Stormborn by Bryan Cogman
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS!!!
Well that was more like it! After the (nevertheless good) hour of set-up in the premiere, Stormborn delivered some interactions and reunions fans have been waiting years for, as well as a kick-arse battle scene (more on that later…).
Daenerys’ arrival has really shaken things up (in a good way!) on the show, not just because its brought six seasons of disparate plotlines together but also provided some character combinations we’ve never have seen before. Melisandre, Tyrion, Varys and Daenerys verbally tussling with each other over the nature of Jon Snow was neatly mirrored by Cersei and Jaime trying to convince Randall Tarly (Sam’s dickhead Dad) to help them fight her and Jon squabbling with the Northern lords to convince them trusting Daenerys is a necessary risk if they are to have a chance of defeating the White Walkers. These scenes were a joy to watch, and it was nice to see Yara, Theon, Ellaria Sand and Olenna Tyrell joining in with Daenerys council of war. This led to loads of great payoffs and references for long-term viewer, such as; Tyrion squaring off with Ellaria for murdering his innocent niece, Sansa coolly reminding Jon that Daenerys’ father burnt their grandfather alive, and Daenerys testing Varys’ loyalty after reminding him of his history of changing sides and betraying both her family, the Lannisters and the Baratheons.
Another pairing we’ve never seen before was Sam and Jorah, with Sam risking his position at the citadel to try and save a damned Jorah, which was touchingly revealed to be because of the admiration Sam possessed for Jorah’s father, the deceased Lord Commander. The healing scene made for uncomfortable viewing (its a good job this show is on well after dinner time!). Equally tantalising was the tension between Jon and Littlefinger – with Jon making it abundantly clear that Littlefinger’s affection for (i.e. perving on) his sister is not welcome. Doubtlessly this threat will drive Littlefinger to scheme against Jon more actively as the season progresses.
Arya’s catch up with Hot Pie (his first appearance since Season 4 – I swear Hot Pie is gonna be the only character left alive when the show ends the rate they kill people off) served as a nice way to show how much Arya’s changed since the early seasons – as well as a way to provide information to take her North (to a reunion with Sansa? And Bran? And Jon? And maybe even the Hound?! we can but hope). Nymeria’s rejection of Arya was saddening, but given we saw this kind of behaviour from Drogon in season 5, I’d put money on Arya’s direwolf returning and saving her life before the end of the season.
I argued in my season predictions that Daenerys had to suffer some major losses if her vs. Cersei was to take a whole season. I said last week I expected the show to build Euron up as a villain. The groundwork for both was laid here, and in spectacular fashion. Not only did we get confirmation that, thanks to Qyburn, Cersei has weapons (i.e. high-powered ballista’s) capable of hurting/killing dragons, but Euron dealt Daenerys and her followers a severe blow in a thrilling naval battle. This finally established Euron as a force to be reckoned with as he cut a swathe through his opponents (killing not one but TWO of the irritating Sand Snakes single-handedly), before overpowering Yara and intimidating Theon into abandoning his sister and fleeing (damn, Alfie Allen’s performance as Theon was good! Sure, his escape was cowardly, but after everything Ramsay did to him, is it any surprise Theon is still broken? He really needs to have a chat with Varys or Grey Worm about moving past his… deficiency). The battle itself was great, even if the action was limited to two ships, mainly because it came out of nowhere (I was expecting this to happen, but not as early as the end of episode 2!!!)
It also has ramifications for what happens next. Without Dornish forces, the Tyrells can’t take King’s Landing by themselves, so Daenerys will have to unleash the Dothraki (and the Dragons) which will drive more allies into Cersei’s clutches. Dany had better hope nothing goes wrong with Grey Worm’s attack on Casterly Rock… (Given all the effort the show has expended to make us care about him and Missandei – their romance was pretty sweet – THAT sex scene included – I am starting to worry about him. Normally once we care this much about supporting characters on Thrones their lifespan gets prematurely cut short!)
Overall there was a lot of talk and character moments in the first 50 minutes, but these were all of such high quality and were so rewarding for long-term show (and book) fans that I was on course to give this a 5/5 even before it brought out a stonking great naval battle for the last 10 minutes! That battle proved the shows increased budget-per-episode is reaping dividends. Hat’s off to writer Bryan Cogman and director Mark Mylod, both knocked it out of the park this week. Bring on episode 3!
Rating: 5 out of 5!
Next Time: Grey Worm attacks Casterly Rock, Euron returns to King’s Landing in triumph and Jon Snow meets Daenerys!!!!
So Ellaria Sand is Euron’s gift to Cersei. Odds on Cersei killing her daughter Tyene (and then her) in some gruesome way must be pretty high, and I’m not sure Yara’s long for this world either… Also why did they recast the 1 of the 3 sandsnakes that the fanbase actually sort of liked?! (Yes, for her entirely gratuitous prison nudity/flirting with Bronn, but still. At least the others are dead and the Dorne storyline pretty much along with it).