The nicest things that happened to Jon, Dany, and Arya on this week's 'Game of Thrones.'

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.
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Today, I'm a 35-year-old man with a flame shaved into my beard. If the '80s movies I love so much are any indication, this is a sure sign I'm going through some kind of existential crisis. Next week, when the semester starts and I begin teaching again, it will not be strange if my colleagues start to worry about me just a little. A sports car or a neck-jerking pivot to physical fitness — that's an understandable response to the realization that life is fleeting. But a large meticulous flame carved out of facial hair? What does one do with that?

At this moment, though, I'm showing my face proudly to a woman wearing a swimsuit with a taco cat on it. We have only recently met, but she's telling me that she's so into my "fade" that she wants to kiss it. Then she does, blowing a raspberry into my cheek so hard that her hat falls off. Neither of us can stop laughing.

"Live Mas!" she yells with the excitement of someone who's never had trouble fully seizing the moment.

"Live Mas!" I shout back without any irony. There is no irony here in Palm Springs, where, for four days only, hundreds of people celebrate their love for Taco Bell.

Here, there's only swimming and hot sauce-themed leisure wear, and the warm pleasant feeling that comes from eating too much and knowing that you're with your own people. Even if the only thing that connects you is a love for a fast food giant that feeds you when you're hammered and shameless at 2 a.m.

We drank the Baja Blast! My Taco Bell fade and my friend's specialty manicure!Mark Shrayber

What does it mean to Live Mas? This is a question I am forced to ask myself over and over during my 24-hour stay at "The Bell," where I have stowed away as a friend's plus-one. We are, of course, both politely pretending that I'm a full-on guest with all the perks that entails, but we also both know that I wouldn't be here eating unlimited quesadillas poolside without her.

So maybe that's the first thing Live Mas means: To build strong lifelong connections which you can, with some luck, exploit to your benefit. :) :) :)

But this is too cynical an interpretation, because everyone here is so happy. Happy that they've gotten a reservation; happy that they can cool off in a room themed after an iconic Mountain Dew Drink, and happy that they can share their own personal story of what Taco Bell means to them. (Though there's no formal essay contest — I've checked.)

Me: This room won't be that cool. Also me: OH MY GOD, THIS IS THE COOLEST ROOM I'VE EVER BEEN IN!!!Mark Shrayber

Snatches of this story float around the "Fire" pool, where all the entertainment is concentrated: One couple canceled their trip to Prague because "Prague will always be there" — a brave stance considering climate change; another met last year on Tinder after the girlfriend's Taco Bell senior photos went viral; at the opening ceremony on Thursday, where sauce packets were cut instead of a ribbon, a city official brought others to tears with both her Taco Bell fashion and a memory of how her parents would feed an entire family with 19-cent-tacos from the first-ever Taco Bell in Downey, California.

Oh, I forgot one: The guy who skipped out on Prague? He got a giant bell shaved into the side of his head, so he might have to miss out on a black-tie event happening later this week. But it's all good. Bring on the nacho fries.

I make fast friends with four women who are here for a bachelorette party, the bride overwhelmed with good vibes and prosecco. This year, for her 30th, she rented a party bus. Inside? $100 worth of Taco Bell that her fiancee was worried might not be consumed.

"But little did he know," she shouts in the hot tub where we're "cooling off" after a long day of 108-degree sunning, "we ate it all!"

A bachelorette party and a birthday! We're really living it up (but also staying hydrated.)Mark Shrayber

Others whoop it up at the twist, but we all get it. Though there's no essay contest, I don't mind telling you that when my first boyfriend dumped me 14 years ago, I stuffed my face with chalupas. When I lost a job I really loved four years ago, I once ordered so much Taco Bell that the delivery app of my choice informed me I'd exceeded the maximum number of items they could comfortably fill in one order. We get it — though none of us can truly explain it.

There are, if you look at the The Bell from a literary perspective, many other writers who deserve this experience more than me. They could talk about the blue of the pool. Or the insouciance of youth. Draw parallels between marketing stunts such as this and the end-stage capitalism. Or envision a "Demolition Man" future where Taco Bell is fine dining and none of us know how to use the three shells in the bathroom to get ourselves clean.

And I wish these writers could be here to paint you these landscapes, but what you've got is me, a literal Taco Bell super-fan, and what I'm doing is eating and getting sunburned and taking a synchronized swimming class with the Aqualillies, who refer to themselves as "the world's most glamorous water ballet entertainment," but have very little idea of what to do with 10 eager recruits who can't stay afloat or on beat.


G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S!!Photo courtesy of Taco Bell.

"It's okay," one of the instructors comforts me just before the Tacolilies (the name of our "team") are invited to perform our watery version of "Senorita" — which was supposed to be two minutes long, then 1:15, and has now been judiciously cut down, due to talent, to about 45 seconds — in the bigger pool. "We regularly teach five-year-olds. And you're doing much better."

Usually, I would take offense at such blatant reads, but today I'm unbothered. I'll continue to be so right until I get home and discover that I've left all my electronics on United Flight 5223 (if anyone wants to get them back to me). And even then, I rage at myself for all of five seconds before checking that I've still got what's important: A certificate that says I did not drown while doing water ballet.

It's still there. As is my phone, which is blowing up with messages from people who took pictures of me in what Taco Bell calls its "power suit," and which is best described as "cult outfit, but kinda make it fashion." I bought my husband one, too, and I look forward to the argument we're going to have about holiday cards later.

This is "Live Mas."

I've never been so happy to match with someone else in my life. MaMark Shrayber

Or maybe it's the moment another stranger tells me that we'll be friends forever. Such friendships are forged quickly when you've got less than 24 hours to make lifelong connections and I'm pleased to get the full experience.

"We may never meet again," he says while we're swimming, "but we'll always have this time together."

Then we establish that he lives just across the park from me in San Francisco.

"Aw, man," he says, floating away to take pictures of the people he came with, "I've got lots of close friends I never see because they live across that damn park."

But the sentiment holds.

We Live Mas it on.

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