TV REVIEW: ‘Game of Thrones’ – ‘Stormborn’

"You're a dragon. Be a dragon."

| July 24, 2017

Spoiler Warning for Season 7, Episode 2 of “Game of Thrones,” as well as all episodes from previous episodes.

Kit Harington as Jon Snow and Aidan Gillen as Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish. (Photo credit: Helen Sloan/HBO)

For it’s entire run, I have held onto the belief that “Game of Thrones” is one of the most consistent shows on television. There honestly aren’t any “bad” episodes and the writing almost always feels similar from episode to episode. With Season 6 having some of the best material to date, I knew this season would have to be truly epic in order to dethrone its predecessor. Two episodes in and I’m beginning to wonder if this is possible, with “Stormborn” being somewhat underwhelming and feeling slightly off in terms of the writing and directing. This isn’t to say that it is a “bad” episode, but it does feel rather average, which is a rarity when it comes to “Game of Thrones.” Still, there are a plethora of great moments and character interactions that do serve as important developments in the story.

In order to recap and review this episode as coherently as possible, events will be discussed by location rather than in chronological order.

Winterfell

Jon Snow goes into complete strategy mode this episode after receiving a letter via a raven from Tyrion at Dragonstone. Obviously, this form of communication isn’t 100% reliable as letters can be forged and being that they are at war, it is best to be suspicious. The letter invites Jon to visit Dragonstone to meet with Daenerys and plead allegiance to her, but Sansa is completely against this proposition. I really love the fact that there is a level of uncertainty that Sansa has when it comes to her family trusting others; you can’t blame her for being so worried considering her father, brother and mother were all tricked and betrayed. Jon is left to ponder his next move, but when the letter from Sam arrives, he decides to bring the matter to the Northern lords and ladies, showing that his leadership style is almost completely opposite of Cersei’s dictatorship; he values the advice of his constituents and he actually allows others to voice their opinions, even if they don’t line up with his. In the meeting, Jon makes it clear that a trip to Dragonstone is absolutely necessary in order to mine dragonglass, but also to forge an alliance with Dany. He once again reiterates the severity of the threat that the Army of the Dead poses; with Jon being the only person in the room to see the White Walkers, it is still rather hard for him to fully make others aware of the fact that their army could literally wipe out all of Westeros. Dany’s dragons and the dragonglass may be the only hope of stopping the Army of the Dead from killing everyone.

I mentioned in my review for the last episode that I agreed with what Sansa said about Jon’s plan to trust Houses Karstark and Umber after their betrayal; however, I didn’t like her decision to speak out against Jon in front of everyone as it essentially demeans his authority. Once again, she is unable to contain herself and publicly criticizes Jon’s plan; this time around, it is clear that the majority agrees with her, even Lady Lyanna is opposed to Jon leaving and states that his place is in Winterfell. Even this isn’t enough to change his opinion and Jon makes a powerful declaration that Sansa shall be in charge during his absence, assuring that “there must always be a Stark in Winterfell.” The look on Sansa’s face when Jon declares her as the de-facto leader is enough to bring tears to my eyes as it showcases that even though they may not always agree, the trust that Jon has for his sister is still there. Later, Jon is shown in the crypts under Winterfell, visiting his father’s tomb in a shot that is incredibly reminiscent to Season 1; I have to mention the chills that I got when I realized how similar Jon looked to Ned in this scene. The beautiful moment doesn’t last long as Littlefinger intrudes and tries to stir shit up. It’s clear that Jon isn’t happy with Littlefinger’s presence in this sacred space and he begins to walk away; that is until Littlefinger basically demands that Jon thank him for bringing the Knights of the Vale to the Battle of the Bastards, just before making an extremely creepy comment about loving Sansa. This causes Jon to lash out and almost kill Littlefinger, but he restrains himself and instead voices an open threat against him. The scenes at Winterfell are some of the best in the episode and I am more than thrilled to see what happens next week as Jon makes his way to Dragonstone to meet Dany.

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen, Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Gemma Whalen as Yara Greyjoy and Indira Varma as Ellaria Sand. (Photo credit Helen Sloan/HBO)

Dragonstone

The opening scene of the episode shows a stormy night on Dragonstone, which is symbolic because this is what the weather was like when Dany was born, hence “Stormborn” being part of her name and the title of the episode. Now she has returned to her birthplace, but it doesn’t feel like home to her. Instead of jumping straight into strategy, Dany decides to interrogate Varys (Conleth Hill) about his history of switching sides in a scene that feels completely forced. This isn’t to say that I think Dany should trust Varys, quite the opposite actually, but this scene just seems like the only purpose it serves is to brew more drama. That being said, it may be a sign that Dany is slowly starting to follow in the footsteps of her father, who evolved into a paranoid tyrant. This scene does allow for some welcome references to King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) and Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd). In a slightly cringe-worthy line, Dany threatens Varys against betraying her with “I’ll burn you alive.” I definitely don’t trust Varys, but he hasn’t done anything (that we’ve seen) to harm Dany’s plan thus far; he’s even secured an alliance with Dorne/House Tyrell for her. I can look past some of these forced conversations if Dany’s character is actually headed down the road of becoming “the Mad Queen.” This episode shows a gripping first meeting when Melisandre (Carice van Houten) surprisingly makes her return to Dragonstone to urge Dany to form an alliance with Jon Snow. Tyrion is shocked to hear his name, but speaks highly of him to Dany; this sets in motion what is quite possibly the most anticipated meeting of characters in the entire series.

