This is the first in a series of recaps of the seventh season of Game of Thrones. We assume you have seen the episodes if you are reading this. - Editor
The anticipation of the seventh season of Game of Thrones was unlike any I’ve seen in a long time. Season six left viewers at such a high point, it felt torturous that filming had to be delayed and a release wasn’t going to happen until July, instead of the usual April. But, winter has finally come to Westeros (and HBO). Beyond the rich narrative— one of the best I’ve seen—the layered themes that weave in and out of each episode are what make this show compelling. While not all of them can be touched upon each week, I aim to hone in on one theme per episode in these recaps and trace how these themes tie the narrative together.
This week, I think it’s important to consider the prominence of female characters. With the exception of Jon Snow, almost all of the primary characters left are female, which is particularly remarkable given the “medieval” time period. Cersei, Sansa, Arya, Daenerys, and even Brienne, have become the characters we watch with anticipation. They are neither all good, nor all bad (though one could make the argument that a now-childless Cersei has nothing tethering her to Good anymore). It’s their complexity that keeps them interesting.
The episode starts off with Walder Frey-masked Arya, replicating the Red Wedding, only this time the victims are the entire Stark-killing Frey family. “Tell them the North remembers,” she tells Frey’s now widowed wife, “Tell them winter came for House Frey.” We see Arya later in the episode as well, when she comes across a troupe of traveling Lannisters who welcome her in (along with a jarring cameo by Ed Sheeran). They ask here why “a girl like her” is traveling alone, and she tells them, “I’m going to kill the Queen.” As they all laugh at the absurdity of her statement, she laughs with them, letting them believe it’s all a joke.
Sansa, the true-born Stark to Jon Snow’s bastard, comes into her own. She has lived through the deaths of countless family members, deaths she believes could have been avoided. While she carries the same sense of duty and honor as her father Ned and brothers Robb and Jon, she has seen enough treachery to know when to let honor give way to shrewdness. After all of these years, she has found her voice, and she isn’t afraid to use it. When she challenges Jon, the now-proclaimed King of the North (a title that technically should be hers, as rightful heir), Jon gets upset and says that she shouldn’t undermine him, asking her rather sarcastically, “Should I listen to you?” Her reply, though mild, still declares her strength: “Would that be so bad?” She doesn’t force her hand, but she is confident in her knowledge and recognizes Jon’s naivety. It’s clear that she will do whatever it takes to protect Jon and prevent him from getting himself – and others – killed, even if it means a bit of deceit on her part. After all, she did learn a thing or two during her time with Littlefinger and Cersei.
Cersei, perhaps a little over-confident in her presumed role as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, refuses to listen to any sense from her brother Jamie. She has demanded all lords come and swear allegiance to her as Queen, and Euron from the Iron Islands quickly comes. She isn’t interested in true loyalty, as she is wise enough to know that no one in these times are truly loyal. In fact, she rather respects those that are shrewd enough to use others for their own purposes. So Jamie’s insistence that Euron will not be loyal to her doesn’t bother her. It isn’t until Euron declares that he’ll only give her his ships to fight Daenarys if she marries him, that she exerts her authority, but you can see she is intrigued and even a bit entertained by Euron’s hubris. Perhaps they would make a good match after all.
Finally, Daenerys and her crew reach Dragonstone, the Targaryen castle in Westeros. This is the first time she has seen the country of her ancestors, her true home, the one she believes is her kingdom. However, when they reach the throne room, Daenerys pauses in front of the incredible seat of power… and walks past it into the war room which is filled with a massive table carved in the shape of Westeros. She slowly walks to the head of the table and, with only one line, tells us everything we need to know about her character this season: she is ready to fight for her kingdom. She forgoes the thrill of power, already believing herself Queen, with no need to prove it to her subjects. Instead, she walks past the chair of glory and gets to work. “Shall we begin?”
Arya, Sansa, Cersei, and Daenerys have lived through six seasons of incredible pain, loss, torture, and despair, and they have come out stronger and more powerful than any other characters. They have taken their losses and turned them into strengths, showing that intuition, rage, pain, and compassion can all live together and inform each other. These women, once secondary characters to the stories of Tyrion, Jamie, Robb, and Jon, have become the central focus of Game of Thrones. They are the ones who have outwitted and outlived so many. Each driven by different things, they assert their power in unique ways, but all shine forth as incredible women to watch, even as they terrify us.
Lindsey Wright lives in Los Angeles with her husband and cat. She never expected to have a cat, let alone love it, but sometimes life is surprising. With BA in vocal performance and a Masters in theology, Lindsey loves pondering the mysteries of life through literature, music, and food. A Midwest girl at heart, she believes that kindness, a warm meal, and a bit of snark can bring anybody back to life. You can find her on Instagram as @mrslindseywright.