Game of Thrones, S7 E1 “Dragonstone”
Written by David Benioff, George RR Martin, and DB Weiss
Directed by Jeremy Podeswa
“Tell them winter came for House Frey.”
The Norse Vikings believed that to deny someone the consequences of their actions was to do them a disservice, and constituted a moral lapse. To leave a family member unavenged not only dishonored the wrongdoer, but also left a hole in the fabric of the world. We live in a world in which the ideas of forgiveness and mercy have gained prominence, in part because unending blood feuding shifts too much of the population from the land of the living to the land of the dead. In the Seven Kingdoms, the wars of men have decimated the ranks of the living. Now, death will take every single person if the women rulers and fighters of Westeros do not unite against their common enemy. What good are vengeance and power if no one survives to enjoy them?
Perhaps there is one exception. The warring kingdoms of Westeros may not need to join together against the King of the Night. If anyone can defeat him and his army of dead people single-handedly, it is Arya Stark.
Season 7 opens with what looks like a flashback. Walter Frey throws a feast for his umpteen sons, initially commending them for their successes in defeating the Starks of Winterfell. His toast, however, turns into a harangue, and he decries the fact that they left one wolf alive. His sons drink the wine he has served them, but Walder does not take even a sip. As every male member of the Frey family vomits blood and dies on the floor of the feasting hall, Walder removes his face. Arya, one young woman alone, has avenged the massacre of her family at the Red Wedding.
Later, on the road to King’s Landing, Arya comes upon a band of Lannister soldiers taking their evening meal and camped for the night. She listens to them “thinking out loud” about their lot in life. There is great tension in this scene: a young woman alone at nightfall seems so vulnerable in the midst of the soldiers, yet the viewer knows that the soldiers are in far greater danger from the young woman. The soldiers offer Arya food. She repeatedly refuses the offer, not wishing to dilute their already meager meal. They insist and she eats. She would kill them in a heartbeat if they threatened her, but she won’t deprive them of their meal. This killer is kind, and she has known suffering. The lads ask Arya what a “nice girl” like her is traveling to King’s landing for, and she flat out tells them. “I’m going to kill the queen,” she says, and after a brief pause, they laugh at her joke. They do not believe her. I believe her. In fact, I believe she may kill more than one queen. Though her motives are personal, the survival of Westeros may ultimately depend on Arya successfully avenging all of her dead family members. If she leaves one murdering, power hungry royal alive, then the hole that leaves in the fabric of the world may result in the death of every living person. Conversely, if she does succeed in avenging her dead family members, she may take out essential warriors in the war against the Army of the Dead, and that too may result in the death of every living person.