Game of Thrones: 702 “Stormborn” Review
Reviewed by Mark McCullough.
If we ever needed proof that last week’s somewhat disappointing episode was a mere blip in the quality of the show, this was it. Stormborn was nothing short of an exceptional offering, particularly this early in the series as the show made a welcome return to its political side focusing more on the characters and their various relationships. Production values seemed to be improved this week too with impressive visuals and noticeably well-linked jumps between the various narrative strands.
Following on from Dany’s “Shall we begin?” declaration last time out, the show picks up directly where it left off. There’s a lot of development of Dany’s storyline too this week focusing on her bid to take the Iron Throne. First though there’s the important matter of challenging Varys, someone in her inner circle who has proved to be untrustworthy. The scene shows both characters in a good light as Varys holds true to his beliefs and explains his actions in the past, whilst Dany shows the wisdom to accept that she will make mistakes and asks him to point these out to her when they happen: surely a sign of a good leader that already puts her ahead of Robert and the Mad King. Having been exiled from the North by Jon Snow, the Red Priestess Melisandre finds herself at Dragonstone where she encounters Dany and tells her about Jon Snow. There are two elements to this conversation which should prove interesting to fans: the fact that Jon and Dany are now set to meet, and the Azor Ahai prophecy being expanded that it could now include female characters.
Tyrion’s message to Jon summoning him to meet Dany is a source of friction in the North, as the people there remember what has happened in the past when their leaders have been summoned to meet the sitting Monarchs. This conflict is also internal for Jon who is forced to balance his loyalty to the North against his relatively short relationship with Tyrion. As luck would have it, Samwell’s discovery in the previous outing makes it way to Jon giving him a second compelling reason to travel to Dragonstone. This leaves him the issue of abandoning the North, which he can get around by appointing Sansa in charge in his absence. Whilst this gives Sansa exactly what she wants, it could provide some friction when Jon returns and she must concede power back to him. The final scene in the North is between Jon and Littlefinger which shows a rare misjudgement by Littlefinger: surprising as he is usually a good judge of character as shown by his ability to play people. His comments about Sansa see him in hot water with Jon leading to an interesting parallel with Ned also pinning him against a wall in Season One.
King’s Landing is one of the smaller stories this week but see Cersei reach out in an attempt to grow her army. She assembles some of the Tyrell bannermen including the Tarlys and tries to get them to forgo their loyalties and join her. This is challenged by the fact that Dany has Dragons akin to what were previously used to conquer the Seven Kingdoms. This splits into two scenes, one where Jaime uses a more personal approach to try to convince Lord Tarly, and another where Cersei is shown her best shot against the Dragons (which is totally underwhelming). These scenes offer a contrast with Dany’s own war planning where several of the big players in the show are assembled to hear her plan of action. As expected her plan is to avoid a massive conflict that would result in many deaths, instead opting for a siege approach and forcing Cersei to surrender. There’s also the interesting suggestion of taking Casterly Rock, which would be a new location for the show. Problem is, as things stand it’s an odd move which doesn’t really make sense given the lie of the land.
There are several other interesting storylines throughout the episode. Sam finally learns Jorah’s identity which drives him to do whatever he can to help him stay alive. This cuts to a scene with Arya where she has a reunion with Hot Pie who tells her of Jon taking the North at the end of last season, something that she was unaware of. This has a profound effect on her causing her to abandon her quest for immediate revenge on Cersei to head home instead. This path leads her to another reunion with her Direwolf Nymeria, this particularly poignant scene is used to demonstrate how much things have changed and that the two have become lone wolves and have other priorities over each other.
The episode wasn’t all character based though a high-octane denouement that say Euron come face to face with Yara and Theon once more. The Euron we see here is much more brutal than any we have seen before as he mercilessly cuts down the Sand Snakes ending their story. In the scene immediately prior to Euron’s assault there’s a sense of the calm before the storm as Yara and Ellaria Sand share a romantic moment. This is cut short by Euron’s arrival which sees both women ultimately taken prisoner by him. My only criticism of the scenes is that once again the show decides to focus on Theon as it places one of its most popular female characters in a life-threatening situation. It’s disappointing to see them fall into the trap once more, particularly after the backlash surrounding the Sansa rape scene, thankfully this is nowhere near as bad as that instance.
As I’ve already indicated I enjoyed this episode a lot more than last week’s and feel that it advanced the show in a much more appropriate way. There was a good mix of politics, expansion of relationships between the characters, battle scenes and teasing of what is still to come. Everything you’d hope for in a good episode of Game of Thrones. If the rest of the series were to be of a similar quality I would be happy enough. One caveat however, Bran’s story this year has been severely neglected so hopefully that is something that can be picked up on next week.