Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones suggested there’s not going to be much in the way of downtime this season. We’re only on Episode 2, and shit is already going down. I think “Stormborn” may be one of my favorite episodes of the series—as the sphere of the show tightens for its final act, characters’ paths start to intersect in a way that’s really, really satisfying. And things that were set up all the way back in the first few episodes are finally starting to pay off.
There are spoilers ahead, obviously, so if you are a big spoiler crybaby, go away, please.
The episode starts in Dragonstone—in the dark, with lightning, thunder, and a spooky old castle by the sea. It was like something out of a gothic horror novel—ridiculously moody and totally great. This is what you want from your high-fantasy television series. Inside, Daenerys Targaryen’s small council bickers over some loyalty issues, and some stuff from Season 1 is reheated, like the assassination attempt on Dany in Vaes Dothrak, and Viserys’s general inadequacies. Then Melisandre arrives, and two big things happen: 1) Due to a quirk in Valyrian grammar, the whole “prince that was promised” prophecy is turned on its ear. I maintain that the worst thing about this show—and all fantasy stories—is the genre's insistent reliance on prophecies, which turn their stories into immovable, predestined things in which characters have no agency. Thrones has been pretty good about subverting this trope, but still, all the prophecy bullshit remains wholly uninteresting to me. 2) Dany becomes aware of Jon Snow’s existence, and dispatches a raven forthwith. Wow, they already have their ravens set up on Dragonstone? Or do ravens come with the property? Any Westerosi real estate experts can leave their thoughts in the comments.
HOT PREDICTION: Danaerys asks Varys to kindly give her a heads up if she ever starts to betray her principles. My guess is that Varys is going to have to tell off a power-mad Dany before series’ end.
After a quick scene in Winterfell, we’re in King’s Landing, in Cersei’s throne room with a small group of sad loyalists. Not to stick my hand too far into the metaphor jar, but Cersei is a little like our president and these remaining bannermen are like the Republican members of Congress. Surely they’re thinking, “What in the hell did we sign up for?” Meanwhile, Cersei demonizes her opponent by playing into people’s xenophobia, ruling her small dominion with groundless fears and perhaps even a small jot of racism. (Hmm, what does that remind you of? Okay, taking my hand out of the metaphor jar now.) Jaime has a solemn chat with Randyll Tarly, who we’re supposed to hate because he’s always been a giant dick to his son Sam, but who right now seems like the most reasonable person in King’s Landing. His other son is played by a new actor, not that anyone would have noticed except for the ungainly “Rickard”/“Dickon” joke. Later, Qyburn and Cersei go down to the secret dragon dungeon where Qyburn shows her his giant scorpio-style crossbow.
HOT PREDICTION: I don’t know where this Tarly subplot is going, but something is going to happen to Dickon. Death? Yeah, probably. Otherwise, why were we reintroduced to him here? Oh, and Qyburn’s bolt-cannon is 100 percent going to kill at least one dragon. Sorry, but the show’s gotta even out the sides somehow.
In Oldtown, Jorah’s physical is not going well. And while Archmaester Jim Broadbent may be one of the wisest people in Westeros, his bedside manner could use a little work—when it’s time to give his greyscale patient a plan for treatment, all he can do is look meaningfully at Jorah’s blade. Damn, Archmaester, not even a topical cream or a heated pad or anything? Luckily, good old Sam decides to take matters into his own hands, and this new twist is one of the reasons why this episode was so great: Sam and Jorah—two characters who have never met before—have become Best Forever Pals! Sam’s got a wild new plan for his new bestest buddy’s itchy, flaky skin, and what his pry-off-and-dab medicinal regime lacks in finesse, it makes up for in grossness.
HOT PREDICTION: I could watch hours of Samwell and a freshly scabbed-over Jorah just, like, hanging out and stuff. Maybe they go bowling. Or fly kites. Or skip stones on the water. The possibilities are endless. I personally would like to see a scene where they both get hot dogs and Sam mischievously squirts a little bit of mustard onto Jorah, then Jorah overreacts and is about to cut off Sam’s head, but Sam reminds him that rubbing mustard into those pus-dripping greyscale wounds is all part of the treatment! They both laugh and laugh and laugh. Oh, you two.
Back on Dragonstone, Dany’s war team is led entirely by women, which is kind of incredible and totally earned, although I doubt it was ever a part of George R.R. Martin’s plan when he first put pen to paper back in the 1990s. Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand urge Daenerys to sack King’s Landing now, and I don’t know, maybe this is 20/20 hindsight or whatever, but Dany really, really, really should have listened to them. But she insists, “I am not here to be queen of the ashes,” to which Tyrion gives her the side-eye, because she totally stole that line from him. (Also, Queen of the Ashes actually sounds kind of cool and I’m a little surprised there isn't a character with that title.) Dany and Lady Olenna have a quick heart-to-heart, which reminds us, again, that Olenna is not the nice old lady she seems. Does she have any sinister motives here? We don’t have any reason to think so just yet, but perhaps Olenna could use what transpires later in the episode as reason to pull out from Team D. Then we get a tender and totally awkward love scene between Grey Worm and Missandei, and I guess I had assumed they were totally hooking up already? Apparently not, and the show makes us think for a quick second that we’re gonna see what’s left of the Unsullied leader's appendage, but alas, a show that cuts from greyscale-ooze to a creamy pot pie is still apparently too squeamish to show us Grey Worm's bui’ness. (Still, you could totally see that there’s something down there in the shot where they lie down on the bed.) Grey Worm subsequently makes sweet love to Missandei the old-fashioned way, before penises were invented. And the episode has even more hot pies on the way! (I'm so, so sorry.)
