Monday, August 28, 2017

Game of Thrones Watch 7.4: "The Spoils of War"



7.4 The Spoils of War
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Matt Shakman

So, at this point the show has completely given up any pretense of geography or reasonable travel times and is just moving people from point A to point B as the plot requires. Take this as a blanket “none of this makes any sense” statement and we’ll just move on. It’s sad that I have to set the bar this low, but there it is.

Lannister forces spend the episode moving across Westeros, escorting the spoils train full of gold and food from Highgarden to King’s Landing. While they’re at it, they steal everything from every farm they pass because that’s a great domestic policy. Jaime is generally unhappy with this whole thing, and with what he learned about Joffrey’s death, but unlike in the books, his unhappiness isn’t going to make him do the right thing and not help Cersei with this. Bronn complains that he wants more than the huge bag of gold Jaime just handed him, like, oh say, a castle. Jaime tells him he doesn’t want a castle, and Bronn begs to differ.


Over in King’s Landing, Cersei and Tycho Nestoris (from the Iron Bank) are eagerly awaiting the delivery of gold. Tycho says that the Iron Bank will be super disappointed that they’re not getting the interest payments on this massive loan anymore (Robert, Petyr, Tyrion, Tywin, and Cersei were paying interest?), and offers to throw more money at Cersei to help her—as soon as the gold shows up. Again, I ask, why would a smart banker give yet more money to the Westerosi, who took entirely too long to pay it back in the first place and had to beggar an entire kingdom to pay it? Where does he think they’re going to get the money to repay this loan?

Up in Winterfell, Bran and Petyr are having a creep-off. Petyr gives Bran the dagger that nearly killed him way back in season one (for some reason), and Bran has absolutely no reaction to anything. Petyr says something about chaos and Bran says “chaos is a ladder,” which freaks Petyr out because there’s no way Bran should know Petyr ever said any such thing. (And is a seriously heavy-handed reach on the part of the writers to give Bran something to say to show Petyr his omniscience.)


Petyr flees as soon as possible; luckily Meera pops in and gives him an excuse. Meera wants to tell Bran that she’s leaving, because with winter coming, she wants to be with her family. Bran’s all “kthxbai” and Meera’s like ?!!!! She yells at Bran because Jojen, Hodor, and Summer all died for Bran, but Bran’s like “oh, I’m not Bran anymore, I’m the Three-Eyed Raven so I have no more feelings and don’t care about anyone” and Meera peaces out. As she should.

Arya gets home at about that time and abandons her horse somewhere to come up to the gates on foot. I get that they’re trying to recreate that season one scene where she demands entrance to the Red Keep, but seriously, the stables are inside the walls and that horse is going to freeze to death. The guards at the Winterfell gate are just as suspicious of Arya as the guards at the gate to the Red Keep were and keep telling her to “fuck off.” Finally she points out that if she isn’t who she says she is, she’ll be in a lot of trouble, but if she is, Sansa will have their heads. They let her in, and while they’re arguing about who’s going to go tell Sansa about this (I don’t understand why this is a thing. Are they afraid of her? Just don’t want to waste her time? Benioff & Weiss thought it would be funny? Probably that last one), she disappears. They go tell Sansa there’s a weird chick claiming to be Arya in the castle . . . somewhere . . . and Sansa knows exactly where Arya is—down in the crypt with Ned’s body.


The reunion is equal parts awkward and sweet. Awkward: Sansa tells Arya that yes, she has to call her Lady Stark now. Sweet: hugs! (Actual hugs, not dead fish hugs!) Sansa can’t wait for Jon to get home and see Arya! Awkward: Arya tells Sansa about her List. Sansa tells Arya Bran’s also home and her face says there’s something terribly wrong.

Arya meeting Bran isn’t quite as awkward as Bran meeting Sansa; he actually puts a hand on Arya’s back when she hugs him, and the only creepy thing he does is tell her he saw her at the crossroad and thought she might go kill Cersei since she’s on Arya’s list. Nothing like what he said to Sansa. He also gives her Petyr’s dagger, because what does he need it for, and apparently Arya’s going to be fighting White Walkers (or will give it to someone who will fight White Walkers). As they wheel Bran back into the courtyard, Pod and Brienne see Arya, and Pod congratulates Brienne on fulfilling her vow of bringing Arya and Sansa back to Winterfell. To her credit, she admits that she had nearly nothing to do with it. Pod apparently worships at her feet and tells her she totally did, though, and she just says thanks rather than arguing with him.


