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After episode one of the new season, who is on top in Game of Thrones?

“Dragonstone” asked us to visualise the key alliances and enmities of the seventh season.

“Dragonstone”, the first episode of Game of Thrones’ seventh season, ended with a beginning. Daenerys, having finally reached her ancestral seat, the dramatic-looking Dragonstone, strides through the gates, admires her throne, and enters The Chamber of the Painted Table. The table – which we’ve seen before as Stannis Baratheon’s strategy room in season two – is carved into the shape of Westeros, with model ships and armies that are moved around the board. She runs her fingers from the North to the South, her hand trailing over the place where the Wall meets the sea, before standing at the Southern coast. “Shall we begin?”

There was a lot of build-up to get to this point. The cold open, which saw Arya disguised as Walder Frey poison the entire Frey army with some deliciously vengeful dialogue (“When people ask you what happened here, tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey.”), felt like it belonged to the (literally) explosive two episodes that rounded off season six. But once the credits rolled, this opener felt slower, thicker, and more bogged down in exposition.

After an obligatory shot of the White Walkers and the army of the dead walking slowly through mist (God, these fuckers walk slow), alerting us that Wun Wun the Giant has become one of their weapons, we rush through updates on Bran (who has finally abandoned his tree prison and reached the Night’s Watch), Sam (who doesn’t love a good bedpan montage!!), Euron (inexplicably dressed like a dad rocker), Brienne (still constantly glaring at Tormund), Littlefinger (still very horny for Sansa, and power), The Hound (still hates fire) and Ed Sheeran (still painfully embarrassing).

So while not a lot actually happened, this episode asked us to visualise the key alliances and enmities of the coming season. It cemented the idea suggested in trailers that Daenerys, Cersei and Jon are the three rulers to watch – with the key scenes taking place in their castles. Aside from Dany’s sculpted table map, we saw Cersei explaining her exposed position stood on a painted floor map; Sam discover a further, mineral need for Jon and Daenerys to join together when he spots a dragonglass mine in a map of Dragonstone; The Hound have a vision of the White Walkers penetrating the Wall where it meets the sea; and Jon and Sansa stress that Last Hearth and Karhold Castles are the most northern and the most vulnerable to an attack from beyond the Wall. It’s as if the producers are asking: “Everyone’s mental maps up to scratch? Good, cause you’re going to need ‘em.”

It also reminded us of the key tensions within teams. Thrones has not been coy about comparing Cersei and Sansa in the past, and this season it seems like these parallels will be more obvious than ever. Both have tensions appearing in their relationships with their brothers, who, for both women, are their closest allies. Both suffer the romantic attentions of men they are repulsed by due to a reliance on their armies. Both are too hardened by unspeakable past traumas to care for much other than the defeat of those who threaten their lives. “You almost sound as if you admire her,” Jon says when Sansa speaks of Cersei. “I learned a great deal from her,” Sansa replies, and it’s hard not to think of Cersei’s warning that a woman’s “best weapon is between her legs.”

“Dragonstone” swapped out actual action for foreshadowing of things to come. Sam is told by a Maester that, “Without us, men would be little better than dogs,” perhaps signalling how important Sam’s knowledge will be to Jon and the Stark wolves, especially when coupled with Sansa’s insistence that Jon needs to be cleverer than Ned and Robb. The Hound’s vision of the army of the dead marching by “a mountain, looks like an arrowhead” could refer to his dead-but-walking brother, The Mountain, who wears a pointy helmet. We hear several lines concerning the sacrifices of ordinary men – Thrones has long been clear that wars are won or lost based on the ordinary man’s willingness to fight for you.

As more men die, it becomes increasingly clear that women and children – from Lyanna Mormont to Ned Umber to Alys Karstark – will have a significant role to play in the coming wars. Cersei’s lack of children, and how she will build a legacy as a result, becomes a troubling question. Euron says he will fetch her a “priceless” gift to woo her – an heir? Or Tyrion, the brother she so desperately wants murdered?

Meanwhile, fans note that in her map scene, Cersei stands at an area of Westeros known as “The Neck”, Jaime at “The Fingers” – in the books, it's prophesied that Cersei will be strangled by her “little brother”. Hands reappear in this episode – when insisting Cersei should kill her brother, Euron taunts him by saying he has “a thousand ships and two good hands”. Ed Sheeran’s lacklustre cameo sees him sing the refrain “For hands of gold are always cold / But a woman’s hands are warm.” I’m starting to wonder if Jaime will end up doing something grim with that gold hand of his.

