Well, so much for hopes of a diplomatic solution. New photos from the upcoming Game of ThronesSeason 7 dropped Monday — and while they don’t offer a whole lot of new information, they do confirm what we suspected when we saw Queen Daenerys Targaryen’s ships heading westward at the end of Season 6. Westeros is about to be plunged into war of a kind that the continent hasn’t seen for a century and a half within the Game of Thrones timeline — a war with dragons.
The widespread immediate response to the first exclusive photo on EW was “look at the size of those dragons!” Less noted were the soldiers and the flames in the background of the shot — which implies a more historic event than you might realize.
Consider that the mother of dragons was (finally!) leaving Essos and heading for Westeros at the end of Season 6. According to the in-world maps, there’s literally nothing between the two continents.
So if Dany is using her dragons in a ground battle, that means she’s at war somewhere in the Seven Kingdoms, and the showrunners have at last run out of ways to delay this moment.
Even if the Mother of Dragons has only made landfall on the island of Dragonstone in this picture — other set photos suggest she reaches the throne room at Dragonstone, which would be entirely appropriate given that the island is the historic seat of the Targaryens — that still counts as part of the continent of Westeros.
And that in turn brings up a piece of Westeros history that the nerdiest fans know: Dragons haven’t been used in a battle on the continent for more than 150 years, not since a conflict known as the Dance of the Dragons.
George R.R. Martin has promised he’ll drop a complete history of that war just as soon as he’s done with the “Song of Ice and Fire” series, so don’t hold your breath. But all you really need to know is this: the Targaryen kings’ line of dragons, which had been used to invade the continent in the first place, died out shortly afterwards.
That means the Westerosi armies are as unprepared as any in Slavers’ Bay for the coming fire. Though rumors of dragons in the east have been heard for years in the show, few have taken the threat seriously.
If Dany reaches Dragonstone, she may have good reason to use them. The island is theoretically the seat of the late Stannis Baratheon, and its castle is famously impregnable. Dragons would make short work of defenders in any sort of siege situation.
We’ll find out for sure once Game of Thrones returns to our screens on July 16.