Later, Brienne “trains” Pod some more, and at least this time she’s giving advice instead of just spanking him and yelling “no.” (He’s not a puppy, Brienne.) “Don’t lunge. Don’t go where your opponent leads you.” The best advice comes from Arya, who says “Don’t fight someone like her in the first place.” Arya wants to train with Brienne because Brienne’s big and strong and defeated Sandor. Brienne’s not so sure about this, but Arya reminds her that she’s sworn to serve both Stark girls and this is what she wants. What follows is a sparring scene that looks cool until you consider that they’ve turned Brienne into a lumbering beast, hacking and only using her strength, not the nimbleness they’ve shown her with before, and the fact that Arya learned this kind of fighting entirely offscreen; the only training we saw was quarterstaff training, and there’s a big difference between fencing and staves. The fight ends in a draw because it wouldn’t really be fair for either one of them to win. Sansa watches it and is clearly shocked by Arya’s abilities, whereas Petyr’s brain-mice are chasing each other trying to figure out how to turn this to his advantage. (I have no idea what Petyr’s end game is anymore. He says he wants to rule Westeros with Sansa, but I don’t see him making moves toward that, just playing petty politics in Winterfell.)

On Dragonstone, Missandei lets slip about her relationship with Grey Worm and Daenerys has an expression! I really wish they’d give us more of Dany and Missandei being girls together, but this show isn’t exactly known for its healthy relationship between women, so I’m just glad we have one healthy relationship, even if we don’t get to see it a lot (and it doesn’t often pass the Bechdel Test). Jon’s the reason we don’t get more of it right now, as he wants to show Dany the dragonglass and some cave art he found, cave art that conveniently proves that the First Men and the Children of the Forest fought the White Walkers together. (The show hasn’t yet explained why the Children would help the First Men when they created the White Walkers as a weapon against the First Men. I guess we’re supposed to extrapolate that the weapon backfired and the Night King turned on the Children, but some clarification would be nice.) There’s actually some chemistry between the characters here, which Dany kills by once again putting the condition of Jon’s fealty on her helping him. Her reasoning, that his pride isn’t more important than the lives of his people, goes both ways; if you want them to be your people, Dany, don’t you think you could put your pride aside and show them you’re a queen by protecting them? That’s the lesson Stannis was supposed to teach us until he was culled to let Jon do his job for him. Nobody says that, though, and Jon just looks not-angry-just-disappointed at her.


Outside the cave, Varys and Tyrion are waiting with the bad news about Highgarden, and Dany flies into a towering rage. Tyrion’s loyalty is now in question because his “clever” ideas have failed and maybe he doesn’t actually want to kill his family. She spots the dragons flying around over the sea and decides it’s time to burn shit. But first she has to ask Jon his opinion because Dany can’t do anything without the permission of a man. Now, asking for advice from an outsider who hasn’t been part of any of this but knows enough to have an opinion isn’t a bad idea. The issue is that it falls right back in the pattern of other people making Dany’s decisions for her and pulling her back from the brink of going Full Targaryen.

In this case, Jon manages to talk her down from burning King’s Landing to the ground, though how she then decides to go attack the Lannister army in the Reach isn’t clear. Either way, when Theon shows up to ask for Dany’s help to get Yara back (and Jon manfully grabs him by the front of the shirt but doesn’t kill him for Sansa’s sake), Dany’s already gone.

Cue the big fight for the episode. The Lannister army is nearly to King’s Landing (it’s been, what, two days? Sorry, I said I wouldn’t talk about the wibbly wobbly timey wimey distances here anymore), and the gold is already safely through the gates. The train has gotten really spread out, so the tail end, where Bronn and Jaime are, is still a good bit away from the city, across the Blackwater Rush from it. Bronn suddenly hears something and the entire Dothraki horde bursts over the nearest hill to ambush the army because who needs outriders and scouts, amirite? The army freaks out but manages to get a (crappy) shield wall in place . . . until Drogon also sneaks up on them and starts belching fire all over everything and everything is bad.


The fight is a hot mess (see what I did there?), so here’s some observations I made:

  • Dany and Drogon blow up the entire supply train because apparently she’s decided they don’t actually need all that food to feed her armies.
  • For some reason, they’ve hauled Qyburn’s scorpion all the way out here on the off chance that a dragon might attack. The fact that a dragon does attack doesn’t make this any less of a ridiculous decision.
  • Tyrion’s also here, because we needed him to react to the battle for us? To see what destruction a dragon can do? To mutter under his breath at Jaime? I don’t know why he’s here.
  • Jaime appears horrified by the destruction, but didn’t seem to care when Cersei did something equally as bad by blowing up the Sept.
  • Jaime’s attempt to spear Dany and/or Drogon by doing a jousting run at them is heroic and brave but really stupid.
  • The Blackwater drops off really suddenly! Either that or Bronn has super strength and tackled Jaime a good twenty yards or so out to where the river gets deep.
  • For some reason, Dany only brought one dragon. I think she forgets she has three.

The episode ends with Jaime sinking impossibly far into the Blackwater, weighed down by his armor. He should totally be dead, but I think at this point he’s got plot armor until at least midway through season eight. They’ve hacked the cast down so far at this point they have almost no more redshirts characters left to lose.

