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.
Most Shared

Prince Harry isn't just a member of England's royal family - he's also a new dad. He and Duchess Meghan of Sussex welcomed Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor into the world last month. He joins William and Kate's three offspring (George, Charlotte, and Lewis) as royal grandchildren. I assume he's being accordingly spoiled with elaborate titles, jewels, and small islands.


Keep Reading Show less
Family

A celebrated teacher's 5-point explanation of why she's quitting has gone viral.

"The school system is broken. It may be broken beyond repair."

Talented, dedicated teachers are leaving public schools because the system makes it too hard to truly educate kids.

When I studied to become a teacher in college, I learned what education can and should be. I learned about educational psychology and delved into research about how to reach different learners, and couldn't wait to put that knowledge into practice in the classroom.

But after graduating and starting to teach, I quickly saw how the school system makes it almost impossible to put what we know about real learning into practice. The structure and culture of the system simply isn't designed for it.

The developmental default of childhood is to learn. That's why four-year-olds ask hundreds of questions a day, why kids can spend hours experimenting and exploring in nature, and why kids are so much better at figuring out how to use technology. Children are natural, fearless learners when their curiosity is nurtured and they are given an environment where learning can take place.

Most teachers know this. And many find themselves so frustrated by trying to teach within an outdated, ineffective system that they decide to leave. I only lasted a couple of years before deciding other avenues of education were worth exploring. A viral post written by a celebrated teacher highlights why many teachers are doing the same thing.

Michelle Maile was a first grade teacher before she resigned this month, and her 5-point explanation of why she did it is resonating with thousands.

Maile shared on Facebook why she, a celebrated teacher in a great school district, decided to turn in her classroom keys. Her post has been shared more than 67,000 times and has thousands of comments, mostly in solidarity.

"Why would a teacher of the year nominee, who loves what she does, who has the best team, the best students and parents, and was lucky enough to be at the best elementary school not want to come back?", she wrote. "Let me tell you why….

1. Class size. Everything in my training, what I know about kids and what I see every day says that early childhood classes should be at 24 or less. (ideally 22 or less) Kids are screaming for attention. There are so many students who have social or emotional disorders. They NEED their teacher to take time to listen to them. They NEED their teacher to see them. They NEED less students in their class. The people making these decisions are NOT looking out for the students' best interests, and have very obviously NEVER taught elementary kids.

2. Respect. I feel disrespected by the district all year long. They don't trust that I know what I am doing. I have a college degree, go to trainings every year, read books and articles about kids, and most importantly, work with kids every day. I KNOW something about how they learn and what works best for them. Please listen to us.

3. Testing. Stop testing young kids. It doesn't do anyone any good. Do you know which kids slept poorly last night? Do you know who didn't have breakfast? Do you know whose parents are fighting? Do you know who forgot their glasses and can't see the computer? Do you know who struggles to read, but has come so far, just not on your timeline? You don't, but I do. I know some of my best students score poorly on their tests because of life circumstances. I know some of my lower students guessed their way through and got lucky. Why stress kids out by testing them? How about you ask ME, the professional, how they are doing? Ask ME, the teacher who sees these kids every single day. Ask ME, the teacher who knows the handwriting of all 27 kids. Ask ME, the adult in their life who may be more constant than their own parents. Ask ME, then let me teach.

4. I felt like I was drowning. So many things beyond teaching are pushed on teachers. Go to this extra meeting, try this new curriculum, watch this video, then implement it in to your next lesson, fill out this survey monkey to let us know how you feel (even though it won't make any difference), make clothes for the school play, you need to pay for that yourself because there's no money from the school for it. There's no music teacher today, so you don't get a planning time. There are weeks I truly felt like I was drowning and couldn't get a breath until Friday at 5:00. (NOT 3:00)

5. Pay. I knew becoming a teacher would never make me rich. That has never been my goal. I wanted to work with kids. I wanted to help kids. I wanted to make enough money to take care of my own kids. Sadly this isn't the case for so many teachers who have to work two jobs to support their own families. This isn't right."

Maile says the system may be broken beyond repair, which is why she's tapping into a growing educational movement.

"The school system is broken," Maile continued. "It may be broken beyond repair. Why are counselors being taken away when we need them more than ever? Why are art and music classes disappearing when these forms of expression have been proven to release stress in an overstressed world. Why are librarians being cut when we should be encouraging kids to pick up an actual book instead of being behind a screen? Do you know how many elementary students are on anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications? Look. The number will astound you.

So where am I going? Because I still love kids and want to help them with their education, I will be an online charter school teacher. I will be helping families who have chosen to homeschool their kids. They also see that the school system is broken. When I told my school I was leaving, I had multiple veteran teachers say, 'I would do the same if I was younger.' 'I am so glad you are getting out now.' 'It is only going to get worse.' 'I don't see it ever getting better.'

It makes me sad. I have three kids that are still part of this public school system. If you are a public school parent, fight. Fight for your kids. Fight for smaller class sizes and pay raises for overworked teachers. Fight to keep art and music in the schools. Please support teachers whenever and wherever you can. I have been so lucky to have so many amazing parents. I couldn't have done what I have without them. I am sad to leave, but happy to go."

What do you do when an enormous system has so many inherent flaws it feels impossible to change it?

What to do about public education a hard question. Many former teachers like myself strongly believe in public schooling as a foundational element of civilized society, but simply can't see how to make it work well without dismantling the whole thing and starting over.

When I chose to educate my own kids, I was surprised by how many former teachers end up in the homeschooling community. Many of the most well-known proponents of homeschooling were or are public school teachers who advocate for more effective models of education than what we see in the system. There's a lot that could be debated here, but alternative models may be the best places to look for answers to the question of how to fix the system.

At the very least, until we start moving away from copious amounts of testing and toward trusting educators (and paying them well) to do what they've been trained to do, we're going to keep losing great teachers—making an already problematic system even worse.

Most Shared

A teen took the stage with world leaders and unflinchingly spoke truth to power. YES, GIRL.

Four heads of state interrupted Natasha Mwansa's 4-minute speech to give her a standing ovation.

Watch out world. The young women have arrived, and they're taking the reins.

From Greta Thunberg to Emma Gonzales to Malala Yousafzai, young women are taking the microphone, organizing movements, and demanding the world's attention on major issues. And it appears they are just getting started.

Imagine you're 18 years old, preparing to go to college, and being invited to join a panel in the opening session of a huge international conference. Imagine that panel includes four current heads of state, and you'll be speaking before an audience of thousands of people from around the globe.

Now imagine standing up on that stage and telling those world leaders to their faces, in no uncertain terms, that they need to step up their game. No pussyfooting. No apologies.

Keep Reading Show less
Recommended


Fungi Mutarium mushroom eats plastic www.youtube.com


Plastic waste is one of the biggest environmental issues of our time. And while a straw ban is not the way we're going to solve it — here's why – people everywhere are looking for ways to reduce plastic use and mitigate the effects of waste.

From handing out plastic bags with embarrassing labels to removing the plastic from six-packs to harnessing the power of a plastic-eating mutant (bacteria), more and more of us are working to find solutions to a growing global program.

Add one more strange and awesome plastic-killing discover to the list: A rare mushroom that feasts on plastic the same way you or I would when we go to that $5 buffet at Cici's. (I have been only once and I'm still thinking about it, even though just the thoughts are bad for my blood pressure.)

Keep Reading Show less
Planet