Considering Game of Thrones fans waited 448 days for the premiere of the shortest season to date, many were disappointed by the anticlimactic nature of Sunday’s episode. But the way I see it, Ed Sheeran cameo aside, the show writers did everything right: enemies were destroyed, crucial information was revealed and the stage was set for absolute chaos in Westeros.
For the first time in Game of Thrones history, all of the main characters are within the Seven Kingdoms:
Arya Stark sends an epic message: winter came for House Frey. Arya insisted she was going home last season, but her pit stop at the Twins and her confession that she is en route to kill the queen suggest otherwise. With the Freys gone, Arya’s list is nearly complete with only Queen Cersei and the Mountain remaining. Meanwhile, her chat with the Lannister soldiers seemed to remind Arya that sometimes good men get stuck fighting for the wrong side, and that all men dream of home. Whether that changes her mind about her trip to King’s Landing or only intensifies her desire to avenge her family is yet to be seen. As a side note, Arya’s list also included the Red Woman, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr and Ilyn Payne in Season Four, but none of these names were mentioned on her list in Season Six. Come to think of it, where is Ilyn Payne?
Arya’s direwolf could reveal herself this season. Although Bran’s direwolf, Summer, is gone (RIP), we know from previous seasons that Bran can warg into Summer’s siblings just as easily. We also know that direwolves are of the North, so it’s more than likely that when Arya let Nymeria go, the wolf headed in that direction. Maybe Bran will be able to feel Nymeria if she’s nearby? On the other hand, we did catch a glimpse of an unknown wolf in the Episode 2 preview, followed by a shot of a surprised Arya surrounded by what looks like snow. If that’s the closest we get to a Stark reunion this early in the season, I’ll take it.
Castle Black plays host to Bran and Meera. For the time being, Bran is safe amongst allies—and he comes bearing game-changing information about Jon’s ancestry, the White Walkers and more. The possibilities of what he’s seen are endless. The main concern: Bran was touched by the Night King, and that can’t mean anything good for the living. The ancient spells carved into the Wall’s foundation have kept the White Walkers at bay for thousands of years, but if the Night King’s mark gave the Army of the Dead access to the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave, who’s to say it won’t do the same with the Wall?
Sam Tarly would be better off with an invisibility cloak than a Valyrian steel sword. I’m not sure what happens when the Citadel discovers Sam has been sneaking into the restricted section, but those books will tell us what we need to know about dragonglass, the Long Night, the secrets of the Wall and potentially (hopefully) the cure for greyscale. Why is this information classified in the first place? What is he going to find that we don’t already know? As he continues his studies, keep in mind that Sam is also in possession of one of the few Valyrian steel swords left in Westeros. Someone should probably remind Jon Snow that dragonglass isn’t the only thing that kills White Walkers.
Dragonglass is more valuable than gold. Jon revealed to his fellow Northerners that dragonglass, also known as obsidian, kills White Walkers and Sam discovered crucial information about a mountain of dragonglass hidden beneath Dragonstone. At the Citadel, Sam might even learn how obsidian is made and whether dragons were involved in its formation. Sam sent Jon a raven, but to where? He left Castle Black prior to Jon’s murder and we don’t know when his last contact with the Night’s Watch was. It will be interesting to see who acts on this information and how, seeing as Daenerys has taken up residence at Dragonstone and currently perceives the Starks as enemies.
Sansa’s playbook was co-written by Cersei and Littlefinger. Sansa admitted that she has learned a great deal from Cersei and they might have more in common than we think. Like Cersei, it seems like Sansa is at her happiest when her enemies face defeat. Admittedly, she was smart to tell Jon to avoid making the same mistakes as Ned and Robb, and not to dismiss Cersei as a serious threat. Her experience with Cersei has taught her a thing or two about strategy—like, for instance, punishing treason and rewarding loyalty as Sansa suggested Jon do. Is she really beginning to resent her bastard brother for having the final word over a trueborn Stark? Or is she putting on a show to keep Littlefinger thinking he has the upper hand? Despite Sansa’s attitude toward Littlefinger, she is more intelligent, strategic and cynical because of him. It's only a matter of time before she undermines Jon again.