RIP:
So many Lannisters
So many Tarlys
So many Dothraki

Next week: Dany has lost my vote. Arya gets suspicious. Sam misses a major plot clue. Jon has a really bad idea.

images from winteriscoming.net

Monday, August 21, 2017

Game of Thrones Watch 7.3: "The Queen's Justice"



7.3 The Queen’s Justice
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Mark Mylod

So, this episode gives the fans what they’ve been waiting for since Daenerys set sail for Westeros. Melisandre puts it as melodramatically as possible: bringing “ice and fire together.” Jon and Dany! Dany and Jon! This is gonna be so great! Right?

Jon, Davos, and a couple of Stark guards land on Dragonstone and are greeted by Missandei and Tyrion. There’s a cute little moment that would make more sense if Tyrion and Jon hadn’t known each other for like a week several years ago (however long this show has taken in Westeros-time). Davos and Tyrion get over having been on opposite sides of the Blackwater really quickly, and Davos tries to get to know Missandei. He claims he doesn’t recognize her accent, but considering how all over the place accents are on this show and how standardly-English her accent is, I wonder why he’s having difficulty. He asks about Nath, and she refrains from mentioning that she was violently torn away from her homeland when she was a child and sold as a slave.

As they head up the causeway, Tyrion asks about Sansa and assures Jon that the marriage was never consummated, which isn’t something Jon wanted to know about. Tyrion mentions that Sansa’s smarter than she lets on, and Jon says “she’s starting to let on” in this really irritated tone because Stark men are the worst about listening to Stark/Tully women. Tyrion says Jon really shouldn’t have come down here because Starks don’t have a good track record when they leave the North. Jon says he’s not a Stark and Drogon the Harbinger of Loud Hints chooses that moment to buzz the group. Davos and Jon hit the deck; everyone else watches them with these faintly amused looks on their faces like jerks.


Dany’s sitting on the throne and Missandei announces her with the full range of her titles, every single one she’s earned in her long journey. There’s an awkward silence, and then Davos: “This is Jon Snow.” Awkward pause. “He’s King in the North.”

Remember how I said surely a meeting this momentous, this long-anticipated, was going to be awesome? It’s not. It’s . . . boring. Emotionless McDeadFace meets Close Your Damn Mouth Occasionally, Jon Snow. The characters talk at each other and past each other instead of to each other, and only the brilliant acting from Peter Dinklage and Liam Cunningham manages to mask that. Basically, Dany and Jon argue about why he should or should not swear fealty to her and make the North part of the Seven Kingdoms again. She argues that because Torrhen Stark swore fealty to Aegon centuries ago, by default Jon is her subject. He argues that Aerys failed in every duty he had to his people and murdered Jon’s grandfather and uncle, so those vows are no longer applicable. He doesn’t mention Rhaegar kidnapping, raping, and murdering Lyanna, which seems like a huge oversight on the part of the writers. If you wanted to remind us about a) how badly the last generation of Targaryens treated the last generation of Starks; and b) that Jon is a Targaryen, this would have been the way and time to do it. And it would have contextualized the significance of Drogon’s appearance earlier.

The disagreement turns into an outright squabble when Jon says that nothing matters if all of them fight “like children” until the White Walkers descend on them. She yells at Jon that she’s been through The Shit and what kept her going was herself and her own strength thank you very much and not, like, the people she’s liberated or a sense of justice or a sense of duty or anything else. She’s So Serious about this that she starts talking in third person. Davos yells back that Jon has also been through The Shit and he’s sacrificed everything—Jon stops him just short of telling them about his death and resurrection—to protect the people of the Seven Kingdoms. Honestly, if this is what the argument were to come down to between Jon and Dany ruling the kingdoms, I’m Team Jon here, because at least he’s putting other people before himself.


The fight breaks off when Varys comes in because he has news about the Ironborn fleet, which is probably what saves Jon from being fed to a dragon. Later, Tyrion goes up to the bluff to brood, where Jon is already brooding, and he has a quippy line about Jon looking better at it. He tells Jon that he’s asking a lot expecting people to believe him about an army of the dead, but offers to take any reasonable request or suggestion back to Dany. He tries to sell Jon on Dany’s inherent goodness; she liberated Slavers Bay and stayed to help the people instead of immediately leaving for Westeros, for one thing (that’s a radical interpretation of the text, but okay. It’s not like Tyrion was there, and that’s how he might see it). He says Dany and Jon both protect people from monsters. Let’s see how well Dany “protects” people from her own dragons, shall we?

Back down in the keep, Tyrion manipulates Dany into agreeing to give Jon the dragonglass he came for. They speculate about Davos’ almost-slip about Jon “taking a knife in the heart,” but neither knows what it means. Dany goes to find Jon to tell him that he’s allowed to mine in Dragonstone and sympathize over lost family (though how she knows Jon only lost two brothers and not three and a sister is beyond me. Does Westeros have an Internet?). She again pushes him to declare the North part of the Seven Kingdoms and her the queen, and he again refuses, which again irritates her.

