The Buzz: Winter Comes Early, 'Game of Thrones' Returns

“Shall we begin?” After over a year since its Season 6 finale, Game of Thrones returned with an extremely satisfying Season 7 premiere. Most of the action takes place earlier in the episode, as a majority of scenes simply set the stage for the war(s) to come. But you know, with only six episodes remaining in its shortest season to date, Game of Thrones is going to move at an unprecedented rate.

Spoilers Ahead***

There’s a lot to be excited about after watching this season’s premiere of Game of Thrones. The stage has been set for the show’s two biggest conflicts to finally come to fruition: the war against winter and the battle for the throne. A lot is convoluted in terms of where everyone’s priorities should be. In the North, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) is only consumed by the Night King, despite a letter from Cersei (Lena Headey) demanding that he come to Kings Landing to bend the knee. Considering how frightening the Night King is and the history of Starks going down towards King’s Landing (Eddard, Rickard, Brandon, Rob), it’s a good move for Jon to stay put. Meanwhile, Sansa is urging Jon not to underestimate Cersei. She makes a good point, but a vision from Bran (safely south of wall again) of the Night King with his army of the dead (now including reincarnated giants) justifies Jon’s priorities. Then again, with a conniving Little Finger (Aiden Gillen) meddling in the Starks' affairs, anything can happen.

In the South, Cersei doesn’t seem to care in the slightest that winter is here. She is entirely focused on retaining her position of power and destroying all of her enemies. This is highlighted by the fact that from her perspective, her actions are not in the wrong. Instead, her enemies around her are traitors. Sansa, Daenerys, Ellaria Sand, Olenna Tyrell…all traitors (somehow). She even goes as far as to claim her last living son Tommen betrayed her, a jolting statement to the half-hearted Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).

One of the show’s best dynamic duos remains to be Arya (Maise Williams) and The Hound (Rory McCann) from their travels in Seasons 3 and 4. During their time together, Arya continued to practice her fighting skills while maintaining her morality. The Hound on the other hand was as ruthless as they come. Fast forward to the show’s present time and it appears a fascinating role reversal has transpired. Arya continues to wreak havoc on the Freys. Following force-feeding Walder Frey (David Bradley) his own sons and slicing his throat, Arya uses her skills as a faceless man to become Walder and poison the majority of the Frey family. While it still isn’t clear how the magic of the faceless men works, Arya is wasting no time in her newly honed skills. As a fan of the Starks, it’s awesome to see Arya carry out justice for the family. Yet it’s also unnerving to see the unfiltered pleasure she receives from carrying out mass murder.

In the blistering cold, The Hound rides with the Brotherhood without Banners to a familiar farm. A farm where he stole from an old farmer and his daughter during his travels with Arya. His lack of remorse displayed then is contrasted by his feelings of guilt now. He even wakes up in the middle of the night to bury the now deceased father and daughter. As The Hound rides north to take on the army of the dead and Arya rides south in her mission to kill Cersei, it doesn’t seem a reunion between the two will take place just yet. It will be interesting to see how the two would react to one another’s new perspective on the world if they were to ever cross paths again.

Other exciting progressions of storylines in the premiere include Cersei forming an alliance with the King of the Ironborn, Euron Greyjoy; Sam (John Bradley) meeting a greyscaled Jorah (Iain Glen) in Oldtown after a hilariously cut montage of the grunt work of his apprenticeship; and of course, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) finally returning to Westeros, alongside Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Varys (Conleth Hill) and her army of Tyrells, Greyjoys and Unsullied (not to mention her 3 dragons). Dany returning to Westeros has been a long time coming, and while it was very exciting to see her return to her ancestral home of Dragonstone, most of her scenes in the premiere were expository. It’s the prospect of what is to come and how hard she has worked to get to this point that makes this conclusion to the episode very fulfilling.

With only six episodes left in the season, and 12 left in the series overall, there is a lot to be done and a lot to be answered. When will Jon find out his true lineage? Will Cersei prevail? Do Jon and Dany align this season or will their ambitions go in different directions? Does any of it matter or will the army of the dead break through the wall and exterminate humanity all together? Those are just the main points to be made. Only time will tell as HBO’s record setting series begins its road to the end.