Game of Thrones season 7 episode 2 review: Of reunions, war strategies, and death
That was the second episode of season seven of Game of Thrones for you.
If the premiere episode of this latest season seemed a little too slow-paced for your liking, then this follow-up amped the action right back up.
And such action — albeit not the kind that one might have anticipated!
Dragonstone — episode 1 of Game of Thrones season 7 — was named for Daenerys Targaryen and her long-awaited homecoming.
Along with that, it also showed us what our favourite Westerosi lords and ladies were up to: Arya was carrying out mass murder of the Frey family, Sansa and Jon were squabbling like regular siblings, Cersei and Jaime were squabbling like not-so-regular siblings, Samwell Tarly was cleaning out chamberpots and latrines at the Citadel (and in a Harry Potter-ish nod, sneaking into the restricted section of its library), and Euron Greyjoy was promising to bring Cersei a 'gift' that would assure her of his honest intentions. What would that gift be? Long-forgotten Gendry jumping out of a cake, as New Yorker wondered in its review?
The answer to that question comes at the very end of episode two, called 'Stormborn' — also in Daenerys' honour.
We start off at gloomy old Dragonstone, where a storm is raging — much like the one during which Daenerys was born, as Lord Varys reminds her. Dany uses this as an opportunity to question where Varys' loyalties really lie, setting up a speech from the Lord of Whispers that comes close (but not quite) to that 'Chaos is a Ladder' exchange with Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish all the way back in season three.
The scene then shifts to a meeting — the first of many significant ones through this episode — that will set up that epic moment fans are waiting for: the Jon-Dany meet-up.
Melisandre — she of the red robe wearing, flame vision seeing, child sacrificing ways — has found her way to Dany's throne room. Here, she tells Dany of the 'long night' and the 'prince or princess who was promised (big reveal: High Valyrian doesn't have a gender-specific word for prince/princess), who will bring the dawn'. Cue the mention of Jon Snow — King in the North — who Tyrion also vouchsafes for. An owl — sorry, one means a raven! — is promptly dispatched, asking Jon to present himself at Dragonstone.
Meanwhile, what is Jon up to, apart from fondly reminiscing about Tyrion with Sansa once he receives the missive from Dragonstone? He must convince his fractious bannermen (and women) that seeking an audience with Dany would be in their best interests. 'They have dragon glass — a whole mountain of it!' (Sam's letter from the Citadel has reached him by now.) 'They have three dragons, and therefore dragon-fire!' Since the North doesn't seem too willing to let go of their King despite these highly persuasive arguments, Jon does what he usually does in these situations — reminds them that they chose him to rule and he's made his decision.
Winterfell Jon bequeaths to the care of Sansa — but not before an altercation with Littlefinger that had us very, very worried. Lord Baelish has been far too content in recent times to skulk about by the sidelines, while casting meaningful glances at Sansa (whose propensity for doing her hair in the style of Cersei circa seasons 1-5 has caused the internet to fret about her trajectory). With Jon out of the way, will this be when Littlefinger makes his move? From the way he's looking at Sansa (much like we look at our screens when GoT is playing), that's very much in the realm of possibility.
Also in the realm of possibility — a Sansa-Arya reunion! She may not get to meet her beloved brother Jon, who's left Winterfell for the rocky shores of Dragonstone, but Arya will certainly run into Sansa once she reaches home. The change in course (last heard, she was telling a group of Lannister soldiers — one of whom looked remarkably like a ginger-haired Cheshire cat — oh wait, that was Ed Sheeran — that she intended to go to King's Landing to kill Cersei) comes about because of a reunion with her old friend Hot Pie, who is engaged in making hot pies (the two friends then exchange notes on pie-making, although Arya's choice of filling — murdered Freys — is perhaps not what Hot Pie usually works with). Hot Pie gives her the good news: 'The Boltons are dead! Jon Snow is King of the North!' — and Arya promptly rides off for Winterfell. But not before she meets her long-lost direwolf Nymeria, in the woods. Will good things happen for Arya at last?
Maybe so, but certainly not for Samwell Tarly, who seems to be destined for a life of grossness at the Citadel while he trains to be a maester for the Night's Watch and provide help and hope to his friend Jon Snow, as the case may be. His particularly gruesome task in this episode is to help clean up Jorah Mormont's greyscale — which means we get subjected to some wonderfully retch-inducing footage of skin being gouged out with a knife. On the upside — Sam may have found a cure for Ser Jorah's condition! (Could we possibly have Sam meet Hermione,/maybe with some nifty time turning-worlds colliding-authors collaborating twist of fate? They'd get along famously we're sure.)
Before we forget ourselves, here's the other important stuff from Stormborn. Dany holds counsel with her allies — Yara Greyjoy, Ellaria Sand and Lady Olenna Tyrell — and lays out her battle plan. On the map at least, it seems to be quite the winner. Alas, the best laid plans of the noblest houses seldom come to pass in the Seven Kingdoms.
On their way to gather up the Dornish army for a siege of King's Landing, Yara and Theon are attacked by their uncle/nemesis, Euron Greyjoy. That gift he promised Cersei — we now know what it is (and it's definitely not Gendry, or cake). As he lays waste to Yara's crew and ships and the Sand Snakes, his men hustle along Ellaria from her cabin onto their waiting warship. The future does not look very bright for Ms Sand — quite apart from being a Targaryen ally, there's the little matter of her having poisoned Cersei's daughter Myrcella. Oh Ellaria. Septa Unella might tell you a thing or two about crossing swords with (or ringing bells at) Cersei.
Cersei currently isn't too occupied with thoughts of Ellaria though. She's traipsing about the basements of the Red Keep, with her favourite maester (Qyburn) in tow, as they discuss solutions to a pressing threat: Dany's dragons. Even as wild theories suggest themselves to the viewer's mind — dragons raised from the dead a la the Mountain? More wildfire? — Maester Qyburn unveils a more prosaic weapon: heavy duty artillery. Ooh, that does not look good for Drogon and his siblings.
So all in all, Stormborn hasn't been a win for Dany. Two of her allies are already down for the count, her dragons could be in trouble, and the weather sucks. On the bright side — she seems to be bonding well with Lady Olenna and Jon's on his way. We can't wait to see how that plays out.