Thrones set the board with last week’s premiere. Now, it’s time to play.
BEWARE: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW—YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
We kick this episode off with a scene that pays an homage to the dragon queen’s [rather long] namesake. A heavy squall brews outside of Dragonstone as Tyrion, Varys and Daenerys herself begin to lay out the battle plans to take Westeros. As Tyrion explains the board to Dany, he mentions it’s wise to try to rule the Seven Kingdoms before burning them. The master of whispers, Varys chimes in in agreement when a skeptical Daenerys begins to question his enthusiasm. She thinks it convenient that he’s supportive of her now when he served her enemies with the same ardor not long prior. It’s clear to the eunuch as well as the thrones audience how tense this moment is, and with the way the show has gone in the past as well as the speed it’s progressing now…
I don’t know about the rest of you but I was ready for a roast.
True to form, Varys and his silver tongue slither their way out of the trouble. He delivers a stirring monologue on how incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty. How his loyalties lie with the people and the people alone [he says]. It’s seems his argument quells Daenerys’ suspicions [for the moment] and he’s let off with a warning: “If you ever betray me, I’ll burn you alive.”
I have a feeling she’ll keep her promise.
Things only heat up when an unexpected visitor turns up in the throne room of Dragonstone: Melisandre, priestess from Asshai. Last time we saw our fair red lady, she was being unceremoniously tooted-and-booted from Winterfell’s walls courtesy of one irate Davos Seaworth after his discovery of her hand in the demise of sweet Shireen. King Jon cosigns and bids her adieu with the threat of death should she ever return. It’s one of the more bitter sweet moments on thrones. We as an audience felt Davos’ pain (Liam Cunningham’s stellar performance deserved all the Emmy’s) but were willing to forgive Melisandre’s fanatical cruelty since she sweetened the pot by bringing our favorite bastard back to life.
Alas the same cannot be said for the north and their ever so stark moral compass (shameless pun), she returns to the very place we first met her with Stannis the mannis. Back on Dragonstone, she implores Daenerys to summon allies for the Long Night. Her rationale based on the famous tale of: ‘the prince who was promised.’ Daenerys, faithful feminist in her own right expresses her distaste for the prophecy but with some help from resident polyglot, Missandei the issue of gender roles in Valyrian grammer is all cleared up and we discover that the noun for prince is actually gender neutral. Hence, the prophecy could apply to either a man or a woman.
This was rather gratuitous of the writers but the plot thickens and I’m losing my mind. (Thank you kindly.)
Of course the drama builds when the red witch offers Dany some godfather-like advice. She suggests she take a meetin’ with Lazarus himself, the King in the North. She tells Daenerys, not to get caught up with prophecies as they’re dangerous things but rather that she has a ‘role to play’ and Jon can aid her. Melisandre’s request is solidified by Tyrion when he vouches for Jon’s honor, explaining to Dany his adventures with him en route to the Wall and how thanks to the cruelties of his family, why Jon has just as much of a reason to hate Cersei on the throne as Daenerys does.
It’s a deal for the queen on one condition: That Jon ‘bend the knee’.
Yeah, we’ll see how that goes.
It’s still not over on the rainy isle as the heads of Dorne, Highgarden, Dragonstone and Co. go about their plans for Westerosi world take over. I just have to say, I admire the writing here and production in general (thanks HBO/Thrones showrunners! ) It’s a rare sight to see four women sitting around a table discussing strategy and war. I don’t think it would have had he same impact if it was another batch of old men, so this was without a doubt a breath of fresh air.
Yara in typical Ironborn fashion suggest they hit hard with everything they have. This seems to be the consensus between all parties until Tyrion in all his wisdom explains why that won’t work. Strategy above brute strength and emotion he says. He sends the Greyjoys and Martells to Sunspear explaining that it be best to spread their wealth and power surrounding the enemy on all sides, says the same for Olenna however when she objects to the distribution of man power, Tyrion reminds us why he’s earned his spot at the right hand of the Queen. He explains that the unsullied will attack Casterly Rock, the seat of Lannister power. Tyrion officially gives zero f**ks this season of thrones. War is war and all is fair, right?
We end the scene with Lady Tyrell reminding Dany that fear is useful. Fear puts people on thrones. Ignore the politics. “You’re a dragon. Be a dragon.”
When you hear Olenna says this, one can’t help but wonder if this bad ass adage should apply to life in general, not just Dany’s.
