Now that Game of Thrones no longer has a prescribed path to follow in terms of source material, it’s starting to feel more like a well-crafted TV show than an epic adaptation, and that means we are seeing more throwbacks to earlier seasons, and hints at more satisfying resolutions for several plot strands.
The biggest progression in “Stormborn” was the forming of an alliance between Daenerys, the younger Greyjoys, House Tyrell, Dorne, and – potentially – Jon Snow. After challenging the loyalty of Varys and deciding he would be a handy asset to keep around, Dany received a visit from none other than the Red Priestess, Melissandre, who told her about the prophecy of a promised prince who could bring light to the Seven Kingdoms. Courtesy of Missandei, we also learnt that the High Valerian word used in the prophecy is gender neutral, and so could refer to a princess…an intriguing prospect for Daenerys.
Melissandre also informed Daenerys of Jon’s success in uniting the Wildlings and the Northern families, and the Queen of Dragons decided she should summon him to Dragonstone to meet him in person. It was interesting that she insisted he should ‘bend the knee’, demonstrating her desire to wield absolute power, although she recognises she needs people like Varys and Tyrion to advise her. While the spectre of the Mad King and her brother haunt Dany, and she seems to genuinely want what’s best for her people, Cersei’s reminder that she crucified the Great Masters of Meereen and roasted people with her dragons, and Dany’s own insistence that she would burn Varys alive if he betrayed her were timely reminders that Stormborn can live up to that name.
The reluctant King in the North received word that Daenerys wished to summon him, and despite Sansa’s concession that Tyrion was kind and trustworthy, she still opposed any sort of dealings with the descendant of the Mad King. But a second raven, this time from Jon’s old buddy Sam (and anyone who didn’t melt a little bit at how pleased Jon was to hear from him is dead inside), explaining everything he’s been learning about Dragonglass recently, mainly the fact that Dragonstone is built on an entire flippin’ mountain of the stuff! The other lords of the Great Hall were also dead against their king leaving to see Dany, but Jon has never had any appetite for power. He’s not overly concerned with revenge or Cersei or who rules the Seven Kingdoms. All Jon cares about is stopping the Army of the Dead consuming the people he’s sworn to protect. So leaving Sansa in control, and with a parting warning to Littlefinger to keep his grubby mitts off his sister, Jon Snow rode off with Davos to meet the fire Queen. They are fire and ice! Geddit?
Sam hadn’t just discovered that Dragonglass could be mined from Dragonstone. As suspected last week, he also realised it could be used to treat greyscale. This was both good and bad news for poor Jorah, who had to undergo a painful skinning procedure thanks to Sam’s experimental cure. I am loving Sam’s rebellious streak though, and the fact that his inherent goodness is causing him to question his superiors. Sam’s always been a bit of a sleeper hero, and it’s great to see him being so decisive and sure of himself – especially given he has no medial training!
Less secure in her conviction was Arya, who was stopped in her tracks on her way to assassinate Cersei by the news (courtesy of old pal, Hot Pie – best name in GoT, hands down) that the Boltons had been defeated and Winterfell reclaimed by Jon. Maisie Williams did a wonderful job this week, imbuing Arya with a sense of childlike hope, even after everything she’s been through during her single-minded pursuit of revenge. In a stunning scene, the youngest Stark, having decided to go home, found herself surrounded by wolves, including her lost direwolf, Nymeria. Dropping her weapon, Arya called her wolf by name and placated her, but the wolf refused to go with her former mistress to Winterfell. It remains to be seen whether Arya was talking about the wolf or herself when she declared, “no, it’s not you,” (another call back to a first season conversation with her father) and whether this means she will continue on her journey home, or turn around again and go after Cersei’s head as she originally intended.
The climax of this episode saw the ill fated voyage of Theon and Yara Greyjoy, who set out for Sunspear to raise an army, alongside the Sands, at Dany’s behest, ambushed by bad uncle Euron. Cersei’s would-be suitor not only had a chance to take out his niece and nephew, but also decided Ellaria would be an excellent gift for the Queen (well, the princess did murder Myrcella Lannister). It’s not clear if he knew they would all be on the ship, or how he would know this, but Euron certainly went all out, setting fire to ships and decimating the fleet. In a horrible echo of the scene before, in which Ellaria taunted Theon about being his sister’s protector against her own amorous intentions, Reek came to the surface when confronted with the sight of Euron holding Yara at knife point. Theon made a jump for it, diving overboard, and leaving us unclear as to whether Yara was dead or captured by the end of the episode. I’m guessing she’s alive, and that Theon will need to rescue her in order to redeem himself and overcome his personal demons. His character has see-sawed over the years, his tendency towards cowardice and self interested occasionally punctuated with good deeds. It will be interesting to see if this latest selfish act is all it seems to be.
A lot of movement in “Stormborn”, and a lot of revelations and connections made. It seems that with only eleven episodes left to resolve the game, this will be a fast paced and densely packed home stretch. But while things seem to be coming together for Daenerys and Jon, there are bound to be a lot of obstacles along the way – not the least of which is a rather vicious looking mechanical slingshot which can pierce the skull of a dragon! Buckle up, folks! It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Final Grade B+
+ The love scene between Grey Worm and Missandei was strangely touching and beautifully shot.
+ Tyrion and Varys might just end up being the saviours of the Seven Kingdoms, and that’s pretty good going for a pair of outcasts. Their friendship is one of this show’s most surprising and wonderful things.
+ That cut from Jorah’s flayed chest to the food in Hot Pie’s inn might have put me off eating for life. Brilliantly gross.
– The Sand Snakes may not have had the most compelling story or the best lines, but their slaughter was unceremonious to say the least.
– I’m not sure that Sansa’s constant undermining of Jon makes sense after all she’s been through, and after her comments about admiring Cersei last week, I’m beginning to think she might become a thorn in her half-brother’s side.
Extra Thought: I’m not sure that the meeting between Dany and Jon will be plain sailing, as the Queen is fond of grand gestures of fealty, and Jon is defined by his hatred of all that guff. It will be an interesting and possibly uneasy meeting of minds.
What did you think? Did the politics and machinations of “Stormborn” float your boat, or sink it faster than Yara’s ship? Sound off in the comments, or over on Twitter!