***Spoiler Warning: This post discusses Game of Thrones events through Season 7, Episode 2, and A Song of Ice and Fire book events and theories. Spoilers***
It was a dark and stormy night …
And so we begin with that ever so cliche visual, portending “Stormborn’s” bookended ocean scenes. While Daenerys tolerates her would-be counselors, kicking off the first of several expositional narratives, this purported departure from the written word cleaves to a page — reads more than it shows. “Doesn’t feel like home.” “We won’t stay on Dragonstone for long.” “Good.”
As a queen and her Hand lay out the plan which, much to some folks’ dismay, does not include attacking King’s Landing, Lady Olenna and Ellaria Sand acquiesce; a visiting Melisandre scores Jon an invite. Daenerys and Varys verbally dance through history until the first of two eunuchs submits himself to a lady’s service; Grey Worm’s yielding is more overt. And from one self-proclaimed queen to the other, yet another plan is laid out; Qyburn unveils for Cersei the giant crossbow meant to take down a dragon or three.
Despite Sansa’s instinctive alarm and northern leaders’ protests, Jon knows the only way to a store of dragonsglass is to accept Dany’s request (“trap”), and with a quick, crypt kiss(off ) to Baelish, leaves his sister in charge of the North. In the distance, another sister is finally, disappointingly, reunited with a long lost family member; at least Arry got herself a little Hot Pie.
After years of mostly monotonous drivel, Sam (once again) rises up from his storyline to take charge of a hero’s recovery. Sneaking to offer a stifling stick to Ser Jorah — sentenced to live out his final days in Valyria with the Stone Men — Tarly puts his forbidden knowledge to work in the hopes of not witnessing a second Mormont death (Sam and Jon saw and avenged Jeor’s murder at Craster’s Keep). In another estranged father/son mirroring, back in King’s Landing, Randyll Tarly reluctantly aligns with the opposition.
In the hour’s worst (and that’s saying something) and final minutes, an uncle (to Jack Sparrow, perhaps?) makes a what’s meant to be a grand entrance but ends up laughable, surprise embarkation onto his own stolen ship, taking back burning the fleet instead of just taking it from Yara’s unbelievably, foolishly, defenseless hands. Killing off two of the pointless Sand Snakes, Euron secures his “gift” for Cersei — Ellaria and her last daughter — a move that will ultimately gain him no ground. Quickly and easily overtaken, the Greyjoy siblings’ recently reaffirmed bond is put to the test, and sadly broken by an inexplicable reversal of gains; Theon reverts to his Reekly cowardice, and dives back into his own despair.
After the high of last week’s premiere, this second hour was for the most part, a big disappointment. Filled with expository, and at times literal, narration, it seems wasteful to use one of only seven short episodes to gather forces, make plans and find very little forward plot movement. While there were a few highs (Sam and Jorah, the connection between Missandei and Grey Worm — which after a few minutes, still seemed more about gratuitous nudity — Arya and Hot Pie), the hour-closing battle that is supposed be impressive rang hollow and foolish.
Speaking of, that was one of the worst shot, choppy, effects-laden battles in Thrones‘ history, and this plan the showrunners have for Euron Greyjoy to be Replacement Ramsay is an epic fail. Where Iwan Rheon’s subdued-by-comparison, nuanced depiction of the Bolton bastard was a horrifically unfolding torturous monster, Pilou Asbæk’s Euron is over-the-top goofy. His performance read farcical, not fearsome, and his quick attack — the destruction of his own fleet is just stupid; he (and the Lannisters) need that fleet — rendered Yara and Co. completely useless in no time. How it is that Yara had no lookouts, saw no approaching ships, and this fierce warrior who has led men to battle completely lost her brain and her ability to fight? Why, after all the time spent redeeming Theon to the point he helped Sansa escape and defended her with his own life, why does he just immediately give up? He knows his uncle, knows what he’s doing by leaving his sister in Euron’s hands; the Theon we saw come back from his catatonic state to save a Stark is not the Theon we saw deserting Yara.
Thanks to Missandei’s excellent translation skills, everyone — including Dany — now understands that the so-called “Prince who was promised” aka Azor Ahai could be a she — could be Daenerys. It could also be Jon. It could also be Daenerys, Jon and … a third head of the dragon, so to speak. In A Clash of Kings, when Dany visits the House of the Undying, she experiences a vision of a man who looks like her brother, speaking about Aegon Targaryen (whom Varys is said to have switched as a baby, and sent to live with Griff), and reminding Dany that “there must be one more, the dragon has three heads‘. Thus far, we know Dany and Jon are Targaryen, some of us suspect Tyrion could be the third, and of course it could be someone completely unexpected.
