23 July, 2017

Season Seven, Episode Two "Stormborn"

It took 6+ years to get all the players on the same continent, and now moves are being made that will have significant and very direct short-term consequences on the way this story ends. It feels like we won't be introduced to more characters, only to see them die without seeming to serve much of a purpose (hi there, Doran Martell). No more preliminary rounds full of pretenders (hello Freys, Baratheons...Tullys?). The list of players has been whittled down and all outcomes from this point forward will determine who moves on to the Finals - the Night's King awaits the winner.

To be clear, there are still roster moves underway. Will the North join with the Targaryens? Will there be a sundering in the South, with some of the forces of Highgarden (and her allies) serving Daeny, while others align with Cersei?

And wildcards may still be out there. The Riverlands seem to have no leadership with Edmure Tully in chains and the Freys dead, but presumably there are still men and materials...and what of the East under Robin Arryn (er...Littlefinger)? They're with the North for now, but that is obviously tenuous at best. Surely there is another twist to come there. I presume the answers will largely occur this season, so that the main event gets its due.

Dragonstone

Daeny contemplates her next move, along with her counselors Tyrion and Varys. She is leery of being told what she wants to hear rather than the truth. She seems to trust Tyrion, but she grills Varys about his motivations, and his history of changing sides frequently. Varys is getting nowhere trying to flatter her, and finally his true salty self emerges. He tells Daenerys that he doesn't serve her, that he serves the people, and that he will be loyal to her because she is the best hope for the downtrodden. He has chosen her. Daeny makes him promise that, if she begins to act in ways counter to his support of the people, he will speak to her directly about it rather than conspire against her. Varys happily agrees. And then Daeny threatens a gruesome death if he fails to keep his word, which Varys agrees is appropriate.

A surprise visit from Melisandre interrupts the council. Melisandre is there because she believes Daeny has a role to play in the prophecy of the Prince Who Was Promised. Interestingly, Missandei corrects the translation, stating that the word they've translated as "prince" is actually a genderless noun, and could refer to a female or a male.

As a quick aside - I once posted a link to an article in which GRRM said that he knew he was going to kill off Ned Stark, and that once he did that, he realized he needed to kill off Robb Stark, because the avenging son was too trite. I can't help but wonder if he feels the same way about prophecy. It's certainly trite, and not only in this genre. And we have an example of his thoughts with the appearance of the red comet, which leaders from multiple lands took as a harbinger of their ultimate victory...and many of those leaders were proven to be sadly mistaken. It will be interesting to see if the Prince(ss) materializes, or if it proves to be hooey.

Melisandre believes that, in addition to Daeny, Jon Snow will also play an important role in the resolution of the Long Night. Tyrion pipes in that he knows and trusts Jon Snow, and advises Daeny that he would be a powerful ally against Cersei, especially given the fate of Jon's "father" and "brother". Daeny agrees that they should send a raven to Jon, inviting him to Dragonstone...but she wants him to recognize her as queen and agree to serve her.

Later, Daenerys conducts a Council of War. The lineup consists of Yara and Theon from the Iron Islands, Ellaria Sand from Dorne, Olenna Tyrell from Highgarden, her Hand of the Queen Tyrion Lannister, Varys. Gray Worm and Missandei observe.

Yara advocates a full frontal assault on King's Landing immediately. With their Ironborn navy, the Unsullied, the Dothraki and the dragons, the city will fall very quickly, in her estimation.

Tyrion doesn't disagree with the probable result, but he believes the cost (tens of thousands of innocent lives) is too high. Ellaria questions his toughness (in war people die), and Tyrion questions her methods (poisoning Myrcella was unnecessary). Daeny intervenes and moves the conversation back to their strategy. She says that she is not here to be Queen of the Ashes (a direct quote from Tyrion from an earlier conversation), and so rather than attack King's Landing, they will besiege King's Landing. And they will do so with the armies of Dorne and Highgarden, as Tyrion has anticipated that Cersei will be drumming up anti-foreigner sentiment among her followers.

In the meantime, the Unsullied will sail around to the other side of Westeros, with the aim of taking Casterly Rock from the Lannisters. If King's Landing is besieged and Casterly Rock is taken, the war is basically over. Or at least the Cersei/Jaime part of it is.