Over in King’s Landing, Euron’s riding through the streets, towing Yara, Ellaria, and Tyene behind him on leashes. It actually took me a minute to realize this was King’s Landing because the people are cheering Euron. It appears that nobody really cares that a) the Sept blew up a few days/weeks/months ago; b) their third king in a few months/years died; c) someone with zero claim to the throne is currently ruling them; and d) Euron is Ironborn and the Ironborn have been the scourge of every town within reach of the sea for hundreds of years. Maybe they’ve never directly hit King’s Landing, but that doesn’t mean the people of King’s Landing would like Euron.

Also, Ellaria and Tyene have of course had their dresses ripped open to the waist, because this is the show’s last chance to sexualize the women of color. Euron continues to be gross, saying that all this adulation is “making [him] hard” and giggling about Theon, calling him a “twat.” He rides into the Red Keep and right up to the throne, throwing Ellaria and Tyene at the foot of the throne. Ellaria gets a look at Gregor and stares at him. Cersei promises to marry Euron after the war is won, and Euron gets all giggly, mugging for the crowd and asking Jaime how Cersei likes sex—“gentle, or rough? A finger in the bum?” What are you, twelve? The hell is this writing, even?


Cersei goes down to the dungeon to talk at Ellaria for a bit, taunting her in much the same way she taunted Septa Unella. Then she kisses Tyene, wipes her lips, and chugs an antidote while Ellaria and Tyene freak out. Cersei says she’s going to leave them down here forever so Ellaria can watch Tyene die and then rot. Ellaria and Tyene sob and try to reach each other but the chains keep them just apart.

I’m not sure who the writers are trying to get us to sympathize with here. Ellaria and Cersei are both The Worst. Tyene’s just badly written and young, but she still helped Ellaria with her plan to be The Worst. I’m annoyed that we’re down to one woman of color in the show now—Missandei—but is it better to have no people of color or a few horrifically stereotypical people of color? As a not-person-of-color, I don’t think I’m qualified to answer that.

Immediately after murdering Tyene, Cersei goes upstairs and jumps Jaime. He says “no,” but she grabs his face and kisses him, and he doesn’t try to stop her again. She pulls his pants off and gets on her knees because, I don’t know, maybe we need to counterbalance the female pleasure we had last week? Then we get the return of Lena Heady’s body double as Cersei gets out of bed the next morning, having decided that she doesn’t care who knows that she’s sleeping with her brother. I notice the dress code for handmaidens in King’s Landing has changed—no more of those easily-removable drapey sack things. Now the maid in question is wearing a black dress buttoned up to the throat and her hair is cut similar to Cersei’s.


Cersei has a meeting with that dude from the Iron Bank, who congratulates her on “casting off the yoke of superstition” by destroying the Sept. Cersei says it was a terrible horrible accident (is that the story we’re going with? Really?), and he’s like “riiiiiiiight.” He reminds her that the Lannisters and the crown both owe the Iron Bank a lot of money, and she says she’ll be able to repay it in a couple of weeks. But apparently the Iron Bank is interested in “investing” in this war of theirs, so Cersei has to negotiate another loan? Even though she hasn’t paid this one back yet and it took years of saying “screw the Iron Bank” for the crown to get anywhere near paying it off? Why would they be interested in throwing more money at Westeros? Cersei claims that she’s a better investment than Daenerys because she didn’t overthrow the slave trade that no doubt the Iron Bank had a considerable stake in.

Record scratch.

The Iron Bank. Of Braavos. Involved in slave trading. I am highly suspicious. The Free Cities were founded to specifically be slavery-free. Most of them haven’t lived up to that, sure, but Braavos in particular is anti-slavery because they were founded by slaves. While the Bank probably has fewer scruples than Braavosi society at large, there’s no indication, not even a hint, in the books that the Iron Bank has any business with Volantis, Qarth, Astapor, or Meereen, let alone with slavery. It’s a small detail, but shows yet again that Benioff and Weiss don’t care about the details of culture and politics in any of the societies they’ve chosen to adapt.

Up in Winterfell, Sansa’s showing her leading ability by doing the minimum stuff that Jon should have been doing already, like making sure they have enough food to last through winter and checking up on the armorsmiths. Petyr tries to tell her that preparing for Cersei is more important than preparing for winter and she tells him to shut his damn mouth. Then he puts on his most foreboding voice and tells her that she has to prepare for everything at all times and think forty-seven moves ahead. Thanks, Darth Petyr. A guardsman runs up and tells her that there’s someone at the gate.

