd has seen the White Walkers and the army of the dead. Edd, understandably shaken, lets them in.

From there, we head back to Winterfell for the very first time in season 7. King in the North Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) are meeting with the Stark bannermen to discuss their plan for how to deal with both the White Walker threat and the survivors of Houses Umber and Karstark, who supported Ramsay Bolton in the Battle of the Bastards.

Jon instructs the other houses the conscript and train everyone for the war to come — and when he says everyone he means even the women and children. Some of the lords scoff at this, but young Lady Mormont scoffs right back, pointing out that she certainly doesn’t plan to be without a weapon when the White Walkers come calling.

Next, Jon has Tormund Giantsbane take a group of wildlings up to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, one of the Night’s Watch castles on the Wall. His logic being that since Eastwatch is the castle closest to Hardhome, it may very well be the one the army of the dead hits first when they come south. “Looks like we’re the Night’s Watch now,” Tormund says, very amused.

The final order of business is the Karstarks and the Umbers. Some, including Sansa, want their keeps given to other, loyal families, but Jon refuses. Jon and Sansa argue about it in front of everybody for a minute, but Jon gets the last word.

So he calls forward Ned Umber, a child, and Alys Karstark, a teenager — both the heads of their houses now. Jon demands they pledge their houses to him, and they emphatically do so. They don’t wanna get murdered any more than you would. Jon then emphasizes the reason for his decision: all the “living north” needs to band together if any of them is going to survive the coming storm.

Afterward, Jon and Sansa have it out again over their vehement disagreements in public — Jon is mad because he felt she undermined him. Then he clarifies that it’s totally OK for her to disagree with him on stuff and challenge him, but maybe she shouldn’t do it in front of everybody.

She’s just very worried about him and everything else, of course. “You have to be smarter than father,” Sansa says. “You have to be smarter than Robb.”

“And how should I be smarter?” Jon comes back. “By listening to you?”

“Would that be so terrible?” she asks.

Of course, not murdering all the Karstarks and Umbers probably already gives him a leg up on Robb, considering that everything started to go bad for him when he cut off the old Lord Karstark’s head back in Season 3.

Then they get a raven, with a message from King’s Landing. It’s Cersei, demanding an oath of fealty from the North. Jon chuckles, noting that with winter having arrived there’s no way the Lannister army is gonna go that far north. Sansa, of course, warns that once Cersei has her heart set on destroying somebody she usually carries through. Jon notes what he thinks is admiration in her voice. It’s clear that so much of how Sansa is approaching the current situation is informed by all the time she spent around Cersei back in the day.

Now, to King’s Landing. Cersei (Lena Headey) has had a map of Westeros painted on the floor in a cool-looking room. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) comes in for a chat, and they discuss the impending war between the Lannisters and, well, everybody else on the whole continent, plus Daenerys’ incoming forces from the east — which Jaime suggests will hit up the island of Dragonstone on their way in since that’s Dany’s ancestral home and her birthplace. Traitors on all sides, Cersei notes.

Jaime then brings up that even if they win, it’s not exactly like they’re gonna be able to create a dynasty considering all their kids are dead. Speaking of which, Jaime shifts the conversation to how, umm, they never talked about what happened with Tommen. Cersei, bitterly, says that Tommen betrayed her with his suicide. OK then.

They also discuss the Frey situation, and how the Arya’s massacre (they don’t know it was Arya who did it, to be clear) means they can’t rely on the Freys for help.

So they need new allies. Substantial allies. Well, guess what, it turns out there’s a certain somebody with a big ole fleet who’s eager to help them out.

That someone is Euron Greyjoy, who has brought a humongous fleet into Blackwater Bay with a proposal for Cersei. Yes, I’m talking about a marriage proposal. Since they both have family members working with Daenerys, Euron thinks it would be fun if they worked together to murder their traitorous family members — Theon and Yara Greyjoy and Tyrion Lannister. And he suggests he’d be a good match for Cersei because he has “a thousand ships and two good hands” — a not-so-veiled joke at Jaime’s expense.

Cersei refuses the proposal though, on the grounds that the last time the Lannisters and Greyjoys had any kind of meaningful interaction it was when the Greyjoys rebelled against the Iron Throne a decade before. So she doesn’t exactly trust Euron. So Euron replies that he will attempt to win her heart by bringing her “a priceless gift.” What that might be we don’t know. Tyrion’s head maybe? Who knows?

And now we’re reunited with Samwell Tarly (Jon Bradley), who is living the worst life in Oldtown as he trains to become a Maester. He gets to put books back on the shelves in the library but not the part of the library where the good stuff is (i.e. the books that have all the info on the Long Night, the previous time the White Walkers came south).

Also, Sam gets to empty chamber pots and clean out the communal toilets and serve food that looks suspiciously like the stuff in the chamber pots and communal toilets. It’s a funny little montage, with a lot of dry heaving on Sam’s part.

Then we get a normal scene, with Sam chatting with Jim Broadbent’s Archmaester character — which is dissecting a corpse and having Sam weight the organs. Gross.