More storms are brewing in King’s Landing as Cersei summons the last of a dying breed: the Lannister allies. Bannerman of house Tyrell pay audience to the mad queen’s speech, one Bannerman in particular, Lord Tarly of the Reach. He’s skeptical, clearly intimidated by the fact that the enemy has 3 fully grown cranky reptiles on her side.
He really shouldn’t sleep on Cersei though.
Jaime takes the reigns and implore’s the old man to listen to reason. Puts into question his comrade Olenna Tyrell’s honor since she’s allowed ‘savages’ into their land. Planting the seeds of doubt in true Lannister fashion. A moment worthy of Tywin himself.
Speaking of Tywin, his royal spawn takes a walk with her trusty side-kick Dr.Frankenstein Qybrun through the dragon pits beneath the city. The tunnels are laden with Dragons skulls varying in size until finally the camera pans to a skeleton so large it towers over Cersei herself. The menacing skull of Aegon the Conqueror’s dragon Balerion the Black Dread sits in the middle of sand. As we observe the severity of the situation and fan-girl in disbelief as an audience seeing such a blatant reference to the most iconic moment in Westerosi history (foreshadowing anyone?), right in front of the skull sits a rather menacing apparatus. A cross bow that puts dearly departed Ramsay’s crossbow and every other crossbow through out time to shame.
Qyburn silkily explains the weaknesses of Dragons. Indicating that if they can be wounded, they can be killed. Motioning for Cersei to ‘push the button’, she releases the lever on the apparatus and sends a spear straight into the eye of the once great beast.
I repeat, we should not sleep on Cersei.
This was done subtely, with enough foreboding to understand that something wicked this way comes. The threat hung over the scene as ‘Hear me roar’ resonated in the background and we were spirited away to the queens macabre highight reel. Everytime we think she’s down for the count she comes out swinging. Hers was the fury when she took out King Rob, next when she turned Ned into the headless northman, then more recently when she Hiroshima’s the capital with magical C-4.
I can’t help but feel fearful for the three scaly amigos, they’re not looking so invincible now.
Over at the Citadel Sam’s still doing the dirty work. This time, it’s more to our liking (or disliking… idk, I’ll explain in a second). Ser Jorah’s still not doing so hot, still covered in some nasty leprosy greyscale, the Archmaester Marwyn isn’t looking so optimistic on Mormont’s odds. Gives him 6 months max before things go to hell. Cue reason number 109876325 why we love Sam, young Tarly satisfies his blibliophilia and finds a potential (but forbidden) remedy to Jorah’s condition. Out of loyalty to house Mormont and his former lord commander, we witness the rather puke-worthy procedure, leather strip and all.
Let’s hope Ser friend-zone get’s the bod back for the rest of the summer, eh?
Next up, Queen Arya’s back in familiar territory as she stuffs her face with more of Hotpie’s hot pies. She’s generally aloof as the he recaps the general happenings around the country, Cersei’s savagery, the Bolton’s dying… Oh yeah! One last thing:
That her home is no longer under the banner of the flayed-man. It’s Stark territory again and it’s all courtesy of her big brother Jon The King in the North.
I think our rotund friend did us a bit of a favor. Though I’m so here for Arya’s Lady Stoneheart plotline, I feel that it was good for her quest for revenge to get rerouted in a new direction (at least for now). North in particular. All the feels resurfaced the minute Ramin Djawadi’s Stark theme began to play in the background indicating what an important moment this was for Arya.
But wait, there’s more.
Once she makes her choice to head north, she has the first (of what we hope will be many) reunion with a face from the past. Her Direwolf Nymeria appears and again, all the feels. The last time we saw Nymeria she was being sent away so she couldn’t be killed by Cersei’s mama-bear wrath.
It seemed that Nymeria was both leading a feral pack and serving as a ravenous metaphor for the sort of nomadic destroyer Arya would be if she lost touch with her own humanity, the kind of development that was put on pause by backtracking back home to Winterfell.
True to Game of Thrones form however, the moment is short-lived. The scene is hear-wrenching as the camera focuses on the micro-expressions of Maisie’s face. We see it morph from shock, to sadness, then ultimately understanding as Nymeria stalks away from her when she calls out for her wolf to join her north. Nymeria has made a life for herself with her pack. Just like Arya, she as well is too much of a free spirit to be tied to a domesticated existence. Hence the loaded sentence: “That’s not you.”
