Episode two! Unfortunately due to some adverse circumstances this week, this write-up is quite late. But perhaps what might be better than watching a thrilling, crazily violent and dramatic television show, is reading the comprehensive recap of an episode of television that you might have already watched seven days ago; or you might have already watched episode three already. Nevertheless, onwards!
Warning: This post is filled to the brim with spoilers. Please consider watching the episode before reading, unless you’re fine with being completely spoiled!
I did a bit of reflecting on the first episode across the week and had a couple of leftover thoughts: It was a solid start, to be sure, but the characters seem to have become a bit one-note as the seasons have progressed; would Stannis Baratheon (RIP) really leave a whole castle empty?; is Jaime just a little bit useless compared to his previous season roles? I hope he gets something to do; where did Euron and his Greyjoy gang get enough wood and time to build that fleet of ships?; and finally, would the Lannisters really not send some soldiers out to meet Daenerys given that Jaime accurately predicted that she’d head straight to Dragonstone? The dragons may complicate things. More questions than thoughts, really, but they certainly stuck out to me.
Meanwhile, in the opening title sequence, it looks like the sea is freezing over up North. See above comparison image for evidence! Perhaps this will have interesting implications about what’s going on up there, particularly given the references to the abandoned Night’s Watch castle, Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, in the past episode.
In another scene that is way too dark for my television to handle, we visit Daenerys and friends at Dragonstone. Tyrion, Varys and Daenerys are reminiscing about the time of Daenerys’ birth. Unfortunately, after spending the vast majority of her life abroad, Daenerys does not find Westeros to feel like home. They place the main players of the political landscape of Westeros on the fantastic map table (I want one for my house) and wonder about who exactly supports Daenerys’ cause. They have the Tyrells and the Dornish on their side, which is significant, resources-wise. Varys and Daenerys reflect on her family background, her terrible brother, and her crazy father who enjoyed burning people alive for fun and political control. Daenerys grills Varys about the plot to kill her back in season one, and finds that although he was technically behind it all, he seems to have the bests interests of the people at the forefront of his mind when backing her. Varys came from nothing and got shit done across his life, and works for the people, not for the power. Daenerys makes Varys swear an oath of loyalty and not to conspire behind her back, which he does, but I wonder if she is being slightly naive in that respect. There was a nice, sneaky look from Tyrion which indicated that he understands his motivations. Unfortunately, if Varys ever betrays Daenerys, she will burn him alive. She may be the mother of dragons, but she is certainly the Mad King’s daughter as well. There was a great monologue by Conleth Hill as Varys in this scene, even though I somewhat doubt his trustworthiness.
Red Priestess Melisandre, who we haven’t seen in a while, has arrived at Dragonstone. She and Daenerys speak with one another in Valyrian, and Varys reminds everyone that Melisandre used to serve Stannis Baratheon (RIP). Daenerys informs Melisandre that although she served Stannis, she has decided to pardon those who served the ‘wrong king’. Someone references the ‘Prince Who Was Promised’ and Missandei actually informs everyone, including the viewers, that this is the wrong translation. See, the term used for ‘Prince’ in High Valyrian is gender-neutral, so could refer to a prince or a princess. Which Daenerys seems to like, as it infers that she could be the one to save the Seven Kingdoms from the horrors that are facing everyone. Jon Snow is referenced, and Tyrion describes him as a pretty good Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and a pretty good King in the North so far, that he is trustworthy, and that Tyrion himself is an excellent judge of character. Perhaps Jon Snow would make a good ally for their cause. They decide to send a raven to invite Jon Snow to meet Daenerys and bend the knee to her. Funny, since Cersei sent Jon a similar letter last episode. Which one will Jon respond to, I wonder?
Back at Winterfell, Jon Snow has already received the letter sent from Dragonstone via raven! Time is flying very quickly indeed this season. Jon deduces that Tyrion definitely sent the letter as he references one of his own quotes from season one, when they first met each other. Jon asks Sansa for her opinion on Tyrion. Sansa believes Tyrion to be not like the other Lannisters. He can be kind and rational, but he’s risky as he is still a Lannister after all. Meanwhile, Ser Davos Seaworth (my favourite character, probably) finally gets some substantial lines of dialogue and shows a great deal of insight by ruminating on the fact that Daenerys has three dragons, and only fire can kill wights (i.e. the army of the dead).