Melisandre also referenced the Long Night, (she believes is about to happen again) a legendary period of winter that followed the long ago war against the White Walkers called the Battle for the Dawn, during which the Night’s Watch discovered dragonglass’ power to destroy the Others (White Walkers), and the Wall was built to keep them out.
Jorah accepting his fate, sitting to write his final thoughts to Dany was heartbreaking and perfectly in character.
It’s wonderful to finally see Sam act with purpose, and to become something more than the wishy-washy bore he’s been both in books and onscreen. Taking the information from Maester Pylos’ guide to save a great knight is his experimental first step into true maestery, and character.
I guess we’re supposed to think it’s cool that Obara and Nymeria were killed by their own methods (spear, whip), but a) who cares? and b) we’re just glad they’re gone. The Sand Snakes were terrible from start to end so, two down, one to go!
Wouldn’t we all give up that godawful battle for more Arya and Nymeria scenes? We haven’t seen Arry’s direwolf since a girl sent away her pet to save her life in the first season; the pair are finally reunited and Nymeria … just turns and walks away? Yes, direwolves are difficult, but so are dragons. It’s disappointing to have this long-awaited reunion be so short and empty. In the Behind the Scenes extras, Benioff and Weiss explained why Arya said to Nymeria as the wolf left — “That’s not you” — it’s because Arya would have done just as Nymeria does (a nice callback to Arry’s Season 1 conversation with Ned, when she responded “No, that’s not me” to him saying one day she’d marry a lord and wear a frilly dress).
Arya’s face when Hot Pie told her (“Why would I lie about that?”) that Jon had won the Battle of the Bastards, the Boltons were dead and Jon was king in the north was glorious!
In sharp contrast with Dany and Yara’s excellent chemistry, Ellaria and Yara’s “flirting” scene was utterly flat, landed with a thud and was a terrible waste of time. Ellaria’s “A foreign invasion is underway” is one of the series’ cheesiest ever lines and even if Indira Varma had managed a wink, it wouldn’t have helped.
Missandei and Grey Worm made for a sweet scene, but it carried on too long, making it feel gratuitous. Hooray for Nudity Equality, sort of?
Speaking of too long, that scene with Sam peeling off Jorah’s greyscale was utterly overdone, and horribly transitioned in grade school fashion (thanks, Mark Mylod!) to a food scene, not unlike the whole bedpan/food thing with Sam in Dragonstone. Whether it’s the writing (Bryan Cogman) or the direction, overall there was far too much cheesy, childish, unfunniness going on this hour.
Lady Olenna to Dany: “He’s a clever man, your hand. I’ve known a great many clever men, I’ve outlived them all. Know why? I ignored them. The lords in Westeros are sheep. Are you a sheep ? No. You’re a dragon. Be a dragon.”
Varys to Daenerys: “Incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty.
I will dedicate myself to seeing you on the Iron Throne because I choose you. Because I know the people have no better chance than you.”
Dany to Varys: “Swear this to me, Varys, if you ever think I’m failing the people, you won’t conspire behind my back, you’ll look me in the eye as you have done today, you’ll tell me how I’m failing them … And I swear this, ff you ever betray me, I’ll burn you alive.”
Varys: “I would expect nothing less from the mother of dragons.”
Tyrion: “Conquering Westeros would be easy for you, but you’re not here to be queen of the ashes. We can take the Seven kingdoms without turning it into a slaughterhouse. If the great houses support your claim against Cersei, the game is won.”
Dany to Melisandre (about Jon): “He sounds like quite a man.”
Melisandre to Dany: “Prophesies are a dangerous thing.” (Ripe, coming from her.)
Lord Tarly to Jaime: “She has three full grown dragons, same as Aegon when he took the Seven Kingdoms. How do you propose to stop them?”
Jaime: “We are currently working on a solution.”
Sansa to Jon: “Have you forgotten what happened to our grandfather. The mad king invited him and roasted him alive.”
Sam to Jorah: “You’re Jorah Mormont, son of Jeor Mormont. I knew your father, I was with him when he died. You’re not dying today, Ser Jorah.”
Qyburn giving Cersei his hopeful history lesson: “Balerion the (Black) Dread, the beast that Aegon rode across the sea, his flames forged the Iron Throne and brought the Seven Kingdoms to heel.”
Yara to Dany: “If you want the Iron Throne, take it.”
Tyrion to Ellaria: “We don’t poison little girls here.”
Lady Olenna to Tyrion and Dany: “So your master plan is to use our armies.”
Grey Worm to Missandei: “You are my weakness.”
Missandei: “I am your weakness?!”
Jorah to Sam: “Have you ever done this before?”
Hot Pie to Arya: “Did you meet the big lady?”
“I can’t believe I thought you were a boy. You’re pretty.”
Sansa to Jon: “A Targaryen cannot be trusted. Nor can a Lannister.”
Jon to Littlefinger: “Touch my sister, and I’ll kill you myself.”