Sam argues that he should be allowed to check out the part of the library he’s not allowed to go in, because really the whole reason he’s in Oldtown is to study up on how to defeat the White Walkers. The Archmaester replies that he does believe that Sam saw what he saw beyond the Wall, but that the Wall exists for that very purpose and has stood for so long that the White Walker problem will probably just deal with itself. So that’s a no.

But Sam is determined, and he takes matters into his own hands. Late that night he steals a Maester’s library keys and sneaks in a steals the books he needs.

Now we head back to Winterfell, where Pod is training with Brienne and getting absolutely demolished. Tormund walks by and does that goofy, scary grin at Brienne and tells Pod that he’s a lucky man.

Also in Winterfell, Sansa and Littlefinger are having a little chat. You know, one of those little chats where he tries to convince Sansa to marry him. But she’s still not having it, and she cuts him off when Brienne wanders over.

“No need to seize the last word, Lord Baelish,” Sansa says. “I’ll assume it was something clever.”

Brienne wonders why Sansa humors him, and Sansa says it’s because they would have lost the Battle of the Bastards if he hadn’t shown up with the Knights of the Vale.

Cut back to Arya, who’s riding a horse down the Kingsroad toward King’s Landing when she encounters some Lannister soldiers sitting around a fire singing. Yes, that is Ed Sheeren there, for some reason.

The soldiers invite Arya to eat with them, and after some hesitation and reassurances from the men, agrees. These are just regular folks, not the sort of horrible people we usually encounter in situations like this on “Game of Thrones.” They talk about how much they hate King’s Landing and how sick of fighting they are, and how they wish they could just go home and hang out with their families instead of roaming the land doing war on everyone on the continent.

They give Arya the first bite of the rabbit they’ve been cooking, and when she asks why they’re being so nice to her on of them says, simply, that his mother taught him that if he’s nice to strangers they’ll be nice to him.

The scene concludes with a question: why is Arya riding alone to King’s Landing? She says, straightfaced: to kill the queen. Everyone laughs and enjoys their dinner.

Cut to the Hound hanging out with Thoros of Myr and Beric Dondarrian and the rest of the Brotherhood Without Banners. They’re riding north — the land is much snowier than it was in the place where we last saw them in season 6. They come upon an old, seemingly abandoned house. A familiar house, in fact — years ago the Hound came here with Arya. The man who lived there offered them supper with him and his daughter, and even gave the Hound a job offer to help out around the house. The Hound being the Hound, though, he instead beat up the man, stole their gold and rolled out, Arya yelling at him about how terrible a person he is.

The man and his daughter are dead now, their skeletons laying in the bed. The man, Beric says, seems to have killed his daughter so she wouldn’t have to experience the horror of starving to death. The Hound is clearly upset by the whole thing because he feels bad about it, but nobody can tell because he’s always in a bad mood anyway.

The Hound makes a crack about how clearly the Lord of Light has no sense of justice because if he did then he wouldn’t keep bringing Beric back over and over again while letting the family who lived in this house die the way they did. Thoros and Beric don’t know why the Lord does what he does, and they can’t really justify it. But they can at least show the Hound why Thoros and Beric do what they do.

To that end, Thoros lights a fire and tells the Hound to look into it. And the Hound sees a vision of the Wall, and a castle on the Wall that’s next to the sea. He then sees “a mountain shaped like an arrowhead,” with the army of the dead marching past it. That castle, almost certainly Eastwatch-by-the-sea, is their likely destination. So I guess they’ll be meeting Tormund up there soon.

Later that night, the Hound is outside digging graves for the man and his daughter. Thoros comes out and notes his guilty demeanor. “You knew them,” he says.

“Not really,” the Hound comes back. Then they silently bury the bodies together, and the Hound gives a little dedication. “You deserved better. Both of you.”

Back in Oldtown, Sam is at home with Gilly and Little Sam, reading his stolen books through the night. Gilly tells him that he should sleep. “The dead don’t,” Sam says.

He does make a discovery as he’s reading: it turns out that there’s a big deposit of Dragonglass, or obsidian, at Dragonstone. So he sends a raven to Jon to let him know. Is this setting up Jon and Dany’s first encounter? We’ll find out, I guess.

The next day, Sam is walking through the Citadel collecting pots from people who are trapped in some kind of cells. A man with greyscale sticks his arm out of the doorhole and asks Sam if Daenerys has come to Westeros. This is Jorah! It appears his search for a greyscale cure has brought him to Oldtown, and now he’s in quarantine.

And now, finally, we get to Daenerys and her fleet. They land at Dragonstone, and Dany has a moment on the beach as she touches the soil. Then she, Varys, Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei go into the castle and look around. They come to the extremely cool throne room — which we never saw when Stannis lived there — before hitting up the war room with the large wooden war table shaped like Westeros, where Aegon Targaryen planned his conquest of Westeros centuries before.

Dany takes her place at the head of the table, looks around the room at everybody, and says:

“Shall we begin?”