It’s Bran! Bran’s home! Or, you know, a dead fish wearing Bran’s face. Sansa hugs him and he lies there like, well, a dead fish. They go to the godswood to talk, and Sansa tells him he’s technically lord of Winterfell now, but he says he can’t be because he’s the Three-Eyed Raven. Sansa asks him what that even means and he says he can’t explain it because the writers don’t know what he is beyond a convenient exposition machine now, either. He says he’s sorry about everything she’s gone through and she looked really pretty in her white dress the night she was raped. Of all the things he could have told her (the White Walkers are real. Jon’s a Targaryen. Arya’s alive. Rosebud was his sled), this is what they went with? Was it supposed to show that he’s creepy and not human anymore? Because that’s exactly what it did. Sansa leaves, completely freaked out, as she should be.


Down at the Citadel, Archmaester Ebrose pokes at Jorah and makes hmmm noises. Apparently Jorah is completely cured. He (very badly) attempts to cover for Sam’s obvious and disobedient intervention. Jorah thanks Sam and says he’s headed off to see Dany. Sam gets scolded by Ebrose for disobeying, but isn’t kicked out of the Citadel because the cure actually worked. Instead, he gets to recopy a whole bunch of decaying scrolls and I bet he finds something in there that blows everything open.

Finally, the big battle of the episode. Under voiceover from Tyrion detailing their plan, the Unsullied take what I guess is the other half of the Ironborn fleet to Casterly Rock and land. While most of the army attacks the walls directly, Grey Worm and a couple of others sneak in through the sewers that Tyrion says he built (he talks like Tywin built Casterly Rock from the ground up and he designed the sewer system, which is ridiculous, but when has that stopped anyone on this show before). Also, we already did taking a city through the sewer, but when has that stopped anyone on this show before? Also also, this whole battle is . . . dumb. Here, watch this guy explain why:


Grey Worm realizes that there aren’t enough people there and wonders where everyone else is. Why, marching across the Reach with Jaime at their head, because somehow it only took him a few days (??) to go from King’s Landing to Casterly Rock (across the entire continent) and then down to Highgarden! Off-screen, the Lannisters crush the Tyrell army and Jaime storms into Olenna’s room to take her surrender. She asks if her army fought well, and he says as well as could be expected. She claims that the Tyrells have never really been fighters (wait, what?) because they’re roses (we can stop taking sigils so danged literally any time now) and says they figured he’d be defending Casterly Rock. He says Casterly Rock has no strategic value (what did I say last week?!!!) and they’ll be able to retake it super easily since they emptied the larder on their way out. She asks how he’s going to kill her and whether it will hurt;  he gives her some poison and says it’s completely painless. She says good, cause she wouldn’t want to die choking on her own viscera like Joffrey did, and be a good boy and tell Cersei I killed her son, won’t you, darling? Mic drop.


I will miss Diana Rigg. She brought a gravitas to the show and the terrible writing they gave her that made it seem almost good.

It’s worth noting that, despite the back-patting Benioff and Weiss gave themselves in the “Inside the Episode” for “Stormborn” that Dany’s entire alliance is made up of women, that in the very next episode all of them except Yara are dead, and Yara’s out of commission. Way to feminist, guys.

RIP:
Tyene Sand
Olenna Tyrell
Lots of soldiers

Next week: Ice and Fire don’t get along so good. Dany unleashes the dragon. Arya comes home.

images from winteriscoming.net

Monday, August 14, 2017

Game of Thrones Watch 7.2: "Stormborn"



7.2 Stormborn
Written by Bryan Cogman
Directed by Mark Mylod

The tone of this episode is kind of all over the place, and I think it’s a function of some seriously uneven writing. There are several major flaws in characterization, some seriously irritating deification of Tyrion, a bit of just plain bad writing, and then a couple of actually kind of nice scenes.

The issues with Daenerys not being the actual person in charge, but rather taking on whatever personality the men around her tell her she has, continues in this episode. The problem is that “the men around her” is now Tyrion, and it’s making Dany feel very much like a puppet-queen rather than an actual leader. Her own impulses, when not directed or controlled by Tyrion, still tend to be fire and blood, which doesn’t bode well for her reign at all. And either the way Emilia Clarke is playing the character or the way she’s being directed has her so incredibly emotionless that it makes her seem even more insane.

So we open on Dragonstone, which is in the grip of a furious storm, giving Tyrion and Varys an excuse to remember why one of Dany’s nicknames is “Stormborn” (and letting them give a reason for this episode’s title, because there isn’t another one anywhere else in the episode). Dany is less than impressed with the storm or how Dragonstone doesn’t feel like home. Forget the whole epic nostalgia scene from last week; she’s sick of Dragonstone and wants to get off of it ASAP. She remarks that in her position, Viserys would have taken King’s Landing already, and Tyrion yanks her leash to remind her that utter destruction is bad, and she’s “not here to be queen of the ashes.” But Dany’s not done being a Targaryen, and turns on Varys to demand to know what exactly he’s up to. After all, he was instrumental in getting Aerys off the throne, then Robert, and what if he doesn’t like Dany? What kind of a servant just up and goes on the hunt for a better ruler when the current one doesn’t suit him? (It’s kind of a fair question.)


