Game of Thrones “Stormborn” recap: Loyalties

episode-62-1920As promised, Game of Thrones is waging war more quickly this season and the first evidence of it comes out of “Stormborn,” which begins with such promise for the queen for which the episode gets its name but ends in a fiery, concerning conclusion for those of us on board that very side, Team Dany.

It’s simple math why this penultimate season needs to move action forward faster. It has taken 60 episodes, over six years, to get to this climax and now there’s 13 episodes (max) to unveil how the great war ends. So, just as last week’s premiere ended with Dany at the head of the stone table in Dragonstone asking, “Shall we begin,” this week’s episode opens in a rainstorm with an epic flyover shot of the same place, zooming in on a dim light in the tallest tower in the distance where the queen and her advisers are weighing their battle plans. (And it’s no wonder Dany’s having a hard time feeling at home.)

The plan, a simple divide and conquer approach involving a two-pronged attack to secure Westeros with minimal unwarranted carnage. Yara Greyjoy and her iron fleet will lead the armies of Dorne and Highgarden into King’s Landing to have Cersei Lannister surrounded, while, simultaneously, the Unsullied will sail for Casterly Rock and take the Lannister stronghold.

That, coupled with a long-anticipated meeting with Jon Snow (to bend the knee to her, not to, you know, elope) that’s waged the same night (and promised in the preview for next week’s episode), garners significant excitement — too much to be comfortable with.

The meeting will happen, but all that goodness in the span of a swift 10, 15, 20 minutes was too much. (Standby for sports reference.) It’s The Big 3 coming to Miami! No.

Dany and Tyrion’s divide and conquer approach suffers a fiery, debilitating defeat by the episode’s epic end, at the hands of Euron Greyjoy.

(Long side note here: What the hell? Does anyone else smell something fishy going on? Was it luck, or how does Euron know where to find Yara’s fleet? How does he know Ellaria Sand — no doubt his gift for Cersei — and her daughters will be aboard? Moreover, how is Cersei so well versed in the movements and alliances Dany has made? Qyburn’s little birds? Someone on the inside for Euron and/or Cersei? What the hell?)

Euron’s fleet intercepts Yara’s in the middle of the night, while Yara and Ellaria are below deck sucking down pints of ale and fooling around and the men are seemingly asleep. Euron’s fleet launches fireballs and jumps aboard Yara’s ship. The rest of the fleet is burning all around them. They’re overwhelmed. Ellaria and youngest daughter Tyene Sand are cornered and captured. Nymeria and Obara Sand are killed and left staked and hanging from the front of the burning ship.

Head-to-head with her uncle, Yara is defeated and assumed also taken away with Ellaria and Tyene. Theon, being taunted by Euron as he has his blade at Yara’s neck, is panicked and so reverts back to the shattered psyche of Reek. He jumps ships and the episode ends with him treading water watching the fleet burn.

So, Cersei, by way of Euron, draws first blood in this great war, dealing Dany’s regime a significant blow.

All of this after there was some disagreement around Dany’s stone table as how to proceed in her pursuit of the iron throne.

And therein lies the greatest conflict of this week’s episode: Loyalty and trust. Up to this point, save for the Sons of the Harpy, Dany has been able to unify her people. But now in Westeros, how do you unify families who’ve hated each other for generations? How do you gain their loyalty and trust? We know dragons are convincing and the Dothraki love it when Dany comes out of flames unscathed, but this is a different game. Dany’s picking up allies all with their own aspirations — Yara just wants to kill her uncle and take back her homeland, Ellaria and Olenna Tyrell want revenge on Cersei and the world rid of Lannisters (complicating how they feel about Tyrion’s advice to Dany).

Dany is very smart and understands her new allies’ motivations may be different than the allies she gained on the other side of the Narrow Sea. She knows Olenna isn’t in the room because she steadfastly supports her claim to the throne.

It’s no different everywhere else in the world, like in King’s Landing. There, Cersei has called in her remaining lords, including Randyll Tarly who’s conflicted. Tarly will fight for his queen, of course, but he knows Dany’s coming with three dragons and he’d kind of like to stay alive.

The same conflicts are being waged in Winterfell, where Jon announces his intent to ride to Dragonstone and parlay with Dany to form an alliance. She has the dragon glass, number of men and dragons he needs to combat the coming zombie army. But it’s made clear by his supporters, including his sister Sansa, that a.) He should not be leaving the North at a time like this and b.) He should not be leaving to go befriend a Targaryen who’s been getting a skewed, over-exaggerated reputation in Westeros about the things she’s done to get there.

This kind of conflict between his rationale and the conflicting opinion of his people is what got Jon murdered is season five. (See: wildlings)

Dany’s playing the game, rightfully trusting most in her longest-tenured advisers and prepared to press the rest to find out how loyal they really are. And if someone is not, well… as she tells Varys, she won’t hesitate to burn him alive.

Other movement

. . . . Arya adjusts course for Winterfell, instead of King’s Landing (bummer…), after hearing that her brother, Jon, took it back from the Boltons. On the road back, she’s surrounded by a pack of direwolves, the biggest of which is her long-lost Nymeria. That familiarity saves her life, though Nymeria turns away and the pack goes with her.