In King’s Landing, Cersei is speaking to those still loyal to her about how Daenerys is a horrible person who has brought violent people to Westeros with her. She references Daenerys’ brutal conquering of Essos and how the Dothraki might murder everybody now that they have crossed the sea. Cersei is certainly spinning this story to her advantage. Lena Headey, as always, is flawless (please win an Emmy). Cersei rallies the Houses present to stay loyal to House Lannister and to have each other’s back. It’s interesting that Randall Tarly (Sam’s dad) references ancient Westerosi history – that Aegon the Conquerer also had three dragons when he crossed the sea to conquer the Seven Kingdoms. However, creepy Qyburn is currently working on a solution to attack the dragons.
Later, Jaime has a chat to Randyll Tarly (father of Sam Tarly who is now at the Citadel in Oldtown), who seems kind of freaked out. He’s off to Horn Hill to mobilise his army and to keep his House safe. Jaime invites Randyll to swear allegiance to House Lannister. Tarly had previously sworn an oath to the Tyrells, however his ultimate oath should be to the crown, which is now in possession of a Lannister. Randyll appears torn. Jaime thinks Olenna Tyrell has supported Daenerys, her army, and her dragons to come to Westeros for revenge, and she’s unstable as a result. Jaime pushes Randyll to decide what he really wants for his House. Perhaps Randyll could be Warden of the South once Cersei has figured everything out.
In the Citadel at Oldtown, Sam Tarly (Randyll’s son) is spending time with Archmaester Marwyn (the excellent Jim Broadbent), and Ser Jorah Mormont whose greyscale has spread across his torso and arms and has become quite a severe case. Marwyn informs Sam that Jorah will die in ten or twenty years and will be blind in about six months. Sam appears disturbed and upset, and references Stannis Baratheon’s (RIP) daughter Shireen (RIP), whose greyscale was cured when she was a baby. Marwyn states that she turned out OK (but disfigured) because the greyscale was caught early in her infancy. In Jorah’s case however, he is doomed and can stay at the Citadel for one more day before being sent off to the Stone Men amongst the ruins of Valyria. In this interaction, Sam finds out the Jorah is a Mormont; Sam remembers Lord Jeor Mormont from the Night’s Watch who was Jorah’s father.
Back at King’s Landing, creepy mad scientist Qyburn and Cersei are downstairs in the Red Keep, amongst the dragon skulls which Robert Baratheon had removed from the Keep as they “made him look small”. Beautiful set design here. They approach a huge dragon skull – Balerion the Black Dread, on which Aegon Targaryen first rode to conquer Westeros. It turns out that the weapon Qyburn was developing to attack the dragons is essentially a big harpoon slash crossbow apparatus, which successfully smashes through Balerion’s huge skull. Which I am angry about, because it’s like they’re destroying a piece of ancient history. There was great music in this scene, which was reminiscent of the music being played during the explosion of the Great Sept of Baelor last season. Ramin Djawadi continues to do a beautiful job on the score this season.
In Dragonstone, Daenerys meets with those loyal to her – Greyjoys, Martells, Tyrells, Varys, Tyrion, Missandei and Grey Worm. They argue over what kind of conqueror Daenerys should be – wise and kind, or fearsome and murderous? Daenerys attempts to mediate the debate but it’s clear that the people around her have different visions for her power. Who should she listen to? They concoct a plan to lay siege to King’s Landing with Tyrell and Martell armies surrounding it. Meanwhile, Daenerys will use the Dothraki and the Unsullied to attack the homeland of the Lannisters, at Casterly Rock. Tyrion accurately predicts what Cersei was saying earlier – if Daenerys uses foreign armies to attack the Westerosi capital, the people will see her as a barbarian which proves Cersei’s point. They all agree to the plan. However I feel some concern, given that Daenerys’ various armies will then be spread across Westeros.
