Tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones is named after Daenerys but in the end, “Stormborn” hinted at so much more. The storm came to the waters of Westeros; the first storm but not the last of season 7, bringing with it fire, death and betrayal.
Spoiler Note: This is our book reader’s recap, intended for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The post and the comments section may contain spoilers from the novels, whether or not that material has appeared on the show yet. Because no, we are not all Unsullied now. If you have not read the books yet, we encourage you to check out our non-book-reader recap, by Oz of Thrones!
Daenerys has come home to Dragonstone as we saw in last week’s season premiere, and she’s being welcomed with a raging storm much like the one she was born in, so many years ago as Tyrion reminds her. She admits she doesn’t feel very much at home, and sets right to task in the war room. Her first order of business? Putting Varys’ ass over the fire for his misdeeds (shipping her off to the Dothraki and hiring assassins to kill her) and shifting alliances over the past two decades.
Varys resists being shamed for his actions- he did what he had to do to survive, and ultimately his loyalty is to the people of the realm, not to any one leader. And as he tells her pointedly, incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty. (Some contemporary political commentary?) He’s not wrong and she knows it. Dany and Varys come to an agreement: he will serve her well, of his own free choice. It’s his duty to tell her to her face if she’s stepping out of line a la Mad King Daddy, but if Varys betrays her, well she’ll feed him to her dragons. Fair enough!
When it comes to Varys and his motivations, I have to admit I used to not believe his words about working for the good of the realm, but I’m starting to believe that that is in fact the show’s take on him. We may yet see more revealed in the books (whenever they get published) but this is the take D&D have gone with.
After their mini-trial, Team Dragonstone the Reboot receives a visit from a key member of Team Dragonstone the Original Series. It turns out that after her exile from the Wall, Melisandre returned to the place she knew best in Westeros. As an ex-slave, she’s a big fan of Dany’s work. Melisandre explains she’s there because “The Long Night is coming. Only the prince who was promised can bring the dawn.”
Ohhhh, we love a good TPWWP namedrop. You have our attention.
As Missandei helpfully explains with her language-nerd cred, there’s no gender for this particular noun in High Valyrian so it could be either prince or princess in this prophecy. Daenerys may be the person who can end the inevitable Long Night…or it could be someone else. Mel stops short of admitting she’s sure it’s Dany; she’s been burned when it comes to reading the flames. Mel is hedging her bets, and the show is enjoying stringing along viewers.
She pushes Team Dragonstone Reboot to summon the King in the North Jon Snow to Dragonstone to explain what he’s seen beyond the Wall. Tyrion vouches for Jon’s character and reasons for hating the Lannisters. Dany agrees to send a raven- but expect Jon to bend the knee.
They send a raven Express and we see Jon sharing the message with Sansa and Davos, who are wary of Jon meeting with the dragon queen. Davos wisely points out that Dany’s dragons that breathe fire are worth considering, in case they fail to stop the White Walkers.
In her throne room, Cersei has gathered up the lords of the Reach to hustle them with Westerosi racism and scare tactics to rise them up against Olenna Tyrell.
Randyll Tarly (last seen being a royal prick to his son Sam and with a completely different person playing his son Dickon- hey, Tom Hopper!) wisely notes the three full-grown dragons are headed their way. He may be a jackass but he’s no fool when it comes to warfare, as Jaime points out. Jaime’s keen to recruit the elder Tarly to their side, and gives Randyll the hard sell. Initially resistant due to his oath to House Tyrell, Tarly is swayed by Jaime’s reasonable logic and the tantalizing offer of the role of Warden of the South.
At the Citadel, Jorah’s in bad shape, with Archmaester Ebrose giving the knight maybe six months before he loses his mind to greyscale. Ebrose brushes off Sam’s attempts to be helpful- and hopeful- and instead gives Jorah the opportunity to off himself with his sword before being shipped off to the ruins of Valyria, to live with the Stonemen. It’s then that Samwell discovers the patient is named Jorah Mormont.
