Monday, July 24, 2017

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Stormborn

Well THAT escalated quickly. There was a lot of action in tonight's episode as well as some unexpected tenderness. Both Jon and Daenerys learned again that just because you call yourself a ruler doesn't mean that everyone will automatically do what you say. The best leaders get their followers to buy into their agenda, even if they don't always agree with it or understand it. There's a fine line between saying I'm the boss and so we're going to do things my way or else and being able to listen to people and moderate your views without seeming to be weak or easily swayed. At Dragonstone Daenerys is questioning Varys' loyalty. She notices that no matter who is on the Iron Throne Varys seems to prosper and do well. She points out that although Robert gave the order to murder her it would have been Varys who made the arrangements. Tyrion tries to defend Varys by pointing out that everyone on Daenerys' team once had different loyalties but Daenerys isn't having it. She points out that not only did Varys try to kill her but that he also was previously supportive of her insane older brother and assisted in having her sold to Khal Drogo. 

Varys retorts that he serves the people no matter which king or queen is on the throne. And Varys came up just as hard as Daenerys did. More so since he had no family name or wealth to protect him from the rougher side of life. He was castrated so as far as he is concerned Danerys can miss him with her whole "I'm just a poor girl" sob story. He's not there to offer blind loyalty. So Daenerys can kill him now or get the f*** out of his face. Amused, but not really Daenerys says that she accepts him in her council for now but that if Varys ever thinks she's out of pocket he needs to tell her to her face, not conspire to have her replaced. Otherwise she will turn him into burnt crispy eunuch treats.

Melisandre has come to Dragonstone. Perhaps still a little hot about having his loyalty questioned, Varys points out that Melisandre previously served Stannis. Daenerys responds that it must be wonderful then that she's in forgiving mood today, then. Melisandre doesn't know who is the Prince that is promised but it might be Daenerys. Missandei points out that that actual Valyrian for the word "prince" is not gender specific. Melisandre says that whatever happens that she thinks Jon Snow has a part to play in the end game. Tyrion points out that Jon is a good man and that he hates Cersei specifically (and Lannisters in general most likely). Danerys has Tyrion send a message to the North. Now she orders Jon to come to Dragonstone and bend the knee to her overlordship but when we see the message it seems to have prudently left that last command out. Jon is noncommittal about the note. Sansa says that Tyrion's not like other Lannisters. Davos says that fire kills wights. And dragons have fire. Jon also gets the message from Sam with the big reveal that the island named Dragonstone has a mountain of dragonglass. Thank you Captain Obvious. 

After thinking about it for a while Jon calls another meeting with all of the Northern Lords. It's unclear as to whether everyone is just living there at Winterfell permanently now or if they all came back from their homes. Not important I guess. At this meeting Jon reveals both messages. He says that he intends to accept Daenerys' invitation. This announcement is met with about as much enthusiasm as a cockroach taking a dump in the salad bar. Sansa reminds him that going on for three generations now, every time a Stark Lord accepts a summons from a southern Ruler, he ends up short a head. Maybe, just maybe it might be time to consider ignoring such summons. Wouldn't that be the SMART move. Don't you want to be SMART? Lyanna Mormont echoes Bo Schembechler. She says she wants a Michigan man coaching Michigan, or rather that the North needs the King in the North to stay in the North. Other Northern Lords and some from the Vale point out that Daenerys is the daughter of the Mad King Aerys and that the Targaryen apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Ironic, considering Jon's real father but there you are. Sansa and others also remind him that Daenerys probably wants Jon to bend the knee regardless of what is said in the letter. What the f*** did everyone fight and die for if Jon just wants to fall for the okey-doke and accept southern leadership again. 

Jon pulls out the "You made me king" and "I've seen the Army of the Dead" cards again but they don't seem to get much traction. Jon honestly believes that he can trust Tyrion and that they need allies against what is coming. They can't win otherwise, even with children taking archery practice in the Winterfell courtyard. Sansa asks Jon to send an emissary but Jon thinks that only a King can meet with a Queen. He says that Sansa will run things in his absence. Jon is taking Davos with him.

Jon is taking a moment in the crypts looking at the statue of his "father", Ned. Littlefinger creeps up as he is prone to do. Not for nothing but (1) shouldn't Jon have some bodyguards and (2) where is Ghost? Either way you shouldn't just be able to walk up to the King in the North, especially during war time. Littlefinger, clearly misreading Jon's mood, or perhaps trying to antagonize him, says that he delivered Ned's bones. He neglects to mention the whole part about betraying him. He starts to offer sarcastic flattery to Jon, pointing out that Catelyn Stark didn't like Jon and wouldn't have wanted him to inherit Winterfell yet there he is. He's a winner. Jon doesn't like Littlefinger and tells him that he doesn't belong in the crypts. He wants to know what Littlefinger wants.

