Welcome back! The long
night week is finally over and we’ve been treated to another episode of Game of Thrones. Given that we only have 7 episodes this season, there’s plenty more action and development that we need to look at and we pick up right where we left off – Dragonstone.
There’s a storm battering the castle, and the Targaryen Queen is in no mood for it. Despite being born on a similar stormy night (and hence inheriting the name Daenerys Stormborn) the mother of dragons has lived much of her life in the warmer climes of Essos, most of which is a far more arid environment. You can check out an interactive map of the Seven Kingdoms here.
Dany, Tyrion and Varys are discussing their approach to taking King’s Landing, when the conversation takes an abrupt turn. Dany pounces on Varys’ implication that the people of Westeros support her over Cersei, having heard people say the same to her brother for years. Viserys was foolish enough to believe them, and we know how that ended for him…
But she doesnt stop there. She grills Varys over his changes of allegiance over the years – first he served her father, then Robert Baratheon, and then supported Viserys’ claim. He even did nothing to stop Robert’s assasination attempts on Dany. How could she trust such a man?
Not intimidated, Varys wastes no time telling Daenerys that her father was hardly a model ruler (burning people alive for no reason doesn’t inspire an awful lot of allegiance) and Robert was only ever interested in banquets and hunting.
The only problem is, he didn’t quite get the memo that Viserys was as mad and cruel as his father was.
In a rare show of emotion, he convinces Daenerys that he only wants what is in the best interest of the people and she lets him continue to serve her on one condition – that if he thinks they’re headed in the wrong moral direction, he’ll let her know instead of plotting to replace her. Sounds fair.
Of course, she just has to make sure he was listening, so she has one last thing to say.
– p.s. betray me and i’ll burn you alive kk?
The group are interrupted by the arrival of Melisandre, Priestess of The Lord of Light. Daenerys respects the religion since they helped her bring peace to Meereen.
Varys points out that she once served Stannis. Perhaps not the wisest move considering the conversation the two of them just had, but Daenerys is forgiving.
Melisandre references the upcoming winter, calling it “the long night”. We heard Bran being told the legend of the long night in the third ever episode.
“Thousands of years ago, there came a night that lasted a generation. Kings froze to death in their castles, same as the shepherds in their huts; and women smothered their babies rather than see them starve, and wept, and felt the tears freeze on their cheeks… In that darkness the White Walkers came for the first time. They swept through cities and kingdoms, riding their dead horses, hunting with their packs of pale spiders big as hounds.“
Sounds pretty similar to what we’ve already started to see now that Winter has come! There’s an old Valyrian prophecy that there is one person who will bring the dawn to the long night – the Prince who was promised. Originally Melisandre believed this referred to Stannis, but now Missandei points out a game changer – the proper translation would be “the prince or princess who was promised”. Having lost some confidence in her ability after Stannis was killed, Melisandre makes no concrete predictions to who it might be, but does say that she thinks both Daenerys and Jon Snow have a part to play. We’ll explore more about this prophecy in another post.
Having developed a connection with him in season 1 when they travelled to the Wall together, Tyrion vouches for Jon Snow and asks Daenerys to summon him. They would be natural allies against Cersei, but Tyrion seems to have one eye looking North as well, as he wants Jon to explain to them what he’s seen north of the wall.
Daenerys agrees, and instructs Tyrion to write a letter telling Jon to come and swear allegiance to her.
At Winterfell, we find the young lords & ladies practicing their archery. It’s a cool callback to season 1 again, when Bran is practicing in the very same spot, only to have Arya upstage him by hitting the bullseye on her first attempt.
Jon, Sansa & Davos are reading the letter from Tyrion. Jon knows it’s genuine because of how he signs off – “All dwarves are bastards in their father’s eyes.” This was how Tyrion put his point across to Jon that he understands what it’s like to be unappreciated by your family, and they began developing their mutual respect based on this.
In a nice bit of character development, Jon makes a point of asking Sansa what she thinks, and although Tyrion is different to the other Lannisters, she still thinks it’s too risky.
Davos, focused as ever, points out that fire kills the reincarnated Wights. Not only do they need more men, but dragons would be invaluable to fighting the army of the dead.
