Whether you didn't have time to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones, and want to know what's going on, or if you missed out on some bits and want to get quickly caught up, we've got all the details you need. It shouldn't need saying, but obviously, what follows is FULL OF SPOILERS for Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1. With that out of the way, let's get on with the recap.
Of all the possible starting points for Game of Thrones’ penultimate season, the Twins would appear very low on most people’s lists. But that’s where we began, with Lord Frey hosting a feast for members of his household. Wait, wasn’t he killed by Arya last season? It seemed unusual for a show to begin with a flashback, possibly showing Lord Frey’s death from another perspective. Something about it seemed off from the start, though. Frey is not only throwing a second feast in a fortnight, as he says, but he is also using self-deprecating humour that you wouldn’t normally associate with him. He then tells them to drink up the Arbor gold, rather than the Dornish "horse piss" they are used to.
When the glass doesn’t touch his lips, you realise he’s poisoned his own people. Game of Thrones has trained us enough to expect the worst. But it became a notch weirder when he started listing what they had done at the Red Wedding, and how they had enjoyed doing it, while avoiding his own culpability. You killed “a woman with a babe, a mother of five”, Frey says to his gathered family. Things become much clearer as everyone starts to fall on the floor. Pulling off the Frey mask off her face, the person reveals herself to be none other than Arya underneath. If you thought killing their ruler last season was justice enough, then you clearly don’t know the Braavosi-trained Arya well enough.
Post that, we jump north of the Wall to see the slow march of the White Walkers, with a giant fog enveloping their movement. There’s little new here, except a few giants, but it’s more of a reminder for what has always been coming. The scene cuts to reveal Bran Stark observing it via his warging skills, who has made it to the Wall thanks to Meera Reed (and Benjen Stark last year). There, the two meet new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch Eddison Tollett who wonders how he can believe who they say they are. But after Bran tells him about past events that a regular person can’t have known about, Tollett accepts their explanation and gives them safe passage.
At Winterfell, meanwhile, the new King in the North, Jon Snow, is instructing his allies about how they need to prepare for the coming of the dead. Every man, woman, and child needs to prepare for the long winter, he says, because we can’t fight this war with only half our people. Lord Glover objects to putting arms in the hands of his granddaughter, giving everyone’s favourite young ruler Lyanna Mormont another chance to scold the adults.
Another important thing of course, Jon adds, is to man the castles along and nearest to the Wall. He means to let the Northern lords who fought against him keep their lands. Sansa objects to the Umbers and Karstarks getting their ancestral homes back, since they supported Ramsay Bolton, but Jon understands they cannot alienate anyone, and he isn’t going to punish the next generation for their fathers’ sins. He invites the new rulers, Ned Umber and Alys Karstark - two children fearful for their safety - to pledge loyalty to House Stark.
After the meeting, Jon Snow complains to Sansa for undermining him in front of everyone. Sansa notes Joffrey was a king who never let anyone question his authority, which is a wild comparison by any standard. An aghast Jon wonders if she thinks he’s Joffrey, and she assures him he’s as far from Joffrey as anyone she’s ever met. Sansa's actions are out of concern for Jon, she says, as she wants him to keep his head, unlike her father, or Robb. Just then, a message comes from Queen Cersei, asking Jon to travel to King’s Landing and bend the knee. Having seen what the woman is capable of, she tells Jon to be wary and not forget his enemies to the South while he’s so focused on the North.
At King’s Landing, meanwhile, Cersei is overseeing the meticulous construction of a room-sized map of Westeros. Jaime’s entrance provides the perfect surrogate reaction for the audience, who glances at what the hell her sister has been up to, and bluntly asks what it’s supposed to be. It’s what they have been have waiting their whole lives for, she remarks, which is supposed to signify Lannisters’ rightful position at the top of the pecking order. Cersei asks why Jaime has been so quiet since his return. He answers in the negative when she asks if he’s angry, and when asked if he’s afraid of her, he wonders aloud: “Should I be?” Cersei brings up their brother, Tyrion, who she knows has been named the hand of Daenerys. She asks Jaime where their armada would land. Jaime points to Dragonstone, since it isn’t guarded, and is her birthplace.
Cersei says they need to plan for a war, with enemies on all four fronts. Jaime reminders her they have more pressing concerns with winter here, and corrects her when she calls herself the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. “Three kingdoms at best,” he says. Cersei knows the rule of game of thrones, and she knows if they lose, they die. But if they win, they could launch a thousand-year dynasty, which sounds a lot like something Hitler would’ve said. Jaime bluntly asks whom the dynasty is for, considering all their children are now dead.
Jaime then says even the Lannisters need need allies to survive, and it doesn’t look like they have any. Cersei is two steps ahead though, and she’s already contacted someone. Herald the coming of a thousand Greyjoy ships, under their new leader Euron, as we predicted correctly from the trailer. In the Red Keep’s throne room, the three - Cersei, Jaime, and Euron - bicker about how the Greyjoys have tended to break promises in the past. Euron says he’d love to kill his family members (Yara and Theon), and the fact they have banded with Tyrion puts them on the same side. He also fires multiple zingers towards Cersei and Jaime’s relationship, before bringing up his own intentions. He wishes to marry the new Queen, but Cersei declines it saying he’s not trustworthy. Euron understands that the best way to a woman’s heart is with a gift, and he’ll not return to King’s Landing until he has that. Tyrion’s head would be special, but any one of her other enemies might do fine.