Littlefinger says that Jon would have been dead without the Vale Army fortuitously provided by Littlefinger so perhaps some gratitude would be in order, yes. And Littlefinger loved Catelyn but since she's gone he'll just have to make do with her supremely luscious and now totally legal daughter Sansa. This awakens Jon's big brother instincts. Jon channels Sonny Corleone. He grabs Littlefinger by the throat and slams him into the wall. He informs Littlefinger that if he even touches Sansa, that death will be forthcoming. And with that Jon departs to White Harbor to take a ship to Dragonstone, leaving Sansa behind with a p****d off Littlefinger, confused bannermen, and an army that reports to Littlefinger, not Jon. What could go wrong?

Cersei is speaking to some prominent Tyrell bannermen, including the frighteningly competent Randyll Tarly, Sam's father.  Cersei reminds them that although they took oaths to their local lord the Tyrells, they also took oaths to the throne upon which Cersei sits. And the Tyrells, or what remain of them, are in rebellion against the throne. And anyway everyone has heard about Daenerys' acts of cruelty and caprice. And why would anyone want to follow a crazy woman who has surrounded herself with foreign slave soldiers and savage nomads. No, my friends, the smart and patriotic thing to do is to make Westeros great again and support the rightful ruler, Queen Cersei. Randyll is like yes but what about the dragons? Aegon conquered Westeros with dragons before. Nobody is in a rush to fight dragons. Daenerys has dragons plus larger armies than Aegon initially had. Qyburn and Cersei say they're working on a solution to the dragon issue. In private, Jaime tries to appeal to Randyll Tarly's xenophobia and ambition. After all this is done there will need to be a new Warden of the South. And plenty of Tyrell bannerman will follow Randyll's decision whatever it might be. Randyll looks at Jaime like he's a fungus infection. Randyll says he's no oathbreaker to stab his liege lord in the back. Olenna Tyrell is someone he's known and respected since childhood. His honor and word are not for sale. Jaime is like what do I have to do to get you to side with us?

The Archmaester examines Jorah in detail. He says the greyscale infection is too far gone. Jorah should have chopped off his arm when it first was infected. Jorah might live another ten or twenty years but there's only six months at best before he loses his mind. Sam pipes up about how Stannis' daughter had greyscale but had it cured. Sam also says he read about the "Pylos Method" for curing greyscale. The Archmaester is a big believer in the Socratic method of dealing with less experienced people (i.e. Sam) challenging his authority. He asks Sam questions which show that Sam doesn't know anything about the difference in greyscale growth and treatment plans between children and adults. Sam also doesn't know that the Pylos method is considered too risky since it rarely works. And Pylos himself died of greyscale. And by the way would Sam stop substituting his judgment for that of the Archmaester? They don't just hand out titles like "Archmaester" in Cracker Jack boxes you know. You have got to put in time and work. Speaking of time, the Archmaester informs Jorah that were Jorah a commoner he'd have been exiled long ago. But that time has now come. He has one more day before he must leave the Citadel. In an obvious suggestion of suicide the Archmaester says that how Jorah wants to spend that time is up to him. Jorah casts some glances at his longsword.

In the night, while Jorah is writing his final unrequited love letter to Daenerys, Sam comes to his room. Sam says that because Jorah is a Mormont and the previous Lord Commander was a Mormont Sam feels he owes it to Jorah to at least try the banned procedure. Sam tells Jorah to try not to scream because if people hear the noise, Sam will never be able to finish. With no pain killers besides a belt to bite on and some rum to drink, Jorah agrees to the procedure, the start of which involves cutting away the first layers of infected tissue. There is seemingly a shout out to the movie Dead Alive in the cutaway (snicker) from this scene.

Qyburn and Cersei are in the basement of the Red Keep. They are looking at dragon bones. Doing his best Rocco Lampone impersonation, Qyburn says that dragons are notoriously difficult to kill. But not impossible. After all they were wounded with spears. Qyburn has been working on a freakishly large ballista. He urges Cersei to test fire it. The bolt shatters the skull of Balerion, the dragon that Aegon the Conqueror rode.

At Dragonstone there is a debate over tactics. Yara, Ellaria Sand and the Queen of Thorns want to attack King's Landing right now, while they have the muscle. Daenerys doesn't want to be the Queen of Ashes. Tyrion has come up with a plan. In order to blunt Cersei's appeals to patriotism, the Dornish and Tyrells will attack King's Landing while the Dothraki and Unsullied will attack Casterly Rock. And the attack on King's Landing will be a siege, not an all out attempted storming. Everyone grumbles but accepts this plan. The Greyjoys will take Ellaria and her daughters back to Dorne to raise and transport the Dornish army. Is is just me or has Ellaria (Indira Varna) filled out a bit. Nice. Anyway in private The Queen of Thorns reminds Daenerys of how old she is. And she got to be that old by ignoring clever little men like Tyrion. She wants Daenerys to be the Dragon. 