HOT PREDICTION: Dany says her armies will invade Casterly Rock. Oh shit, we’re gonna see Casterly Rock. We’re gonna see Casterly Rock! I’m sure it will look exactly like this.
Arya’s scenes in the Riverlands were killer this week. Just fantastic. She goes to the Inn at the Crossroads—whose slogan is “the Only Inn in Westeros, Apparently™”—for a meal with her old pal Hot Pie. God bless you, Hot Pie. Never leave us again. (Side note: We will never see Hot Pie again.) This scene becomes surprisingly emotional, and we watch Arya learn of Jon Snow’s whereabouts and the Boltons’ fate as the music swells. Things are about to get even more emotional, but before then, we learn some key facts: 1) There are no napkins in Westeros. 2) Arya can’t bring herself to tell her dear friend Hot Pie what she’s been up to, which suggests she has some reckoning to do with her various deeds and misdeeds. 3) Arya has a bagful of money to pay for her pie—and she probably got it totally legitimately, but I don’t know… what if she killed Ed Sheeran and his group of backup singers to get it? Maybe this is wishful thinking.
HOT PREDICTION: There is no prediction I can make at this point that will be any hotter than Hot Pie’s hot, delicious, friendship-pies.
Up in Winterfell, the castle’s maester is really hamming it up. This is the second time in two weeks I’ve noticed him chewing the fuck out of his innocuous walk-on line, “A raven, m’lord.” After wiping the maester’s hamjuice from his mantle, Jon assembles the nobles of the North (or do they just hang out in Winterfell the whole time? seems like it would save a lot of trouble of coming and going, especially in Bear Island’s case), and lets them know he and Davos are gonna meet this dragon lady in order to get some of that sweet, sweet dragonglass—this show’s equivalent of Breaking Bad’s Blue Sky meth. Sansa’s in charge now, which would be great, except that Littlefinger is still poking around the castle and is probably going to do something sneaky to turn her against her older brother/cousin/whatever-Jon-Snow-is-to-Sansa. Jon preemptively chokes him out, exhibiting behavior that would be completely, totally psychotic in any other universe, but seems totally run of the mill in Game of Thrones because, golly, these people have been through a lot.
HOT PREDICTION: Oh my god, do we even need to talk about why this is going to be a problem? Jon has just alienated everyone in the North by ignoring their advice and heading south. And now Littlefinger is gonna do some littlefingering to bring down Jon, I’m sure of it. He now has three good reasons for doing so: 1) Dude just likes undermining other people’s power, and has done it from the get-go. 2) To further align himself with Sansa, the creepy object of his ultracreepy affections. 3) The shameful memory of Jon’s fingers around his throat—remember that Ned Stark similarly choked Littlefinger in Season 1, and things didn’t go so well for him after that.
Somewhere north of the Riverlands—maybe we’re actually in the North by now, judging by the snow—Arya and her horse remind us that there are more ways to die in Westeros than gruesome murder. Plain ol’ nature can kill you, too! This was the best moment in a really good episode. We haven’t seen Nymeria since Episode TWO, so naturally it takes her a minute to remember Arya. Serious question: Do direwolves understand English?
HOT PREDICTION: People on the internet were sad that Nymeria wouldn’t ride along with Arya, but this totally is a good thing! Here’s why: Secret wolf army to save the day, last-minute style, in Team Stark/Dany’s final battle against Night King. It will be awesome when this happens, so ramp up those expectations now.
The episode ends with a big-scale boat fight (BOAT FIGHT!!!!), somewhere between Dragonstone and Dorne. I thought this was great—a huge fleet crushes another with fire and mayhem, led by a madly over-the-top pirate bad guy—but hey, I’m predisposed to like boat fights (BOAT FIGHT!!!), so I can understand if others weren’t so crazy with how this scene wrote off a couple of key characters in favor of bringing a random new character to the fore. Look, I’m already onboard (no pun intended) with Euron Greyjoy. He’s ridiculous, I know—there’s something about him that seems retroactively assembled, like the villain from the third movie in a comic-book movie franchise, one who the screenwriters hastily dug up out of two obscure issues from the early ’70s, and then rewrote to make him the most evil and powerful thing on the planet. But that shot of him coming down the gangplank or whatever with the insane gleam in his eye: It was pretty great. And he’s a fuck-ton better than ubervillain Ramsay Bolton ever was. And sure, RIP, two-thirds of the Sand Snakes, I guess—but, quite literally, we hardly knew ye.
HOT PREDICTION: With Euron firmly in the role of the Big Bad, we’re going to see more sadistic violence from him in weeks to come. I don’t think Yara, Ellaria, and that third Sand Snake are dead (we didn’t clearly see them get killed off), so I imagine that we will watch them die—or, rather, we will watch Cersei watch them die—in a future episode, possibly next week. Meanwhile, Theon’s humiliation will be redeemed when he becomes the one to knock off Euron. My guess is that he'll die in the process, too, in what will be a kamikaze kind of situation. I’m worried that Euron might overshadow the wimpy, weedy little Theon, though, who’ll need to grow some strong hero bones in order for us to care about him at this point. At any rate, with Jon heading south, Arya heading north, and Theon paddling around in the ocean, things are starting to heat up in Season Seven. The table has been laid—good god, has a show ever laid a table for as long and deliberately as this one has?—and now we get to feast on all of that delicious carnage. And pie!
Check out our past recaps of Game of Thrones' seventh season!
• Episode 1: Hitting the Home Stretch in "Dragonstone"