Was April’s announcement that Ed Sheeran would appear Game of Thrones season seven just a bad dream? Did we eat one too many pizza pockets before bed and just imagine this frightening proposition? On Sunday, we got our answer. If you haven’t watched the premiere yet, stop reading now. In fact, get off the internet entirely.
After Arya Stark laid waste to the entire Frey house in what was one of the show’s most thrilling (and satisfying) openings ever, the burgeoning assassin continued on her way to King’s Landing, where she plans to quench her thirst for vengeance by drinking a tall glass of Cersei Lannister’s blood.
But when she happens upon some Lannister soldiers by a campfire in the Riverlands, Arya is lured in by the smooth vocal stylings of the one with the orange, windswept hair. Yes, it’s Ed Sheeran. He tells her that the song is “new” and they proceed to share wine, charred squirrel and laughter, standard fare for all Ed Sheeran meet-and-greets.
Listen. Sheeran has a good voice and he did a perfectly serviceable version of the song, which book readers will recognize as the hymn “Hands of Gold” from the A Song of Ice and Fire saga. He didn’t even butcher what few lines he had, either. But one of Game of Thrones’ greatest strengths is the immersive quality of the universe. We don’t recognize this world and we’re not supposed to. Most of the actors were unknowns when they were cast, so they are irrevocably linked to their characters. And whenever D.B. Weiss and David Benioff cast new characters they tend to avoid boldface names and instead pull from the U.K.’s deep pool of less recognizable character actors.
Forcing Sheeran’s unmistakable mug on the audience doesn’t just break the fourth wall. It’s douses it in wildfire and lights a match. And don’t forget, Sheeran isn’t just any famous person. He’s a highly polarizing one and inspires either deep feelings of love or utter disdain from various factions of the internet.
The showrunners must have known exactly how controversial his casting would be, but did it anyway. Their reasoning? Apparently Maisie Williams, who plays Arya, is a huge Sheeran fan and they’ve been trying to get him for years as a surprise to Williams. Perhaps knowing the backstory will soften the ire of the internet, which went into overdrive last night.
Ed Sheeran appearing on game of thrones but not being brutally disemboweled was very disappointing— Brandy Jensen (@BrandyLJensen) July 17, 2017
Top Three Characters I’ve wanted to see murdered on Game of Thrones— Ol’ QWERTY Bastard (@TheDiLLon1) July 17, 2017
1. Ed Sheeran
I’m forced to listen to ed sheeran songs 67 times a day bc it’s the only shit on the radio & now my #Gameofthrones isn’t even a safe place.— Stassi Schroeder (@stassi) July 17, 2017
Spoiler: the next six episodes are an Ed Sheeran concert.— Alex Zalben @ SDCC (@azalben) July 17, 2017
It looks like Joffrey and Ramsey Bolton have some company atop the Game of Thrones “most hated character” leaderboard.