Game of Thrones, S07E02: “Stormborn”

Game of Thrones, S07E02: “Stormborn”

 Incremental Progress is Broken Up by a Murky Battle and Some Welcome Deaths

Out of respect for the fact that there are too many fucking characters in this show, all of whom are to be found spread across every corner of Westeros, these reviews will be divvied up into sections. Each section will be titled after the main character(s) in each area, focussing solely on the developments therein.


Also, if you’re reading this and get upset at the spoilers within, I have a stupid, novelty Indiana Jones whip I’d like to show you.


“Stormborn” continues Game of Thrones‘ recent trend of moving its plot forward in fits and starts while its characters either spin on the spot or take giant leaps backwards. There are some typically juicy moments, but it all ends in one of the show’s murkiest, least-inspired battle sequences.

Rating: 7/11


Daenerys, Tyrion et al. – Dragonstone

It’s demonstrative of my childish mind that every time there’s a screengrab of three of four people looking sullen in this show, I want the caption to be “…So, who farted?” (HBO)

Two weeks in a row now, the strongest scenes in Game of Thrones have been those involving discussions between characters who are slowly getting acquainted (or reacquainted, as it were) with each other’s ideals and motivations. Last week, the mirrored butting of heads between “siblings” (Jon and Sansa vs. Cersei and Jaime) allowed us insight into these new and developing rapports. This time around, we’re treated to Daenerys squaring off with Varys, whom she believes to be a fickle man unworthy of her trust.

Compared with other characters who are often on the fringes of the show’s main action (such as Littlefinger), Varys has managed to cultivate a level of mystique without disappearing up his own arsehole (again, like Littlefinger). He always seems a few steps ahead of everyone else, which makes his genuine affection for Tyrion or rare moments where he’s caught off his guard – like his confrontation with the red priestess last season – all the more startling.

Likewise, there’s the briefest of moments here where Dany seems poised to dismiss (or maybe even kill) Varys for his disloyalty to so many royals before her. Of course, the Spider is more than equipped to handle himself in this sort of discussion, one where he can defend his shifting allegiances as a devotion to the one constant faction of Westeros: “the people”. His conviction, paired with Dany’s desire to forego the trappings of tyrants and despots, wins her over. I mean, she threatens to burn him alive if he ever betrays her, but they’re both smiling by the end of it, which is as close as you can get to friendly in Game of Thrones.

A few moments later, Melisandre shows up and speaks with the Khaleesi in Klingon, insisting that she totally needs to check out Jon Snow’s dick, or something. Anyway, Tyrion – who, let’s face it, has become one of the most disappointingly boring characters on the show – vouches for Jon. So, a raven is sent to Winterfell beckoning the King in the North. In a later scene – which devolves into some squabbles and tactical deployment that isn’t all that different from the show’s early seasons – we watch Tyrion push some markers around on a map and lay out his plan. What could go wrong?


Jon & Sansa – Winterfell

Jon, using his patented Snow powers. They… are not helpful. (HBO)

Back in the North, the show is setting up one of its classic conundrums that has long made GoT – and, by extension, the Telltale Game series it inspired – such a bugger when it comes to decision making. Jon receives Tyrion’s raven but, despite Sansa’s agreement that Tyrion is not likely to lure Jon into a trap, is wary of travelling to Dragonstone himself. The next day, Sam’s raven informing Jon of the mountain of dragonglass buried under Dragonstone arrives. Well, now ain’t that a bitch?

Essentially, Jon’s options are to either travel to Dragonstone and meet Daenerys, thereby leaving himself vulnerable to a potential trap, or stay in Winterfell at the behest of his bannermen and continue to rule the North as the White Walkers draw nearer. There’s a few problems with this whole thread, chief of them being that because we know there isn’t a trap waiting for Jon in Dragonstone, the protests of the Northerners (reasonable though they may seem) are simply empty timewasting. There’s no dynamic to a group of people arguing over something that we know is not an issue.

Second, the show is clearly setting up some sort of terrible event to befall Winterfell in Jon’s absence, which will only lead to more scrambling before everyone can finally be in the same place at once. The again, maybe (for some reason) Sansa will be compelled to betray Jon’s trust as Warden of the North and refuse to relinquish control once he returns. Or maybe… whatever Littlefinger’s quietly, sulkingly plotting will come to fruition. Either way, the show has less than a dozen episodes left to coalesce all of this while it keeps insisting on separating people. I’m curious to see where it goes, if frustrated as ever.

