A review of tonight’s Game of Thrones coming up just as soon as friends don’t pay…
“If you want the Iron Throne, take it.” -Yara
The loudest objections to last week’s premiere tended to be about Dany’s decision not to proceed straight to King’s Landing, rather than passing Go/Dragonstone and collecting $200/counsel from her many allies. This seemed both bad tactics — Dany has already seen one fleet burned out from under her, and now she’s going to risk stranding her combined forces on an island rather than on Westeros proper? — and yet another delaying tactic on a show that’s employed dozens of them over the years.
“Stormborn” attempts to make the argument that the Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Sculptor of Vases has sound logic behind her slow roll into the continent of her birth, and that Game of Thrones does as well. When Dany gathers together her allies — all of them either women or mutilated men, forever underestimated just like their Khaleesi — she and Tyrion both insist that while they could have easily burned Cersei’s forces to the ground, all of King’s Landing would have gone along with them, and that the true way to win the Iron Throne involves forging alliances with the many lords and ladies who have tired of capricious, violent Lannister rule, all while starving out Cersei’s forces. The queen and her Hand both make their cases well, but the moment the room is cleared out, Lady Olenna — perhaps the character whose wisdom is most to be trusted, and not just because she’s played by Dame Diana Rigg — suggests Dany is getting bad advice from her cleverest ally, and that she needs to “be a dragon” in order to get this done.
For much of the hour, “Stormborn” seems to be on Tyrion’s side. It’s a much more eventful episode than “Dragonstone,” with most of those events involving the forging or rejecting of alliances in preparation for the wars to come. Cersei goes full Make Westeros Great Again in appealing to the xenophobia of all the lords whose loyalty can still be swayed, and it appears to have worked on Sam’s father, at least(*). Ravens from Tyrion and Sam combine to make Jon Snow realize that he has to go to Dragonstone to recruit Dany as both an ally and a supplier of dragonglass for the war with the Night King, and Melisandre will be there to help him convince her. Jon also has to assuage the fears of his many allies — Lady Mormont siding against him for once — on taking this trip, and he places Sansa in charge, much to the pleasure of Littlefinger.
(*) And while Cersei is trying to hold onto as much manpower as she can, Qyburn appears to have brought the concept of anti-aircraft weaponry to Westeros. The dragons tend to weight the odds too heavily in Dany’s favor (they are to her military what Harry Potter is to the rest of the Gryffindor quidditch team), so the show needs to at least create the illusion of their vulnerability for the outcome to not seem inevitable. Will Qyburn’s crossbow artillery actually take out all three dragons? I would tend to doubt it. But they also can’t just swoop in, burn everyone, and save the day unscathed again.
Arya hears the good news about Jon’s current standing from Hot Pie — Hot Pie! — and isn’t so far gone on her mission of vengeance that she ignores it, instead turning her horse around and heading north for her brother and their home. And when her long-lost direwolf Nymeria (last seen running away from potential execution waaaaaaaaay back in the series’ second episode) rejects Arya’s plea of being family again and following her to Winterfell, it doesn’t break her resolve, but doubles it; “That’s not you,” she says to herself while smiling(*). She has been off in the wilderness, learning how to kill, but she still remembers who she is deep down, and is heading towards what will turn out to be her sister’s arms.
(*) Other characters dominate the action more this week than Arya, but Maisie Williams does a lot with her scant screen time. The very adult, no-nonsense Arya who runs into Hot Pie scarcely resembles the girl he once knew (and not just because she was pretending to be a boy back then), and then the transition on her face from grief at losing Nymeria again to confidence that her own choice was the right one was just lovely. UPDATE: Having thought about it (and chatted with a few colleagues), it’s entirely possible I read “It’s not you” backwards, and the moment is Arya realizing that she’s no longer the girl who had that pet and can go back to Winterfell, but a Faceless (Wo)man who must continue on the path towards killing Cersei, no matter the personal/familial cost. We’ll see next week.