Stormborn, the second episode of Game of Thrones Season 7, gives us a taste of what we have all been missing from the premiere: blood. Lots and lots of blood. And it is quite a relief to have at least some action going on, even if only for five minutes, to balance the intricacies (and wordiness) of setting the pieces on the great big chess board that is Westeros. It is also a reminder that every move they make has a lot more bearing now in the grand scheme of things. The stakes are higher than ever, and everyone’s fighting for survival. As our characters’ paths begin to converge, we can rest assured that, when it does happen, it will not be a pretty sight.
Battle of the Queens
The two queens, each occupying one side of Blackwater Bay, gather their men (and women) to strategize how best to defeat the other. Queen Daenerys seems to initially have the upper hand as she possesses a legion of Unsullied soldiers, a horde of Dothraki warriors, the support of Houses Greyjoy, Martell, and Tyrell, and the devotion of Lord Varys, whom she grilled earlier on a random loyalty check among her team. Above all, she has three fully-grown fire-breathing dragons in her arsenal. All she has to do is launch a direct attack on King’s Landing using all of her forces at hand and the game will be won. However, Dany insists that she will not be the “queen of ashes.” If she unleashes her dragons upon King’s Landing, the innocent people will become collateral damage. Tyrion understands this and suggests that they will be using the Westerosi forces to lay siege on King’s Landing while deploying the Unsullied and the Dothraki to Casterly Rock, the Lannisters’ seat of power. Yara Greyjoy, Ellaria Sand and Olenna Tyrell, the leaders of their respective houses (and all female to boot, #GRRLPOWER) have no choice but to agree if only to advance their quest for revenge against Euron and Cersei respectively. Olenna, however, warns Dany of putting too much trust on a “clever” man like Tyrion.
Queen Cersei, on the other hand, is trying to consolidate additional support for her cause. She presents her case against Daenerys by appealing to the “nationalistic” feelings of her subjects. And it’s working because her more alarming claims are not lies: Daenerys has indeed killed the noblemen of Slaver’s Bay and destroyed those who have tried to usurped her; the Dothraki are known in Essos to rape and brutalize the women and children they capture; it is also definitely true that she has dragons that can lay waste to their lands with one fiery breath.
Jaime tries to help his sister/lover by convincing Randyll Tarly, one of the Tyrell’s bannermen and a certified racist (remember how he castigated Sam for bringing Gilly into his home?) to defect from House Tyrell and join him in crushing all of Cersei’s enemies. He sweetens the deal by promising Tarly that he will be made Warden of the South if their campaign succeeds. The Lord of Horn Hill doesn’t give Jaime the pleasure of an outright answer but I highly suspect that he will accept the offer, knowing how much he hates foreigners.
Down in the Red Keep’s dungeons, Qyburn offers a more tangible assistance to Cersei in the form of a giant crossbow. He demonstrates its “destructive” powers by firing it at Balerion the Dread’s skull. How that could kill a moving target 60 feet up in the air remains to be seen, however.
The Prince/Princess That Was Promised
Daenerys receives another assistance in the form of Melisandre, The Red Priestess. We have last seen her being banished by Jon Snow after Davos found out that she was responsible for burning Princess Shireen at the stake. Apparently, she has still not given up on the prophecy of her flames and tells Daenerys of the Prince that will bring an end to the Long Night. Daenerys responds that she is not a prince but Missandei points out that the Valyrian title in the prophecy is not gender-specific. Thus, it could be referring to a Prince or a Princess. Melisandre advises her to meet Jon Snow, another candidate for the title, so that he may tell her personally the horrors he has seen up north. Tyrion agrees, but for a more practical reason: Jon and the other northern houses could provide additional strength to her army and help defeat Cersei. Daenerys relents on the condition that Jon will bend the knee.
Up north, Jon Snow announces that he will go to Dragonstone to meet with the Dragon Queen and convince her to join their cause of defeating the White Walkers and the Night King. Sansa again questions Jon’s decision in front of everyone. This time, however, the northern lords are on her side. Even Lady Mormont, who has always been his most ardent supporter, expresses her disagreement with his new plan. She says, “Winter is here, Your Grace. We need the King in the North in the North.”