Grey Worm is sharpening his weapon. For most male characters that turn of phrase might be a double entendre. But for him it's not. It's really what he's doing. Missandei comes to see Grey Worm, upset to hear that he will be leaving for battle and didn't even say goodbye. She thought she meant more to him. Grey Worm says that until he met her he never knew fear (of losing someone). What was subtext becomes obvious as the two finally act on their attraction to each other. And if you are wondering about how a man with no working male parts can get the job done then I suggest you use your imagination.

Arya is in an inn listening to people ramble on about dragons and whatnot. She runs into Hot Pie, who brings her food and drink. In this scene Arya is very much like the Hound. She's focused on her food, uninterested in small talk, rude and monosyllabic. It's only when the chatty Hot Pie reveals that Winterfell has been restored to Stark rule under Jon Snow that Arya softens up a bit and becomes girlish again. Hot Pie says he couldn't believe he ever thought she was a boy. She's beautiful. Arya tells Hot Pie to try not to get killed, which is as much of a declaration of friendship as you're likely to get from Arya these days. Arya heads north. Along the way she is surrounded by a wolfpack led by a GIANT direwolf. It's Nymeria. Both Nymeria and Arya are changed. Arya tells Nymeria that she's going home to Winterfell. But Nymeria won't come. Sometimes you can't go home again. Of course considering the fates of Summer, Grey Wind, Lady and ShaggyDog, Nymeria is probably making the right decision. The odds for dire wolves hanging arond Stark children don't appear to be very good. And neither Arya nor Nymeria are who they once were.

On Yara's ship the Sand Snakes are bickering over who will get to kill whom in the upcoming battles. Ellaria is making fun of Theon's lack of equipment by treating him like the hired help. She's also coming on to Yara, who is completely down for whatever. Theon is really not interested in seeing his sister nude so he's leaving the room when suddenly there's a loud noise. The ship is struck. Theon and Yara run to the deck. Someone has used a corvus to board their ship. And wouldn't you know it but it's crazy Uncle Euron in full berserker effect. He's kicking butt without even bothering to take names. Somehow he's found Yara's and Theon's fleet in the middle of the night. 

Battle is joined but (1) it looks like Euron brought more men and (2) did I mention that Euron is a berserker. The Sand Snakes join the battle but tactics that work with assassination are virtually useless in the press of battle against full grown men. Theon and Yara are handling their business but the outcome is almost pre-ordained. Two of the Sand Snakes fall. Ellaria and her last daughter are captured. Presumably they will be taken back to Cersei for punishment. Theon is last man standing after Yara loses a duel with Uncle Euron. Holding his axe to his niece's throat Euron snarls at Theon to come get one in the yarbles. Oh that's right he doesn't have any yarbles any more. 

Theon seemingly proves his uncle's accusation of cowardice, when apparently having a PTSD flashback, he jumps overboard and swims away rather than try to save his sister. And that apparently puts an end to Daenerys' plans to use a portion of the Greyjoy fleet or the Dornish army. At least one of the Sand Snakes now hangs from the prow of Euron's ship.

What I liked

  • Tyrion's idea of relatively bloodless conquest-except for his family- was both rational and personally vengeful.
  • Nymeria recognizing that she can't go home again. Will this be true for Arya as well. She has seen Littlefinger working with Tywin. If she does make it home will Sansa act on this information?
  • I was happy to see at least part of the Dorne storyline end. The Sand Snakes always felt like poorly realized fan fiction to me. And the idea that Dorne would be run by a bastard paramour of a lord who wasn't even the ruler and who killed her lover's brother, the actual ruler, seemed senseless.
  • The ship battle, even though it wasn't logical, was fun to watch.
  • The Archmaester has total confidence in his position, even when he's wrong.
  • Ellaria Sand's top 
  • Jorah is a hard dude even if he has a bad case of one-itis. He's willing to suffer for his love. He was ordered to find a cure for greyscale. He'll do it even it it kills him.
  • Daenerys showing more hints of paranoia and capriciousness.

What I didn't like

  • It seems that it's a plot device and not a very good one to have Jon leave the North at this time. You would think that he would have learned from being murdered by the Night's Watch that just doing the right thing isn't enough. You have to engage politically. He's done this before so why start acting stupid again. As mentioned, why leave Littlefinger and an army behind? The guy just told you that he wants your sister. Why not take Littlefinger with you?
  • Where is Ghost?
  • No GPS, no radar, no sonar, no aerial surveillance but apparently Euron is able to find a fleet in the middle of the night and sneak up on it? Okay. And wouldn't Yara and Theon have ships protecting them to provide early warning in case of attack? You know, like a perimeter defense or something?
  • Again, if people knew that Jon had RISEN FROM THE MUYERFUYING DEAD they might be a little less worried about him going to see Daenerys. They might trust him more if they were his supporters or plot against him less if they were his detractors. Either way, that information should be out there. This is HUGE news.
  • It seems a little weird for Theon to flip back suddenly from hardcore Iron Islander warrior whirling around the deck and stabbing people through their necks to scared whipped puppy who runs away but he's been through a lot I guess.
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