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Game of Thrones - Stormborn - Review

Game of Thrones “Stormborn” was written by Bryan Cogman and was directed by Mark Mylod. This was a fast-paced episode that checked in on virtually all the main characters. It’s exciting to see characters start to meet each other too. The sea battle that ended the episode was epic, and it would seem that things are not going well for Daenerys (Emilia Clarke).

The episode begins at Dragonstone in the middle of a storm. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) reminds them all that it was on such a night that Daenerys was born (hence the title of the episode?). Daenerys complains that Dragonstone doesn’t feel like home, and Tyrion promises that they won’t stay at Dragonstone for long. The group proceeds to discuss tactics. 

Daenerys brings up her brother, Viserys, saying that with three dragons, he would have already attacked King’s Landing. She also mentions that he would also have been swayed by flattery – in a veiled accusation of Varys (Conleth Hill) attempting the same with her. Tyrion points out that she doesn’t wish to be the Queen of Ashes, and that they can take Westeros without laying waste to it by getting the Great Houses to support her claim on the throne. 

Daenerys realizes she hasn’t thanked Varys for securing the Doornish and Tyrell armies for her. He tells her that they were eager to support her, and then Daenerys brings up the fact that Varys served her father and then Robert who overthrew him. Varys points out that Robert was an improvement on the Mad King – who was both mad and cruel. Robert’s failing was that he had no interest in ruling. Tyrion tries to jump in, in support of Varys, as he sees the conversation is going in a dangerous direction. Daenerys won’t be distracted, and Varys is smart enough to know this was coming. She tells him she knows he favored her brother at first and asks if his little birds told him that Viserys was cruel, weak, and stupid. She asks if in his learned opinion those were good qualities in a ruler.

Varys tells her that he knew nothing of her at all until her marriage to Kal Drogo. She’s not happy that Varys and his friends sold her like a prize pony, and she presses to know who ordered to have her killed and who hired the assassins. Varys says he did what he had to, and again, Tyrion tries to point out that Varys has proven himself a loyal servant. Daenerys disagrees – if he dislikes one monarch, he conspires to crown the next. 

But Varys does not back down and tells Daenerys, he’s the kind of servant the realm needs. “Incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty.” He tells her that as long as he has his eyes, he’ll use them – and I really feared that we were about to see Varys blinded. However, this exchange also feels ripped from the headlines, and I’ve seen some interesting exchanges over whether this is yet another example of art commenting on life. This is a smart show, and it’s smart because it does resonate with real life even while transporting us to other worlds. The nature of governing does not change whether one is born to it or elected.

Varys entire speech to Daenerys feels like we are finally getting to see the real Varys. He reveals more to her in this speech than we’ve learned about him in the entire previous six seasons! It’s a sign of how much he really does trust and believe in her that he would expose himself to this extent. He tells her that he speaks for the people because no one else does, and he offers to let Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) or the dragons kill him if all she wants is blind loyalty. However, if he’s allowed to speak freely, he promises to serve her well. 

He tells her “I choose you because I know that people have no better chance than you.” In turn, Daenerys asks Varys to swear “that if you ever think I’m failing the people, you won’t conspire behind my back. You’ll look me in the eye as you have done today, and you’ll tell me how I’m failing them.” And Varys swears it. She also swears that if he ever does conspire against her, she’ll burn him alive. Varys simply smiles and says “I’d expect nothing less from the Mother of Dragons.” It’s an interesting exchange for them to have this far along in their relationship – but also a necessary one. The two have mutual respect.

Melisandre (Clarice van Houten) shows up at Dragonstone and is welcomed by Daenerys because of the help that the Red Priests provided in Meereen. I oved the look on Varys’ face when she says her name! He immediately tells Daenerys about Stannis. Daenerys, however, tells her that she’s arrived on an auspice day – they’ve just decided to pardon those who used to serve another King – and she looks pointedly at Varys. 

Melisandre tells Daenerys that the Long Night is upon them, and only the prince can bring the dawn. Daenerys is offended – she’s clearly not a prince, but Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) points out that an accurate translation is prince/princess. Daenerys asks if Melisandre believes the prophecy means her. Melisandre seems to have learned something and says that prophecies are dangerous things. But she also hedges her answer by saying that she believes that Daenerys has “a” role to play – just not “the” role maybe – and she points out that Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) also has a role to play. 

Tyrion is surprised by the mention of Jon and tells the others that he travelled to the Wall with Jon. It’s a bit surprising that Varys seems to have had no intelligence about Jon. Melisandre tells them about Jon letting the Wildlings south of the wall and about being the King in the North who has also united the Houses of the North and the Wildlings against their common enemy. Daenerys remarks that he sounds like quite a man. Melisandre tells her to summon Jon and have him tell her what he’s seen.

