Thought-provoking and intimate Instead of the explosive, action-packed comeback many were expecting, we get something far more subtle and contemplative. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. ‘Dragonstone’ may lack the epic fireworks that have been teased – aside from one bloodthirsty early scene – but what it lacks in action it makes up for in some thought-provoking, intimate scenes.
There’s even an entirely wordless five-minute sequence at one point. And it’s oddly beautiful. Similar to the ‘establishing’ openers of seasons past, we catch up with the various key players and their situations. The Starks are finally in the ascendent – but things are far from simple.
Jon is rallying the North to face the White Walker threat, though Sansa is not entirely in agreement with his decisions.
Cersei and Jaime are contemplating a plan to beat overwhelming odds, as Daenerys’ armada heads for the castle of her birth.
But it is away from the military planning and imminent conflicts that this episode truly excels. The more low-key sub-plots and characters shine here. The Hound’s actions as he travels North with the Brotherhood Without Banners are illustrative of how far he has come as a character. He gets some sobering, moving moments.
Arya, meanwhile, has an encounter that appears to challenge her increasing bloodlust and cynicism. Even if a distracting celebrity cameo sticks out like a sore thumb.
Most enjoyably of all is the start of Sam’s training at the Citadel. A fun excuse for an amusing montage that adds some neat humour into proceedings. He’s starting literally at the bottom, it’s fair to say.
Throw in a couple of genuinely exciting surprises and a new, heavyweight name among the cast, and you have a recipe for solid drama indeed.
That said, anyone readying themselves for CGI-laden battles and a colossal body-count from the start is going to be disappointed. And the slower pace won’t please everyone.
Also, a certain villain has gone a bit ‘Jack Sparrow’ for some reason, which is definitely not ideal.
Ultimately though, you have to respect the writers for not just throwing spectacle at the screen, and continuing instead to explore the humanity of this saga and its characters.
After all, it’s that which keeps us watching – just as much as the gore and dragons.
Game Of Thrones season 7 episode 1 is available to watch on Sky catch-up and NOW TV now