Among all of the typically great establishing work and the deliciously barbed dialogue (with a record number of c-bombs, it seems), the first episode of the colossally hyped seventh season of Game Of Thrones featured a couple of great cameos.
The first (and least notable for most) was for Thomas Turgoose, the young actor most notable for his work in the exceptional This Is England film and TV shows, who turned up as a Lannister soldier Arya encounters on her way to King’s Landing after slaughtering the remaining Freys.
The second cameo appears in the same scene, as global pop music icon Ed Sheeran turns up as another of the Lannister soldiers, singing a song that actually draws Arya’s attention to the soldiers. It’s an incredibly odd cameo, given how distracting he immediately is (though he’s not the first musician to have turned up in Game Of Thrones by any means) and because of the fundamental strangeness of the exchange.
She comes across the patrol of soldiers in a forest clearing, and perhaps because we’re primed to expect the worst in the world, their offers of hospitality and food immediately seem suspicious. Obviously, Arya is not naive, but these were Lannister men – surely they would be as evil as their fearless leader?
It looks absolutely set up for Arya to kill the soldiers, but it seems to offer a brief moment of clarity for her – and pushes George RR Martin’s message about the futility of war – as she finds some humanity in their normalcy. They aren’t there to kill her – they’re genuinely gentlemen, far removed from the usual coarseness found in purely military characters in Westeros (well, aside from Jaime, anyway) – and she seems to visibly conclude that there is a difference between the instruments of war and those who guide them.
It’s the kind of revelation you’d expect from an anti-war film set in World War II – with foot soldiers on either side of the trenches recognizing themselves in each other but still forced to kill. And you get a very real sense that this will come back to shape Arya’s mentality of killing this season, as her initial assessment of the situation (glancing at their weapons), changes very markedly.
Whether we’ll see Sheeran, Turgoose and their party again in episode 2 or beyond remains to be seen, but Arya is still with them (and if she really intends to kill Cersei, their uniforms and faces would probably come in handy for someone of her skills).
Then again, killing Ed Sheeran might have been a step too far even for Game Of Thrones fans. Nobody likes to see puppy stomp moments like that.