A foreign invasion is underway
Directed by: Mark Mylod
Written by: Bryan Cogman
I am thankful for season seven saving me the trouble of having to frequently talk about scenes with a, "we'll have to find out next time" sort of tone. It does, admittedly, get a little repetitive writing about certain Game of Thrones episodes, knowing that they're focused on hyping and setting up events still to come, such as a grand-scale battle or someone's untimely death. That leaves me for small periods with only so much analysis to do, so I find myself reinforcing or extended upon ideas that I had brought up before. After "Dragonstone" gave season seven the build-up it needed to get off the ground running, "Stormborn" accelerates the season's central conflict, already giving us our first major battle of the war between Daenerys and Cersei, as well as bringing the somewhat isolated Jon Snow closer to the other Westerosi conflicts that are going on, which he has had no part of ever since he first left for the Night's Watch back in season one. The end result is a strong hour of Game of Thrones that moves several plot lines forward, as well as create even more exciting set-up for the episodes still to come.
The first thing I want to bring up is the one character I was not able to get to in my review of "Dragonstone". Good ol' Samwell Tarly has made it to Oldtown to train and become an Archmaester, although becoming an Archmaester will soon become the last thing on Sam's to-do list. Despite his unimpressive physical stature, Sam has always had a talent for making game-changing discoveries, the first being his discovery that dragonglass can kill White Walkers. Sam hits the dragonglass jackpot in "Dragonstone", as he discovers that Dragonstone is sitting on a heaping mountain of dragonglass: information that he is able to get over to Jon. Oh, but it doesn't stop there. Oldtown is going to continue to be very kind to Samwell. We also find out in "Dragonstone" that greyscale-ridden Jorah Mormont has made his way back to Westeros, and is now serving as a patient in the Citadel. It seemed like the greyscale infection was the beginning of the end for Jorah, but, in a surprising twist of fate, Samwell tries to help Jorah defy death by undergoing a dangerous procedure that could rid Jorah of the greyscale. I know we can talk all day about Jon Snow giving death the middle finger, but the greyscale seemed liked an absolute certainty in terms of the cause of Jorah's death. Game of Thrones has been most famous for the way it kills off characters at the most unexpected times, but I applaud that D&D sort of do the opposite with a character that seemed quite likely to die. The truly happy moments of this show are few and far in between, and when next episode shows us that Jorah will be healed of the greyscale, it will be good to know that the gods have more in store for Ser Jorah Mormont.
So then, elsewhere, Jon, Daenerys, and Cersei are all getting ready for war, and all three are doing the exact same thing: having large group meetings. It is exciting to see so many superstar characters all together in one room, especially in the case of Daenerys, who has Tyrion, Varys, Theon and Yara Greyjoy, Ellaria Sand, and Olena Tyrell all supporting her. The scene in the Dragonstone meeting room is highly enjoyable, as everyone talks about what their best course of action should be, how Daenerys should move her forces across Westeros and try to take an early edge over Cersei. There's no question that the scene ends with Daenerys still feeling a bit torn on what she believes is the right thing to do. Yara suggests launching a full-scale assault on King's Landing, but Daenerys elects to stick with Tyrion's plan, which involves her armies sieging King's Landing and the Unsullied heading out to take Casterly Rock. Olenna Tyrell ends up giving the best advice of all by telling Daenerys to be what she is: a dragon. The only time Daenerys has shown the ferocity of a dragon has been those times when there's no other option, most recently with the invasion of the slave masters in Meereen. Daenerys is fully aware she could storm King's Landing with her entire army, and the city would easily crumble beneath her feet. But Olenna is purposefully open-ended by telling Daenerys no more than to "be a dragon", knowing that Daenerys will take these words to mean something deeper than flying around and burning everything in sight.
Dragons: they certainly give Daenerys a heavy advantage in this war, but Cersei doesn't seem too worried, as Qyburn reveals to her the scorpion projectile weapon that is powerful enough to pierce dragon skin. Jon Snow is also paying close attention when he learns that Daenerys' army has three dragons. Dragons breathe fire, and fire kills wights. Where I'm going with this is that Jon has no other choice but to go to Dragonstone and meet with Daenerys, which will not stand with Sansa and the other Lords currently residing in Winterfell. Even in these perilous times, trust continues to be a gigantic issue among the good people of Westeros. The memories of the Mad King are all too vivid in the minds of those who were there to witness Aerys' descent into madness, and besides, who wouldn't be cynical when the series is this far along and so many important people have died? Game of Thrones loves to test the loyalty between characters like no other, to continuously reinforce the fact that Westeros (and the real world) is a dog-eat-dog world where one slip-up means your head. For the characters that have survived this long, the last thing they want is to fall prey to someone's devious scheme. All these characters wear their lengthy survival as a badge of honor, so it's no wonder they will always try to play it safe. To them, making new friends right now is almost like committing suicide, especially if that new friend's last name is Lannister or Targaryen.
If the last name happens to be Greyjoy, then they are definitely not friends at the moment. Euron Greyjoy's Iron Fleet attacks Yara's navy, and boy does it not end well for Yara's side: two of the Sand Snakes (Obara and Nymeria) are killed, the third Sand Snake (Tyene), along with Ellaria are captured, and poor Theon gets spooked, abandoning ship and leaving his sister to be taken by Euron. At the time season seven began, Game of Thrones was down to basically two villains: Cersei and the Night King. Granted, Euron was no kind of hero when we first met him, but it's good that he's stepping up his villainous prowess so as to keep this war from being a shallow, head-on confrontation between Daenerys and Cersei. I fondly remember before season seven first aired, that Pilou Asbaek boasted that Euron was going to make Ramsay Bolton, "look like a little kid." Euron Greyjoy being worse than Ramsay Bolton would not be possible thematically or even mathematically. We're down to almost ten episodes left in the series, and not one thing Euron could do in the final ten or so episodes could come even close to the long list of malevolent acts that Ramsay committed in the four-some seasons he was around.
So anyway, it's a fairly entertaining fight sequence, although it's a bit frustrating because there's basically no way to tell the fighters apart. Do Euron's followers have slightly darker clothing or do they have bigger squid sigils on their armor? I also think this fight implies that D&D were secretly listening to all those complaints people had about the Dornish story line ever since season five. They figured they should get rid of the Sand Snakes as quick as possible, and this was the perfect time to do it. The other thing this battle does is tease a future confrontation between Theon and Euron. Although he found some of his inner strength earlier, Theon still has a ways to go, and the best way he can earn back the respect of his own people is to defeat the man who not only rules as King of the Iron Islands, but the man who kidnapped his sister and mocked him for his physical deformities. It would just be so fitting if Theon is the one who gives his uncle the axe.
It's still early in the season, meaning there's plenty of set-up to be had, but "Stormborn" is also proof of what a shortened season is capable of, as we already get our first heated confrontation between members of Team Cersei and Team Daenerys. We also get the excitement of knowing that Jon Snow is about to become more involved in this war between the Queens, and you know what that means: the battle against The Army of the Dead won't be just Jon and the North's fight anymore. Soon enough, everyone will become involved. Nothing brings people together in Westeros like war.
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