Then, Daenerys meets with Lady Olenna Tyrell. She’s here with Daenerys out of her hate for Cersei and the Lannisters, and not her love of Daenerys and the Targaryens. Daenerys wants peace, but everyone keeps reminding her how crazy her father the Mad King was. Unfortunately, Olenna knows that peace never lasts, no matter how much you want it. Olenna says she’s outlived all of the clever men in her life because she’s ignored their advice. And here comes some of the best advice one might give Daenerys. The lords of Westeros are sheep, but Daenerys not a sheep; she is a dragon, and should be a dragon.
Then there’s a big waste of time, that is to say, a scene with Grey Worm and Missandei. Missandei lets Grey Worm know that they’ll leave tomorrow and I’m already sick of this waste of screentime. Grey Worm admits that Missandei as his weakness – as a strong Unsullied, he never had any fears until he feared losing Missandei. They kiss each other and there’s a bit of a sex scene. I just feel a sense of urgency because there are so many other plots and characters in this show that deserve this amount of screentime. This is the last season, please writers and directors, let’s prioritise.
Back at Oldtown, Sam thinks he has figured out a way to save Lord Jorah Mormont, Friendzone Warrior. Jorah, who is writing a letter to Daenerys, is visited by Sam, and then we’re treated to a pretty gross surgery scene. Sam is determined to cure Jorah’s greyscale, which is convenient because Daenerys did send Jorah off to find a cure for it. I’m actually liking the focus on Sam this season. It’s evident in the books that George R. R. Martin identifies with him to an extent, so I’m glad that he is getting some useful attention on the show. He’s come a long way, from a bumbling and clumsy guy who was not in his element, to someone whose quiet strengths are very powerful indeed.
Lucky for us, the surgery scene where Sam is cutting away all of Jorah’s crusty and goopy greyscale is intercut with the image of someone eating a crusty and goopy pie. Gross! It’s Arya eating the pie, at an inn on the way to King’s Landing. And our old friend Hot Pie is at the inn! I’m so glad that he and Arya had the chance to meet again. Hot Pie passes on to Arya that all the Boltons are dead, and that the Starks have power in Winterfell again, with Jon and Sansa in charge. This may change things for Arya’s mission, and her course has now changed. Which road will she take? She appears to turn back, to the direction of Winterfell, as the signature Stark music swells in the background.
Speaking of Winterfell, we return there to see Jon, who has received a raven from Sam in Oldtown. Sam tells Jon to head to Dragonstone, to mine all of the dragonglass there which can be forged into weapons to defeat the White Walkers. Interesting, since Jon had just received a letter from Daenerys basically telling him to go there and bend the knee to her. Jon accepts the invitation, but the people of Wintefell aren’t happy with him. Ultimately, Jon, ever the pragmatist, knows that in order to defeat the army of the dead, they need weapons which are actually effective, and this is their only chance. Jon also needs to persuade Daenerys to join the Northerners in the fight against the army of the dead. The Northerners, however, are suspicious of this plan. The last time a Lord of Winterfell headed south, he had his head chopped off. Also, no one trusts the Targaryens since they also remember the Mad King and his roasting tendencies quite well. Riding South is associated with losing power in the North, e.g. when Ned and Robb left, only to be both slaughtered. Jon basically says “Bye guys, love you guys” and that he needs to take the calculated risk which has been presented to him. In leaving Winterfell, he places the North in Sansa’s hands, as the only Stark left in Winterfell. Until Jon returns, the North is hers. Such sneaky glances from Littlefinger at this point in time!
Jon takes some time to have a think in the crypts underneath Winterfell, at Ned Stark’s grave. Littlefinger invites himself over to have a chat for no reason and Jon tells him to leave because he wants alone time. Littlefinger asserts that Jon and friends won the Battle of the Bastards because he swooped in the saved the day with Arryn troops from the Eyrie (true), and also because he loves Sansa and wants to wife her. Jon chokes Littlefinger (thank you Jon) and informs him that if Littlefinger touches Sansa, he will kill him. Good! Finally, someone is actually, genuinely protective of Sansa’s interests. Jon, Davos, and friends head off to Dragonstone. In this scene, Sansa is notable wearing more masculine costuming which is reminiscent of Ned Stark’s garb from season one. Then we’re treated to more sneaky glances from Littlefinger.
