Week 2 of Game of Thrones got straight up gratuitous. All the murder, sex, and gross body stuff you could ever imagine, as well as plenty of the Great Game that keeps you coming back week after week.
Where Is Everybody?
- Varys gets cleared. Tyrion and Dany reveal their plans to their backers in the Houses of Tyrell, Sand, and Greyjoy and Dany gets some advice. Grey Worm and Missandei finally reveal their feelings and consummate their relationship over the course of a century.
- King’s Landing
- Cersei and Jaime try to get some kingdoms back on the Lannisters’ side. It also turns out you can hurt a dragon…ominous.
- Sansa and Jon hopefully learn the value of having a meeting before your meetings as Jon decides to go meet Dany and Tyrion. Later, Jon has an incredibly satisfying moment with Littlefinger.
- Arya learns from Hot Pie that she can go home again and meets up with an old friend who is a Direwolf.
- Sam rules and managed to figure out how to cure Jorah. It’s real gross though.
- Narrow Sea
- Euron kills the Sand Snakes in a big-ass sea battle and finds his way into our hearts.
Before we get into all else, let’s focus on the most surface level pleasure of this episode. “Stormborn” ended on a massive naval battle that ranks among the best action sequences of this show (minus the season-climax battles that always stand above). Euron’s ship sailing ominously through the dark, the flickering sparks through the air illuminating the battle by burning fire, Euron’s wild-eyed gaze as he brutally tears through Yara’s forces. It’s a scene tense and pulse-pounding and well-composed, a reminder of the particular thrills of a show like Game of Thrones that does manage to pull off such large scale action week by week.
But there’s also an emotional portion of this scene I really love. At the end of the battle, Euron has taken Yara hostage and is taunting Theon with her. Given the chance to return the good she once did for him, he runs and jumps overboard, leaving Yara in the clutches of their sadistic uncle.
It’s an incredibly moving moment, for the sort of sadness this show really can evoke. The trauma done to Theon doesn’t just leave, he’s not just going to be okay. He’s not ready to be a hero and this show isn’t interested in pat blazes of glory or resolutions that tug the heartstrings. Theon is broken and he leaves the carnage behind him as someone stronger tries to take power, the sorrow at his cowardice and at Yara’s feeling of betrayal is never said, but it hangs heavy in the air. A seriously great choice on the part of this episode’s writers.
As Game of Thrones continues down the path to the end HBO doesn’t want to see coming (seriously, HBO has nothing on this scale and they are terrified of when it ends), our storylines are increasingly converging. Last season was about setting up the endgame, this one appears to be about putting all the pieces in place, including pushing the characters into their final alliances.
“Stormborn” shows us just how fun seeing these characters we’ve spent 6 other seasons getting to know in new combinations can be. Strong personalities with seasons of history bouncing off new walls is an absolute delight. Yara and Ellaria’s ribald fliration (interrupted by Euron’s terrifying attack) is worth the watch of the episode alone. Seeing Jon throw Littlefinger up against the wall is amazing. Sam getting to do the right thing for the son of Mormont and Dany consulting with Olenna Tyrell and dressing down Varys are things that only work this late in the game, with such a clear idea of who these people are and what’s happening to them.
It’s important to note just how good an endgame has been for this show. As it focuses, the tightness of the narrative makes everything feel urgent. Everything is now pointing to a future, all the fat has been trimmed off the story’s movement.
From a totally petty perspective, I’m also just glad we saw the Dorne portion of the story cut off. The show’s completely bungled its handling of it, and the death of (2 of) the Sand Snakes was a great way to close off the story and reestablish Euron’s threat. I mean, we knew they would die, these are not fan-favorite characters.
At this point (don’t @ me) Game of Thrones pretty much has figured out what works and what doesn’t. Missteps are on the basis of miscalculation rather than blatant mistake.
Let’s take Missandei and Grey Worm. The scene was a long-time coming and honestly the idea and set-up was truly spectacular. But it went on just a hair too long, just past the necessary point. It felt like a moment of the show grinding to a halt when it doesn’t have the time to waste.
Also, how did Grey Worm learn how to go down on a woman? Is there a bard going around singing about the glories of cunnilingus who’ll teach you how for a copper?
Who Got A Win?
- Euron basically decimated the Greyjoy opposition and struck a major blow to impress the Lannisters and get them back on his side for a claim to the Iron Islands.
- Arya again gets a nice, sweet moment of grace and learns that she does indeed have friends. I’m just so happy for her.
- Jorah Mormont
- It looks like he’s got that greyscale fixed. Yay!
Who Made A Mistake?
- Jon and Sansa
- CAN THEY NOT HAVE ONE FUCKING FIVE MINUTE MEETING BEFORE THEY ACTUALLY HAVE THESE BIG DECLARATIONS. Jon sucks ass at actual politics and Sansa needs to figure out how to guide better. Littlefinger is creeping into that growing divide.
- Olenna’s words are ominous and the current alliance worries me if Dany decides to turn back on Tyrion’s frankly fantastic plan.
- Theon and Yara
- Their forces were decimated, Theon ran, and Yara’s in Euron’s hands. About as bad as it could get for them.