We’re continuing our recap/review of the new series of Game of Thrones, everyone’s favourite programme for action, derringdo, and Sean Bean nostalgia (episode 1 here).
As ever, this is entirely spoilers, so read on at your own discretion for observations, bad jokes, and baseless conjecture about the future.
This episode opens soon after the previous finished, with Daenerys and her Dragon League (as we’re insisting on calling them) plotting their future moves. Dany is frustrated that she can’t simply burn the world into submission but is counselled by Tyrion to act diplomatically. Instead, she decides to start beefing with Varys, finally addressing the whole “you once tried to assassinate me with poisoners” thing.
It’s a great scene from a character perspective as we see the bitter and aggressive side of Daenerys come to the fore, though Emilia Clarke continues to be a wooden presence, all the more when up against two of the series’ strongest thesps in Peter Dinklage and Conleth Hill.
And how wonderful it is to see Conleth Hill as Varys in full loquacious snake mode, talking circles around everyone in the room like a glorious chubby ballerina.
Breaking the tension, Grey Worm announces that Melisandre is waiting to meet with Dany because – hold up a sec, did Melisandre just stroll into Dragonstone? Clearly Dany’s first task should be to install some locks. Anyway, Melisandre and Dany talk about The Prince That Was Promised prophecy (otherwise known as Azor Ahai, otherwise known as who Melisandre thought Stannis was before he burned his – MEMORY DELETED, SHIREEN IS FINE – otherwise known as the hero set to save the world from darkness. Keep up now, there’s a lot of this).
Dany questions whether she may be the prince (or princess, it’s gender neutral in Valyrian apparently, whether that’s a retcon or not will be interesting) and Melisandre throws Jon Snow into the mix. Dany agrees to meet with him so he can “bend the knee” because that’s what she’s all about now and Tyrion agrees to send the letter because he and Jon were pissing buddies once. This is it people, it’s finally happening, the meeting of Ice and Fire, make sure to book your seat on the hype train for next week.
Later/the next day the Dragon League reassemble, now complete with Theon and Yara Greyjoy, Ellaria Sand, and Olenna Tyrell, to discuss battle plans. They set a strategy to siege King’s Landing to trap Cersei and her forces and instigate a sneak attack on Casterly Rock as per Tyrion’s plan. Everyone agrees – it’s a flawless plan! Y’know, unless some armada of mental pirate folk show up…
Finally on Dragonstone we’re treated to the show’s best sex scene to date, perhaps because it isn’t about women being raped or used and is instead a genuinely touching depiction of love and human connection. Missandei and Grey Worm’s affections have been bubbling for a couple of series now and this is excellent pay-off to that build-up, matched by great performances from Nathalie Emmanuel and Jacob Anderson. So let’s all give GoT a round of applause – you did it! Once.
In Winterfell Jon receives Tyrion’s letter (notably missing the instruction “to bend the knee”) and immediately gets into an argument with Sansa about it – honestly, who would’ve thought the game of thrones would be so similar to the game of “family dinner time?”
Jon’s all for making allies because, y’know, he’s in a fight for the future of humanity against the literal army of the damned. Meanwhile Cersei – oops, sorry, Sansa – has a more “look after number one, screw the rest” sort of mentality. She points out that the Mad King, aka Daenerys’ long-dead daddy, once summoned their uncle and grandfather South and proceeded to superkill them, kickstarting Robert’s Rebellion. Which is a fair point… but, seriously dude, the actual icy apocalypse is coming, let Jon do his thing!
Having said that, it’s good from a drama perspective, and the storytelling here is top notch, with Jon finally giving Sansa her dues (she did kinda win the Battle of the Bastards you guys…) by leaving her as interim Queen in the North (titles, titles) while he journeys South to parlay with Dany and investigate the supposed “mountain of dragonglass” Sam informed him about. Littlefinger’s loving it and has his Littlefingerest sneaky smile to date, before being swiftly choke-slammed by Jon in the Winterfell crypts after confessing/ boasting about his love for Sansa.
It’s a neat callback to Series One (of which there are a few in this episode) when Ned did the same after Littlefinger creeped on Catelyn.
Quick question though – where’s Bran? We know he’s back behind the Wall and there’s been more than enough time to send a raven to Winterfell to let them know that “hey, funny thing, your crippled bro is still alive FYI. He is NOT cute anymore though, time has been cruel.” Hell, a messenger could’ve roly-polyed there by now. And this is important – not only because Bran is a powerful weapon against/for the White Walkers (delete according to how thick your tinfoil hat is) but also because, y’know, he’s kinda actually the ACTUAL king in the north as Ned’s last living son. And we would love to see that character drama play out – Sansa elated at her brother’s return but furious at being overlooked again, Littlefinger plotting at a pace most of us merely blink, Jon torn between his sense of duty and what he thinks is right. Let’s see where this goes.
Cersei is holding court with… not very many lords to be fair, the Lannisters are in dire need of allies as we’ve previously been told. After some anti-dragon propaganda from Cersei, Jaime intercepts Randyll Tarley (Sam’s dickhead dad from the last series) who improbably made the journey to King’s Landing following Cersei’s request.
Jaime asks him to be the Lannisters’ general in the wars to come – Tarly is a legendary solider and is the only man to defeat Robert Baratheon in battle – and after a bit of back-and-forth he agrees, beguiled by the promises of future riches and power. The game of thrones and all that.
