Welcome to "A Song of Nice and Fire," Upworthy's weekly "Game of Thrones" recap series. When we decided to recap of the most brutal show on TV, we realized that brutality is not really in our wheelhouse, so we tasked writer Eric March with hunting for the good, kind, wholesome GoT moments like a needle in a haystack. Here's what he found.

I see you giving me that side-eye, The Hound. Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO.


OK. Let's do this.

Frankly, I don't blame you for being skeptical. I was, too, when I first sat down to write about all the nice things that happened in the Season 7 premiere of "Game of Thrones." Everything about it seemed impossible (other than coming up with a snazzy, punny series title).

Trying to find lovingkindness in a show known for epic backstabbing, front-stabbing, and all-sides-stabbing is like trying to find new-wave music on "Empire," conservative opinions on "The Daily Show," or whatever doesn't happen on "Suits" on "Suits" (I don't watch "Suits").

Niceness just doesn't seem to exist in Westeros. And where and when it does, it's really not the point.

But I'm going to make a good-faith attempt. And miraculously, there was plenty of charity and goodwill to come by in last night's "Dragonstone."

Indeed, the seventh season premiere of "Game of Thrones" was practically overflowing with decency, tenderness, and respect.

You just have to squint at it the right way.

Perhaps after a glass of Arbor red or two.

The parade of benevolence began right away in the cold open, where Arya Stark, disguised as the (actually now) late Walder Frey, serves the entire Frey family a lovely meal. How nice! Sure, the meal was actually vengeance for the deaths of Arya's mother and brother who were murdered by Frey at the infamous Red Wedding, and yes, the Freys' murdered relatives were (per last season's finale) most likely the primary protein on offer, and, OK, yeah, the wine was definitely poison, but a house's gotta eat, and what is she, stone-hearted? Some sort of Stonehearted Lady? C'mon.

She threw them a dinner party. That's nice!

You're welcome. Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO.

Later, Arya does guest-star Ed Sheeran (Ed Sheeran) and the Assorted Lannister Soldiers a solid by not slitting their throats (at least not before the camera cuts away — a man cannot simply assume) after they offer her a bite of rabbit as well as several humanizing character anecdotes.

Not bad for some improvised mercy from the world's tiniest assassin!

Down at King's Landing, Jaime respectfully gives the equilibrium-challenged Euron Greyjoy props for burning the Lannister ships during one war or another, while helping plan a marriage of convenience for Cersei.

When it's going great. Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO.

Following some perfunctory bad-guy-on-bad-guy sizing-up, Greyjoy leaves, promising to return with a gift for Cersei that he hopes will persuade her to marry him. It's a little less genuinely nice and a little more Nice Guy (TM), because she did say no (a tactic? Possibly), but still. Crossing my fingers for an Edible Arrangement.

Up north, Jon takes pity on the funny-looking children of the less-than-perfectly-loyal Harald Karstark and Smalljon Umber by not taking their castles away and giving them to random other people, much to Sansa's chagrin and Littlefinger's ever-squirrely "I told you so."

Jon then pulls his sister aside for a post-meeting debrief and actually appears to listen to her, which is far more considerate than Ned or Robb Stark were to any female human before they were de-headed. And hey, Jon is also persuaded to throw out thousands of years of male-dominated military tradition to conscript women into his ragtag zombie-fighting army! Whether it's out of desperation or the memory of being on the business end of Ygritte's bow and arrow is debatable, but Lyanna Mormont is into it, so I'm calling it a nice win for Westerosi gender parity (yasss kween #feminism #ladycasualties).

Perhaps the only nice thing about the montage of Sam's drudgery in Oldtown is that it doesn't go on forever, even if it does feel that way.

No, thanks to whatever sound designer brought that visceral grossness to life. (Seriously.) (SERIOUSLY.) (OK, but actually respect and good work.)

Yeah, me too, Sam. Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO.

Yet in between cleaning bedpans and dishing out curiously similar-in-appearance soup, Sam does manage to figure out where all the dragonglass in Westeros is (shockingly, the one place on the continent with "dragon" in the name) and courteously send Jon a letter about it.

Also that one archmaester believes Sam about the White Walkers! That's nice of him, and really nice for Sam, even if the archmaester won't do anything about it. "The Wall has stood through it all, and every winter that ever came has ended," he reassures Sam. And if "Game of Thrones" has taught me anything in six seasons, he's definitely right, nothing bad will happen, the Wall will definitely continue to stand, and all will be well.

Elsewhere, holed up in a foreboding-looking abandoned inn with Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr, The Hound does kindness about as well as The Hound can do and holds a funeral for the previous tenants of the place — an unfortunately dead and be-skeletoned father and daughter.

Sure, the fact that he stole their silver way back in Season 4 is why the pair starved to death in the first place, but this is "Game of Thrones," not "This Is Us," and feeling really really bad after half-knowingly condemning someone to a slow, painful death earns you a solid 4/5 on the Westerosi "Man's Humanity to Fellow Man" Scale.

Even though The Hound couldn't remember the proper burial rites, the fact that he buried them at all wasn't just a nice thing to do, but a nice bit of continued character growth for a man once defined solely by his size, distinctive scars, and curious aptitude for piercing body parts with sharp metal objects.

Good gazing, everyone. Let's take 10. Photo by Macall B. Polay/HBO.

In the final minutes of the episode, Daenerys and Tyrion finally arrive at the ancient Targaryen fortress on Dragonstone (finally!) to catch up on six years of silent walking, gazing, choral "oohs," and purposeful sand-feeling. Their scenes were so brief and largely visual that there's not much to say here. I guess it was nice of the Unsullied to hold open a series of large doors for Daenerys as she strode majestically up the mountain toward her destiny? That was cool of them.

Whoo, we made it! That's it for week one. See you next week, when hopefully Jaime gives Cersei a puppy, Jon and Sansa watch old home movies together, and the Wall definitely doesn't come down. That's ridiculous.

Random Acts of Niceness:

  • It's nice to see that Cersei, Dany, and Sansa's clothes have gotten a lot more practical now that their plots don't revolve around looking cute for some dude.
  • Hey, Arya left those serving girls alive thanks to some clutch ironic performative sexism! Score one for innocent bystanders.
  • Good on probably-Jorah's arm for not giving Sam grayscale! (I think.)
  • Oh yeah, Bran! Meera apparently dragged him about 150 miles through the freezing tundra while he presumably pontificated wizardly about the Long Night the whole damn way. That is A+ forbearance.
Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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