"Game of Thrones" stunned fans by starting the seventh season with a cold open. This is only the third time in the series' history HBO skipped straight to the action before running the title sequence, which immediately signaled that viewers were in for a treat.
The scene opened on Walder Frey seated at the head of a great feast in the Twins. Anyone who watched the season six finale knew what this must mean — Arya Stark had taken Walder Frey's face after murdering him, and was now posing as the the Lord of House Frey. Unsatisfied with killing just Walder, she had come for every man in House Frey.
Walder/Arya explained to the gathered men that she brought "every Frey who means a damn thing" into one room to tell them of her plans for the "great house, now that winter has come."
But first — a toast.
Servant girls came forward at Walder/Arya's beckon, and poured glasses of the finest Arbor gold. "Proper wine, for proper heroes," she said. (When Walder's new, young wife tried to take a glass, Arya stopped her by using a Walder-esque excuse of not wanting to "waste good wine on a damn woman.")
Then, in perfect "reverse Red Wedding" fashion, Walder/Arya gave a speech while every male descendant of House Frey drank deeply from their poisoned goblets.
"I'm proud of you lot," Arya said. "You're my family, the men who helped me slaughter the Starks at the Red Wedding."
The men cheered, not yet feeling the effects of their poisoned drinks.
"Yes, yes. Cheer. Brave men, all of you," Arya said. "Butchered a woman pregnant with her baby. Cut the throat of a mother of five. Slaughtered your guests after inviting them into your home."
Viewers at home could sense the atmosphere of the room shift, as the men looked slightly confused and uncomfortable.
"But — you didn't slaughter every one of the Starks," Arya said. "No, no. That was your mistake. You should have ripped them all out, root and stem. Leave one wolf alive, and the sheep are never safe."
As she spoke, every man fells to the floor, coughing up foaming blood and clutching their throats. The camera circled around Walder/Arya as she looked down upon the scene, smiling. Then she reached up and pulled off Walder's face.
"When people ask what happened here, tell them the north remembers," Arya said to the Frey girl beside her. "Tell them winter came for House Frey."
Watching the scene unfold, you could almost hear the cheers in living rooms around the world. If you thought Jon and Sansa had avenged the Red Wedding in the Battle of the Bastards, think again. This was the true vengeance fans of House Stark wanted, even if we never could have imagined Arya pulling off a massacre of this scale.
Adding to the deliciousness of the scene was Arya's restraint. She didn't harm the young women kept in Walder Frey's castle and forced to serve the men food, and who likely served them unwillingly in more perverse ways, too. In the books, Walder is infamous for surviving eight different wives — many of them young and visibly disgusted by their situation.
He had hundreds of children, both bastards and trueborn, but not any more. Arya Stark wiped out House Frey's male line with a single batch of poisoned wine, and smiled as she walked through the room of the dead.
Now Arya is heading to King's Landing to kill Queen Cersei, the next victim on her kill list. We watched as she made herself comfortable in a camp of Lannister soldiers (a group which included the significant cameo from Ed Sheeran). Will we get an equally satisfying death of Cersei at the hands of Arya?
We'll have to wait until next week to see what her next move is, but if this opening is any indication, then we're in for a treat when it comes to Arya's season seven storyline.
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