In King’s Landing, Cersei has gathered the southern lords. In a manipulative speech she tells them that if they don’t fight against Daenerys and her army, the Dothraki will pillage their lands and rape the women. Notably present is Samwell’s father, Randall Tarly, stony faced as ever. He’s the only person who ever defeated Robert Baratheon in battle, and is one of the most respected military commanders in Westeros. He’s sceptical that they could have any success against 3 fully grown dragons – the same number as the first Targaryen who conquered Westeros. Qyburn, having finished his best Dr Frankenstein impression, promises that he has since been working on a solution for taking out the dragons.
Seeing that Tarly is unconvinced, Jaime approaches him afterwards.
The problem is, Tarly swore his allegiance to the Tyrells and has known Olenna since their childhood. Jaime appeals again to his sense of nationalism in fighting off the “foreign savages” and also to his ego. If the Lannisters were to come out victorious, Tarly could serve as Warden Of The South.
Whilst it’s not entirely clear whether Tarly has made a decision either way, he’s presented as a coldhearted, villainous character. He’s disowned Samwell and gave him a choice between going to the Wall or dying. It would make storytelling sense for him to side with the Lannisters since Daenerys’ army is (almost) entirely made up of “the good guys”.
In the Citadel, Samwell Tarly and the archmaester are examining Ser Jorah’s greyscale.
It’s the first time we see the full extent of his affliction, which now covers most of his torso. The archmaester tells him that he should’ve cut off the arm the moment he was touched; it’s spread too far to be treated now, and he has only around 6 months until he loses his mind. Sam mentions to the archmaester something he read about Shireen Baratheon being cured, but as usual his superior is having none of it – he’s read the studies himself, and maintains that Jorah’s condition is too far along.
Normally, people afflicted with greyscale are shipped off to Old Valyria (where Jorah caught the disease from a stone man). As a knight, Jorah gets 24 hours in which to kill himself before he’ll be sent away. Lucky guy!
When Sam offers to write a letter to Jorah’s family, he realises that this is the son of his old Lord Commander at The Wall. Before he can finish his next thought, he’s beckoned away by the archmaester.
Not leaving us on too much of a cliffhanger, we’re next escorted to the cellar beneath Cersei’s throne room to find out what Qyburn is being so sneaky about. We’re reintroduced to the skulls of the dragons which Robert Baratheon kept as his trophies.
The crown’s spies have reported that one of Daenerys’ dragons was injured in the fighting pits of Meereen, and that gave the disgraced maester an idea. He unveils his new secret weapon – an enormous crossbow!
Cersei pulls the trigger, firing a spear which pierces deep into the largest skull in the room. She gets some sick satisfaction from this echoing an early scene in which Joffrey killed a prostitute with his own crossbow because he “wanted to try something new… something daring.” Cersei’s situation seems to be pushing her further and further towards the madness that was so abundant in her son.
This is the first time we get a sense that things might not be so easy for Dany. Dragons aren’t invincible so we have to ask some questions to judge how much of a threat this really is.
How many of these artillery weapons do they have?
Are they mobile enough to realistically take aim at a moving target?
Could the dragons burn them to a crisp in one fell swoop?
At Dragonstone, Yara is telling Dany that they should hit King’s Landing immediately with everything they have. Tyrion rightly points out that tens of thousands of people will die if they loose the dragons on the city, and that’s not why they’re here.
Ever apathetic about anyone but herself, Ellaria Sand couldn’t care less! “It’s called war!” Tyrion isn’t on good terms with the Dornish woman and calls her out for poisoning his niece Myrcella, an innocent young girl. “There are no innocent Lannisters!” she retorts. There’s massive tension in the room, but Daenerys sees that Ellaria is driven only by hatred and revenge, rather than to make a positive change. She demands respect for Tyrion as Hand of the Queen and forcefully echoes something the dwarf said earlier.
Olenna Tyrell, sat at the opposite end of the table, says that people wont obey her unless they fear her. The people loved Margaery but it wasn’t enough. Thanking her for her counsel, Dany tells her categorically that there will be no attack on Kings Landing.
She intends to lay siege to the city, stopping their food supplies from getting through. Since she knows that the Westerosi lords would rally against “foreign invaders”, no Unsullied or Dothraki will take part in the siege. Instead, Yara’s fleet will travel to Dorne and ferry Ellaria and her army back.