I can’t help but feel that this moment and the next scene would’ve been more special if Lord Commander Mormont’s death had been more similar to the books’ version, where the elder Mormont died in Sam’s arms, sharing with Sam his last wishes for Jorah. In the show, Jeor’s last words were “Blerrghharghshh” and it robs a touch of grace from the scenes tonight. But just a touch.
Underneath King’s Landing, Cersei and Qyburn are cooking up a plan to deal with Daenerys- or her dragons, more to the point. The ex-maester has been doing his research and testing out weapons, and come up with a bigass crossbow as the solution to their problems. (I feel like there’s a Bard the Bowman joke to be made here but I’m missing it. Bex, help me out?)
They test out the weapon on the massive skull of Balerion the Dread, the dragon who belonged to Aegon the Conqueror- and yep, that’ll do it. Dany’s babies might be in trouble.
At Dragonstone, Daenerys and her team are debating their next move and come to a major decision about how to take King’s Landing (and ultimately Westeros) without burning it to the ground. But first, Tyrion finally gets the opportunity to call out Ellaria for her murder of Myrcella- something long overdue. Ellaria ain’t bothered, quite frankly, not with Myrcella and not with Tyrion. But the show must go on, despite their differences.
Intending to thwart Cersei’s predictable tactics, Tyrion recommends sending in the Westerosi armies- the Tyrells and Martells, while the Unsullied and Dothraki take Casterly Rock. Despite initial misgivings, the Greyjoys and Ellaria get on board with the plan. Afterward in private, Dany reassures the grumpy Olenna, but the Queen of Thorns brushes it off. Instead, she encourages Daenerys to be a dragon, not a sheep.
Elsewhere in the castle, Missandei goes to say farewell to Grey Worm, who has avoided the moment. He admits that she’s his weakness, when he never had one until now- his strength as an Unsullied. Only now, he’s afraid. After his confession, the Unsullied man rushes up to Missandei and kisses her deeply.
She steps back, and undresses carefully. At first, he’s reluctant to undress completely, but she pleads, “I want to see you.” They gaze at each other, a wealth of feelings showing in their faces, kiss and then fall into bed together.
He may be Unsullied but whatever his status quo is, he’s able to make sure Missandei enjoys herself- and Grey Worm sets about doing just that.
Back at the Citadel, Sam’s thankless duties assisting Ebrose continue. He broaches the subject of curing greyscale and admits he’s come upon something interesting in an old text, by Archmaester Pylos. (A name borrowed from a minor character in ASOIAF: the maester at Dragonstone who succeeds the ill-fated Maester Cressen.) Pylos possibly found a cure- but then he died from greyscale, and it’s now forbidden to attempt it. Given Sam’s stubbornness, I think we know where this is headed.
Popping into Jorah’s cell, and- I just want to throw a book at Jorah Mormont, because this man even starts his letters to her with KHALEESI. A day without a khaleesi blast is a day that never was, for Jorah Mormont.
Anyway, he’s planning to send her a raven, letting her know he’s at the Citadel, but Sam interrupts with a box of knives and medical goo. He introduces himself properly, revealing his connection to Jorah’s father and his plan to try and cure the man.
That’s two weeks in a row now of Sam doing something utterly disgusting, as he sets to removing the upper layer of Jorah’s afflicted skin to save him. Jorah bites down on leather to stifle his screams. And I shed a tear for his timeless yellow pirate shirt which lasted more than six seasons, to the delight of fans everywhere.
Next up: the return you didn’t expect or know you wanted, but it’s the one you needed– HOT PIE.
Stopping at the Inn at the Crossroads (AKA the only inn in Westeros), Arya runs into her old friend Hot Pie! It’s like no time has passed at all. The baker boy informs her that the ‘big lady’ was looking for her there- Brienne, of course, and they catch up on the latest gossip. Arya’s cool as can be, oddly cool almost, and mentions she’s headed south, since that’s where Cersei is, until Hot Pie tells her that Jon is back in Winterfell.