Strategy does come into play as Yara, Tyrion, Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) and Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) discuss what their next course of action shall be. Yara believes that they should attack King’s Landing right away, but Dany doesn’t want innocent civilians to be killed, something that Ellaria mentions as being a part of war. Lady Olenna gives an empowering and emotional speech to Dany about how she must rule in a way that the commoners fear her; she mentions her granddaughter Queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer) as being one of the most beloved monarchs, something that may have contributed to her demise. Tyrion ultimately comes up with a plan to secure King’s Landing and eliminate the Lannisters; Yara, Theon and Ellaria are to sail down to Sunspear to link up with the rest of the Dorne fleet before making their way to King’s Landing to essentially surround the city and starve out Cersei and her army, all with the help of the Tyrells. At the same time, Grey Worm and the Unsullied will travel to Casterly Rock to take control and assure that Cersei cannot flee to the Lannister homeland. Hearing Tyrion speaking about defeating his own siblings shows just how dedicated he is to Dany; seeing as how Cersei completely turned against him, it is no surprise that he has also turned his back on his family. Before the plan is set in motion, there is an intimate moment between Grey Worm and Missandei as they finally declare their love for one another, something that has been building for a while now; this is especially important to Grey Worm’s character as Unsullied were essentially slave robots that weren’t allowed to have feelings. This does make me worry that time may be running out for either Grey Worm or Missandei, possibly both; this is war and everyone is on the chopping block.

John Bradley as Samwell Tarly and Jim Broadbent as the Archmaester. (Photo credit: Helen Sloan/HBO)

Oldtown

Sam really is on a roll so far this season and I’m glad that he is being utilized in such a heavy way, especially as his developments are crucial to the progression of the story. This episode shows him assisting the Archmaester in inspecting Jorah to see if his Grayscale can be treated; the Archmaester states that it is completely hopeless and that Jorah will need to go to Valyria to live out the rest of his days. However, Sam isn’t too quick to give up on Jorah and pushes the Archmaester to try out other methods of curing or stopping the Grayscale, even referring to the Princess Shireen (Kerry Ingram) as a case of the disease not being a death sentence. The Archmaester simply doesn’t believe that anything can be done, prompting Sam to take matters into his own hands and try to remove the Grayscale from Jorah’s skin in an absolutely disgusting scene that makes me fearful for Sam’s future; I believe that he may accidentally inflict himself with the disease rather than actually cure Jorah. It seems to me that if there is a cure, it would have already been found by someone, but maybe Sam will be the key to it all. I would love to see Jorah reunite with Dany one day, but as I’ve mentioned before, happy moments are few and far between on this show.

King’s Landing

There are some really heavy developments in the Capital city that help to set the stage for what should be an intense battle between the Lannister forces and Dany’s army. In the Throne Room, Cersei speaks to her bannermen about the threat that has just landed on the shores of Westeros. She shows just how insane and manipulative she is by angrily listing the atrocities that Daenerys committed over in Essos, as well as the fact that she has brought the savage Unsullied and Dothraki across the Narrow Sea; she also places a significant amount of blame on Olenna in an attempt to get those loyal to House Tyrell to switch their allegiance. Not once does she mention any of her own atrocities…you know, like killing her own people by blowing up the Sept of Baelor. In attendance at the meeting is Sam’s father Randyll Tarly (James Faulkner), who makes it clear to Jaime that his family has sworn allegiance to House Tyrell for generations and that he is hesitant to change that; I am really shocked that Jaime is making a case for Cersei, but I can definitely see the cogs turning in his head, he has a larger plan in place to deal with his crazed sister. The most troubling development in the episode comes from Qyburn (Anton Lesser), who brings Cersei down to the dungeon under the Red Keep to discuss a possible solution to their dragon problem. He reveals a massive ballista to her that he believes can be used to kill a dragon based on reports he heard from Meereen when Drogon was severely injured with spears. Seeing the dungeon filled with the dragon skeletons really feels like some worrisome foreshadowing and I wholeheartedly believe that at least one of the dragons will die by the end of the season. Seeing as how Dany views the dragons as her children, I refuse to believe that this would break her down, but rather push her to defeat Cersei once and for all.