But on to the important questions. WHO was the baddest bitch in this week’s Game of Thrones?

Bad bitch points are awarded as follows:

  • Arya slaughtering a hall full of men from behind the face of their own Lord, sparing the abused women, and whispering iconic lines about wolves, sheep, and how Winter came for the Freys. +27.
  • Jon insisting women join the fight. +5. I will regard Jon in this mode like I do all male feminists – with extreme scepticism.  
  • Lyanna Mormont repping Bear Island like an iconic goddess. +34. Who can argue with lines like “I don’t plan on knitting by the fire while men fight for me. I might be small, Lord Glover, and I might be a girl, but I am every bit as much a Northerner as you. And I don’t need your permission to defend the North”? Literally no one, that’s who.
  • Sansa taking her seat at the Winterfell table. +11. I like her ambition, but this doesn’t seem like the best strategy to use to get Jon to listen to her advice.
  • Sansa: “No need to seize the last word Lord Baelish, I will assume it was something clever.” +17. You’re doing amazing, sweetie.
  • Euron’s weird Hot Topic does Pirates of the Caribbean merch outfit. -19.
  • Ableist loser Euron taking the piss out of Jaime’s gold fist while wearing his poor man’s Johnny Depp garb. -21.
  • Arya eating Ed Sheeran’s food. +7. Please starve him by depriving him of his fair share, like our guinea pig starved its hutchmates.
  • Arya not murdering Ed Sheeran. -21.
  • Ed Sheeran, existing. -136.
  • Cersei’s scheming. -5. As the ripples of her terror attack subside, Cersei looks a lot less badass and a lot more… weak. But then again, Cersei does thrive when people underestimate her.
  • Tormund’s bold flirting strategy. +7
  • The Hound: “You’re not fooling anyone with that top knot, ya bald cunt.” +13.
  • Sam shovelling poop. -12.
  • Sam picking up a human heart and liver like it’s no big deal. +9.
  • Sam stealing books. +12.
  • Dany finally reaching her castle in Westeros, not even pausing to claim the nicest bedroom or have a piss before beginning her military strategy. +17.

That means the baddest bitch of the week is, of course, Lady Lyanna Mormont. Tremble before her presence. This (and every) week’s loser is Ed Sheeran.  

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.

Photo: Channel 4
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Who will win Great British Bake Off 2017 based on the contestants’ Twitters

An extremely serious and damning investigation. 

It was morning but the sky was as dark as the night – and the night was as dark as a quite dark rat. He walked in. A real smooth gent with legs for seconds. His pins were draped in the finest boot-cut jeans money could buy, and bad news was written all over his face. “I’m Paul,” he said. “I know”. My hooch ran dry that night – but the conversation never did. By nightfall, it was clear as a see-through rat.   

Some might say that going amateur detective to figure out which contestants win and lose in this year’s Great British Bake Off is spoiling the fun faster than a Baked Alaska left out of the freezer. To those people I’d say: yes. The following article is not fun. It is a serious and intense week-by-week breakdown of who will leave GBBO in 2017. How? Using the contestants’ Twitter and Instagram accounts, of course.

The clues are simple but manifold, like a rat with cousins. They include:

  • The date a contestant signed up for social media (was it during, or after, the competition?)
  • Whether a contestant follows any of the others (indicating they had a chance to bond)
  • A contestant’s personal blog and headshots (has the contestant already snaffled a PR?)
  • Pictures of the contestant's baking.
  • Whether a baker refers to themselves as a “baker” or “contestant” (I still haven’t figured this one out but FOR GOD’S SAKE WATSON, THERE’S SOMETHING IN IT)

Using these and other damning, damning, damning clues, I have broken down the contestants into early leavers, mid-season departures, and finalists. I apologise for what I have done.

Early leavers

Kate

Kate appears not to have a Twitter – or at least not one that the other contestants fancy following. This means she likely doesn’t have a book deal on the way, as she’d need to start building her social media presence now. Plus, look at how she’s holding that fork. That’s not how you hold a fork, Kate.