The King in the North, on the other hand…He needs to give Sansa a little more credit and see that she does have valuable insight. Nearly half the room cheered when Sansa suggested stripping the Umbers and Karstarks of their ancestral homes and awarding their castles to loyal families who stood behind Jon Snow in the Battle of the Bastards. Jon’s decision to instead trust the young Lord Umber and Lady Karstark was commendable, much like his decision to save the wildlings, but his admirable intentions have been known to backfire. The Starks have more enemies than the ones North of the Wall and Sansa could hold the key to defeating them.
Lyanna Mormont for president. I think it’s notable that Lyanna Mormont is much like her namesake, Lyanna Stark, who is often compared to Arya in that she was known to be fierce and strong-willed. In a flashback witnessed by Bran, we see Lyanna Stark interrupting her brothers’ sparring match while on horseback—reminding us of Season One Arya, who was already a better marksman than Bran and distinctly uninterested in any “ladylike” activities. Despite her age, Lady Mormont was quick to shoot down any notions that women shouldn’t take part in the war and swore to put swords in the hands of all the men, women and children at Bear Island. In a better world, she and Arya would have made fast friends.
Jaime speaks sense to his sister. The Lannisters know about the Freys’ demise and that Daenerys is on her way to Westeros with Tyrion at her side, but Cersei insisted that the Tyrells and the Dornish would never join forces with a Dothraki horde and an army of “slave soldiers,” as she put it. In other words, Cersei is in for a rude awakening. Without Euron Greyjoy’s fleet, Jaime is fully aware that they are on the losing side. Thanks to Cersei’s grand scheme to slaughter the future of House Tyrell—losing an uncle, a cousin and her last living child in the process—Jaime points out that his sister only has power over three of the seven kingdoms at best. The Freys were their last-remaining allies, but Sansa was right about one thing: Cersei will stop at nothing to destroy her enemies and with her children gone, she is a greater threat than ever. In fact, when Jaime asks if he should be afraid of her, she doesn’t even bother to respond.
Euron intends to return to King’s Landing with fire, blood or both. The only surprising aspect about a pending alliance between Euron and Cersei is the fact that he already built 1000 ships. After Theon and Yara hijacked Euron’s plan to give the Iron Fleet to Daenerys, it was inevitable that he would set his sights on Cersei. The family members who wronged them are all fighting for the Dragon Queen now, after all. It would be too easy—or too soon, at least—to suggest that his “priceless gift” to Cersei could be Tyrion’s head or the head of a dragon. Assuming he even makes it back to King’s Landing with a gift, other speculations might include Ellaria Sand, who killed Myrcella; Olenna Tyrell, who killed Joffrey; Varys, who helped free Tyrion; Gendry, King Robert’s bastard son; or the Hound, because any fan would love to see him destroy the Mountain.
The Hound’s own personal atonement. Burying the farmer and his daughter verified all the reasons Sandor Clegane has been my favorite character since Season One. Sansa should have left King’s Landing with the Hound when she had the chance because at the end of the day, the Hound is one of the good guys. More to the point, the Hound has finally seen the truth in the flames he hates—the Long Night is coming, the Night King comes with it, and he has a part to play in the wars to come. He’ll have to overcome his fear of fire if he’s going to face the Army of the Dead, though. In the meantime, we know from Season Four that the farmer he buried lived in the Riverlands, which happens to be where his former traveling companion Arya currently is as well.
Tormund Giantsbane readily agreed to man Eastwatch by the Sea. The closest castle to Hardhome, where Jon and the wildlings last encountered the Army of the Dead, has not been properly manned in many years. Fortunately for Jon, Tormund and the free folk agreed to defend the Wall despite their longstanding hatred for the Night’s Watch. Unfortunately for Tormund, the scene the Hound described from the flames occurred “where the Wall meets the sea,” a.k.a. Eastwatch. If that’s where the Brotherhood Without Banners is heading, it’s possible the Brotherhood and the free folk will combine forces to take on whatever is coming.
The Dragon Queen arrives at Dragonstone. Conveniently for Daenerys, her childhood home was left unoccupied by Stannis Baratheon just in time for her long-awaited arrival in Westeros. Even Tyrion remained speechless as she stepped on the beach for the first time after seven seasons of working toward this moment. All she had to do was circle the table carved by Aegon Targaryen and you knew the game was on.
Like any other premiere, the first episode of the season was a setup more than anything else, but was promising nonetheless.
Keep an eye out for my next article, featuring a list of all the known Valyrian steel seen or discussed throughout the HBO series.