(Spoiler alert – do not read unless you have watched episode 1 of Game of Thrones, you have been warned!)

Wow. What an opening. I don’t know what this says about the state of humanity when we are able to revel in a scene of mass murder committed by a teenager, but there’s even more drama to catch up with in Westeros, so I won’t dwell on the morality of the show too much. Arya’s annihilation of House Frey was the star scene of the episode but perhaps the dramatic opening left the rest of the episode feeling a little underwhelming as we caught up with most of the characters that we have left. However, the scene effectively demonstrated Arya’s maturation on the show and set the tone for the new season. The end is nigh and the show’s writers are beginning to tidy up all the loose threads. Culling unnecessary characters and dispatching losers of the game of thrones in spectacular style is on the agenda before the Night King arrives.

Speaking of, the chilling scene of the relentless White Walker approach cast a lingering shadow over the episode. Albeit the shot of the Night King’s army was short, but Jon and Samwell’s preparations to stop the Long Night served to remind us of how close the final showdown is. The ominous vision that the Hound saw in the fire also suggests that Eastwatch-by-the-sea is where the army of the dead will finally breach the Wall. Hopefully all this is leading to an epic battle on the scale of ‘Hardhome’ and ‘The Battle of the Bastards’ to end the season.

Meanwhile, in both Winterfell and King’s Landing, it doesn’t seem to be all happy families. The parallels between the two situations were uncanny as Jaime and Jon sought less violent approaches while, as we heard Sansa’s haunting remark about how she learnt a lot from Cersei, both women wanted to take a hard line with their enemies. Whilst the balances of power were reversed from the norm in these sibling scenes, both also shared slinking spectres in the forms of Littlefinger and Euron Greyjoy. Neither can be trusted, and both have their eyes firmly set on the Iron Throne. Fingers crossed that Sansa will keep Littlefinger at bay rather than allowing him to fuel her disagreements with Jon, and we anxiously wait to see what Greyjoy’s ‘priceless gift’ for Cersei will be…

Bringing the episode back to its titular home, Daenerys has finally arrived in Westeros. She and her fleet have landed on Dragonstone; her birthplace, ancestral seat, and conveniently also home to a mountain of dragonglass ripe for forging into weapons against the army of the dead who are slowly marching on the Wall. Surely that last part Samwell could have realised a little earlier though, after all, it is in the name? With her unwitting possession of the salvation of the Westerosi people, we will hopefully see her make allies with Jon Snow sometime soon: cue a long overdue Targaryen family reunion.

Quick points:

  • Ed Sheeran’s cameo has proved divisive amongst viewers, but one thing’s for certain, we’d all love a full-length version of ‘Hands of Gold’ to download ASAP.
  • The tension between Tormund and Brienne hasn’t fizzled out with the arrival of winter, but with Tormund heading for Eastwatch, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for this pair.
  • Samwell’s montage took ten days to film, meanwhile the rest of the cast and crew were at the Emmys! Collecting and cleaning bedpans or sweeping up a ton of Emmy awards, I know where I’d rather be…