By: Devan Kaney
“You’re a dragon. Be a dragon.”
After the fast-moving Season 7 premiere, I was fully prepared for the traditional second-episode-slump that Game of Thrones does so well. And I was right…at least until the final five minutes.
Let’s start with Dany’s war council. Daenerys ‘Stormborn’ Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is back where she was born – Dragonstone – and her all-female coalition is finally in one place. While the room is full of bada*s women, they each have their own motives for aligning with Dany.
Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) wants to rule the Iron Islands and nothing more. Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) and Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) want revenge. Then there is Dany’s not-so-trusted advisor, Varys (Conleth Hill). After a violent questioning that seemed to escalate out of nowhere, Varys claims to want a stabilized government in Westeros. But let’s not forget that Cersei still wants his head, and he really doesn’t have anywhere else to go. Tyrion believes that fear is no way to rule – and he would know best, considering his family history. Which is why when Yara Greyjoy urges Dany to strike King’s Landing right away, before Cersei can mobilize her army and defenses, Tyrion points out that being the ‘Queen of Ashes’ is no way to rule the Seven Kingdoms.
What I loved about this scene is that it reminded us of the true nature of the Game of Thrones. As viewers, we can get lost in blood and fire and gore. This scene peeled back the glamour of power and showed us what the story is really all about – the nature of governance. It’s easy to forget that these characters actually have to rule with Queens like Cersei sitting atop the Iron Throne, willing to smash anyone who stands in her way. Characters like Cersei Lannister and Euron Greyjoy want power, but they don’t quite know what to do with it once they have it. They could care less about the people they are leading.
Determined to restore her family name and not follow in her father, the Mad King’s, footsteps, Dany sides with Tyrion. She will not be the Queen of the Ashes. But Dany is complicated. She claims to want peace and be a fair queen, but then she threatens Varys with death by dragon fire, and summons Jon Snow to “bend the knee.” Luckily, Tyrion is quite the diplomat and did not include that last bit in his letter to Jon Snow.
When Jon (Kit Harington) receives the summons he does the unthinkable. He asks Sansa for her opinion *gasp!* Sansa (Sophie Turner) says Tyrion is kind, but she still thinks it’s too risky for Jon to go himself. She advises him to send someone else in his place. Jon Snow promptly disregards this advice in front of all of the other northern lords and ladies and does his typical broody “I’m not the hero you deserve” bit. But – he leaves Sansa in charge of Winterfell, so suddenly she’s cool with her brother riding away to meet with some dragon lady. She’s got the north now. Who cares?
Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish cares, that’s who. Since Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) essentially saved the Stark name at the Battle of the Bastards (and he will NEVER let them forget it), he has been up to something. Now I pride myself on being able to accurately predict many shocking events in the Thrones universe, and I truly have no idea what Littlefinger is plotting. Is his plan to marry Sansa and rule the north with her by his side? Most likely. But something tells me there is more to his motives than just marrying the daughter of the woman he loved (creepy, right?)
Just as Jon Snow departs Winterfell, another lost Stark may finally make her way home. Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) reunites with an old friend, Hot Pie, who breaks the news that her bastard brother is now King in the North. Arya’s reaction to the news was uncharacteristically human and showed that the assassin hell-bent on revenge has some vulnerability left in her. When given the choice at a literal fork in the road – Kings Landing to murder Cersei, or Winterfell to be with her brother and sister – Arya chooses home. Can I get emotional for a second? That moment was hands-down my favorite scene of ‘Stormborn.’ Just as Sansa and Jon’s reunion was my favorite part of season six. There is something about seeing the Stark children, who have all been through so much and have been away from home for so long, reunite that warms my heart in an otherwise cold GoT world.
Not too long after rerouting to Winterfell, Arya crosses paths with her long-lost Direwolf, Nymeria. While Nymeria doesn’t attempt to eat her old master, she doesn’t look all too happy to see Arya either. Don’t be fooled though – this scene was important. Throughout the series, the Stark’s Direwolves have been a representation of their current selves. So when Arya says “that’s not you” to Nymeria, she is drawing a parallel to a line she told her father in season one. Ned Stark is talking to her about being a domestic housewife one day. Arya responds, “that’s not me.” Nymeria has been running wild, just as Arya has. It’s not in her nature to leave her pack and go to Winterfell to be Arya’s pet. But Direwolves are notoriously loyal, and they always find their way back to the pack. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Nymeria again this season.
Now to that final scene that really took the whole “fire and blood” thing to a whole new level. I wish I could say this scene shocked me, but honestly, I think we all saw it coming the moment Tyrion told the Greyjoy’s and Sand Snakes they would be sailing to Dorne. When broken down, this scene served two main purposes: to prove that Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) is a real threat and establish him as the villain of season seven, and to weaken Dany’s alliance. It also helped to eliminate unnecessary storylines (lets take a moment to appreciate all of the poorly written lines and under-developed characters that came out of Dorne). While I was not sad to see Obara and Nymeria Sand go, I was starting to warm-up to the Greyjoys. Then Theon (Alfie Allen) had to go and jump off the side of a ship:
We don’t know what became of his sister, Yara, but if Euron murdered her I have a feeling we would have seen it. Yara and the remaining Sands will most likely be a part of Euron’s “gift” to Cersei.*
Let me take a moment and talk about Euron Greyjoy. The shows creators teased to season seven saying that Euron will make Ramsay Bolton seem “like a little kid.” I just don’t see that happening. Perhaps it’s the depth that Iwan Rheon brought to Ramsay’s character, but he was undoubtedly one of the best villains in television history. Euron is just a bit too….obvious.
Ultimately, this episode was good, not great. Some of the writing seemed like it never made it past first draft (“Why are you standing all the way over there when a foreign invasion is underway?” is quite possibly the worst pickup line ever). And there is still…something about that last scene that is not sitting right with me.
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars
*The summary for S7:Ep.3 says “Cersei returns a gift.” I have a feeling that gift may be damaged goods by the time it is returned.
- Melisandre better run/hide/disappear before Davos finds her at Dragonstone.
- In the opening credits, the sea by Eastwatch-by-the-Sea – the castle furthest East on The Wall – is frozen. Could this be how the Night King makes it past the wall? Is it what The Hound saw in the flames?
- Samwell Tarly’s (John Bradley) storyline at The Citadel is proving to be the most revolting in Game of Thrones Grossest cut EVER.
- Fun fact: Missandei and Grey Worm’s scene was the first consensual, romantic sex depicted on GoT since 2013.