Game of Thrones: “Stormborn” Season 7 Episode 2 Review

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Last week, I was relieved when Game of Thrones maintained its methodical pace in the season premiere. “Stormborn” makes me think my relief came too soon. With the board formally set, the pieces are moving, and very quickly at that. Maybe a bit too quickly. Sam might have already cured grey scale. Jon is already heading to meet Deanerys, after already learning about the resources her throne currently sits on. And then there’s Dany, who already has a pretty perfect battle strategy to overthrow the Lannisters with minimal civilian casualties. This episode was packed to the brim, to the point where when we finally got to the big action scene that closed the episode, it felt confusing and rushed.

“Stormborn” is still a solid episode of television, and if there’s a time in this abbreviated season to do a talky, movement heavy episode, better now than later. But Game of Thrones is a show quite fond of serious character introspection, and an episode full of characters urgently buzzing around each other like the world is about to end doesn’t quite speak to that (yes, I realize the world might actually end). Arya’s story is the only case in this entry of a character learning more about themselves, and how that’s going to help them fight the wars to come. Her meeting with Hot Pie makes for a fun callback to seasons past, as well as informs her about her half-brother taking back the North. Suddenly, Arya’s path is less clear. There’s no question that at some point she’s going after Cersei, but can she resist reuniting with what remains of her family first? The best scene of the episode sees Arya, on her way to Winterfell now, surrounded by a pack of wolves led by Nymeria, her direwolf released into the wild in only the series’ second episode. After a few moments, it’s clear the wolf recognizes Arya, but then in a way it doesn’t. There’s murder in her eyes, arrogance even, granted from the many victories she’s had the past two seasons. When Nymeria last saw her she was just a girl. And so the wolf leaves her alone to march to Winterfell on her own, if that’s still where she intends to go. “That’s not you,” she says, repurposing a line she said to her father in season one that painted her as a simple woman with an ordinary life. The Arya of season seven is a tad unhinged, and she’s alone. How will her family see her when she returns? The same way as Nymeria does? Wherever she decides to go, the future is uncertain, and she can’t go back to who she was.

Theon faces a similar but opposite struggle in the episode’s closing moments. Staring Euron down the eyes as he holds a knife to Yara’s throat, Theon reverts back to Reek. He also can’t change what he’s been through over the years, so he jumps into the water, leaving Yara in the clutches of their insane uncle. But in the process, did he save their lives? Theon was defined by his pride before Ramsay took his dignity (and his manhood). Pride here would have gotten one he loves, and possibly himself, killed. Theon’s act didn’t appear brave, but for the longterm game, fear saved the last two living respectable Greyjoys.

Sadly, the action scene that preceded this powerful moment was an absolute mess as directed by Mark Mylod. Shoddily edited, confusingly laid out, and fast as all hell, it feels like Mylod wanted to capture the insanity of Euron’s ambitious attack but instead wound up with an obnoxiously punchy, loud sequence that looked like something out of a Resident Evil movie. This is unusual for Game of Thrones, typically the pinnacle of great TV action. The rushed quality is hopefully not foreshadowing the wars to come.

The action scene was far from the only rushed portion of the episode as well. “Stormborn” open with Daenerys blowing through not trusting Varys, for good reason, and to trusting him after a speech. Later on, Grey Worm and Missandei get an extended sex scene that wreaks of fan service. Moments later, Tyrion is laying out an already pretty perfect plan to overthrow the Lannisters. At this point, it honestly felt like Game of Thrones could end in two or three episodes, and yet there are eleven more. Obviously Euron’s attack forces that plan to change, and the scenes of Cersei and Jaime this week mostly succeeded in putting them in a better position going into this war. Things aren’t going to be as easy as Daenerys and Tyrion think, and that’s a good thing for the remaining eleven hours of the show. But this episode spends a lot of time talking about this plan without showing either of them realizing victory is not definite after Euron’s attack.

The same cannot be said for Sam, who just seems to keep finding all the books he needs the second he needs them. Two documented cases where Greyscale was cured? Make that three thanks to a book Sam found! Dragonglass kills White Walkers? Worry not, Sam found a mountain of it in another book! Also, Sam peeling off Jorah’s scales was maybe the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen and really served no narrative purpose after about 10 seconds of oozing puss. It was pure torture porn and nothing else, which is kind of amazing considering how much of a rush the rest of the episode is in.

Look, there was undeniably great stuff in this episode. Arya and Theon’s moments really shine, and all the scenes in Winterfell were pretty strong, starting to widen the gap between Jon and Sansa in the Stark capital’s rule. But what’s the point of an abbreviated season if we’re going to blow past the stuff that makes this show not only exciting and fun, but legitimately rich drama? Grade: B

Some Other Notes:

  • So it appears Euron’s gift to Cersei is to be Ellaria Sand, who killed Myrcella at the end of season five. But how did Euron know where in the fleet she was? How convenient that he barreled his way onto the ship that just happened to host not only his prize but his relatives. There was some really lazy writing this week.
  • Things are not looking good for either Grey Worm or Missandei this season.
  • Sophie Turner was terrific in the moment Jon told her Winterfell was her’s until he returned.

By Matt Dougherty

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