Meanwhile the Unsullied will take Casterly Rock, the Lannister home. Aside from being a matter of pride, Casterly Rock is the reason the Lannisters are so rich. It’s a fortress built around gold mines, and with wealth comes power. Not only that, but we know that the Lannisters owe millions to the Iron Bank of Braavos, and if they can’t repay it then it’s just another opponent for Cersei to contend with.
Having gathered the approval of the room, Daenerys asks to speak with Olenna alone.
Olenna is dubious of Dany’s plan to restore peace to Westeros, saying that peace never lasts. The matriarch of house Tyrell has lived through a lot and we’ve seen her political mind and wit take on key players including Varys, Cersei and even Tywin.
She reckons she outlived all the clever men that she’s known because she ignored them and did her own thing. Her advice to Dany is not to be a sheep, but to “be a dragon.”
Although Olenna has long been a quiet hero of our story (don’t forget, she was the one who secretly offed Joff) we ultimately have to remember that she too is here for revenge over anything else since her son and grandchildren, the heirs to Highgarden, were killed in the Great Sept of Baelor that Cersei destroyed with wildfire.
Here’s my issue with her advice:
Firstly, Olenna is alive because she DID listen to a clever person – her own granddaughter. Margaery told Olenna to return to Highgarden instead of staying in Kings Landing. Had she ignored her and stayed, she too would have been blown up in the Sept.
Secondly, the reason there wasn’t peace during the reign of Daenery’s father was BECAUSE HE WAS BEING A DRAGON. Please Dany, keep listening to clever people… Tyrion actually seems to know what he’s doing.
As Greyworm is preparing to go to war, Missandei arrives at his room. She’s hurt by the fact that he wasn’t going to say goodbye to her, but he says that he would have spoken with her when he returned.
We learn that during the Unsullied’s training, the young boys would be forced to confront their greatest fears. Greyworm was always the bravest of all the slave boys, but now he reluctantly explains that he couldn’t bring himself to say goodbye because he feared losing her. It’s a touching moment as the two of them reveal their innermost worries and take their relationship to the next level.
Missandei disrobes but is stopped as she reaches to undress Greyworm. The Unsullied are eunuchs, mutilated as boys by their masters, and he feels ashamed.
But Missandei inspires trust in Greyworm, and eventually he obliges. They share a graphic but genuine and passionate scene.
(No picture for you, use google you pervert!)
We find the archmaester leading Samwell around the Citadel library. He explains that in order for people to read your histories, you need to have both a wealth of research and a strong writing style.
“I’m not writing ‘The chronicles of the wars following the death of King Robert I’ so it can sit on the shelf unread!” he laughs, before seeing Sam’s unimpressed expression.
“What would you call it then?” The old man demands.
“I don’t know… possibly something a bit more poetic…?”
Game of Thrones fans across the globe scream, “A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE!” at their TV sets.
“We’re not poets Tarly!” he replies disdainfully.
Sam mentions some research he’s been doing on greyscale, noting that there are actually 2 recorded cases of it being cured. Unfortunately, the archmaester being a know it all points out that the man who once cured it later died from it himself. He forbids Sam to do the procedure on Jorah.
Having seen Sam break into the restricted area (something that would undoubtedly lose him his place in the Citadel) we already know that he doesn’t tend to listen to the archmaester and is willing to take risks…
Jorah is writing a letter to Daenerys explaining his situation and saying goodbye.
Sam lets himself in, pushing a trolley full of medical supplies. He explains that he knew his father Jeor Mormont, and won’t let Jorah die.
He passes the older man a large jug of rum, and makes him drink the lot in order to numb the pain. Reading the study directly from the textbook, he makes Jorah bite down on a piece of wood and tells him not to scream – if they get found out “it’ll be the end of both of us.”
Jorah is reluctant, but will take any chance to reunite with his Queen.
Sam has to peel off the entirety of the infected skin before applying a healing ointment. As he digs his scalpel underneath the first scale, thick yellow pus shoots out. The underside is repulsive, stomach -churning infected raw flesh. The writers treat us to a graphic transition from Jorah’s pus filled scales to a crusty pie oozing with cheese sauce. Who would’ve thought they could outdo Sam’s disgusting scene from last week! I won’t inflict the image on you.