All the leaders agree with this approach. Yara and her fleet will take Ellaria to Dorne immediately, and then bring an army to King's Landing. However, Daeny requests that Olenna stay behind. She wants to assure Olenna that Cersei will pay for what she did to Margaery (Olenna's granddaughter), and that she will institute peace. Now, Olenna is a bit bloodthirsty these days, and she's also cunning. She potentially drives a bit of a wedge between Daeny and Tyrion, stating that Tyrion is undeniably clever, but that she's outlived a lot of clever men by simply ignoring them. "The Lords of Westeros are sheep. Are you a sheep? No, you're a dragon. Be a dragon!"

Missandei and Gray Worm say goodbye, as Gray Worm will be on the way to battle in the morning. It's a memorable goodbye. Gray Worm will never have a better assignment in his acting career.

Winterfell

The youth are practicing their skill at arms, preparing to meet the army of the dead. Observing from above are Jon, Davos and Sansa, and they are discussing the message Tyrion sent by raven on Daeny's orders. Davos and Sansa are in agreement that it's too dangerous for Jon to go, but Davos does point out that fire-breathing dragons could be very useful against walkers both white and wight.

A few days later - another raven and another message, this one from Sam speaking of the dragonglass on Dragonstone.

Jon decides that he needs to call a meeting. He gathers his bannermen and explains the two messages. He says that, in light of the danger from beyond the Wall, he has to take the chance of visiting Dragonstone, both to get the dragonglass and to get more allies. It's worth the risk, in his estimation, to dramatically increase the chances of victory in the only battle that truly matters.

Sansa bitterly disagrees. She sees a trap, like the one that killed her grandfather and her uncle. Jon agrees that's possible, but the odds of them winning against the White Walkers are so long, he must take the chance. He tells Sansa she's in charge while he's gone, which instantly shuts Sansa up. Are you, like me, hearing Will Arnett's voice in your head? "I've just made a terrible mistake". I want to believe that Sansa will be a responsible steward in Jon's absence. I do.

Jon goes to visit the crypt under Winterfell. A presumptuous Littlefinger joins him there to talk to him. Jon wants nothing to do with Littlefinger, but Littlefinger is persistent. He confesses to Jon that he loves Sansa as he loved Catelyn. Well, that did it. Jon grabs Littlefinger by the throat and threatens his life if he touches Sansa. It is reminiscent of Ned Stark grabbing him by the throat in King's Landing. I hope that's the only thing reminiscent of Ned in this storyline.

Jon rides for White Harbor, and Littlefinger stares hungrily at Sansa.

King's Landing

Cersei's got the social media engine running as she works to build her defenses. She shrewdly uses Daeny's advantages against her. Sure, Daeny has Unsullied and Dothraki, but they're foreigners. They will burn your towns, rape your women and kill your children (never mind that Gregor Clegane and Lannister bannermen did all that under her father's orders, as well). These armies are heathens...and Daeny kills noblemen...and so forth.

One of the lords (why look, it's Sam's dad - Randyll Tarley) points out that Daeny has 3 grown dragons, which is what Aegon the Conqueror had when he first subjugated the Seven Kingdoms. Cersei defers to Qyburn, who says they are working on a solution to that problem.

Jaime then pulls Tarley aside. Randyll is high in the councils of Highgarden, an important bannerman to the Tyrells. Jaime views him as a key recruit for the Lannisters, as he is an excellent general who handed Robert Baratheon his only defeat during Robert's Rebellion (at the Battle of Ashford...which in truth was an inconclusive skirmish that nonetheless forced Robert to retreat in the face of the numbers of the Tyrell army). Jaime wants Randyll to be the principal general of Cersei's armies. Lord Tarley is loathe to become an oathbreaker. As big of a jerk as he is, he has his definition of honor, and he respects Olenna Tyrell and doesn't want to break his oath to her house. Jaime points out that the Tarleys swore an oath to the Crown as well, so he's going to be an oathbreaker either way. Staying on message, he emphasizes that Tarley's choice is to fight with citizens of the Seven Kingdoms, or with savages and eunuchs. Also, Jaime basically promises Randyll that if he joins with the Lannisters, the Tarleys stand to replace the Tyrells as Wardens of the South.