Despite knowing what happens to Starks every time they go South (not a spoiler: they end up dead), Jon’s laser-like focus on his goal of protecting the realm against the White Walkers cannot be deterred. He has to try, he insists. Sansa seems ready to argue with him again until Jon declares her in charge of Winterfell in his absence. That finally shuts her up. Looks like Cersei’s hunger for control has infected Sansa’s mind more than she’d like to admit.
Littlefinger also welcomes the news of Jon’s departure from Winterfell; it gives him the perfect opportunity to be alone (and be creepy) with Sansa. In his excitement, he professes his undying love for Sansa to Jon in the crypts of Winterfell, right in front of Ned Stark’s grave. Jon reacted by doing what any brother confronted by a dirty old man having the hots for his sister would do – he lunges at Littlefinger and threatens to kill him if he ever touches her.
I don’t know where Littlefinger gets his bravado. Is he turning stupid? He knows the Starks are not particularly fond of him and his unscrupulous ways. Jon could have stabbed him down there and no one will know or care.
I wish Jon really did stab Littlefinger, though, as vengeance for everything that has happened to the Starks. If there’s one person to blame for all the misfortunes that befell their family, it would have to be him. Littlefinger was the one who dragged them into the game so he can stir up chaos and seize the Iron Throne for himself.
In Oldtown, the Archmaester informs Jorah that he is not long for this world. His greyscale infection is rapidly advancing and it will only be a matter of time before it spreads to his brain and makes him lose his sanity. Sam appeals to do something for Jorah, the son of his former Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, but the Archmaester dismisses him, saying that Maester Pylos, who discovered the cure for greyscale, has died of that disease himself. The Archmaester does relent to giving Jorah one more night in the Citadel to spare himself the shame of being shipped off to Valyria where he will spend the rest of his life as a deranged “stone man.”
It’s a good thing Sam isn’t too keen on following orders. He has done one misdemeanor already so what’s another one? Hence, he steals into Jorah’s cell that night and armed with some basic surgery tools and the book of Maester Pylos, he begins a delicate procedure to remove Jorah’s greyscale. I don’t want to go into details but let’s just say that it involves a whole lot of screaming and it will make the Boltons proud. Poor Sam still gets all the disgusting scenes so far. Thankfully, he seems to have better control of his gag reflex now.
In continuing with this season’s propensity for seamless transitions, the image of the greyscale pus (sorry!) gives way to some guy cracking a cream-filled pie at the crossroads inn where Arya reunites with Hot Pie, her comrade-in-arms during their time as servants in Harrenhal and as captives of the Brotherhood Without Banners. She was indifferent to his presence (actually acting more like the Hound before his conversion) until he mentions to her that Jon Snow is now the King in the North. The knowledge that his brother is very much alive and doing well has sparked a change in Arya’s demeanor and we see a crack in her resolve. She is still Arya Stark of Winterfell, after all. This new knowledge pushes her to postpone her quest for revenge and she heads back home.
During a brief stop on her journey north, Arya senses an ominous presence lurking in the shadows of the woods. It turns out to be a pack of aggressive wolves. The pack leader reveals itself to be Nymeria, her long lost direwolf. Nymeria, who once had the pleasure of biting Joffrey in the arm, has turned savage after Arya sent her away to escape certain death at the hands of the Lannisters. Arya tries to convince her direwolf to come back to her, return home and resume their interrupted lives. Instead, Nymeria abandons her. It is heartbreaking because there is no turning back for the two of them. The Arya and the Nymeria that left Winterfell so many years ago do not exist any longer. “It’s not you,” Arya agrees. Will this encounter have an impact on her decision to see her family again?