It’s then that Arya comes to life, with a light in her face that gives you hope. Take leave of her friend and the inn, she looks at both paths and makes a choice- and heads north toward home.
Literally at the Crossroads. As a metaphor, it’s not subtle, but it works.
Jon has another noisy group meeting at Winterfell, informing his people on his decision to visit Dragonstone, with Davos by his side. Sansa reminds him of Rickard Stark’s death at the hands of the Targaryens, and no one is on Jon’s side with this. Royce, Glover, Mormont- all want Jon to stay put, but he’s resolved. He’s going south, and leaving the North in hands he trusts- Sansa’s.
Before he leaves, he visits Ned’s crypt, but his moment is interrupted by Littlefinger. Immediately he’s on guard and so Littlefinger goes on the offensive, reminding Jon that he owes him for his victory in the Battle of the Bastards. Unusually, he makes a major tactical mistake and admits he loves Sansa as he loved Cat. Jon deservedly choke-slams him against the wall, as Ned once did, and warns him to stay away from Sansa.
Traveling north alone, the other Stark sister is facing a different danger. As she makes camp, Arya sense a disturbance and suddenly discovers herself surrounded by a pack of snarling wolves. The animals circle around her, trapping her until she seems doomed- and then we realize there’s one more animal just behind her, towering over Arya.
A large pale direwolf of mixed colors. “Nymeria?” Arya realizes.
She reaches out for her wolf, asking for Nymeria to come back to her, to come home with her. But the creature pulls away, and slips into the woods with its wild pack. “That’s not you,” Arya says as Nymeria chooses her pack instead of Arya’s home, and we realize she’s thinking of something from long ago.
“That’s not me,” Arya once said of the life other people would choose for her. And now, she sees that in Nymeria, the direwolf who reflects her spirit. But it’s no coincidence that as soon as Arya decided to turn north and head home, she encountered her direwolf, the symbol of her Stark self.
The last portion of the episode is entirely dedicated to the Greyjoys and Martells’ journey at sea, assigned as they were to head to the Westeros mainland, to begin the siege of King’s Landing. But someone figured out what they were up to- or at the very least, tracked down Yara and Theon’s large and remarkable fleet of ships.
Below decks, the Sand Snakes bicker with one another as sisters do, only with slightly more murder than usual. In another cabin, Ellaria and Yara drink and flirt while Theon serves up more ale. Bantering, Ellaria inquires about Theon’s role in things and Yara reiterates with sisterly loyalty that Theon will be her adviser and protector when she’s queen. The two women are getting along nicely and are just diving in for a heated kiss when the first fire blast hits the ship. Running upstairs, the Greyjoy siblings find the ship leading the attack against them easy to identify- it’s their uncle Euron and his own fleet going on the offensive!
The Silence’s viciously impressive claw lands on Yara’s ship, latching on and allowing Euron and his men to pour onto her ship. It’s instantly bloody chaos and fiery slaughter with Ironman versus Ironman, Euron’s pirates versus Theon and Yara’s men. Crossing paths with Tyene Sand in the battle, Yara sends her down below to protect Ellaria. Theon and Yara are fighting but a quick look outward shows that all the ships they’ve been accompanying to Westeros are aflame.
In the battle, Euron is madly butchering his way through men until he runs into two women- Obara and Nymeria Sand. They attack, but Nymeria is distracted with another fight leaving her sister and Euron to fight one on one. Obara’s spear doesn’t last long- Euron takes it from her, and soon it winds up inside the Sand Snake. Dispatching her opponent, Nymeria looks up in despair to see her sister dying with Euron bellowing in victory.
As battle rages around them, the whip-wielding Sand Snake attacks Euron, striking him several times. He gets the best of Nymeria however, grabbing hold of her whip and wrapping it around her throat and choking her to death.