Up in the attic there’s a chill in the air when the raven from the south lands in the king’s hands. Sansa, Jon and Davos read the summons sent from Tyrion on behalf of Daenerys. The typical back and forth happens. What the message could mean, can it be trusted, is it a trap and so on and so forth. (Sidebar: Shireen’s hooked-on-phonics paid off! I hope we all caught how well read our finger-less hero is now)
Enter Jon in the great hall not long after, he receives a raven from Sam telling him that dragon glass is in abundance down under. Thrones has set this up rather well. Two reasons now why heading south seems to be probable if not inevitable. However separation anxiety is on full-metal overload within the walls of Winterfell when Jon announces his plan to ride with Ser Davos to Dragonstone per request of Daenerys. House Mormont, Glover et al. object to Jon, newly crowned leaving the home he just fought to reclaim so soon. He shuts it down, reminding them of the threat beyond the wall and how it’s imperative they not get in their feelings about all of this.
This is a calculated risk for Jon but that’s just the person he is. Everything he’s ever done has been for the good of his people. Throughout thrones, he’s risked himself for the Night’s Watch, for the Wildlings and now the north as a whole. What Jon has done is make the smartest most horrible decision in a sea of horrible decisions. In no way will things go the way anyone wants to considering the circumstances. As a leader, he understands this.
Thrones ups the ante when he drops another bomb. Sansa speaks up to protest but he stifles her argument informing her that Winterfell will be in good hands, under her watch. She’s shocked but most likely pleased at his vote of confidence. It’s a lot of responsibility for Sansa especially at such a crucial time. As viewers, I think we’re all curious watch she’ll be like with a taste of power considering she’s been the victim for such a long time.
Cue Little Finger, Machiavellian as ever, stalking our broody prince in the catacombs beneath the castle. He pokes at Jon, attempting to bring up small talk on a very sensitive subject, Ned. KitN reminds LF that he’s not welcome and he won’t be thanking him either for the nights of the Vale coming through at the clutch during Battle of the Bastards. You almost want to wag your finger at Jon to be grateful but Little Finger reminds us why the king’s irritation is justified. He boasts of love for Sansa. How he loves her just as much as Cat.
All ninja-like, Jon slams little finger into the wall behind them. Puts him in check on where he needs to stay in regards to Sansa i.e very far away. Cue death threat number 56378376247 this week, Jon growls at Petyr: “Touch my sister and I’ll kill you myself.”
We see him depart with Davos, before he leaves he looks back at Sansa and the two exchange a goodbye. Little finger creeps in the background and one can’t help but wonder if his machinations will be fueled with malice now that he’s tussled with Jon.
Last, we’re brought out to sea and the audience almost witnesses action between Yara and Ellaria, with the latter promising a “foreign invasion” (!), but their would-be tryst is interrupted when their ships comes under attack. It’s Euron’s fleet, with his battleship colliding into Yara’s, setting off a bloody hand-to-hand combat. It’s a brave fight, Yara gave all she had and so did two of the Sand Snakes but alas, Euron’s crazy trumped them all. Obara is impaled and Nymeria is strangled then hanged. Tyene and Ellaria are taken hostage. (Note: This is not good for Ellaria. She is responsible for Myrcella’s death and now, Cersei is queen. )
(Shame. Shame. Shame.)
Yara and Euron face off in mortal combat but he overcomes her, holding a blade to her throat while antagonizing Theon, aka the “cockless coward,” to come and rescue her. But Theon can’t seem to get it together even for his sister. He flinches, twitches and tweaks ultimately falling victim to catatonic Reek mode before he flies overboard. It’s apparent that the trauma inflicted by Ramsay hasn’t run it’s course and the audience is faced with the reality that he may never fully recover. Euron’s insanity was certainly enough to trigger it all. Though disappointed in Theon (as an audience), the heartbreak and betrayal evident on Yara’s face is more potent. Her brother as she knew him is officially gone. Forever.
He’s left to float alone in waves, the flaming skeletons of their once-mighty fleet burning as they sink.
Ultimately this episode of thrones was very well done. The speed of the plot’s been ramped so uncharacteristically that the amount of information delivered feels [at times] overwhelming. Still, I’d rather have something keep me on my toes which this episode of thrones has certainly done.
We can only expect things to hit the fan next week!
Be sure to check out a sneak peak of Epsiode 3 below!