Varys replies that he feels for the smallfolk because he spent time as a beggar, a thief, a prostitute, and a slave, and he will always serve that side of the realm. This would have been a really good place for Dany to point out that Viserys was called the Beggar King and she also has known serious, crushing poverty in her life, but we’ve apparently decided to forget that part of Dany’s background. We’ve also chosen to forget that she regards her marriage to Drogo as a form of slavery; she was sold to him in exchange for his horde. Instead, Dany orders him to promise that he’ll come straight to her first if he thinks she’s failing the smallfolk (fair), and that if he betrays her, “I’ll burn you alive.” Yep, she’s gonna be a great queen. Just like her daddy. For some reason, though, Varys finds this admirable and says he’d “expect nothing less from the Mother of Dragons.”

Speaking of fire, Melisandre has arrived to attach herself to yet another power figure who may or may not be the Prince Who Was Promised. Missandei assures Dany that the word in Valyrian is gender-neutral and thus can refer to a prince or a princess. Melisandre has learned her lesson about prophecies, it seems, and demurs when asked if she thinks Dany is said Prince, but suggests that an alliance between Dany and Jon Snow would be a good idea. Tyrion’s startled at the mention of Jon Snow, but tells Dany Jon’s a good man (he knew him for like four days when he was still an idealistic little boy) and she should talk to him. Dany does what she’s told and has him send a raven “inviting” Jon to Dragonstone, where he’ll swear fealty to Dany.

A few days later, the women of Dany’s alliance gather to discuss strategy and it would be a much more powerful feminist message if three of the four women weren’t pushing for utter destruction and a campaign of terror and the fourth wasn’t parroting what her single male advisor told her. Yara and Ellaria want Dany to unleash the dragons on King’s Landing immediately. Olenna says being loved is all well and good, but everyone loved Margaery and now she’s dead, so now she’s come around to Cersei’s way of thinking apparently and insists that fear is the only way to rule. Ellaria yells at Tyrion about Oberyn’s death, and Dany shuts all of them up, demanding that they show Tyrion some respect, and says she’s not here to be queen of the ashes. Does this woman have an original thought that isn’t fire blood burning kill kill kill?

Dany starts to lay out their plan to lay siege to King’s Landing, and Tyrion interrupts her when she stops to take a breath, and she literally takes a step back to give him the floor. Their plan is to not put the Unsullied and the Dothraki (where are they, by the way? How are they dealing with having sailed across an entire ocean? Is Dragonstone big enough for all of them?) within sight of King’s Landing, because that would give Cersei political leverage to yell about foreigners invading their soil. Instead, the Dornish and the Ironborn are going to lay siege to King’s Landing (because it’s not like anyone sees the Dornish as barely Westerosi or the Ironborn as ravening pirates) while the Unsullied and Dothraki take Casterly Rock. Tyrion tries to sell it as Casterly Rock being an important symbolic target because it’s the seat of House Lannister, but none of the remaining Lannisters seem to care about Casterly Rock anymore, and it’s not a strategic spot that would help with taking the rest of Westeros in particular, so it felt to me very much like this was Tyrion’s idea because he wants Casterly Rock. He’s wanted it since Jaime became a Kingsguard, he demanded it of Tywin, and now he has the opportunity to take it by force and become Warden of the West, or at least Lord of Casterly Rock while he serves as Hand of the Queen.


The rest of the plan is needlessly complicated: Yara and the fleet will take Ellaria back to Sunspear, where they’ll pick up the Dornish armies and shuttle them back up to King’s Landing. There’s no explanation as to how the Unsullied and Dothraki will get to Casterly Rock (which is on the complete opposite side of the continent). The other women seem to think this is all a perfectly good idea, though, except Olenna, who tells Dany that listening to clever men is all well and good, but she needs to be a dragon. Because, yeah, let’s ignore the advice of people who know what they’re talking about (I don’t necessarily think that includes Tyrion, but clearly they do, so) and go on sheer instinct instead. Because that never ends badly.

