Tuesday, July 25, 2017

(TV) Game of Thrones: Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 2 Review: 'Stormborn'

(Photo Credit: HBO)

Game of Thrones
Season 7, Episode 2
By Garrett Yoshitomi

Last week’s episode of Game of Thrones literally broke the internet. Well, maybe not the entire internet, but at least HBO's little corner of the world wide web. HBO.com crashed during the first half of the seventh season premiere of its most popular show ever. And yes, that's most, with an ‘m,’ popular, with a ‘p,’ and ever, with an 'e.' Despite these website issues, Game of Thrones shattered the record for its most watched single episode, with 10 million viewers. And, if you include live streaming, last Sunday's "Dragonstone" was watched by approximately 16 million people- a pretty solid turnout for the devout fandom that made Game of Thrones HBO’s most watched series, ahead of The Sopranos, back in 2014. For all this record breaking, you'd expect the season premiere to have been packed to the gills with action, but it was a relatively slow episode that got off to a hot start, with Arya wiping out the Freys, but then reduced itself to a simmer for the remaining fifty-five minutes.

“Stormborn” picks up roughly where last week’s “Dragonstone” left off, as Daenerys and her council finally get to work on devising a plan to take back Westeros. It’s not all peaches and creams for the Mother of Dragons; however, as Daenerys quickly learns that her constituents have a very strong, and different, opinion on what her first steps of conquest must be. It’s good that Daenerys faces some push-back on her decisions. It would be boring if her storyline was devoid of internal strife, her supporters unquestionably falling in line behind her every decision. Plus, it’s fitting that Ellaria Sand and Olenna Tyrell are the ones dissenting, since they’re the newest additions to the crew, and motivated more by their thirst for vengeance against Cersei, rather than a firm belief in Daenerys as a ruler. There is a balance that needs to be struck, however. It will get old pretty quickly if Daenerys is being challenged at each and every turn. We’ve waited long enough for the young Targaryen to make her move on Westeros, and to have her progress stalled by contrived, unnecessary infighting would be incredibly disappointing.

(Photo Credit: HBO)
To a certain degree, it makes sense that Daenerys would question Varys’ intentions- after all, he did send an assassin after her, on Robert Baratheon’s orders, back in season one. But still, it’s a little weird that she’s having this conversation with him now, as opposed to two seasons ago, when he first joined her cause. For casual fans, and most non-book readers, Varys has always been a difficult character to peg. His scenes are brief, and filled with double talk and metaphors that tend to muddy their relation to the plot. But, for all his convoluted Master of Whispers babble, he’s remained a reliable ally to Tyrion, and by extension, Daenerys, as well as unwaveringly consistent with his goal of getting a Targaryen back on the Iron Throne. Overall, I find Varys’ explanation for why he will remain loyal to Daenerys, despite his disloyalty to previous kings, to be satisfying. Plus, his desire to find a ruler for the common folk rings consistent with his own rags to slightly-nicer rags story; though, it’s clear that Dany will continue to hold a healthy, and arguably necessary, dose of skepticism towards the eunuch.

Last week, I talked about Euron Greyjoy, and how he'd have to prove himself in the coming episodes to be considered anything more than early season dragon fodder. Surprisingly, (to me at least), the King of the Iron Islands came through, delivering a bad guy performance that would make even Cersei Lannister proud. It was easy to be skeptical of Euron, given that his list of nefarious on-screen accomplishments had been limited to overpowering an old man, and threatening to murder his niece and nephew. Plus, it's a little strange to see this character suddenly arise from obscurity and exile, only to become a major player in the war for the Iron Throne. Regardless, the only thing that matters, when you play the game of thrones, is your final score, and after this week, Euron certainly finds himself towards the top of the standings. It will be interesting to see how his role, and relationship with Cersei, continues to evolve, though I still don't feel like he'll last past this season.

(Photo Credit: HBO)
Cersei spends this episode trying to rally some of the bannermen of House Tyrell against their own Queen of Thorns, Olenna. Notable amongst them is Randyll Tarly, who initially declines Cersei’s offer, and manages to come across as rather noble in the process, despite a long history of mistreating his son, Samwell Tarly. Although initially, Cersei appears to be outgunned against Dany’s set of dragons, it’s easy to see the writers forging a bit of plot armor to even things up in her favor. Jaime’s comments last week, about how the Lannister’s are firmly on the losing side, certainly ring true, but it would be an incredibly boring season if Daenerys and co. steamrolled through King’s Landing, as they realistically should.

For all the excitement that's going on in other parts of Westeros, I think Sam currently has the most interesting individual storyline. He's fairly isolated from the rest of the major players, but he does cross paths with Jorah Mormont for the first time. Despite the two never meeting before, Sam shares a strong connection with Jorah, through the latter’s father, Jeor Mormont, former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. I think it's pretty likely that both Sam and Jorah top most people's list of most adored supporting characters, so it's quite enjoyable to see Sam's bravery shine through, as well as the prospect that Jorah might live to fight another day by Daenerys’ side.

(Photo Credit: HBO)
This season is shaping up to be an all-out war between Daenerys and Cersei, with Jon Snow, and the rest of the North, finding themselves roughly in the middle. As semi-omniscient bystanders, we know that Daenerys and Jon, as the protagonists, are destined to join forces and kick Lannister, as well as White Walker, butt. However, to those in-show, Jon’s choice seems less clear. Everybody, from Sansa to Lyanna Mormont, raises a good point regarding the riskiness of Jon abandoning the North to negotiate with the unknown daughter of one of Westeros’ most tyrannical kings. However, the alliance between Daenerys and Jon Snow is something that both casual fans and book readers, alike, have been looking forward to for years, and even though the scene features well-balanced arguments from both sides, there’s little doubt that Jon will set off for Dragonstone, with the goal of bolstering his forces.

While it’s easy to feel invested in Jon’s storyline, Sansa is the character I’m most interested to see develop in the aftermath of her brother’s decision. Before heading south, Jon leaves the North to Sansa, as the only Stark in Winterfell. For the past season or so, Sansa has been skirting around the edges of leadership, but now her time has finally come to take the reins of House Stark. Sansa’s come a long way from the naïve and childish girl she started as, back in season one. She’s faced her fair share of adversities and horrors since then, and just like her siblings, ultimately emerged stronger for it. Of course, the potential for Littlefinger interference will always loom as long as Petyr Baelish, and the need for the Knights of the Vale, hang around. But, it appears that Sansa is aware of his untrustworthiness, and she ultimately might have enough savvy to use this for her own gain.

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