In the woods, Arya is travelling and making a fire. Her horse is getting a bit cagey and nervous, and wolves howl deep in the woods. She looks over her shoulder and a wolf pack appears. An unnaturally massive direwolf approaches her, and Arya recognises her as Nymeria; the wolf who Arya banished to the woods back in season one after biting Joffrey (RIP), in order to save her from being put down. Arya tries to reason with Nymeria, does she remember her? Arya says she’s finally going home to Winterfell, and implores Nymeria to go with her. Nymeria simply turns away, taking her huge wolf pack with her. Arya then says, “That’s not you”, appearing visibly rejected, and my heart is broken. What will Arya do now?
Across the week there’s been some discussion about what exactly this scene means, and what Arya’s line means, “That’s not you”. This scene is harking back to a very brief scene from season one, and this article explains it well, and briefly. It’s clear that Arya is talking to herself, and reminding herself of her own mission, identity, and where she belongs. Arya was never the kind of kid to do what was expected of her. Arya was always the kind of kid to be confident, self-assured in the fact that she was different to everyone else, and that was a good thing. So… what will she do? Go to her family in Winterfell, or continue her mission to kill Queen Cersei in King’s Landing? Perhaps we might know next week!
In the final segment of the show, located on ships in the sea on the way to Dorne (I think), the silly Sand Snakes are having a chat about who they want to kill first. The youngest Sand Snake, Tyene Sand, has grown out her hair quite long, which perhaps indicates further the rapid passing of time.
Elsewhere on the ship, Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand are having a chat which becomes increasingly sexualised in nature. Theon senses he needs to go to give them some privacy. Unfortunately, the ship is attacked by bad uncle Euron Greyjoy, who arrives with his black-sailed ships, and a big battle commences. Books four and five of the Game of Thrones books have some amazing descriptions of ship battles which I loved, and it’s fun to see things like this on screen. There were some nice production values on the fighting here. It’s apparent that Euron is kind of crazy. There is a tense, bloody battle scene amongst the ships, with fire shooting everywhere. It feels like what I imagined when I read the books, but on a smaller scale.
Yara and Theon and all the other Greyjoys and Martells are battling, and killing lots of enemies. The Greyjoy ships are getting attacked and burned severely, Daenerys’ brand new fleet being destroyed. Two of the Sand Snakes attack Euron, but they are both killed by him in quite a brutal fashion. Ellaria and Tyene Sand are both captured by Euron Greyjoy’s men. I would say I felt bad about criticising all of their scenes in this show, but I still think the way that the Sand Snakes were portrayed in the show is a complete waste of time and pales in comparison to how awesome and interesting they are in the books.
In the final moments, Yara and Euron notice one another on the ship. A thrilling and tense fight scene, with punching, kicking, stabbing, axes and swords flying everywhere, results in Euron capturing Yara. Please don’t kill Yara, I like her a lot. Theon sees what is happening and Euron invites him to come forward and fight for her. Theon, in his nervous and twitchy state, appears to be having a panic attack and can’t move. Instead of fighting Euron for his sister, he jumps off the ship and into the sea. Euron laughs and doesn’t kill Yara, rather, they move off camera. People are tending to be very critical of Theon for this moment. However, I think he probably made a smart move here. If he had come forward to attack, Euron certainly would have cut Yara’s throat. Theon’s moment of supposed cowardice may well have saved her life.
Can I just say, the actor for Euron, Pilou Asbæk, is absolutely killing it this season. I am loving how crazy he is. His reveal last season was slightly underwhelming and he didn’t look physically like much of a threat. But in these few episodes thus far, he is really coming out of his shell and proving to be a memorable, brutal and scary character.
And it’s over, just like that. Theon, floating in the ocean, sees the black sails of Euron’s ship, sailing away. I still maintain that Theon probably made the right choice. Plus, can we all agree that Alfie Allen is perfect as Theon? I think, along with Lena Headey as Cersei, Alfie Allen is one of the best actors on the show.
Anyway, in the next episode, the trailer tells us that we’re going to see Daenerys and her dragons, Euron returning to King’s Landing victorious, Cersei scheming, people arriving at Dragonstone, Sansa in the weirwood forest, the Unsullied army attacking some form of castle (hint hint, the opposing soldiers are wearing Lannister red), and it looks like Jon Snow will be meeting Daenerys for the first time! I can’t wait!