Tyrion tells Daenerys that he can’t speak to prophecies or visions, but he does like Jon and he trusted him – and he’s an excellent judge of character! Which causes Daenerys to smile. He goes on to tell her that he’d make an excellent ally because of all the reasons Jon has to hate Cersei (Lena Headey). Daenerys gives the order to send a raven north – but her message is clear. Jon is to bend his knee to his Queen. Tyrion is clearly not completely happy with the tone of the note.

At Winterfell, Jon, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Davos (Liam Cunningham) consider Tyrion’s note. Jon is sure that it is Tyrion because of the last line: “All dwarves are bastards in their father’s eyes.” It was something Tyrion said to Jon the first night they met. Sansa admits that Tyrion is not like the other Lannisters – even that he was always kind to her. She insists that it is still too great a risk. Davos is quick to dub Tyrion a charmer (Davos is also an excellent judge of character!), and he is quick to pick up on the dragons as possible weapons to use against Wights who are killed by fire.

At King’s Landing, Cersei has called Olenna’s (Diana Rigg) bannermen to her throne room. She claims that Daenerys is no better than her father. Sam’s (John Bradley) father Randyll Tarly (James Faulkner) is quick to step forward and point out that Daenerys has three full grown dragons, the same as Egon had when he conquered the seven Kingdoms. Qyburn (Anton Lesser) tells him they are working on a solution – and later in the episode we see that he has built a giant crossbow.

Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) pursues Tarly out of the throne room. There’s a nice little moment as Jaime makes it clear what he thinks of Tarly’s son (Tom Hopper) by getting his name wrong, making both Rickon and Dickon sound like insults… Jaime knows that Tarly is a leader among the bannermen, so he needs to get him on side. He offers Tarly the position of ranking General in the Wars, and he wants him to swear allegiance to Cersei. But Tarly doesn’t want to break his oath to House Tyrell. He throws the Lannister’s questionable actions in Jaime’s face. Jaime sweetens the pot by offering to make Tarly Warden of the South when the war is won.

The Archmaester (Jim Broadbent) tends to Jorah (Iain Glen) with Sam’s assistance. He tells Jorah that if he’d come right away they might have been able to save him by cutting of the arm, but there’s no hope now. He’ll have six months before his mind goes. Sam tells the Archmaester about meeting Shireen at Castle Black and how she was cured as a baby – surely there’s something that they can do for Jorah? The Archmaester makes it quite clear that they have studied grey scale and he knows what he’s talking about when he says there’s no hope. Out of respect for his position, the Archmaester gives Jorah one day before he will ship him out to live out his days with the Stone Men. His meaning is clear as we look at his sword – he’s giving Jorah the opportunity to take his own life. 

Back at Dragonstone, Daenerys is holding a council of war with her allies. I love that they are all women! Yara (Gemma Whelan) and Ellaria (Indira Varma) reveal themselves to be bloodthirsty as they push for Daenerys to attack. Tyrion is not willing to let thousands of innocents die in King’s Landing. Ellaria tells Tyrion to scurry back into hiding, and he strikes back by calling her on poisoning little girls – Marcella may have been a Lannister but she was innocent. Daenerys steps in and tells Ellaria that Tyrion is Hand of the Queen and Ellaria will treat him with respect. 

Daenerys shows Tyrion even more respect when she echoes his own words by telling the others that she is not there to be “Queen of the Ashes.” I loved the look on Tyrion’s face as she says it. Always such great camera work in this show to capture the great reactions from this amazing cast. The dialogue is always fantastic, but there is also so much going on in every bit of every scene. 

Olenna picks up on the ashes as she talks about how Margaery was beloved by everyone – commoners and nobles alike – yet now she is ashes. Olenna counsels that no one will obey Daenerys unless they fear her. Daenerys thanks them all for their counsel, but they are there because they swore to follow her, and she’s not going to attack King’s Landing. 

Daenerys tells them that they are going to lay siege to King’s Landing. Tyrion rightly surmises what we’ve just seen Cersei do. He knows that Cersei will rally her forces with the thought that the Dothraki and Unsullied savages are invading, so they aren’t going to use their armies. Instead, Olenna and Ellaria – the Westerosi – will take their forces to lay siege to the city. Yara will use her fleet to bring Ellaria’s forces. Meanwhile, Grey Worm and the Unsullied will sail for Casterly Rock and take the seat of Lannister power. The three women agree to the plan.

Daenerys asks to speak to Lady Olenna alone. She knows that Olenna is there for vengeance against Cersei and promises it for her. But she also promises peace in Westeros. Olenna points out that there’s never really been peace. Peace never lasts. She tells Daenerys that Tyrion is a clever man – she’s known many and has outlive them all. She goes on to tell her that the men of Westeros are sheep, and asks if Daenerys is a sheep. Olenna tells her, “No. You’re a dragon. Be a dragon.” And Daenerys smiles.

