WARNING: This review contains some spoilers for seasons one to six of Game of Thrones.

At long last, Game of Thrones is back on our screens for season seven; the penultimate season in the saga. ‘Dragonstone’ is the first of seven episodes this year, less than the usual ten per season, but we do get an extra season with another six episodes next year.

Just as you’d expect from TV’s boldest writers, the season gets off to a mic drop of a start with a pre-opening credits scene (always a sign something big is happening) which sets the tone for a fulfilling opening episode.

With so many moving parts in the show, there’s a lot of set-up to do. Therefore, there’s a lot more talking than there is action. What makes GoT one of the best TV shows right now though is its depth of brilliant characters. That means even in an episode where very little happens, it goes by so quickly and leaves you wanting more.

The star of the episode is easily ‘The Hound’ (Rory McCann), now travelling alongside the ‘Brotherhood Without Banners’. His cynical view of the world and general grumpiness provide superb moments of levity. However, as we have seen throughout the series McCann counteracts that with depth. He’s put through some challenging moments here, and it’s fascinating to see where his character is headed.

“Even in an episode where very little happens, it goes by so quickly.”

Elsewhere, Arya is still being badass, Tormund is still hilariously taken by Brienne of Tarth and the White Walkers continue to march towards the wall. Meanwhile, there’s an interesting similarity in the relationships of both the Stark and Lannister siblings. Sansa has become quite the force, unsurprisingly after everything she’s been through, and her questioning of Jon leads to some tension in Winterfell.

In King’s Landing, Cersei seems like someone with nothing more to lose having lost her three children, and this seems to worry Jaime who also questions his kin’s approach. Adding to the tension, this time Cersei may be looking further than her own family for a man, with Euron Greyjoy offering his huge fleet of ships and a ‘priceless gift’ for her hand in marriage.

Over in the Citadel, a very funny sequence shows us Samwell’s frustration at the lack of opportunity to learn about the White Walkers, instead having to quite literally be on crap duty. We’re introduced to a new character, Archmaester Marwyn (Jim Broadbent) who urges Sam to be patient. Sam rebels and stumbles on a vital piece of information which is sure to be important in the coming episodes.

“The most exciting moment by far is the long awaited return of Daenarys.”

Finally, the most exciting moment by far is the long awaited return of Daenarys to Westeros. It’s a stunning sequence with barely a line of dialogue. We see the Mother of Dragons returning to her birthplace, Dragonstone, for the first time in her memory. It’s very powerful and, with the terrific Ramin Djawadi score behind it, quite spine-tingling.

In summary, the strong start to a season that we expect from Game of Thrones. Pieces are being moved to tantalisingly exciting places and everything is already building up to what could be an extraordinary climax.

★★★★☆

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