Game Of Thrones, Season 7, Episode 2: “Stormborn” Review

After last week’s table setting, things are starting to roll in the second episode of in the Game of Thrones!

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Last week’s season premier saw a lot of pieces get moved into place, as is the want of David Benioff and D.B. Weiss when they open a new televisual chapter in Game of Thrones. This week though, we started to move some  of those pieces, and some of them sadly got knocked down. We are in the endgame, no doubt about that.

Despite Dragonstone not quite feeling as homely as Daenerys Targaryen thought it would be, it is certainly a strong base camp for the Mother of Dragons. She holds a war council of sorts, with her Hand Tyrion Lannister setting out his plans for how they will “invade” Westeros without actually invading. The Tyrell’s armies will surround King’s Landing – “foreign” troops would allow the Lannisters to build support too easily – and The Unsullied will instead march on Casterly Rock. Perhaps that is where Tyrion will end up finding his happiness, sitting on his father’s throne. The Greyjoys and Sands will take their ships up the Blackwater river to cut off that supply route – or so they think. After confronting Varys over his ideas of loyalty, Daenrys and Olenna have a quiet word to remind us just how sharp the older Tyrell woman is – and how much she wants revenge. As secondary characters, both Dame Diane Rigg and Conleth Hill have been slightly sidelined recently, so it was good to see them get brief moments to shine.

Daenerys War Council

At the same time, Cersei is strengthening the resolve of her allies, with Jamie sealing the deal by offering Tarly the title of Warden of the South. Her talk of protecting Westeros from invading savage hordes isn’t quite as enticing as straight-up bribery. But she does have something extra up her sleeve: a giant crossbow that can pierce a dragon’s skull. Qyburn really is a talented man.

With the arrival of the Red Priestess, Daenyrs and Tyrion learn of Jon Snow’s ascension to becoming King of the North. Daenyrs wants to summon him to meet his Queen (and bend the knee) but Tyrion sends a more personal letter. After discussion in Winterfell (again, there is dissent when some side with Sansa) it is decided that, despite the possibility that it is a trap, Jon Snow will travel to Dragonstone, for Daenrys and the dragonglass. Sansa will be left in charge at Winterfell, and with Arya deciding to head back home after a chance meeting with Hot Pie, the Stark sisters could be reunited very soon. Whether they like each other or not, I’m not too sure!

In Oldtown, Sam is still getting the short end of the stick, being ignored by his Archmaester when he attempts to find a cure for Ser Jorah’s greyscale. He decides to persevere though, and starts to cut off chunks of Jorah’s infected flesh in a rather gruesome scene. He probably preferred last week’s slopping out.

Sam and Archmaester

All of which sort of leads us to this week’s big finale. We see the combined fleets sailing from Dragonstone, and below deck Ellaria flirts with Yara Greyjoy in front of her brother Theon. As the two women begin to kiss however, they are attacked by the Iron Fleet. Euron Greyjoy leads the charge, hacking his way through men once loyal to him. While trying to protect their mother, Obara and Nymeria are killed by Euron. He captures Ellaria and Tyene instead of killing them, and his present for Cersei from last week will be the people who poisoned her daughter.

Despite the deaths of two characters, it is the Greyjoy family showdown that packs the most punch in this episode. The Sand Snakes were just a distraction this late in the game, and they have never really connected properly with the main story – seemingly just another set of people wanting revenge on the Lannister family. Theon Greyjoy however is one of the most tortured characters in television history, and his escape with Sansa last season was a genuine, punch-the-air moment of heroism. When faced with his uncle Euron threatening his sister Yara though, Theon simply ran away. Whereas Greyworm confronted and overcame his weakness (Missandei and he finally got together, ending their Sam and Diane unspoken thing) Theon is still ruled by it. Although he thought Reek had gone, when faced with the blood and the blade, he was that feeble, wretched, wreck of a man again. It was fantastic stuff from Alfie Allen, in a fast-paced episode the camera stayed on him just long enough to sell his pain. With a bit more time Theon could become a character study in PTSD, but hopefully he can find some resolution rather than just backslide, both for character and the show, as any retreading of familiar ground seems a bit needless at this point. A reunion with Jon Snow at Dragonstone perhaps?

Arya

If you had any doubt, this week’s episode of Game of Thrones shows that we are powering towards the end game. The political intrigue of the early seasons is sadly missing, but it has been replaced by plenty of action. There’s not much subtly to be found anymore. The Dragonstone War Council literally gathers a bunch of major characters and has them explain their history and motivations, Queen Cersei spelled out exactly why the families around King’s Landing need to swear loyalty, and even the master manipulator himself Petyr Baelish told Jon Snow his intentions towards Sansa, getting himself a death threat in the process. At one time these are things that could have played out over weeks and weeks, but with only eleven episodes left, we don’t have the luxury of time to let things simmer.

Even the slightly slower subplot of Sam Tardy’s attempts to help Ser Jorah shows the pace we are moving at. Within an episode of him being reintroduced he is already on the way to a cure (despite apparently searching in vain for a long time). I would be surprised if he isn’t on his way to see Khaleesi, at least partially healed, before too long. And what else will Sam have discovered by then? In two weeks he’s found a long hidden stash of dragonglass and a potential cure for a greyscale. I hope Sam doesn’t turn into Basil Exposition for too long, I think we all want to see him have a happy ending but he needs a bit more than this. And surely Jim Broadbent’s Archmaester will find a more snappy title for his book? Something about playing a game for some thrones maybe?

Jon Snow rides out

Despite what I’ve said in the last couple of paragraphs though, I did really enjoy “Stormborn”. Arya had two brilliant scenes that made her confront her past, and choose between her vengeance and her family. Moustache-twirling Baelish is my favourite character in all of Westeros, and the chance to see him attempt to spin his web around a proper opponent in a more mature, confident Sansa promises to be a highlight. And with Jon Snow on his way to Dragonstone, we have another landmark meeting coming very soon, plus Melisandre and Davos have an awkward conversation in their future. I just hope some of the moments get time to breathe.

Can Game of Thrones keep up this pace? See you next week for episode 3, “The Queen’s Justice”.

Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.

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