Missandei visits Grey Worm to tell him that she wishes him good fortune – she’s clearly pissed off that he’s leaving the next day and hasn’t come to say goodbye. Grey Worm tells her that she is his weakness. He then tells her how the Unsullied got over their fears. They had to face them and get over them. Grey Worm never feared anything until he met her – now he clearly fears losing her. And of course, you only fear death if you have something – or someone – to live for. 

There’s also been a lot of discussion already over this scene as we get to see a lot more of Nathalie Emmanuel than Jacob Anderson. Of course, we can’t be sure of how much there is of Grey Worm to see. I thought this was actually a really well done scene. Here are two people who would never have been allowed to make this decision for themselves, showing each other themselves at their most vulnerable. I’m curious how being sullied will affect Grey Worm on the battlefield – or among his army of UNsullied…

Back at the Citadel, Sam is again at the Archmaester’s side as the Archmaester works through the library, gathering research materials for a history he’s working on. The Archmaester is writing a chronicle of the wars following the death of King Robert the First. Can we assume that’s Robert Baratheon? Or is it Robert Stark? Is he writing the events of Game of Thrones? Is the Archmaester and avatar for George RR Martin? But I digress… 

Sam asks for a moment, and the Archmaester tells him to use it wisely. Sam has found two cases of advanced Grey Scale that were cured. The Archmaester is familiar with Archmaester Pylos’ Study of Rare Diseases, and he dismisses them because Pylos died of Grey Scale. The procedure is too dangerous and is now forbidden. 

Jorah is writing a farewell letter to Daenerys before falling on his sword when he’s interrupted by Sam with a cart full of supplies. Sam knows who Jorah is – and he tells him that he knew his father at Castle Black and that he was with his father when he died. Sam tells Ser Jorah that he’s not dying today. I loved Sam taking a quick swig of the rum before handing it to Jorah as pain killer – and Sam choking on it! Sam gives him something to bite down on – it’s going to be painful and if anyone hears Jorah scream they’re both done for. 

Jorah asks Sam if he’s ever done this before, and I thought Sam might lie, but he doesn’t. He tries to explain to Jorah what he’s going to do, and it’s clear that Jorah doesn’t care as long as it cures him. The process is utterly disgusting – but the noises Glenn makes are utterly disturbing. I did love the transition from the crusty, pussy grey scale to the pie being eaten in the pub!

We jump directly to the pub where we last saw Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey), and we get a long awaited reunion as he brings Arya (Maise Williams) some of his wonderful bread. It looks like Hot Pie has definitely been doing well for himself! He tells her why his pies are so good – he browns the butter first, and Arya mutters that she didn’t do that. He laughs as he asks her if she’s been making pies and she says “one or two” – Freys baked in a pie?! LOL! It’s a nice little throw away. Hot Pie asks if Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) ever found her, and she tells him yes.

Hot Pie wants to know what happened to her, but Arya clearly doesn’t want to tell him. Hot Pie asks where she’s going, and she tells him King’s Landing because Cersei is Queen now. He wonders that she’s not going to Winterfell, but she thinks the Boltons still hold it. Williams is wonderful in this scene as she suddenly learns that Jon is King of the North. Hot Pie leaves her somewhat flatfooted when he tells her that friends don’t pay – and then comments that he can’t believe he thought she was a boy – she’s pretty! Arya pauses to tell Hot Pie to take care of himself and try not to get killed. He tells her that he’s like her – a survivor. Anybody else think that Hot Pie just signed his own death warrant? Or that his death will be followed by Arya’s?

Arya heads out and mounts up – and anyone who lands on a horse’s back like that should be shot, fyi. She looks after those headed south for King’s Landing, but the call of the North is clearly stronger and she turns her horse for Winterfell. 

We head to Winterfell, and of course, the reunion we’ve been waiting for isn’t going to take place completely – if at all. Jon is pouring over maps when he receives Sam’s raven. Jon addresses the assembled Lords with the messages from both Sam and Tyrion. Sansa nods as the Lords rumble at the news. She’s clearly ready to throw in with Daenerys if it means defeating Cersei. But she is NOT happy when Jon announces he’s going south. 

Jon stresses that they need the dragon glass and they need allies to defeat the Night King. Jon is planning on taking Davos with him, so it should be interesting to see his reunion with Melisandre. Sansa immediately reminds Jon of what happened when the Mad King invited their grandfather to King’s Landing – he roasted him alive with his dragons! Sansa insists that it’s a trap, but Jon insists that Tyrion wouldn’t do that. 

Lord Royce (Rupert Vansittart) is the first to object because he remembers the Mad King. Neither Lannisters nor Targaryons can be trusted! Even Lady Mormont (Bella Ramsey) objects – “Winter is here, your grace. We need the King of the North in the north!”