Back at Dragonstone, Grey Worm prepares for their assault on Casterly Rock. Missandei visits him to bid farewell but the sexual tension is just so palpable, it’s hard to ignore. Grey Worm finally makes an awkward confession of his feelings to Missandei (“You are my weakness.”). She reciprocates and they consummate their love. The scene was a tender and beautiful moment made more special by the fact that Grey Worm is a eunuch. When he hesitated to remove his pants, Missandei gently pleads to him (“I want to see you. Please.”). It’s a nice change of pace, considering that the show has not depicted consensual sex for such a long time now.
Greyjoy Family Reunion
Yara, Theon, Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes make their way to Dorne with Daenerys’ entire fleet. There’s a bit of flirting between Yara and Ellaria, while the Sand Snakes annoyingly boast about who they want to kill from the opposing side. Theon is like the awkward high school nerd who feels regret at having to go to a party surrounded by cool people he would never relate to. The situation becomes more awkward when Ellaria spreads Yara’s legs apart and tells Theon the cringe-worthy line “Why are you standing over there, a foreign invasion is underway.” My eyes are rolling at the back of my head.
A loud crash stops the party. They come out of their bunk and see a huge fleet coming their way, led by the biggest ship they have ever seen. Euron Greyjoy, madman extraordinaire, has steered his ship, The Silence, to ram into Yara’s ship, launching a terrifying and violent sea battle. Euron enjoys the bloodbath; he hacks his way among Yara’s soldiers with gleeful and reckless abandon. The Sand Snakes Obara and Nym challenge him two-to-one, but he handily defeats them. In a cruel twist of fate, Euron uses their own weapons against them: Obara gets speared through her stomach, while Nym is strangled by her own whip. (As a side note: I am quite happy that the Sand Snakes are dead. I find them irksome with all their bragging and posturing, a far cry from the natural charm of their father Oberyn Martell.)
Theon has been doing well in the battle so far… until Euron overpowers Yara and taunts him to save his sister. Upon seeing his fellow Ironborn being mutilated by Euron’s men, Reek re-emerges and takes full control of Theon Greyjoy. Yara sees it too and steels herself for the betrayal of her brother. True enough, Theon – or Reek – jumps off the ship to save himself, eliciting deranged maniacal laughter from Euron. When Theon saved Sansa from Ramsay’s hands, there was hope that it was the start of him reclaiming his real identity. He could atone for the sins he has committed against his second family, and restore his dignity as the last remaining heir of the Iron Islands. However, we see the full extent of the damage Ramsay has inflicted in his psyche in this scene. No man can easily discard the trauma of what he experienced as Reek. Theon is undeniably broken beyond repair.
The Game So Far…
- With Euron’s convincing win in the Greyjoy face-off, Queen Cersei has drawn first blood in the Battle of the Two Queens. She managed to cut Daenerys’ forces down to size and eliminate two rival noble houses all at once. As it stands, only Highgarden remains to be the dragon queen’s only Westerosi ally. Daenerys and Tyrion will have to rethink their strategy if they want to get the upper hand.
- It is unclear whether Yara Greyjoy, Ellaria Sand and her daughter Tyene Sand are still alive.
- Jon and Davos will be heading south to Dragonstone to convince Daenerys to direct her power to the north where it will be of better use slaying the Night King’s invading undead army. Remember, though, that Melisandre is also at Dragonstone and we all know that Jon threatened to execute her should he see her again.
- Sansa is alone at Winterfell with Petyr Baelish. Of course, Brienne will be there to help her should Littlefinger try to put one of his slimy fingers on her, but he will surely use this time to isolate her further from Jon. I’m trusting that Sansa has had enough of Littlefinger to know that she shouldn’t allow him a space in her head again. With Sansa in full control of the northern houses, I’m also curious as to how she will handle the power entrusted to her hands. Hopefully, she doesn’t turn into Cersei Jr.
- Arya is heading back to Winterfell in the hopes of seeing his beloved brother Jon although it is more likely that she will chance upon Sansa instead. Still, this is a reunion we have all been waiting to happen and I cannot wait to see it.
Episode 3 will be up in the next post so stay tuned. 🙂