Reminder that my Game of Thrones fandom is as follows: Haven’t read the books. Prefer to just let the show happen and then react.
The good guys can still lose.
That might seem horribly naive of me to say or perhaps expresses too limited a worldview considering how many of the characters on this show aren’t so much good or bad but instead just deliciously complicated. And yet that’s my primary reaction to “Stormborn,” the second episode of Game of Thrones’ truncated seventh season.
Early on in the episode, Tyrion lays out a military strategy for Dany’s forthcoming attack on Westeros which makes complete sense and seems fairly ironclad. In fact, thanks to a similar earlier scene with Cersei we know Tyrion has wisely anticipated her every move and should be able to catch her by surprise, even if Olenna Tyrell warns Dany that the trick to survival in this brutal world they live in is to ignore the clever people (including Tyrion) and simply make everyone fear you. For the moment, Dany is content to parrot Tyrion’s talking point about not wanting to rule over a kingdom of ash as the explanation for her reluctance to wage a scorched Earth campaign. That’s exactly the type of combat Westeros would expect from a Targaryen, but Dany’s a different kind of Targaryen. Westeros doesn’t know that yet. They just know the stories of what she did to everyone in Slaver’s Bay and elsewhere.
In a normal Game of Thrones scenario, the outcome here would be clear, which is mostly that plot and circumstance conspires against the heroes and continually pushes them to the point of defeat before something improbable, but awesome happens to finally even the scales. However, since we are so near the end of the series at this point and because we enter season 7 after a series of high notes for all of the “heroes” (e.g., Jon and Sansa defeated Ramsey, Arya got her revenge, Dany defeated the local rebellion) I allowed myself to be lulled into a false sense of security. It’s not so much I completely believed Tyrion’s plan would go off without a hitch. This is still Game of Thrones, after all. It’s more that I didn’t expect it to go off the rails so quickly.
But then psychotic Euron Greyjoy showed up at the end like an obnoxious child who refuses to play dead when the other kids have clearly shot him with their imaginary weapons. Okay. That last sentence sounded better in my head, but the point is Euron lays waste to his niece and nephew’s fleet despite the fact that we clearly see him get stabbed multiple times. Armor shmarmor. That dude has to be running on pure adrenaline to power through those injuries. It doesn’t seem fair, then, that he gets to kill two of the three Sandsnakes, and so easily takes two of Dany’s most vital allies (Yara and the vindictive lady from Dorne who I still think of as Indira Varma from the all-time best episode of Torchwood, “They Keep Killing Suzie,” as well as the second season of Human Target) thus laying waste to Tyrion’s plans.
It’s Game of Thrones, though. Why did I ever expect anything different?
Sidenote: Euron reminds me of Nathan Fillion’s Caleb from the last season of Buffy in that he is a character being played to the actor’s camp delight and is far from the show’s best villain but a necessary final bad guy for the heroes to vanquish since by this point they’ve run out of purely evil people to defeat.
Further side note: I choose to believe the Sandsnakes would have lasted longer and possibly even defeated Euron had the fight happened on Dorne or perhaps on neutral ground. You can’t take a whip to a sword fight on a ship! But that’s just not their natural setting. Perhaps, though, I only choose to believe this because after years of hearing these girls boast about their prowess as fighters and Arya-like desire to kill Cersei it’s hilariously anticlimactic to see them so quickly swatted away.