Qyburn and Cersei head down to the basement, where Qyburn shows Cersei the solution to the dragon problem. It's a ballista, and he demonstrates the device by shooting a bolt through the skull of Balerion the Black Dread, one of the mightiest and biggest of the old dragons. No doubt that could be useful if he gets a clean shot.

Oldtown

Sam and the Archmaester examine Jorah. The Archmaester tells Jorah that his grayscale infection is too far gone. He has 10-20 years to live, but only another 6 months or so before his mind goes. He tells Jorah that if he were not an anointed knight, he would ship him off to Valyria to live as a Stone Man (like the one that infected him). Since Jorah is a knight, the Archmaester gives him a day to decide what he wants to do...meaningfully looking at Jorah's sword as an honorable solution to the problem.

Sam believes there must be a cure, and he becomes more determined when he figures out that Jorah is the son of the man who was Lord Commander of the Night's Watch when Sam first joined. He uses Shireen Baratheon (Stannis' daughter) as an example of grayscale that was arrested in its progression (Archmaester says - it was caught early when Shireen was a baby. Apples and oranges with Jorah, as he's an adult and the grayscale is very advanced). Sam argues that Archmaester Pylos successfully cured a few adults with grayscale (Archmaester says - Pylos died of grayscale, so his "cure" is both dubious and dangerous, and therefore forbidden).

By the way, Jorah has a Charlton Heston thing going on, doesn't he?

Sam decides to move forward with trying Pylos' cure on Jorah anyway. He interrupts Jorah while he's writing a farewell note (presumably) to Daeny. The cure involves sawing off the infected tissue, so it's going to be a long night. And a gross one. Not as gross as Bedpan Sequence, but fairly nauseating, particularly as the scene switches from Jorah's oozing sores to the oozing pie being eaten at an inn one table over from...

Arya

She's back at a familiar inn, still heading South to King's Landing to kill Cersei. Hot Pie is still on staff at the inn, right where she left him when she and the Hound were traveling companions.

In addition to providing her with warm food, Hot Pie provides her with some very interesting information. First, he teaches her the secret to his pies, and Arya allows as how she didn't use that technique on the "one or two" pies she has made (she's referring to the pie of Walder's sons that she made him eat before cutting his throat). Second, he lets her know that he was the one who put Brienne on Arya's trail. Arya confirms that Brienne found her (that's when Brienne and the Hound battled). Finally, and most importantly, Hot Pie enlightens Arya to the situation back home at Winterfell. Arya was still under the impression that the Boltons were in charge of Winterfell, but Hot Pie informs her of Jon's victory in the North. Arya takes leave of Hot Pie, telling him not to get killed. He assures her that, like her, he's a survivor.

Arya turns around and heads back North toward Winterfell. Back in the woods where she met the Lannister guardsmen, she come across a different pack. Wolves surround her, and they are led by a monstrous she-wolf. It's Nymeria, the direwolf that Arya raised, that bit Joffrey's arm, and that Arya threw rocks at to make her go away so that the Lannisters wouldn't take her pelt. Nymeria recognizes Arya, and doesn't kill her, but she also doesn't join back up with her for the ride North.

Asea

Yara and Ellaria and Theon and the Sand Snakes sail for Dorne to gather the army for besieging King's Landing. Ellaria is making moves on Yara when their ship is struck. Euron's gift shopping excursion becomes apparent. A naval battle ensues.

2 of the 3 Sand Snakes are killed by Euron (they were annoying though). Yara and Ellaria and the third Sand Snake are taken prisoner. Theon, to that point kicking ass in the fight, reverts back to Reek when confronted by his uncle and jumps in the water to escape. It's a bitter disappointment to his sister. But perhaps attacking his uncle would have forced Euron to kill Yara before taking on Theon.

Euron sails aways with his prisoners, leaving Theon floating amid the wreckage.

Scenes From Next Week

  • Euron returns in triumph to King's Landing
  • Daeny prepares to attack Cersei's army
  • Sansa walks with a purposeful stride
  • The Unsullied attack
  • Jon and Davos arrive in Dragonstone
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