As the men behind her chow down on their pie, Arya is sitting at a table when she hears a familiar voice. Hot Pie, her friend from several seasons ago, arrives with food and drink and is surprised to see her. She’s at the Inn At The Crossroads where her friend decided to stay to work in the kitchens. The Inn is a common stop for people travelling between Winterfell and Kings Landing.
It’s clear that her old friend hasn’t changed a bit, while she’s an entirely different person.
Hot Pie does his usual thing and starts rambling on about how to make the best crust to a pie. Arya mentions that she didn’t use the same technique when she baked one.
Arya continuously avoids Hot Pie’s questions until he tells her that Jon took Winterfell back from the Boltons. Suddenly Arya’s demeanor shifts.
She tells her old friend not to die (uh-oh) and he replies that he won’t, as he’s a survivor like her. (Double uh-oh)
She heads out and mounts her horse, turning back the way she came as the music of Winterfell plays. It’s a big move for Arya, choosing family over her list. Looks like there’s going to be a reunion of all the remaining Starks!
Winterfell’s maester brings Sam’s message about dragonglass to Jon and he calls a meeting of the lords. Tyrion has written to Jon inviting him to Dragonstone and they so desperately need allies and weapons against the White Walkers, so he intends to go. (There goes that reunion…)
Once again, Sansa has something to say about this as she thinks it’s a trap, and the same lords who previously spoke against Jon’s plans now stand again.
Heartbreakingly, the third person to take a stand is Lyanna Mormont – the young girl who up until now has defended Jon’s judgement. They all think that the north needs him and Sansa pleas with him.
“You’re abandoning your people! You’re abandoning your home!”
But Jon believes he’s leaving it in good hands. Sansa’s.
She looks shocked, almost as if she can’t take in what she’s just heard, but then she nods and doesn’t say another word.
As I see it, there’s two ways to look at this scene. Initially I was annoyed with the lords standing against Jon, but the more I think about it the more I see it from their point of view. Not only have the Starks always led the North from Winterfell, but these men are really starting to believe that the White Walkers do exist, and if they do then Jon is the man they need in charge.
Similarly, you might think that Sansa shuts up the moment she hears that she’s going to be in charge because she’s happy she will get to do things her way. It could certainly be the wedge that Littlefinger has been trying to drive between them. On the other hand, Jon’s decision is made, and how would the new leader of the north look to her subjects if she showed any doubt in her own capability? It could be that Sansa is really stepping up.
Still, with both Jon and Davos gone I’m concerned. Despite having the best intentions, Brienne is more of a Ned Stark character – honourable rather than wise – and many of the lords still don’t quite seem to understand how things have to work at the moment.
Sansa is pretty much on her own and Littlefinger is ready to play some more games.
Jon has made his way into the crypts of Winterfell, where he stands in front of Ned Stark’s memorial. Right on cue, Littlefinger arrives, trying to find favour with the King in the North. He tells Jon that they shouldn’t be enemies, and reminds him that the Knights of the Vale saved them from defeat against Ramsay Bolton.
Littlefinger mentions how he loved Catelyn Stark, and tries to play to Jon’s ego saying that she underestimated him and he’s their best bet at defeating the White Walkers.
But Jon isn’t buying it, and reaches the end of his tether when Littlefinger says that he loves Sansa. Jon slams him against the wall, just as Ned once did.
“Touch my sister and I’ll kill you myself!”
Shortly after this scene in season one, Littlefinger betrayed Ned to Cersei. It could be foreshadowing that something bad is about to happen for Jon, or equally could be to show the differences in how Jon and Ned handle themselves.
Whilst on her way back to Winterfell, Arya has stopped to build a fire and rest for the night. She’s alerted to another presence nearby as her horse is spooked by something. She draws her sword in readiness as a wolf pack suddenly bursts through the trees.
Surrounded by at least 6 wolves, a girl doesn’t stand a chance.
A beast double the size of the other wolves steps forward and Arya wheels around to face it.
She’d recognise her direwolf anywhere. Her last meeting with her beloved companion was a sad one. After Nymeria savaged Joffrey’s arm to protect Arya, she chased the direwolf away, releasing her back into the wild.
It seems like Nymeria is now leading her own wolf pack. Ecstatic to be reunited, Arya begs the wolf to come with her back to Winterfell, but Nymeria turns tail and leaves, taking the rest of the pack with her.
