Review: Winter is here, shall we begin?

During my morning social media scroll, the gleaming light of Snapchat reminds me about a premier us fanatics had been salivating for the past few months. I hurriedly open my laptop to ramble the keyboard to reach the site which has graciously been the source of all movies and shows (alternatively, you can also watch it on Hotstar). As the benign groan of the sky makes way for the droplets to fall, my tryst with ‘Dragonstone’ unearths with expectant eyes and converged attention.

Comes a face which brings out the tacit cringe you had wanted to flick on this odious man. Walter Frey, Head of the House of Treachery,  cradles the fellow men on for their splendid feat of butchering a mother of five and a woman with a baby in the womb. His exultation prolongs, and the insinuation grows deeper. After a brief remembrance of this Lord’s fate in the last season, the plot unveils and we nod in sheer appreciation of what the opening scene brings. Naturally, Arya Stark proudly caters to the role which the House of Black and White proffered, and in a much-fitting vengeance-induced strategy, the wine manages to take out the remaining clan. All that reverberates in the decrepit castle is the rightful echo of ‘The North Remembers.’ The cold, satisfying launch to Season 7 was the subtle reminder we needed to appreciate the mastery of Arya Stark of Winterfell. She sums up the strategic plot when she coined the phrase “Leave one wolf alive and the sheep are not safe.”

The familiar score plays and our feelings are akin to Jon Snow’s when he reached Winterfell: we’ve finally come home. Even after 60 episodes of squealing and unexpected expectations, I’m unable to click the forward icon to skip the masterful credits. We’re then transported through Bran Stark’s warg-eyes to see the bewildering movement of the Army Beyond the Wall, and the urgency travels when John Snow addresses the banner Lords to rummage the North for Dragonstone. Honestly, Jon Snow’s Karstark and Umber decision oozed off a decision wrapped in knowledge and prudence. Sansa Stark seems fiery and headstrong, warning this King of the North of the tremulous past and how listening to her might save his head. Plausible argument, indeed. The onus of concern for the North lies with the Night King and his formidable pack of icy-dead-people, and Cersei’s reminder to forfeit brings us back to the civil war which plagues Westeros. (Speaking of which, Cersei of the House Lannister, First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, was extremely goosebumpy!)

Speak of the devil and devil gloriously paces the map of Westeros with stirring eyes and an all-men-must-die disposition. The tantalizing map of Westeros lies upon us, and as Queen Cersei assess the threats from the North, South, West, we get a precursor of the supreme wrath and will of this Lannister in the episodes to come. We know for sure, Cersei Lannister has chosen violence. Far from his devil-may-care attitude in the initial seasons, Jaime has evolved to drive the reign steadily. His apparent reproach of calling in the ‘Iron King’ (who basically then gives the cheesiest proposal) is concurred by us. For Cersei, nothing is out of bounds. And that sheer will slightly reflects in Euron Greyjoy; an alliance which would wreak thunder on the cold skies.

Travelling from King’s Landing to the Citadel marks for one of my favourite scenes in the episode. The dreary life of Samwell Tarly is lived and relived, and his dreams of becoming the Maester don’t appear as easy as they did before. His adventure into the restricted section of the library leaves him to discover the mount of Dragonglass lying conveniently at Dragonstone; a discovery which forebodes an alliance between the King in the North (Jon Snow’s explicit orders to dig for the said equipment) and the Dragon Queen (more on this below). Citadel’s diary ends with a suppressed squeak and an absolute Oh-my-seven-gods moment; Jorah Mormont’s greyscales have majorly infected his arm, and the scene zooms out lingering on his questionable condition.

Beyond the sheltered castles and in the forest, the Brotherhood without the Banner, featuring a resurrected Sandor Clegane, bring the Lord of the Light back in the loop. “The wall of Ice, where the wall meets the sea. There’s a castle there, the mountain looks like an arrow head, dead are marching past,” sends a chill down the spine. His expedition perusing the fire bores fruit to a distant but nearing reality. Miles away, Arya Stark tumbles on the group sent in to strike peace in the troubled Riverlands. Yes, this was the time when I gasped and paused and acted like the real-life version of “!!!!!” The folksy tune he sings has been borrowed from George R R Martin’s literature, which goes like:

He rode through the streets of the city,
down from his hill on high, O’er the wynds and the steps and the cobbles,
he rode to a woman’s sigh.
For she was his secret treasure,
she was his shame and his bliss.
And a chain and a keep are nothing,
compared to a woman’s kiss

For hands of gold are always cold, but a woman’s hands are warm. . .

To see the dreamy Grammy winner serenading our mighty warrior from the North, that’s how fandoms thrive and excite. Naturally, Arya was drawn to the voice to encounter the group with the ignoble intent of ‘killing the Queen.’ The relentless desire to perish all those on her ‘kill’ list leaves you wondering about the true spirit of the Stark house.

The anti-climactic climax is the lightning strike to revive the fandom back to life. The last six minutes of the episode gloss over the last six years’ journey of Daenerys Targaryen of amassing armies, establishing alliances, raising the dragons and proving to all the fire and ice which membrane her existence. The Dragon Queen finally lands on the shores of Dragonstone, her ancestral home (formerly occupied by the nefarious Stannis Baratheon after Robert’s mighty rebellion). While the Westerosi continued to tussle the reign of power over the Iron Throne, the arrival of the last surviving Targaryen has an aura of legitimacy to it (it doesn’t hurt that she has three dragons with her). All the plausible contenders have officially entered the rink of battle in Westeros, and the countless possibilities of forging alliances are overwhelming.

The 360 seconds explore the Dragonstone, the rightful seat of the Targaryen clan before Valyria perished.  It was where Aegon the Conqueror established the reign of the Mad King with his dragon and emerged to be the first ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. It is where Robert Baratheon’s rebellion ousted the murderous King and where the trouble began. Dragonstone is the seat of historical plunders and Daenerys’ return brings the decades of uprising full circle. It sets the last two seasons for a formidable war; beyond the realm of imagination.

As the rhythms of the opening credits pall over the oddly cathartic scene, her fingers and eyes try to scan the ravages the years gone by and proceeds to the expansive Westeros map with Tyrion (second occurrence of the map, which is extremely cool considering the two Queens at different ends gloss over the logistics to declare a bitter war). The three words ring the halls of the Small Council and our minds, as we embark on this menacing and fearsome battle field, when Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons utters,

“Shall we begin?”