Oh and, on that note, what the fuck is Littlefinger even trying to do at this point? In this episode, he follows Jon down into the Stark crypt, brags about bringing Ned’s bones back himself, reminds Jon that Catelyn hated him, tries awkwardly to eke out a thank you for showing up last season and caps it all off by basically saying “I wanna fuck your sister.” Dude, what are you doing? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!


Cersei & Jaime – King’s Landing

One of the most interesting things happening up in King’s Landing is also the most understated: the battle for Jaime’s soul. Though on the face of it he appears completely loyal to his sister, there’s an element of reluctance creeping into his typical bravado. When trying to convince Randyll Tarly to back Cersei against the Tyrells, he seems more resigned than usual. He isn’t quite defeated, but he also doesn’t seem to think any of this matters. Jaime sees the writing on the wall, for him and his sister; the only difference is, he thinks they probably deserve what’s coming.

Just briefly, let’s look at how far a character like Jaime’s come. Last week, I mentioned that his character has stalled somewhat over the last couple of years, but it’s still interesting to consider that this is the man who pushed Bran out of a window in the first episode. Jaime has done terrible things in his time on this show, including murdering members of his own family. But for the grace of Brienne, he might still be the heartless bastard he began the series as. And yet, he has vowed to kill Tyrion and lost almost everyone dear to him, save for Cersei. Can this all end well for him? Part of me kinda hopes so, even while the rest of me sincerely fuckin’ doubts it.

Other than that, Qyburn brings Cersei down to the crypts below the city and demonstrates a newly renovated weapon – a ballista, of sorts – that could turn the tide of war against Dany and her dragons. Watching the giant bolt smash through the dragon skull was pretty cool, but you gotta wonder: what doesn’t Qyburn have down in that dungeon? After that stash of wildfire last season and now this, surely he’ll be able to find George R. R. Martin’s near finished draft of the next book down there somewhere. Now that shit would come in handy.


Sam & Jorah – The Citadel

“Have you ever done this bef–?” “Shhhh, shhhhh… just let this happen.” (HBO)

After the silhouette of Jorah Mormont appeared lit in a dank cell last week, we now get to see the full extent of the Greyscale infesting his body. It looks pretty cool, and props to the makeup team for the effort, but it does also mean he’s gonna lose his mind in a matter of months and is contemplating suicide. Of course, when Sam hears the dying man’s name is Mormont, he decides a debt is owed that must be repaid.

Of all the characters in this show, Sam has the most interesting relationship with history, both distant and recent. Last week, he stole keys to the restircted section of the Citadel in order to read up on the extensive accounts of White Walkers from long ago, hoping to turn this past knowledge into a contemporary weapon. He comes from a line that considers him inferior and weak (it’s no accident that his father Randyll shows up at King’s Landing this week), but Sam rejects those notions as backwards-thinking. He knows what he’s capable of, what he can offer the world, and forges ahead regardless.

And here, we find him risking his life to save the son of a man who was once his commander. Jeor Mormont wasn’t necessarily kind to Sam, but he was the man he looked to in times of fear and darkness, a man whose presence and assuredness gave his men courage when they had none of their own. Now, he looks to reharness that gift and turn it towards helping Jorah, a man who was disowned by that same father. History’s a funny thing, it never quite travels the way you think it will.

And, by the way, though this show has been more violent and viscerally upsetting before, I’d be hardpressed to think of a more flatout disgusting scene than the one where Sam slices and peels away Jorah’s hardened flesh. That closeup of the reddened knight trying not to scream in agony… Goddamn.


Arya – On the Road to Winterfell

Still searching for that castle on the hill. Fuck, I hate that I know enough about Ed Sheeran to make that reference. (HBO)

Much like last week, Arya doesn’t get a lot to do in this installment, but our time with her is a decent (if very on the nose) reminder of everything that’s changed since her time away in Braavos, both about herself and Westeros. “You can’t go home again”, as the adage says, and though Arya is literally on her way back home by the end of the episode, the show is throwing everything it can at Arya to prepare her for what’s coming.

Catching up with Hot Pie, for instance, achieved everything in three minutes that The Hound’s fifteen minutes with the dead peasants last week strived for. It’s a similar notion, just taken from a different angle and with much more efficiency. See, where The Hound is coming to terms with the cold-hearted bastard he used to be, Arya is re-emerging in this old world as a ruthless killer. She sees the joy a simple compliment brings to Hot Pie and is reminded of a more carefree time of her youth. But that’s just not who she is anymore.

It’s the same notion that drives the later scene with Nymeria and the pack of wolves that come close to dismembering Arya. “That’s not you”, she whispers, and it’s as much to her old dire wolf as it is to herself. Too much has changed to take up with old friends, and good riddance. This is the new world, and old friends will not save you.


