It’s finally here! A new episode of Game of Thrones! No more guesses pieced together from bits of trailers and photos. But that also means that this spoiler warning should be taken a bit more seriously. This post contains frank discussion of the Game of Thrones Season 7 premiere titled “Dragonstone.” If you haven’t watched yet, now’s the time to leave. Seriously, we mean it.
As the episode title itself indicated, Daenerys arrived this week at the ancestral seat of Dragonstone. We’ve seen glimpses of the castle before when Stannis Baratheon was camped out there in earlier seasons. Actually , fun fact, you may also have seen Dragonstone before in the backdrop of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight set.
But you probably know it best from Stannis’s tenure there where he and Melisandre memorably christened Aegon Targaryen’s painted map table and made themselves a shadow baby.
But that was the old Dragonstone. Meet the new Dragonstone. At the Game of Thrones premiere in Los Angeles earlier this week, showrunner D.B. Weiss credited the show’s Emmy-winning production designer Deb Riley for creating the show’s best set yet. He didn’t name the location but it was to be the dragon-encrusted lair where Daenerys will plot to take over the Seven Kingdoms.
To honor the momentous occasion of Daenerys’s arrival, Weiss and David Benioff decided less was more. If Team Targaryen’s entrance into Dragonstone felt oddly silent, they explain why. In HBO’s official behind-the-scenes interview, Weiss says: “There was so much weight on that arrival that we felt a bunch of dialogue would be unnecessary and would only step on the moment.”
Benioff adds: “Everyone is givng her a little distance. Even Tyrion who is usually the most loquacious of people, he’s not talking because he wants her to experience it. At one point Grey Worm is going to walk up alongside Dany and Missandei holds him back because she wants Dany to experience this on her own.” That would explain why Peter Dinklage kicked off this season in total silence.
Riley went to a good deal of trouble to lighten and expand the dark Dragonstone we first saw during Stannis’s reign. (A gloomy castle for a gloomy would-be king.) With a much bigger budget than they had in those early days, the show was not only able to add massive dragons circling the castle’s peaks, but also a bright exterior to the severe Dragonstone including the show-stopping Zumaia beach in Spain.
Weiss and Benioff had a few more things to say about Arya, the Hound, Sansa, and more but the most fascinating moment comes when they compare and contrast Cersei and Daenerys. Both women seem ever in danger of becoming Mad Queens. Daenerys because of her heritage, Cersei because of her temperament. But Weiss and Benioff underline a huge difference.
Cersei, they say, will do anything it takes to survives. She’ll blow up a Sept killing thousands at a time if it means ridding herself of the Sparrows and those pesky Tyrells. But what about Daenerys? “Dany is constrained a little bit,” Benioff explains, “by her morality and her fear of hurting innocents.” Whether not that will be an advantage or a drawback for either Queen in their war to come remains to be seen but Weiss hinted that the show may want to follow Cersei down the path of madness she takes in the books. In Cersei’s point of view chapters, George R.R. Martin writes her a paranoid inner monologue:
“The queen is wise. These walls have ears.”
“So they do.” At night
Cersei sometimes heard soft sounds, even in her own apartments. Mice
in the walls, she would tell herself, no more than that.
Weiss notes that though Jaime is trying to get Cersei to engage with the rapid-fire loss of her three children, the Queen of Westeros is not interested. “If she starts going there, it’s gong to be a long, long fall,” he says. Lucky Daenerys is on the scene to pick up the potential pieces.
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