Belowdecks, Tyene has been putting up a good fight with her daggers but can only hold off the Ironmen for so long; she and her mother are captured.
Now it’s time for the BIG BOSS BATTLE, with Yara and Euron’s paths finally meeting in the carnage (after Yara’s totally bitchin jump from the upper part of the ship to the lower). “Give your uncle a kiss,” says Euron, to add that extra layer of creepy we really needed after The Forsaken. Yara replies with a nice slap across the face.
I may have started screaming “FUCK HIM UP, YARA” in my living room, at this point.
Euron and Yara go at it, with other Ironmen trying to get a piece of the fight but it’s all about the uncle and niece, fighting for power, hungry to kill each other. Mad Euron grins and presses and lunges for her.
The camera turns to Theon, slashing away at men and making a good show of it, but that’s just a distraction so that we can learn just as Theon does that the situation is not good. It’s pretty damn bad, actually: Euron has gotten a hold of Yara. He taunts Theon with a blade at her throat and cruel words for his nephew. Theon hesitates, as the men scream around him, as Euron’s pirates cut people’s tongues from their mouths- and he breaks. Theon shrinks, Reek resurfaces, and he dives overboard in a heartbreaking act of cowardice. Euron laughs with insane glee- he’s won.
From the ship’s bowsprit, we see two women’s bodies: one speared to it, and the other hanging by her own whip.
In the water, Theon floats, watching as The Silence sails away with his sister. Hopefully alive, to fight another day.
The Eunuch In the Room: It’s a relief the show has finally addressed the awkward fact that Varys and Dany have this history and that she shouldn’t particularly trust him. It also gives Conleth Hill a chance to shine, and I never get tired of that.
For that matter… We needed to clear the air on Myrcella too. So thanks for that.
A Good Ending: Say what you will about the Sand Snakes, but it was a great ending for Obara and Nymeria. The fight scenes were amazing. Give it up for Keisha Castle-Hughes and Jessica Henwick!
Sneakyfinger: I know he thinks he can take advantage of Jon being gone, and we’ll have to watch him doing that now, and God, someone just kill him already, please. He really does take any inappropriate excuse to discuss his love of Cat, doesn’t he.
So About That Lifetime Oath: Really, why isn’t ANYONE asking why Jon Snow isn’t in the Night’s Watch anymore? I could overlook it for a few episodes but now with even Dany being told he was in the Night’s Watch, it’s just getting weird. (Going to add a note here since people are not understanding the question. Yes, we as viewers understand why Jon feels justified in walking away clean from the Night’s Watch. But all of Westeros should be asking why the new King in the North is a member of the Night’s Watch. It certainly hasn’t been publicized that he was murdered and then resurrected by a priestess of R’hllor. We haven’t seen any scene addressing people of the North knowing about his death/resurrection and they probably would be more spooked by Jon if they did know about it. The Night’s Watch is a lifetime oath and the Northmen take it extremely seriously- just ask Ned Stark, who beheaded a nice young man in episode 1.)
Jorah’s Cure: Good news, you’re not a stoneman. Bad news, you have to go shopping for a new shirt that will be as flawless as the old one. Someone make me a gauzy soft-rock montage about Jorah’s shirt, please.
M + GW = O : Yes, Missandei, go get it! Seriously though, I thought it was a lovely scene with a lot of emotional resonance for both characters.
The Sea Battle: I’m no strategic war-fiend but I don’t have any quibbles at all with it – I fucking love all of it. I was totally wrapped up in it from start to finish, the visuals, the character aspects of it, the fight choreography, the ships- I loved it.
Timing is Everything: …that said, it was a slow episode up until that last fifteen minutes. I like all the scenes, but put together, it wasn’t terribly exciting. Seems like they were saving all their energy for the last segment instead of a more even distribution.
The JB Club: Honestly though Jim Broadbent and John Bradley are so great. Separately and together.