Cut to the Citadel, where Samwell Tarly is being put through the paces while learning to be an apprentice. Rather than spend all his time with books, as he’d love to, he’s also tasked with being a servant for the other maesters, including serving them food and cleaning their bedpans. It’s gross, and a repulsive coincidence that the two don’t look very different, and the montage the director Jeremy Podeswa constructs out of them can be quite off-putting to watch. What Sam needs access to, in terms of literature, is locked behind gates and restricted to maesters. Considering the danger posed to the living, Sam requests access while helping one such maester weigh the organs of a human body; Westeros may have magic and spells, but their knowledge of biology is still some ways behind. Though the archmaester admits the tales of the Long Night can’t be all fabrication, he eventually refuses and says that the Wall has stood for nearly a thousand years. “Every winter that ever came has ended,” he adds. With no way left, and time running out, Sam steals the keys at night, and enters the restricted area by himself.
Back at Winterfell, Brienne is training her squire Podrick. Looking at them from some distance away is Sansa, when she’s interrupted by Littlefinger. He gets in a couple of compliments for Brienne as an ice-breaker, but Sansa knows his tricks by now. Without any pleasantries, she bluntly asks him: “What do you want, Lord Baelish?” Of course, you can expect him to never get straight to his point. He says he wants her to be happy and safe, and Sansa tolerates him until Brienne enters. After Littlefinger departs, Brienne asks why he’s still at Winterfell. The Starks still need his men, the Knights of the Vale, without whom they would have lost the Battle of Winterfell.
Somewhere in the Riverlands, Arya is travelling on a horse after murdering most of the Frey household. She encounters Lannisters soldiers sitting around a fire. Ed Sheeran is playing one of the soldiers, and fittingly enough, he’s singing a song. After Arya compliments it, the soldiers invite her in and offer their food. She looks around and makes note of where their swords are placed. The soldiers are on their way to the Twins to keep peace, a situation Arya knows more than enough about. When they ask why she’s going to King’s Landing on her own, Arya takes a sip of the blackberry wine and then adds with a poker face: “I’m going to kill the queen.” At first, everyone just looks at each other silently and then they all burst into laughter, with Arya joining them. Who would be foolish enough to say that in front of the Queen’s men, let alone a little girl her size.
Further north, Sandor Clegane and the Brotherhood Without Banners are making true on their promise to fight the advance of the White Walkers. They come by an abandoned house and identify it as a place to rest, but the Hound recognises it and wishes to avoid it. inside, they find the bodies of a man and his daughter who killed themselves before they’d starve to death. It’s the same family from whom Clegane stole while he was with Arya, and you can see the guilt etched all over his face.
After Thoros of Myr lights a fire, Clegane and Dondarrion bicker over why the Lord of Light keeps bringing the latter back. Thoros tells him to come near the fire, something the Hound has always done his best to avoid since the incident with his brother. He reluctantly agrees, and as he steps near, Thoros tells him to look intently into the flames. He says he sees the Wall, the dead marching over it, and a castle by the sea. All of that hints towards Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, which was also the castle Jon Snow had brought up with his people. Judging by what we glimpsed from the trailer, it seems both Jon and Dondarrion’s forces will meet there later in the season. Later at night, Thoros goes outside after hearing sounds, and he finds Clegane digging a grave for the aforementioned deceased, giving them a proper burial in the process.
We’re back at Citadel then with Sam, who’s poring over the books he stole. He finds a map for dragonglass in one of the books, which points to there being an entire mountain of it under Dragonstone. Well, you’re going to need Daenerys’ help getting to that. Going through his morning routine the next day, Sam is frightened by a man with greyscale who attempts to grab his arm through the small opening of a cellar. He asks if the Dragon Queen, Daenerys Stormborn, has arrived yet. The man inside is obviously Jorah Mormont, who was dispatched by the Khaleesi last season to find a cure for his sickness.
Cut to the Dragon Queen herself. Her armada has crossed the Narrow Sea and arrived at Dragonstone, as everyone has already surmised. Still, it’s a scene of heavy significance in many ways. For one, Dany has kept repeating her wish to return to Westeros since the beginning. And she’s finally here. Two, she was born at Dragonstone so it means more to her personally. Lastly, it was the place that her ancestors chose to build a trading outpost on, and later a castle, during the days of the Valyrian Freehold.
Dragonstone’s is known for being an easy castle to protect, but now that it’s been left abandoned, Dany and her aides simply walk in. She pulls down the Baratheon banners, and inspects the throne room where many of her Targaryen ancestors sat. Instead of placing herself on the seat, she walks by it into the map room that Stannis spent a lot of time in. The Chamber of the Painted Table, as it’s properly known. After inspecting the table’s contents, and with Tyrion by her side, she says: “Shall we begin?” Daenerys has waited a long time for this, and she’s clearly restless to begin her conquest of Westeros. At the same time, it feels as if the writers are communicating with the audience too. Now that we finally have the chess pieces in place, are you ready for what’s coming?