Game of Thrones: “Stormborn” (S7, E2 review)

“I am Jon Snow and I am not happy! seems to be the prevailing emotional motif of the moment (image (c) HBO)

 

  • SPOILERS AHEAD … AND MORE WINTER, MORE SKULLDUGGERY AND SOME RATHER UNORTHODOX MEDICAL PROCEDURES

Another episode, another thrilling game of playing Rearranging Deckchairs on the Westerosi Titanic …

Yes ladies and gentlemen, and passing dragons, with the White Walkers, “growing in numbers every day” and the Night King (Vladimir Furdik) more than a little pissed off at humanity, OK everyone really, the power plays on for young and old in Westeros began to look more than a little self-involved.

The only one with his eye on the real prize is the King of the North, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), who is mindful that he can’t ignore the political machinations around him – which included a delightful raven-delivered invitation to tête-à-tête with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) who is beginning to develop a god-like complex centred on her perceived divine right, or otherwise, to rule – but nor can he pretend that the zombie menace from the snowy wastes isn’t the main game in town.

Because it most certainly is.

The brilliance of having such a massive threat looming over every single last person in Westeros is that it frames all the other angling for position, primarily on the Iron Throne, occupied for now at least by Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), making them all moot … and yet not.

On one hand, you can’t ignore the Night King and his ghostly undead hordes; fail to see them off and all the battles, and scheming and bargaining in the world will ultimately amount to nothing.

But if you simply concentrate on that clearly overwhelming threat and don’t plan for the aftermath when you (hopefully) emerge victorious then that victory will count for nothing with a tyrant in power (or not) who might make the threat of the White Walkers pale into insignificance.

It’s quite the predicament, the burden of which is falling pretty much solely on Jon Snow who, apart from Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) who spent the episode scraping advanced greyscale off Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) in contravention of the Grand Maester’s (Jim Broadbent) express instructions (so subversive!), is the only one who knows what Westeros is truly up against.

 

“You want me to what, what now?!” Sam is not impressed (image (c) HBO)

 

So in a way you can hardly blame the rest of Westeros for going on with glorious business as usual.

In other words, plotting, killing and blowing up and making merry with the Chessboard of Real and Imagined Power.

While Cersei was trying to persuade the bannermen of House Tyrell to join her ranks in support of the monarchy and good government what ho and hurrah – honestly some of her reasoning would fit quite nicely in the mouths of Trump et al, underscoring what a darkly divisive game she is playing – Lady Olenna Tyrell was having a meeting with Daenerys, and her fellow co-conspirators Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan), pretender to the Iron Islands throne, and Dorne’s Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), plotting the best way to take Westeros with the least amount of “ashes” production.

(The line being that Daenerys could conquer Westeros in no time flat with three whopping-big dragons but what would she have left? Lots of mess, death and yup, a s**t ton o’ ashes, which benefits no one, least of all a woman who wants to be a fair and just queen.)

It was all soundly reasoned out and made perfect sense – send the Dorne army on the Iron Islands fleet to King’s Landing to lay siege while the Unsullied (led by Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), who finally admitted his URST to Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and did something about it!) and the Dothraki do the dirty work of taking Casterly Rock, the seat of Lannisterian power.

It’s inspired, takes care of the whole “we’re being overrun by foreign barbarians!” line – not that that will stop Cersei using it of course – and sounded like as close to a slam dunk as you could hope for.

That is, until Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk), much-disputed leader of the Iron Islands, surprised the armada in the Narrow Sea and wiped them out, pretty much completely putting paid to a large slab of Daenerys’ grand plan.

Bit of a bummer Hal and one that will force Daenerys and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) back to the good old “this land is ours dammit!” drawing board, a worry since they were rather counting on using the fleet more than once, or once at all really.

Thing is with Daenerys teetering between reason and wisdom, and naked powerplaying – witness exchanges with Varys (Conelth Hill) who got schooled rather firmly thank you by his Queen (the latest ruler anyway that he’d sucked up to), and with the disgraced Red Priest Lady Melisandre (Carice van Houten) – this is not the setback she needs.

It also proves she’s not invincible.

 

Arya’s enemies soon learnt the “You said what to me?” face was the precursor to swift and sudden death (image (c) HBO)

 

Inbetween all this messing around on sea and land, Arya (Maisie Williams) found out from her friend Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey) who is the king of nominative deterministic naming, that Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Jon Snow lived; not only that but they’d kicked the Boltons out of Winterfell and were back in charge of the family silver.

So goodbye King’s Landing and an audacious plan to kill Cersei – yup that would’ve totally worked … or not – and hello Winterfell, where Sansa is temporarily in charge as Jon Snow rides south to meet his queen (that’s how Daenerys is styling it anyway; let’s see how well that goes down) and get his hands on a mountain of White Walker-killing Dragonglass.

So part-shopping, part-diplomacy and part-military strategising – what could possibly go wrong right?

As the Narrow Sea demonstrated all well, plenty; and while you can have all the confidence in the world – Cersei now has a dragon-killing spear-throwing thingy that will end the threat once and for all what ho hurrah! Or will it? – that doesn’t translate to results on the ground.

So planning 1, actual results 0 at this stage – unless you’re Euron Greyjoy and angling for a power-grasping marriage to Cersei in which case, reverse the score thank you very much – and with the White Walkers coming closer and closer, even planning may start languishing unless everyone gets on Team Let’s Not Die and Become Zombies pretty quick smart.

  • Will there warmongering and lusting for power next episode? Yes! Steely-eyed glances and awkward posturing? Of course? Will the deckchairs still be in play? Why, yes, sigh … see you in “The Queen’s Justice” … 

 

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