Yara & Theon – The Narrow Sea

So, for better or worse, the most explosive moment of this episode is Euron’s fleet ambushing and attacking Yara, Theon, Ellaria and the Sand Snakes. There’s no denying it’s a big deal for a number of reasons, and we’ll get to that. But first, can I just say… what the fuck happened to the battle scenes on this show? Pick a season and I could name you three or four thrilling action setpieces, each with their own distinct style and naturally flowing sense of combat. Shit, even Season 6 had the flashback to young Ned Stark and the Battle of the Bastards.

In comparison, this really was a dank, wet fart of a battle. It has all the chaos and bloodshed typical of a GoT fight with none of the finesse or rhythm. The constant cuts, dim lighting and strange insistent on close ups makes it little more than a confusing jumble of swords and bodies, with some (admittedly pretty cool) flaming projectiles thrown in here and there for effect. If the point is “Who the fuck know what’s going on?”, then fine, but for my money that doesn’t result in a super entertaining fight. Plus, whenever the Sand Snakes are in a battle, my two consecutive thoughts are “Wow, these ladies really suck at fighting” and “Can someone please kill them all? Like, now?!”

Anyway, the gist of it is that Euron shows up to completely fuck Tyrion’s big plan. He kills two of the Sand Snakes (thank Jesus), captures Yara (who puts up the only decent fight) and scares Theon off (who’s coward/hero arc is getting pretty old). That leaves the next chapter open for dealing with the fallout, but it remains to be seen whether or not the show still has any truly compelling tricks left up its sleeves.


Quotes, Random Thoughts & Housemate Contributions


  • Housemate Contribution #1 – “I just peeled three fucking potatoes during that theme song!”


  • “We’ve just decided to pardon those who once served the wrong king.” Coupled with the side-eye at Varys, this is typically the moment where the studio audience would all go, “Oooooooooooooh!


  • “What breathes fire?” Think, Jon! THIIIIIIINK!!!


  • Anton Lesser, who plays Cersei’s Grand Maester Qyburn, has a voice and general gravitas that elevates every scene he’s in, however small his part in them. I wish the show would give him just a tiny bit more to do, but anyway, he’s always a welcome face.


  • I’m not even sure if he appears in this episode, but just being back at King’s Landing makes me wonder: has any character on this show ever fulfilled their potential less than The Mountain after his mutation? Seriously, last season he smashed some dude’s head against a wall, pulled some guy’s spine out aaaand… that’s it. I’m sure there’s something coming, but still, massive letdown so far.


  • “My greatest regret is that Oberyn died fighting for you.” Ellaria’s error is constantly reminding us of the one character that made her tolerable. Goddamn, I cannot stand Ellaria.


  • “I will not attack King’s Landing. We will not attack King’s Landing.” Apparently, they will not attack King’s Landing. ‘Cause why would they, right? That’d just be too fucking easy.


  • So, that whole sex scene with Missandei and Grey Worm… wow. It actually started off really tender, and I think Jacob Anderson showed a side of Grey Worm with that speech about weakness and fear that we’ve haven’t seen before. Then it got kissy, which, yeah… then it got naked-y, which, sure, sure… then… Christ, that was just some proper softcore porn by the end, huh? I’m not necessarily complaining, just…


  • Housemate Contribution #2 – [At the start of the sex scene] “I thought he couldn’t fuck! What, is he just gonna lick her out?” [Two minutes later] “OH MY GOD, HE IS!


  • “What, you don’t like the title? What would you call it then?” It is by the everloving mercy of the eternal Christ that Sam doesn’t reply “…Game of Thrones?


  • In a transition to rival the soup vs. diarrhea montage last week, the GoT editing team does themselves proud with the cut from Jorah’s skin peel to someone digging into a soupy pie.


  • “You’ve been making pies?” “One or two…” Ok, all of my qualms about Arya’s improbable Frey rampage aside, that was pretty funny.


  • The running joke of Arya narrowly missing a reunion with her family has gotten so old that I can’t believe she’s not gonna run into Jon on the road next episode.


  • “None of you have seen the army of the dead. None of you!” God, he will not stop bragging about that.


  • Housemate Contribution #3 – [To Jon Snow choking Littlefinger] “Yes, choke me daddy!”


  • The innuendoes and come-ones dished out between Yara and Ellaria are slightly (only slightly) more boring than the battle that follows. That said, Yara’s grinning shrug to Theon is fuckin’ hilarious.


  • Ok, that gangplank Euron rides onto the ship is pretty hardcore.

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