Game of Thrones likes to keep viewers on their toes. Ever since Ned Stark’s (Sean Bean) head went rolling at the end of the first season, we knew that none of our favourite characters were safe. And with scenes like Red Wedding [shivers] or Margaery (Natalie Dormer) and the entire Sept going up into green flames, many of us accepted that if we wanted to feel good at the conclusion of a show, we should look elsewhere. But every once in awhile, the series comes through, like with the Purple Wedding, where Joffrey met his doom. And in the season seven premiere, the show catered to the demands of viewers in a really important way. If the opener was any indication, the seventh season of Game of Thrones is all about women as important, powerful players in the fight for the Seven Kingdoms.
The cold open sees Arya (Maisie Williams), with her new face-swapping skills, parading as the deceased Walder Frey (David Bradley) and murdering all of his men with a batch of poisoned wine. This is just another item crossed off of her to-do list, which is primarily made up of killing all of her enemies. Arya has been elevated to the status of an assassin hell-bent on revenge, yet we're still rooting for her. This falls in line with the treatment of male characters that are driven to the point of no return and start killing everyone in sight — their murderous mission becomes an epic saga. I’m glad Arya's is given the same respect.
Cersei (Lena Headey) has built the Westeros floor map of my cartophile dreams in one of the rooms of the Red Keep. She, drenched in all-black everything, is still plotting how to destroy her enemies, undeterred by the her youngest child's suicide. She turns down a marriage proposal from an overconfident douchebag in the form of Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk), and I’m grateful for it.
In nearby Dragonstone, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) has finally made it home. Ready to assume her place on a throne she thinks is her birthright, the Mother of Dragons steps off of a boat in heels and perfectly coiffed hair to take it all in. It is a beautiful homecoming, an actualisation of the thing she has worked for throughout her entire adulthood. I almost expected her to cry. Instead, the first words spoken in her new home are, “Shall we begin?”. The war to come is going to depend on the success or failure of these two women.
But perhaps the most shining example of girl power in last night’s episode came from the women of the North. Sansa (Sophie Turner) is smarter than both Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) give her credit for, and she knows it. While both still see her as the naive female heir to Winterfell, viewers know better. No longer is she invested in fairy tales of charming princes and the joys of being queen. Jon is extremely pouty after Sansa second-guesses his authority during a meeting with the Lords of the North, but it’s clear that we will soon find that she is right. And fierce Lady Mormont (Bella Ramsey), the youngest in the bunch, would hear no objections to girls and women also training for combat. I don’t blame her. The white walkers don’t discriminate based on gender, nor should the living.
It seems that some of the feminist critiques of Game of Thrones have not fallen on deaf ears. Women do rule the Seven Kingdoms, at least until the white walkers show up.