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Daenerys preps for war - and season seven. (PHOTO: Macall B. Polay/HBO)

"Game of Thrones" recap: Daenerys and season seven are ready to begin

Well, you can't say season seven of "Game of Thrones" got off to a slow start.

"Dragonstone" opens with the rare cold open: Walder Frey giving a toast to all of his men – which is peculiar since, last we checked, Walder was really not enjoying a meat pie made of his sons and then REALLY not enjoying getting his throat slit. So this must definitely be Arya Stark – and after everyone in the house starts violently coughing up blood and falling dead from the wine, Walder rips off his face to reveal that, yep, it's Arya.

They sure milk the reveal for as long as possible, almost comedically so as Walder/Arya keeps noting, "It sure is great ALL OF MY MEN are here. All you men who MURDERED THE STARKS. Sure hope no STARKS POP UP ANYTIME SOON to do something to ALL OF MY MEN gathered IN THIS ONE ROOM TOGETHER. Anyways, let ALL OF MY MEN drink this SPECIAL WINE." But it's still an immensely satisfying moment – as one of my friends said, "I'm not used to all of this winning" – especially with Arya walking out preaching, "The North remembers." It's also a whipsnap way to open up the season, since much of the premiere was – as most "GoT" premieres are – busy putting its many, many, MANY pieces back on the board.

You could ride the energy and excitement of that open for the whole episode – though thankfully "Dragonstone" still had plenty more to offer, even if it's more table setting than meal.

For instance: the next shot right after the opening credits, a long shot of a wintery wasteland slowly overtaken by a dark, creeping fog – and inside of it, The Night King and his massive undead army marching south. Also: ZOMBIE GIANTS. It's an epic, ominous and eerie shot (series regular Jeremy Podeswa directed the premiere) that perfectly reminds the audience what's on its way. They – nor Bran, whose vision this is before arriving at the Wall – didn't appear again for the rest of the show, but that deadly fog tensely hangs over the rest of the episode.

Jon Snow certainly knows the feeling – and he, as newly crowned King of the North, is going about preparing for The Night King's arrival. Speaking to the lords, he says he'll need everyone to prepare to fight and mine for dragonglass – the only currently known capable weapon against the zombie White Walkers – and he means everyone, including the women. One lord bristles against that order, but little badass Lyanna Mormont has no time for that garbage and sits him down quite quickly.

But that's not the only discontent bubbling up in the frost for Jon Snow. During the meeting, he also forgives the Karstarks and Umbers for fighting against them at Winterfell, a decision Sansa vocally disagrees with in front of everybody – including a very smirky Littlefinger, but then again, he's always very smirky. She doesn't like treason going unpunished; he doesn't like taking a family's centuries-old castles for past sins – especially with a present evil en route. After plenty of side eye and stern, grumbly glares, Jon wins out – but things are still a little tense between family, with Sansa even comparing Jon's need for obedience to Joffrey. Them's fighting words!

Or not really, as the two still seem chummy by the end. Sansa just wants Jon to be smarter than Robb and their father (and therefore more alive) as well as respect the threat that is Cersei. One imagines this tension isn't going anywhere though – especially if sneaky Littlefinger is smirking around, creepily crushing on Sansa.

But speaking of Cersei, everyone's favorite villain is fast at work post-King's Landing bombing, painting a massive map of Westeros and plotting her triumphs. Jaime, however, is less convinced, as the two walk around the map and tensely debate the state of their allies – which is to say they have none. If they're going to rule the seven kingdoms, they're going to need more friends, Jaime sternly tells Cersei, to which Cersei summons Euron Greyjoy and his fleet of ships.

He comes in with zingers aplenty for Jaime, smirking about providing two good hands by Cersei's side, as well as a marriage proposal for Cersei. But – surprise! – Cersei decides to pass. As it turns out, Euron's probably talked about how much he's betrayed and murdered family members and allies too much for someone he was trying to convince to become his family member and ally. Jaime certainly wasn't a fan – but then again, Jaime's also Cersei's awkward incestuous lover, so he's probably not a fan of any potential suitor.

Euron isn't finished, however, as he says he has a gift that will win her hand. Could it be, as many have speculated, some of the Sands? Or maybe, as a friend and fan of the books told me, a horn with unknown powers over the dragons? That would definitely be useful for the Targaryen armada on its way.

Meanwhile, poor Sam is at Oldtown still training to be a maester, which apparently requires a lot of cleaning out horrific chamber pots, serving up soup, putting away books, cleaning out more horrific chamber pots and more soup serving. There's a great montage of Sam's days upon days of soup, spit and sh*t melding into a disgusting, swampy slurry of tedium – and when I say "great," I mean "gag-inducing." I'm never going to be able to eat Chunky soup after tonight's premiere.

But, worst of all, even with all that terrible work, Sam's still not allowed into the restricted area of the library – even with the essential task of researching more methods and strategies into defeating the White Walkers. He brings it up to his superior – hi Jim Broadbent! – mid-autopsy, just in case you haven't gagged enough this hour, and while ol' cheery Broadbent actually believes that Sam's seen White Walkers, he doesn't believe the Wall's at risk. So still no restricted area for Sam – unless he just sneaks in and swindles a few books anyways, which is exactly what he does.

Elsewhere, post-Frey murder Arya is galloping through the woods when she hears the sounds of singing echoing through the trees. Is there a wild Ed Sheeran afoot? Nope, it's just a bunch of soldiers, one of whom is singing a little tune and MY GOD IT'S ACTUALLY ED SHEERAN! I summoned a pop star through the power of sarcastic zingers. Anyways, the men laugh and joke with Arya about missing their families and pregnant wives and new babies and all sorts of very ominous sounding pleasantries. They're just missing one guy who's two days away from retirement. There's no way this doesn't end with a very dead Ed Sheeran.

For now, however, they get to live, as Arya tells them she's on her way to murder the queen, and they all thankfully laugh it off.

In non-Sheeran-related stories, however, Clegane and the Brotherhood Without Banners arrive at an abandoned snowy cabin – not just any abandoned cabin, but one belonging to a farmer Clegane robbed despite young Ayra's protesting years before. Sadly, things didn't go well for the farmer after that; Clegane finds him and his daughter dead in the corner, picking suicide over starvation. He gives them a burial out in the snow; it's the least he can do for his past actions. Meanwhile, he also has a religious debate with some of the Brotherhood, ending with a stare into the fire where he sees a vision of the Wall and the White Walkers, so maybe the religion isn't a bunch of hooey.

Most importantly, however, Clegane makes fun of a guy for sporting a topknot. Clegane is the best.

Meanwhile, Sam sleepily scours his stolen books when he discovers a whole land – Dragonstone – made of dragonglass, perfect for Jon Snow and his battle against the Walkers. He sends off a raven and celebrates his very important, tide-turning discovery ... by cleaning some more old man sputum. However, some of that sputum belongs to Jorah, who's looking very greyscale-y these days. He asks if Daenerys has arrived yet, but Sam doesn't know.

Daeny's certainly coming, though, as she, her fleet and her dragons land on Dragonstone – uh oh, that can't bode well for Jon Snow's hunt for dragonglass. Wordlessly, they venture about the forgotten isle, with Daeny putting her hand into the sand, walking along a massive wall and coming upon a war map of the kingdoms. Again, she, as well as Tyrion, have been silent this whole time, so the premiere must be building to some epic final words from Daenerys – and it does.

"Shall we begin?"

Indeed, season seven has.


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