Later, in some dusty basement somewhere filled dragon skulls, resident necromancer megacreep (we’ve all got one) and now Hand of the Queen, Qyburn, shows Cersei the secret weapon he’s developed to deal with their inevitable Daenerys-has-dragons-and-we-don’t problem – a really really big crossbow.
Well, if it worked in The Hobbit…
To prove the point, Cersei shoots the skull of Balerion the Black Dread, famously the biggest and most vicious dragon that ever lived. Clearly Dany’s conquest isn’t going to be smooth sailing (pun very much intended).
Sam continues his training under Archmaester Ebrose’s cynical eye and can we just take a moment to appreciate, again, how great Jim Broadbent is? Okay, done, thanks for that. They’ve brought Jorah out of his box to give him the good news that not only is he definitely going to die in a nightmarish and agonising way, he’s going to go insane first. Seriously, Jorah must have been a professional orphan-murderer in a previous life – this is bad fortune on a cosmic scale. Things get worse – obviously – as we discover that not only is he a scraggly rock-man on the outside, he’s a pus-y cream-boy on the inside, as Sam decides to operate on him in secret in the dead of night using a book written by a man who, Ebrose kindly informs us, was killed by grayscale himself. Solid plan, Sam!
Still, fingers crossed for some good Jorah news and, putting our tinfoil hat back on for a second, what are the odds that Jorah, freshly-cured and immune to grayscale, is sent into Valyria (aka the home/prison of the rock-men) to uncover the secrets behind Valyrian steel? Watch this space.
In other news, we find out that Ebrose is working on a history of the War of the Five Kings. “Something a bit more poetic?” Sam suggests for the title – HE MEANS “A GAME OF THRONES,” D’YAGEDDIT?
Arya continues journeying south to cross Cersei off her deathlist and pops by what must be the only inn left standing in the Seven Kingdoms. There she bumps into Hot Pie, literally the only character in the show whose life has got better, and he tells her about Jon “King in the North” Snow – so Arya changes course and makes for home.
Meaning… THE STARK REUNION IS HAPPENING, PEOPLE.
It will probably end terribly, this is GoT after all, but hell, we live optimistically here at Gadgette. On the journey she’s waylaid by a pack of wolves led by her very own, long missing, direwolf Nymeria. We last saw Nymeria when Arya chased her off with rocks to save her from execution way back in the second episode and she has GROWN – no longer a pet, now a queen in her own wolfy right. They stare each other down before amicably parting ways, both irrevocably changed by their experiences over the last few years. It’s a touching scene and a strong character moment for Arya (as well as a great opportunity for Maisie Williams to show her range, there’s no doubting she’ll have a lucrative post-GoT career) – though we can add “an actual pack of wolves” to things Arya has survived unscathed. Plot armour? What plot armour.
On the sea somewhere…
Team Dragon League are on the move and out at sea with the Greyjoys shipping Ellaria back to Sunspear to pick up Dornish soldiers for the siege on King’s Landing. The Sand Snakes bicker in their bunks and – DOES ANYONE CARE? Didn’t think so, moving on. Ellaria and Yara (the anagram lover’s Arya) have a sexy moment but then BAM, it’s Euron time baby.
And isn’t he glorious!
This fantastic bastard basically rides upon a ghost ship and announces himself by screaming into the night while crushing some unfortunate bugger with a ballast. Then all hell breaks loose – ships are on fire, men are on fire, the fire’s on fire, as we’re finally treated to a full-bloodied naval battle Game of Thrones-style. It’s the kind of sequence only this show has the balls (and, more significantly, the budget) to produce and it’s a such pleasure to watch, albeit an often gruesome one.
A few things to touch on here – first and foremost, goodbye Sand Snakes! They are objectively the worst thing in GoT, and it’s safe to say that no one will miss them. At least their deaths were used to give Euron a platform for his villainy as he cuts through, err, Sand Snake 1 and Sand Snake 2 like the bickering children they’ve always seemed to be (before presenting them like a ghoulish diorama afront his ship, by turns impaled and hanged. Y’see, he’s got an artistic side too). Frankly, anybody who brings a whip to fight upon a ship at sea deserves to die ironically; if Indiana Jones taught us anything it’s to always bring appropriate weaponry.
Secondly, seriously Euron though – talk about a breath of fresh air in the series. “Give uncle a kiss,” he bellows while stomping on his niece after being stabbed 10 times – he’s a motherfucking rockstar pirate terminator who just wants to murder and have fun with it and it’s incredibly fun to watch. GoT is unrelentingly grim and dour, enjoyably so for the most part, but anything that helps to liven that up is for the better and Euron more than fits the bill.
Finally, and most interestingly from a narrative and character perspective, we see an almighty regression in Theon as he abandons ship when the battle is lost. Again we see just how good an actor Alfie Allen has become over the course of this show; you can see the battle between Theon and Reek across his face while Euron mocks him, and the feeling of disappointment when Reek wins out and saves his own skin is palpable. Who knows where the show is going with this – was this purely an act of pragmatism? Has Theon’s character arc been reset by a couple of series? Is this a genuinely nuanced depiction of the ravages of mental fragility? Or is it all just part of a bigger game?
For the time being, let’s have faith in Benioff and Wise to pull it off.
And that’s that! Euron got the gift he promised Cersei (three by our count: Yara, Ellaria, and er… Sand Snake 3) and Dany isn’t likely to be very happy about being blindsided in battle – it’s safe to say that we’re in for some gruesome scenes next week; it isn’t called “Queens’ Justice” for no reason after all (and here’s assuming Benioff and Wise know how to use an apostrophe).
Main image & all Game of Thrones images © HBO