Estimated departure: Week 1

Julia

This year’s Bake Off began filming on 30 April and each series has ten episodes, meaning filming ran until at least 9 July. Julia first tweeted on 8 May – a Monday, presumably after a Sunday of filming. Her Instagram shows she baked throughout June and then – aha! – went on holiday. What does this mean? What does anything mean?

Estimated departure: Week 2

James

James has a swish blog that could indicate a PR pal (and a marketing agency recently followed him on Twitter). That said, after an April and May hiatus, James began tweeting regularly in June – DID HE PERHAPS HAVE A SUDDEN INFLUX OF FREE TIME? No one can say. Except me. I can and I am.

Estimated departure: Week 3

Tom

Token-hottie Tom is a real trickster, as a social media-savvy youngster. That said, he tweeted about being distracted at work today, indicating he is still in his old job as opposed to working on his latest range of wooden spoons. His Instagram is suspiciously private and his Twitter sparked into activity in June. What secrets lurk behind that mysteriously hot face? What is he trying to tell me, and only me, at this time?

Estimated departure: Week 4

Peter

Peter’s blog is EXCEPTIONALLY swish, but he does work in IT, meaning this isn’t a huge clue about any potential managers. Although Peter’s bakes look as beautiful as the moon itself, he joined Twitter in May and started blogging then too, suggesting he had a wee bit of spare time on his hands. What’s more, his blog says he likes to incorporate coconut as an ingredient in “everything” he bakes, and there is absolutely no bread-baking way Paul Hollywood will stand for that.

Estimated departure: Week 5

Mid-season departures

Stacey

Stacey’s buns ain’t got it going on. The mum of three only started tweeting today – and this was simply to retweet GBBO’s official announcements. That said, Stacey appears to have cooked a courgette cake on 9 June, indicating she stays in the competition until at least free-from week (or she’s just a massive sadist).

Estimated departure: Week 6

Chris

Chris is a tricky one, as he’s already verified on Twitter and was already solidly social media famous before GBBO. The one stinker of a clue he did leave, however, was tweeting about baking a cake without sugar on 5 June. As he was in London on 18 June (a Sunday, and therefore a GBBO filming day) and between the free-from week and this date he tweeted about bread and biscuits (which are traditionally filmed before free-from week in Bake Off history) I suspect he left just before, or slap bang on, Week 7. ARE YOU PROUD NOW, MOTHER?

Estimated departure: Week 7

Flo

Flo’s personal motto is “Flo leaves no clues”, or at least I assume it is because truly, the lady doesn’t. She’s the oldest Bake Off contestant ever, meaning we can forgive her for not logging onto the WWWs. I am certain she’ll join Twitter once she realises how many people love her, a bit like Val of seasons past. See you soon, Flo. See you soon.

Estimated departure: Week 8

Liam

Liam either left in Week 1 or Week 9 – with 0 percent chance it was any of the weeks in between. The boy is an enigma – a cupcake conundrum, a macaron mystery. His bagel-eyed Twitter profile picture could realistically either be a professional shot OR taken by an A-Level mate with his dad’s camera. He tweeted calling his other contestants “family”, but he also only follows ONE of them on the site. Oh, oh, oh, mysterious boy, I want to get close to you. Move your baking next to mine.

Estimated departure: Week 9

Finalists

Steven

Twitter bios are laden with hidden meanings and Steven Carter-Bailey’s doesn’t disappoint. His bio tells people to tune in “every” (every!) Tuesday and he has started his own hashtag, #StevenGBBO. As he only started tweeting 4 August (indicating he was a busy lil baker before this point) AND his cakes look exceptionally lovely, this boy stinks of finalist.  

(That said, he has never tweeted about bread, meaning he potentially got chucked out on week three, Paul Hollywood’s reckoning.)

Sophie

Sophie’s Twitter trail is the most revealing of the lot, as the bike-loving baker recently followed a talent agency on the site. This agency represents one of last year’s GBBO bakers who left just before the finale. It’s clear Sophie’s rising faster than some saffron-infused sourdough left overnight in Mary’s proving drawer. Either that or she's bolder than Candice's lipstick. 

Chuen-Yan

Since joining Twitter in April 2017, Yan has been remarkably silent. Does this indicate an early departure? Yes, probably. Despite this, I’m going to put her as a finalist. She looks really nice. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.