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark. (Photo credit: Helen Sloan/HBO)

The Riverlands/On the Road

An aspect of Arya’s character that I have always loved is her independence and drive to get shit done; when she sets her mind on something, she is going to stop at nothing to accomplish it. Her kill list has been a central part of her character for seasons now and at the top of the list is Cersei; traveling to King’s Landing to kill the Queen was established as being her goal for this season, but a stop at a familiar inn changes her entire course. In a surprising return, Arya meets back up with Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey), who was last seen in Season 4, and who I never expected to see again. Arya slyly alludes to the fact that she turned Walder Frey’s sons into pies in the Season 6 finale, something that she is obviously proud of. Hot Pie breaks the news to her that the Boltons have been killed and that Jon has retaken control of Winterfell; the look of relief and cautious joy on Arya’s face when she hears this sent even more chills through my body. From this, she decides that heading to Winterfell is the best course of action right now and I couldn’t agree more. While warming herself up next to a fire, Arya is surrounded by a pack of wolves, which just so happens to include her long-lost direwolf Nymeria, who hasn’t appeared since Season 1 (unfortunately, HBO decided to spoil this by revealing the direwolf’s return in the promo, something that completely ruined the surprise). At first in seems as though Nymeria doesn’t recognize her, but there is a great bit of parallelism as Arya says “that’s not you,” referring to the fact that her direwolf, much like herself, cannot be tamed and does not belong to anyone anymore. This scene is absolutely beautiful, with a huge reason for this being the performance by Maisie Williams. That being said, I am left to wonder why this scene was included if Nymeria didn’t join Arya, unless she is brought back into the story later.

The Narrow Sea

Tyrion’s master plan of a multi-pronged attack on the Lannisters is set in motion as Yara sails to Sunspear with Ellaria and Theon, as well as the Sand Snakes; I have never been bothered by the Dorne/Sand Snakes storyline like others have, but the brief bit of dialogue between Obara (Keisha Castle-Hughes), Nymeria (Jessica Henwick) and Tyene Sand (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) in this episode does come across as painfully cringe-worthy. There is a bit of romantic tension that seems to form with Yara and Ellaria, but before anything happens between the two, chaos strikes as Euron and the Iron Fleet launch a full blown attack. I’m not exactly sure how many ships Yara has, but they are no match for Euron, who utilizes the element of surprise to absolutely decimate his niece’s armada. Both Yara and the Sand Snakes put up a good fight to defend their ship, but there is no stopping Euron who kills Obara and Nymeria, before taking Tyene and Ellaria hostage. There is a pulse-pounding standoff as Euron holds Yara with an axe to her throat, urging Theon to come rescue her. After coming so far since escaping Ramsay, Theon reverts back to Reek and literally jumps overboard, clearly overcome with fear and I can’t say that I’m surprised; Theon is clearly suffering from PTSD and seeing his sister in danger sent him over the edge and it may be for the best. Had Theon tried to fight Euron, he likely would have been killed, but he now has the opportunity to regroup with Dany and plot a rescue attempt. Seeing Theon like this is hard, but I don’t hold any blame against him, although I know he will absolutely blame himself. The battle scene itself was epic, but the filming style left much to be desired and made it rather difficult to tell what exactly was happening; some shots almost seemed like they were sped up, causing the fight choreography to look clunky and awkward. The cinematography of this battle is a highlight, mostly thanks to the use of fire and sparks that rain down on the characters as they fight. The ending shot of Theon in the water as his fleet burns is chilling, yet oddly beautiful.

“Stormborn” is an episode riddled with problems, mostly forced dialogue and heavy-handed conversations. Still, there are a lot of fantastic moments that serve as exciting developments in the story and I am really enjoying the direction this season is headed in. The final battle serves as an answer to a question posed last week: what is the gift that Euron is retrieving for Cersei? That gift is Ellaria, who murdered Cersei’s daughter Mrycella at the end of Season 5. Knowing Cersei, Ellaria is about to enter a hell that she will likely never escape; remember what happened to Septa Unella (Hannah Waddingham)? Some of Dany’s scenes this episode are difficult to watch, mostly due to the dialogue, but her conversation with Olenna is absolutely incredible and I really hope that they share more screentime in the future as they are such a powerful duo and could really accomplish a lot together. With Arya now headed to Winterfell, I find myself fearful that history will repeat itself; every time she finds herself close to a family member, tragedy strikes (remember the Red Wedding). Hopefully we will get a Sansa/Arya reunion, but we aren’t that lucky…are we? Next week’s episode looks to show the highly-anticipated first meeting between Dany and Jon and I coudn’t be more thrilled. Will he bend the knee to her and form an alliance or are we in for more conflict?

Be sure to tune in to “Game of Thrones” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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Category:Arts and Entertainment, Television

Jeffrey Kopp is the Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Niner Times. He is a junior double majoring in Communication and Political Science, with a minor in Criminal Justice. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead.”

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Jeffrey Kopp is the Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Niner Times. He is a junior double majoring in Communication and Political Science, with a minor in Criminal Justice. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead.”

Twitter