These weekly episode reviews recaps will contain spoilers for the episode. So if you haven’t seen it yet, STOP NOW. The Rains of Castamere are playing. SPOILERS ABOUND. 

Ah, Game of Thrones is back! It feels like forever but I think this season will hopefully worth the wait. There’s promises of big battles and big conflicts, and this episode is the cold burn before all of that big stuff happens. The setting of the chess board, if you will.

I have to say, the cold opening for this episode was pretty great. David Bradley is always a welcome actor to any production, and his turn again as Walder Frey is equal parts grotesque and mesmerizing. You can’t help but watch him. The reveal that Walder Frey is actually Arya–and there to kill the Freys who murdered her family…

Damn, man. Good stuff. After last season of her not doing too much but learning, she’s finally unleashed to release her revenge. Excited to see more bloodshed in her wake this season.

There’s a lot of exposition this episode to quickly remind you the state of affairs in this season. We see Cersei plotting with Jaime to figure out who her allies are. And somehow Euron Greyjoy has already built over a thousand ships to ally with her in the fight against the North, the South, the West…and the East. As Cersei says–she’s got enemies all over and I don’t think the end will be good for her. Especially when you throw your lot in with someone as insane as Euron Greyjoy.

Then we get brief looks at how Jon and Sansa are handling being back in charge in the north. Jon is trying to rally the north together for the oncoming onslaught of the White Walkers–which the writers of this episode remind you that they are coming in force just after the title sequence. It was eerie seeing them shamble along with bright blue eyes, with giants among their ranks. A quick scene snap shows that Bran was showing us this vision all along, and him and Meera are outside the Wall Gates. After a brief chat with Grenn, they are let into the “safety” of the wall.

Speaking of giants, there seems to be a power struggle a bit between Jon and Sansa…Sansa clearly thinks what she thinks is correct, Jon sees it otherwise. This is not a conflict that will go away and will probably come to a head later on in the season. Meanwhile Baelish is brooding in the background, waiting to pounce on what he wants. Creepy dude.

We also get some time with the Hound and Thoros / Beric, those servants of the Lord’s Light. He happens upon a house where he knew the farmer and daughter, who, much to his chagrin have died. He also has his skepticism of religion tested when Beric asks him to look in the flames and he sees visions of the White Walkers and the Wall. Later on, Sandor Clegane / The Hound shows his most humane moment to date when he buries the father and daughter who died in the farm house.

This set of scenes was interesting…in a previous trailer there’s snippets showing that Thoros can summon a flaming sword–like the lord of light. We’re obviously getting some setup for bigger magic to play in Game of Thrones and maybe the Hound will be apart of that somehow.

Arya meets Ed Sheeran in the forest among a group of Lannister soliders. No–that’s not a misprint. It was actually Ed Sheeran looking awkward as fuck. Game of Thrones has a history of doing this with guest stars…Will Champion of Coldplay was actually present at the Red Wedding as a drummer, for instance. She sees the soldiers as just normal people doing their duties, which was a bit of a shock for her I think. She also says she wants to murder the Queen, which…they all think is a funny, funny joke.

Sam is not doing well at the Tower of Oldtown….he’s mostly been made a servant, cleaning up shit (in what was the grossest sequence I’ve ever seen on Game of Thrones), feeding people, and tidying up. He doesn’t get to read the books he wants until he steals a set of keys from some old codger. Jim Broadbent makes a random appearance as the Arch Maester who believes that Sam is telling the truth about white walkers. Then he promptly leaves the room since Sam isn’t really a Maester yet. However, Sam makes a pretty startling discovery about Dragonstone, the Targaryean ancestral home. There’s a mother fucking mound of Dragon Glass under there; nay–a fucking mountain of it. DUN DUN DUN….! Foreshadowingggggggg…….

And cut to Daenerys and her magical fleet of exiled Greyjoys, Tyrion, and the Unsullied / Doth Raki horde she now controls. They land at Dragonstone, which was abandoned by Stannis, and she makes her way past the throne and into the war room, where’s there’s nice models of everything she needs to plot her revenge. She glances at Tyrion and says “Where do we begin?”

Cue black screen, end of episode.

All in all, not a bad one and definitely a slow burner to start what is promised to be a very epic season.  The board is set. Let us see where it takes us.

8/10