One thing the Dragonstone plot does give us this week is a really sweet scene between Missandei and Grey Worm that only has a couple of minor missteps that probably wouldn’t even have been noticeable if it weren’t for this show’s terrible track record with nudity and sex. Missandei comes to see Grey Worm because he’s going to be leaving to attack Casterly Rock and they don’t know when they might see each other again. They’ve been adorably awkward around each other up to now due to the obvious limitations on their relationship. Grey Worm tells her that she’s his weakness, that as an Unsullied warrior, he had all fear, doubt, and pain conditioned out of him, but now that he’s no longer a slave and he’s been allowed to have a relationship with Missandei, he knows fear. The scene that follows is one of the healthiest and sweetest sex scenes ever done on this show, but it suffers a bit for being primarily focused on Grey Worm and his response to Missandei seeing him for the first time. There’s several intense close-ups on his face during the disrobing process, and he’s clearly confused and afraid. Meanwhile, Missandei (who apparently doesn’t wear any underwear under her dress), doesn’t get the same emotional exploration. Instead, the camera spends a lot of time looking at her breasts. Her one reaction shot (as opposed to at least three for Grey Worm) isn’t shot at the same close-up as his is; instead, it’s from this overhead angle that looks over Grey Worm’s shoulder and down her naked body. Then, of course, the camera’s focused pretty exclusively on her as they find ways to be intimate that don’t involve penetration. It could have been much, much worse, and by the standards of this show, it’s really tame, but it continues the issues with sex, women, and nudity the show has had since the get-go.

The Tyrion-worship continues up at Winterfell, where Jon shares the note with Sansa and Davos. Interestingly, Tyrion has left out the whole thing about swearing fealty and seems to instead be offering an equal alliance. That’s probably going to come back to bite someone. Jon asks Sansa what she thinks, since she knows Tyrion better than any of them, and she says he’s actually pretty okay for a Lannister, and at least he was nice to her. Davos isn’t thrilled about the implied threat in the mention of the Unsullied, Dothraki, and dragons, but he does point out that dragons breathe fire and fire kills wights (which apparently Jon needed to be reminded of), so an alliance shouldn’t be off the table.


A few days later, Jon receives Sam’s raven from the Citadel telling him about the dragonglass, and that makes up Jon’s mind. This time, he doesn’t ask Sansa her advice beforehand, because why should he do that when he’s about to make an enormous decision? He tells his court about the summons from Dragonstone, emphasizing that he trusts Tyrion because he’s a good man (again, they knew each other for like four days), then about the dragonglass, then that he himself will be traveling to Dragonstone to meet with Daenerys. Sansa yells at him in front of everyone again, and for once even Lyanna thinks that Jon’s had a bad idea. Jon says he has to go because only a king can treat with a queen (what?), and that he’s leaving Sansa in charge of the North as the last Stark in Winterfell (let’s see how long this lasts when Bran finally shows up).

Before he leaves, though, Jon goes to visit Ned’s grave in the crypts. Petyr saunters down like he totally belongs here and tries to sweet-talk Jon, who’s having none of it. Petyr mentions that he loves Sansa “as I loved her mother” (gag), and Jon puts him up against the wall like Ned did back in season one, threatening to kill him if he so much as touches Sansa.

In King’s Landing, Cersei’s trying to get more of the kingdoms under her control by playing the “foreign invader” card, as well as the “insane Targaryen” card. The problem is that she’s not wrong; Dany did bring foreign armies to Westeros, she did crucify hundreds of Meereenese masters, and she did feed one of them to her dragons. Cersei’s not even really exaggerating; she doesn’t need to. Dany hasn’t shown that she can be a stable or sane leader. Randyll Tarly is concerned about the dragons, and Qyburn assures him they’re working on something (that something, we see later, is a ballista). Then Jaime works on Randyll, offering him the position of Warden of the South if he abandons his allegiance to the Tyrells and backs Cersei instead. Randyll says he’ll think about it.


Down in Oldtown, Ebrose and Sam are discussing Jorah’s greyscale infection, and Ebrose says it’s too far advanced to cure by this point. He gives Jorah one more day before he has him removed and shipped off to Valyria to live out his days with the stone men, and what he does with that day—meaningful look at Jorah’s sword—is up to him. Sam argues for a couple more options, but Ebrose shuts him down. Sam offers to notify Jorah’s family, which is when he learns Jorah’s a Mormont. Sam’s not giving up, though; he keeps pestering Ebrose about possible treatments, and Ebrose points out all the reasons why those treatments won’t work. The whole Citadel storyline again denigrates intellectuals and “clever men” in favor of instinct and blind luck; it doesn’t matter that Ebrose has all this experience and all these books, he’s just wrong because Sam needs him to be. Granted, Martin wrote the maesters as a bit myopic about some things and a lot hidebound about other things, but as usual, the show takes that to the nth degree.

Sam takes the exact remedy Ebrose told him would not work (which of course means it will) and was expressly forbidden by the Citadel and gets to Jorah before he can do more than write a letter to Dany (addressed “khaleesi” because of course it is) and look vaguely in the direction of his sword. Sam explains that a) he’s a member of the Night’s Watch, knew Jeor Mormont, and was there when he died (Jorah has surprisingly little reaction to this); b) he’s not letting Jorah die on his watch; c) this might actually not work, but will hurt and Jorah should try to keep from screaming. To help with that, Sam hands him rum like he’s doing battlefield surgery and doesn’t have access to milk of the poppy or something, then starts literally slicing the affected tissue off Jorah’s chest.