Jon reminds them that they crowned him their King. He didn’t want it or ask for it, but he accepted because the north is his home. He tells them that regardless of the odds – which are against them – he won’t ever stop fighting for it. He reminds them that none of them have seen the Army of the Dead. They need strong allies. He finally silences Sansa by telling her that he’s leaving his people and his home in good hands – hers.

Baelish (Aiden Gillen) and Brienne both smile as Jon tells Sansa the North is hers. Sansa looks taken aback – and just a little worried.

Baelish joins Jon in the crypt. It’s time for him to start weaseling his way into Jon’s inner circle. He tells Jon that he brought Ned’s bones back himself – to Catelyn as a gesture of goodwill from Tyrion. A nice reminder of what a letch he was about Catelyn. Baelish also tells Jon to give Tyrion his best when he sees him. Tyrion will not be pleased as Littlefinger was no friend to him. Is it Baelish’s way of sending a message to Tyrion? I still have powerful friends – or is it a way to put Tyrion off Jon for having Baelish as an ally? Either way, you know that Baelish has an agenda.

At the foot of Ned’s statue, Baelish creepily admits to loving Catelyn and then brings up the pain she caused Jon by being cruel to him his whole life. Baelish remarks that she underestimated him. Here he is, the last of the Starks and the best hope against the coming storm. Baelish’s attempt to reignite Jon’s own insecurities? Jon is having none of it and tells Baelish he doesn’t belong down there.

Baelish – and Gillen is wonderful in this scene – slides into, we’ve never properly talked, and I wanted to remedy that. Jon is having none of it – or Baelish, seeing him for who and what he is. That is the advantage to being overlooked and under respected – people tend to show their true colors because they don’t think you’re worth the effort to hide it – or worth the effort to deceive and butter up. Jon has the advantage of distance to judge Baelish’s actions. BUT when Baelish points out that Jon owes him a thank you, that does stop Jon in his tracks. 

Baelish swears he is not Jon’s enemy and then he really does go too far – and it is just so hideously creepy as he tells Jon that he loves Sansa as he loved her mother – EW!!!!!! And Jon immediately wheels on Baelish, pinning him against the stone wall. Baelish, for once, seems surprised. Jon makes it clear that Sansa is completely off limits for Baelish. 

Jon waves and smiles to Sansa as he gallops out of Winterfell. She looks after him and doesn’t notice Baelish staring up at her. Can Baelish put aside his love for Sansa? Unlikely. But will he even try or will he now work to ensure that Sansa take permanent control of the North? Will he put her back in danger?

On her way to Winterfell, where she will not be reunited with Jon, Arya does have a reunion with Nymeria. At first her Direwolf doesn’t seem to recognize her. Arya asks the Direwolf to come with her, and she seems to consider it for a moment before turning away with her pack and disappearing. Arya says, “That’s not you.” Arya smiles so is clearly not distraught. My own theory is that the bond between the two is essentially gone because Nymeria senses that Arya doesn’t need her to protect her anymore. Nymeria has bonded with her own pack now. But perhaps we’ll see her back in the war against the Army of the Dead – maybe her pack is patrolling the north? Or maybe, we’ll even see her at the very end of the story with a litter of her own pups…

The final scene takes place at sea. We get a reminder of why the Sand Snakes are so annoying. Meanwhile, Yara and Ellaria are passing the time flirting, which Theon (Alfie Allen) finds incredibly uncomfortable. Yara does stand up for Theon, telling Ellaria that he’s not a servant. Theon tells her it’s ok. When Ellaria invites Theon to take part in their love-making, Yara tells her to let him be – and then suddenly, Euron (Pilou Asbaek) is there with his ships and they are under attack. 

Euron’s entrance is a thing of beauty – even as you have to hate him. Yara tells Obara (Keisha Castle-Hughes) to keep Ellaria safe below deck. Ultimately, they are captured, and Ellaria tells them to kill them and get it over with – but there’s no way they are getting off that easy.  Euron makes short work of Tyene (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers), and then strangles Nymeria (Jessica Henwick) with her own whip. 

We get several shots of Yara looking utterly defeated. She then goes after Euron. It’s a terrific sequences as explosions and fire seem to be everywhere. We get a great shot of Theon fighting mightily. However, when he sees that Euron has Yara, and Euron calls him a cockless coward, Theon is overwhelmed by the fighting going on around him – he clearly has an episode of PTSD and Allen is once again amazing as he transforms back into Reek. He can’t save his sister and flings himself overboard.

The last scene of the episode is Euron’s fleet sailing away – no doubt back to King’s Landing with Euron’s precious gift for Cersei – the woman who killed her daughter – and we had that nice reminder at the beginning of the episode! Theon is left floating on a piece of wood as the ship sails away. Will he return and report to Daenerys? Will he simply run away again? Will Jon and Davos come upon him in their own ship?

What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.