Initially heartbroken, Arya realises. “That’s not you.” The show’s creators have confirmed that this is a direct reference to something Arya herself said to her father in season 1.
We get the impression that it might not be so easy to go back to life the way things were…
Beneath deck in Yara’s fleet, the Sand Snakes are talking about who they want to kill. One of them wants Cersei, another wants the mountain. (Good luck with that, lady!) It’s a reminder of their bravado that we didn’t need.
Meanwhile, Ellaria is discussing fine wines with Yara – the pair obviously have a bit of rapport and flirting turns to something more. Theon is awkwardly providing more wine to the Dornish woman. He’s trying to avoid her advances on him too, but he’s also still a little subservient – not the man he once was.
Without a moment’s notice something strikes the ship. Scrambling above deck, a flash of lightning illuminates their uncle Euron’s sails approaching. Although on the face of it the episode’s title (Stormborn) refers to Daenerys, may I remind you of one of Euron’s first ever lines.
“I am the storm, brother. The first storm and the last. And you’re in my way.”
A massive boarding ramp slams against the ship’a deck, and Euron leads the charge madly swinging a battleaxe. The youngest of the Dornish girls goes to protect her mother below deck as Yara and Theon battle the attacking hordes.
The two Sandsnakes above deck take Euron on together. He has to abandon his axe in his last victim’s skull as a whip wraps around his neck and drags him away. Using momentum to his advantage he punches the girl square in the face before wrapping the whip around her neck and choking the life from her.
Her sister attacks from the side and strikes a glancing blow, but she’s overpowered. Euron disarms her and skewers her with her own spear, lifting her off the ground triumphantly.
Ellaria and her only remaining daughter can’t hold out for much longer as more and more men swarm them. “Kill us!” Ellaria demands. She’s met with a shaking head as the men take them captive.
Yara is dismayed to see her fleet ablaze but refuses to give in and leaps onto Euron from above. “Give your uncle a kiss!” he wails. Killing three others in the process, Euron overpowers her and grabs her around the neck from behind. He screams at his nephew, “LITTLE THEON!” goading him to come and save his sister.
In that moment everything goes into slow motion for Theon. The man who murdered his father now has a blade to his sister’s throat. He’s watching their fleet burning, seeing soldiers slaughtering the men he was serving with. He’s watching the men being mutilated, their tongues cut from their mouths. It’s all too familiar for him, and all the trauma he went through comes flooding back.
He looks down. His eye twitches. In a moment, Theon is gone and Reek is back.
He’s never been the same since what Ramsay did to him. He drops his sword, and leaps off the side of the boat. Euron cackles maniacally, and Theon watches them sail away amidst the burning fleet.
Now listen. I coped when Ned Stark was beheaded. I took what happened to Jon in my stride. I even got through Shireen’s demise, but watching this scene really hurt. The acting from Alfie Allen (Theon) and Pilou Asbæk (Euron) was incredible. The only solace I can take from it is that Theon probably made the right choice, whether it was calculated or cowardice. There was no way he could’ve overpowered Euron, so he may have just saved his sister’s life as well as his own. Anyway, I really don’t think I can do the scene justice, so you can watch the full 6 and a half minute clip here. I’ll wait for you to come back… just like I’ve been waiting for Gendry for 4 seasons now.
In summary, we have a few things to consider.
1) Euron will deliver his gift to Cersei and they’ll join forces. How will Daenerys take Cersei on if she doesn’t have a fleet and possibly the Dornish army to rely on? Will Dany have to take Olenna’s advice and unleash the dragon, and what might that mean for her as a character? When we consider that Cersei now also has a potential dragon slaying weapon, the tables are really starting to turn!
2) What’s going to happen when Ser Davos finds Melisandre at Dragonstone? After he found out what she did to Shireen, he justified his long-lived mistrust of her and boyyy was he mad!
3) With Greyworm and Missandei having finally had their moment, does that mean bad news for one of them?
4) What kind of state is Arya going to find Winterfell in without Jon running things?
5) Is Sam going to turn out to be our storyteller, in the same way that Frodo finishes writing “There and back again” in The Lord of the Rings? Tell me that what Sam sees in the Citadel doesn’t look incredibly similar to something that appears in the opening credits, I dare you!
6) Where the fuck is Gendry?
I think that’s enough food for thought this week. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section, and I’ll see you after episode 3!