In episode two of the shortest season of Game of Thrones to date, things are moving along at a fair clip. The plans of Teams Lannister and Targaryen are elaborated and set in motion; the north squabbles some more, and the “X Episodes Without a Character Death” sign gets reset to zero again. It’s a lot more drama than a typical Thrones Episode 2, but then that makes sense.
Danaerys is getting stir-crazy in Dragonstone, and who can blame her with all the crappy weather. Her Hand Tyrion wants to take the seven kingdoms “without turning it into a slaughterhouse”. He wants to avoid using the Unsullied, Dothraki or the dragons to take the capitol, for fear of bad optics and/or fiery massacres. The plan is for Yara Greyjoy’s fleet to take the Dornish down to Dornville Central and pick up their army, and then bring them back to lay siege to King’s Landing along with the army of the Reach. Meanwhile the Unsullied will take Lannister HQ Casterly Rock. The other allies are less cautious, and Lady Oleanna counsels Dany, “you’re a dragon – BE a dragon.”
The Lannisters are still amassing allies. To a roomful of Tyrell bannermen, Cersei paints Danaerys as a crazy, cruel invader at the head of a bloodthirsty foreign army (do I detect some echoes of Trump-era nationalism?), and asks for them to betray their liege lords to serve the crown directly. Jamie makes a private plea to Randyll Tarly, offering him the Wardenship of the South, but Sam’s nasty dad doesn’t make a decision. Meanwhile, Cersei’s creepy maester Qyburn has a plan to take down dragons, and it involves a rather large ballista. Not very imaginative, really. Was hoping for a paper maché fake sexy dragon full of wildfire barrels, or something.
In the north, Jon gets ravens! Sam’s message about the supplies of obsidian on Dragonstone arrives, as does a message from Tyrion, asking Jon to head down to meet Dany, to strike up an alliance and/or “bend the knee”, as they say. Jon tells his unruly war council that he and Davos are going to accept the invitation, which is another unpopular choice, but everyone seems okay with it when he leaves Sansa in charge. Also, Littlefinger tries to befriend Jon but Jon throttles him.
In Oldtown, Archmaester Ebrose declares Jorah’s greyscale incurable, and shoots down Sam’s ideas from the texts his been digging up in the library. Sam, out of apparent loyalty to Jeor Mormont, Jorah’s late father and Sam’s old commander at the Night’s Watch, disobeys orders and attempts a rather painful treatment that involves tearing off all the stone skin piece by piece.
Arya meets some old friends. She finds Hot Pie at the inn we last saw him at, serving pie, as one does. He tells her that Jon is now King in the North. She decides to go north instead of south and on the way encounters Nymeria, her direwolf, who is leading a pack of wolves. But Nymeria no longer wants to be a pet, it seems.
We get a fiery nautical action scene to close out the episode. Euron intercepts Yara’s fleet, kills two of the Sand Snakes (no, I can’t remember their names) and takes Yara and Ellaria captive. Theon reverts to Reek-era wussiness (ok, PTSD) and escapes overboard.
I’m pretty sure this episode contains everything we have come to want from Game of Thrones: Sex! War! Scheming! Backstabbing! Character Deaths! Yet it’s hard to be too satisfied what this episode is giving us when it is clearly setting us up for even more dramatic payoff further into the season. We get the satisfaction of seeing characters like Varys and Dany, or Arya and Hot Pie meet up, but soon it will be Jon and Danaerys, or Cersei and her daughter’s killer Ellaria. We see the battle lines drawn, but not that much actual battle just yet. Nonetheless, these early-season episodes aren’t usually this compelling. The amped-up budget and shorter season are helping things along.
- I didn’t mention the Missandei / Grey Worm sex scene, but yeah, it was there. A little surprised they didn’t go full frontal with our eunuch friend? Too Much 4 Thronez?
- In other eunuch news, Varys gets a grilling from Dany. A lot of exposition gets laid down. They are throwing down some plot tickets, but for what? Easy guess is that Dany will go a bit nuts, and Varys will say something to her.
- Similarly, Jon assaulting Littlefinger seems designed to give Petyr more motivation to betray Jon.
- Theon: my take was he was reverting to Reek mode, but my wife thought he was actually making a pretty good move. In fact upon reflection it does seem like the smartest possible play. I’m curious to see where his story goes; certainly Theon solo is a lot more interesting than Theon as Yara & Ellaria’s butler.
- I never mentioned Ed Sheeran last episode, but it’s an interesting issue. In brief: there’s a tradition of pop music interacting with the show, and it’s usually done in a clever fashion. I found this instance no exception. I felt a cute, popular singer was helping the scene demonstrate to Arya that perhaps some of the people she considered enemies were not deserving of death by vengeance. But I can see that for others, perhaps he’s just too well known a pop star and he takes them out of the scene. These are people who clearly did not recognize Sigur Ros during the Purple Wedding.