Beware! The night is dark and full of terrors, and this review will have spoilers. Which could be a scarier prospect.
If you need a briefing for this season, DO NOT READ ON. But go here instead.
This week: Shall we begin?
Fake out! If you were thinking we were somehow flashing back to Walder hosting a post-Red Wedding celebration of his murderous actions, you might not have seen the Arya twist coming. But seriously... Surely we all realised it was Westeros' most dangerous Stark pulling off some Ethan Hunt deception, with a spot-on impression. Oh, and she murders all the Frey family members with poisoned ale. It's an effective little scene, even if it does have you wondering what the timeline is here. Still, major points to David Bradley for slowly altering how he plays Frey to show that it's actually Arya.
Bran (fresh from the vision of the Night King and his zombie hordes marching towards the wall) finally makes it to the Wall, and Edd lets he and Meera in with barely a question. It's almost an Obi-Wan and the "these aren't the droids you're looking for moment" and seems weird given how suspicious the Night Watch usually are. But still...
Meanwhile, proving that he might actually know something (we'll see), Jon is rallying support and clashing with his sister, Sansa, who seems about three arguments away from telling him she hates him and going to her room. But this is Sansa we're talking about, not some sullen teen and after everything she's seen and heard, and with Littlefinger's counsel, is not above reminding Jon that he'd do well to listen to some counsel of his own. The Joffrey thing was a low blow, though.
Still, while the scene is mostly Jon making sure he still has allies, it's made that much more enjoyable by the continued badassery of Lyanna Mormont, still played to memorable effect by Bella Ramsay.
Also chatting away about their position are Cersei and Jaime Lannister, who following the former's explosive power grab are now facing clowns to the left of them, jokers to the rig... Er, enemies from all sides. They're going to need allies if they're going to face off against everyone else, even if Cersei doesn't seem to think that Jeremy (still what we want to call The Night King) is that much of a threat yet.
But who do they call? Euron Greyjoy! Yeah... that'll end well. Pilou Asbaek continues to offer just the right blend of smarm and slime as Euron, who works well off of Lena Headey's steely Cersei. But marriage between those two? Even with the potential fleet it would score you, you can do better, Cersei. Maybe agree to something then kill his men and take his ships?
Sam, meanwhile, is still working in the library. At least, when he's not consumed by lesser duties. It's a shit business for poor Tarly – literally. The montage of him emptying bed pans, washing them and then filling awfully similar food bowls was an amusing one, even if the team seemed to let it linger a little longer than they might. It goes from depressing, to funny and then right back to gross and depressing. Still, at least it introduces us to Jim Broadbent as Archmaester Marwyn, who appears to have wandered in from a BBC crime show. Violent Witness, given the usual nature of Thrones? He's a good fit in the role so far, even if he is somewhat saddled with a vaguely Basil Exposition role. Maybe someone finally believes that Sam really has seen the dead walking, but he still needs to steal the Archmaester's keys to sneak into the restricted part of the library. Where, we can assume, all the really rude etchings are kept.
Back with Jon and co., Brienne is still teaching Pod to fight in her typically unforgiving style, much to Tormund's amusement. We're still not sure that his creepy attention is winning her heart, though, even if it is distracting her. Maybe suggest a nice walk, dude. Sansa, meanwhile, is clearly getting a little sick of Littlefinger's smart-talking ways and his own slightly stalkery attention.
We catch up with Arya as she meets some Lannister soldiers dispatched to help with the Frey situation (little do they know what has really gone down). There's a slightly predictable moment when you think they might learn that Arya really does intend to murder their queen, but it's soon laughed off. There's some depth to be found here, exploring the lives of the sorts of enlisted men you usually just seen being slaughtered in big battles. And yes, we do worry for the one whose wife just had a baby. He should probably be making peace with whatever gods he worships.
The Hound is finding life with Thoros and Dondarrion a little tiresome, though he changes his tune when he actually has a vision from the fire. He sees dead people! Well, zombies. And there is a crucial shift to be found in his attitude here; while once he cared little for anyone else, now he's concerned about properly burying the dead. Even though you suspect they died at his hand...
Sam has not found rude etchings, but instead has tracked down some vital information about Dragonglass. Such as where to find a mountain of it... Convenient! But even that is topped by the surprise cameo from one Jorah Mormont, who is in one of the hospital... cells... suffering mightily from Greyscale. At least we know he's still alive!
His former crush object has also made progress! Daenerys and her armies have arrived in Westeros! Hooray! Thoughtfully they've dressed for chillier weather (Missandei for one would catch her death were she still in her midriff baring previous clobber). A superb scene plays out almost in silence as Dany strides on to the beach at Dragonstone then leads Tyrion and the rest into the former Targaryen castle like they're on a cruise excursion. She'll have to add "Guider Of Tours" to her list of titles if she keeps this up. Still, there's more power to the moments of her finally coming home, which build to her simple statement, delivered in the castle's disused war room. Season 7 is go!
A fairly standard kick-off to a Game Of Thrones season, then: lots of pieces sliding into place, and perhaps a little slower than we might have expected given that this season only has seven episodes. But if you consider the final two batches as one season sliced into sections, then we suppose there's more room for little bits of exposition and scene-setting. It's still exciting to see new alliances form, but surely the best is saved for last as Dany is finally on the same continent as everyone else. Just what will her next move be? She does have dragons at her disposal, after all...
Highlight: Dany's landing.
Lowlight: The poop montage. Poor Sam.
Kill of the week: It was a bad evening to be a Frey (See Quote of the week).
Quote of the week: "Tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter has come for the Freys." Arya, perfecting the James Bond killer sign-off.
MVP: The Hound, for his soul-searching. Great work from Rory McCann.
Random thought: Yes, that is Ed Sheeran crooning with the Lannister troops. No one runs in and attacks him for warbling away, but perhaps the producers are holding that for the season finale?
Game Of Thrones airs Sunday evenings on HBO in the States, with a simulcast on Sky Atlantic and Now TV in the early hours of Monday and a repeat Monday evenings at 9pm.