They cut from pus pouring out of Jorah’s chest to a couple of guys at the Inn at the Crossroads stabbing into a gravy-filled pie because that’s not disgusting and it’s not like pot pie is one of my favorite foods or anything, so thanks Mylod. Arya’s at one of the tables, and Hot Pie comes in. Arya seems surprisingly uninterested in seeing him and just steals some food off his tray and starts gobbling. He asks if Brienne found her and she says yeah but doesn’t elaborate. He asks what she’s doing here and why she’s not back in Winterfell. Apparently the miraculous psychic powers everyone else has to know what’s happening elsewhere in the kingdom haven’t kicked in for her yet and she didn’t know about Jon and “the battle of the bastards” (which, can we not call it that in-universe, please? It’s just ridiculous). She perks up and becomes a lot more personable when she finds this out, actually treats Hot Pie like a friend for a second, then goes out to the crossroads and turns north instead of south.
 
Out in the countryside, she builds a fire and tries to get warm. Her horse is super antsy, and she hears wolves. Soon, she’s surrounded, and from behind her appears a massive grey-and-white wolf, who she recognizes as Nymeria, who we last saw in season one. Arya tells her she’s headed north and invites Nymeria to come with her, but the wolf turns and leaves because that’s as much wolf footage as we could fit into the CGI budget. Arya’s devastated for a second, but then smiles and says “that’s not you,” echoing her comment to Ned in season one that being a wife and mother and managing a castle is “not me.” In the “Inside the Episode” featurette, Weiss says that “Arya’s not domesticated, and it makes sense that her wolf wouldn’t be, either.” The choice of words (you don’t domesticate a person, and it’s even more problematic when applied to a woman) bugs me, but the sentiment makes sense. If only we’d spent more time on the wolves=Stark connection to the north theme, or with Arya’s wolf dreams, or anything that would have made Nymeria’s appearance less out-of-nowhere.


The final sequence in the episode left a really bad taste in my mouth for a lot of reasons. Yara’s fleet is on its way south, and in one of the bunks, Nymeria, Obara, and Tyene are arguing about who gets to kill who when they take King’s Landing. Nym and Obara twit at Tyene for constantly quoting Ellaria, and Tyene yells that maybe she’ll kill both of them and then she won’t have to share kills. Super healthy dynamic between these young ladies. Over in another area of the ship (I don’t know ship terminology well enough to be more specific than that), Ellaria, Yara, and Theon are drinking. Through some small talk, Ellaria discovers that Yara is bisexual, and since they’re two women interested in women in the same room, of course sexytimes have to occur. Ellaria asks what Theon, as Yara’s protector, would do if someone got too close, proceeding to get too close and note that Theon’s doing a bad job because there’s “a foreign invasion” happening right now, which is gross on so many levels. It again goes with the oversexed woman of color thing, as well as playing female sexual interaction to the male gaze, and falling into the oversexed bisexual thing. Not to mention it’s just terrible writing.

Thankfully, consummation is halted by Euron’s fleet attacking, pulling a Black Pearl appearing out of the mist. The ensuing fight is a mess, lit only by the ships on fire from the fireballs coming out of . . . somewhere, with no clear leadership from anyone. This would have been a good time to showcase Yara’s leadership skills and make Euron actually frightening by showing how his chaotic approach overwhelms Yara’s more organized approach, but instead it’s just a free-for-all mess. Obara and Nym attack Euron and he kills them both in ways that show just how ridiculous their choices of weapon are (and thus makes Jaime and Bronn look even more incompetent in retrospect).


Yara and Euron finally face off, and he ultimately overpowers her, then taunts Theon to try to save her. Theon, completely triggered by all the blood and violence around him, instead jumps into the water while Euron cackles. Silence sails off with Yara, Ellaria, and probably Tyene prisoner on board, leaving Yara’s ship with Nym hanged from the prow with her own whip and Obara staked to it with her spear; the camera work gives us a good long look at them, then Theon’s reaction, then them again. This show loves nothing more than gratuitous female nudity, but dead women are a close second. In the “Inside the Episode” bit, Weiss admits that while they were writing this episode, they “realized” that trauma isn’t just something you “get over,” and so Theon would understandably be having trouble here. If only they’d figured that out before giving us Yara’s completely disgusting pep-talk last season. Meanwhile, according to Benioff, Yara feels betrayed by Theon failing to save her, because it’s not like Theon was weaponless and Euron had his axe to Yara’s throat and thus there was nothing he could do but get killed or get her killed.

This show is trying so hard to be better and fix some of its mistakes, but there are a lot of clear blind spots that they don’t even seem to realize are problems.

RIP:
Nymeria Sand
Obara Sand

Next week: Fire meets Ice. Cersei gets revenge. Olenna tells Jaime a secret.

Images from winteriscoming.net