AS FOR THE REST…
-After Angel, Vampire Diaries, Arrow and various others have gone to this well to disappointing results, I am just about done with giving a shit about prophecies on TV shows. They never turn out how you expect, and often come off as blatant crutches for a writer’s room in need of some guiding force to structure a season or seasons. That’s not so much the case with Game of Thrones, but I’ve still been bitten enough that I’m reluctant to really care if it’s Jon or Dany or The Hound who turns out to be the prophesied savior of Westeros. However, I recognize this is a big deal in Games of Thrones lore, and to many Melisandre’s scene with Dany in “Stormborn” confirmed a longtime theory that the savior could actually be a woman, not a man. I more love how this twist came via a simple mistranslation which was sorted out by three women – Melisandre, Dany and Dany’s interpreter whose name I never realized until now is Missandei. Speaking of which…
-Recently, I was randomly thinking back to Game of Thrones early days when one of its primary selling points was “swords & boobs!” and how it introduced the term “sexposition” into the cultural lexicon. I admire how far the show has come since then, to the point that Missandei and Grey Worm’s extended sex scene caught me off guard. I’d forgotten people sometimes get 100% naked on this show.
However, while the nudity and sex was part of the shock to the system of early Game of Thrones we are now deep enough into the show and so invested in these characters that sex sceneds need to feel more earned and nuanced. Missandei and Grey Worm’s deeply touching and romantic “this might be the last time we see each other” union passes that test. Old Game of Thrones would have definitely shown us Grey Worm’s mutilated genitals, but current Game of Thrones realizes the sight of what has become of his manhood is not as important as showing us Missandei’s reaction to it and his reaction to her reaction. It’s not about exploiting either of them but about highlighting their connection in such a vulnerable state. You could counter argue that if this were true we didn’t need the full nude shot of Missandei. She could have gotten by with just a topless and distant butt shot, just like Grey Worm. To which I say, fair point.
-I like Sansa. I like the poor, beleaguered people of the North. I don’t want anything bad to happen to them, but, yeah, some not good stuff is about to go down, right? Jon’s physical threat against Littlefinger isn’t going to stop him from enacting whatever plan he’s been cooking up, not after the show has spent several seasons building up to this moment where Sansa will in some way be corrupted by him.
-I feel like Jon’s every line carries the subtext of “OMG, the White Walkers are so scary! You guys haven no idea how scary. Seriously.” He should just go around giving people the Kyle Reese speech about the Terminator but altered to be about the Night King: “Listen, and understand! That [Nigh King] is out there! It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop… ever, until you are dead! And then it will raise you back from the dead and turn you into one of its soldiers!”
-Well played, Varys. Well played. Actually, I don’t think he “played” Dany. I think he told her the truth about believing in her for as long as she remains the best option for the people of Westeros, but I also believe Dany would have executed him (turnabout is fair play, after all) had he not give her the answers she wanted.
-They’d damn well better do something interesting with Jorah now to earn that extended scene of Sam peeling off his greyscale scars. Seriously. Plus, I can’t be the only one who laughed out loud when the shot revealed the big “Kahleesi” at the time of his goodbye letter to Dany. His insistent “Kahleesi” mutterings was the David-Schimmer-Saying-”Juice”-A-Lot-On-People-Vs.-O.J of this show at one time.
-I love that Arya’s direwolf can’t be tamed or domesticated, just like her. I also love the idea that it’s been off having its own Call of the Wild adventure ever since Arya sent it away to spare it from Cersei’s wrath way back in season 1.
-”Stormborn” was a reminder of how slowly news sometimes spreads in Westeros and elsewhere, with multiple characters finally getting caught up to date on events we’ve long since known about (e.g., Tyrion hearing what’s become of Jon and the North, Arya learning Jon and Sansa re-took Winterfell).
-It was not lost on me that Dany’s war room consisted of like 70% women nor that our leaders in this world include precious few men anymore.
-Really? A crossbow? So, they’re just going straight-up Hobbit with this business of figuring out how to kill the dragons? That’s the best they could do? As goes Smaug so goes Dany’s dragons?
Now, next week brings us Jon and Dany’s first meeting, the two still entirely unaware they’re actually related. Plus, Cersei gets to strut over having struck a decisive first blow in this new war, though perhaps then sulk that this means she now has to marry Euro.
What did you think of “Stormborn”? And what are you looking forward to next week? Let me know in the comments.