. . . . Sansa’s left in charge of Winterfell — a dangerous proposition? After being threatened by Jon, Littlefinger may be even more motivated to influence Sansa in a way that’s a sharper departure from their already conflicting views on leadership and strategy.

. . . . Back at King’s Landing, we see what Qyburn has in store for Dany’s dragons, a huge spear gun, or crossbow.

. . . . Sam goes to work on Jorah’s greyscale using a forbidden treatment.

. . . . Melisandre arrives at Dragonstone and convinces Dany to propose a meeting with him. But remember: Jon and Davos, the two coming from Winterfell to meet Dany, banished Melisandre not long ago.

. . . . There was no movement this week from Bran, The Hound or White Walkers.

Game of Thrones “Dragonstone” recap: Shall we begin?

GoT61The three words lent to making the headline of this post come by way of Daenerys, as she ceases the last word of Game of Thrones‘ Season 7 premiere, “Dragonstone.” It’s the Dragon Queen’s only line in the episode (a record low for any in which she appears, possibly?), an hour on brand with typically-subdued GOT season openers. Remember, Jon Snow didn’t come back to life until the very end of the second episode last season; so, “Dragonstone” doesn’t open with Daenerys fully engaged in an attack on King’s Landing — part of the Great War that’s this season’s anticipatory equivalent to finding out Jon’s fate a year ago — but it sees her boat ashore in Westeros by the end credits.

The kings and queens all have out their calculators for this one and are measuring the weight of the world post-“Winds of Winter.”

In King’s Landing, Cersei has commissioned for a vast world map to be painted on the pavement inside the Red Keep where she’ll think up her battle plans. Brother Jaime paints a very different picture, for our reference, of the axis and allies of Westeros after Cersei blew up half her city, murdering several key characters including the King, and took her place on the Iron Throne in the Season 6 finale.

He imagines a significantly weakened House Lannister.

One ally, the Boltons, largely slaughtered by in-fighting, were ultimately wiped out on the battlefield by two of the few remaining Starks, Sansa and Jon (note the order of those names), to retake the North.

The Freys are extinguished by another Stark survivor in the cold opening of this episode. Arya, wearing the face of Walder Frey who she murdered in “Winds of Winter,” has invited the rest of the Frey family back inside for a feast, the same day her timeline left off at the end of Season 6. She serves them poisoned wine, while bragging that their biggest mistake after the Red Wedding was to not seek out all remaining Starks for slaughter. One returned and got her revenge. And Arya seems keen on crossing names off of her list quickly, since the next time we see her in the episode she says she’s on her way to King’s Landing, instead of, say, Winterfell for a family reunion.

That makes two Lannister-leaning houses erased, the relationship between the Lannister and Tyrell families burned — meaning no help is coming from Highgarden — and Cersei and Jaime the last living lions. (Tyrion’s emancipated.)

Even Jaime seems set off by Cersei’s actions. Yet, emotionless as ever, Cersei plans to parlay with Euron Greyjoy, who has called an audible knowing full well his niece and nephew fled the Iron Islands to join Dany’s team. Such an alliance between Cersei and Euron makes the imminent clash between Dany (and her Greyjoy allies) all the more explosive.

Euron, frequently thought to be a wild card player for Season 7, has his marriage proposal turned down by Cersei. He leaves, only to return he says with something that will certainly earn him her trust. This leads us to wonder, what (who?) is it?

In the north, the splinter expected between Sansa and Jon is getting deeper, as they bicker about decision-making in every scene in which they appear together. We’re first brought back to Winterfell with Jon calling on all men, women and children to take up arms for a reconnaissance mission to look for and dig up as much dragon glass as possible. He’s committing all of his time to the war with the White Walkers. Sansa thinks he’s being too short-sighted and implores him to think south, as well.

With Dany landing in Westeros, much of the anticipation and curiosity for this new season has revolved around what new alliances will be made. And for the first time, a connection is traced between Jon and a large cache of dragon glass buried at Dragonstone, the place Dany was born and where she has decided to settle for the time being in Westeros.

It’s a stockpile she likely has no idea exists but one Sam Tarly reads about in a book at the Citadel, a place and a job far less glamorous than he imagined but one we spend a significant amount of time at this episode nonetheless. He’s there to learn how to combat White Walkers, and the time devoted to his story line suggests he may become an important storytelling device for us to brush up on our White Walker history this season, but he’s being diverted — and kept out of the restricted section of the library — by cleaning up people’s shit and weighing their inner arteries for record.

The information he gathers is from a stolen book and as he begins to write Jon, I’m still bothered by all he seemingly doesn’t know about all that’s happened since he left Castle Black and how or if it matters to his story.

Jon has died, come back to life, replaced himself as Lord Commander and retaken Winterfell with his long-lost sister Sansa, and the Dragon Queen has, in fact, come.

There’s no shortage of symbolism attached to Dany’s return to Dragonstone. We’re caught up in a 10-minute tracking sequence at the end of the episode, as her boat hits land and she walks into and through a deserted castle, through the throne room and into the room with the stone table where Stannis spent bunches of time drawing up battle plans. It’s incredible how vast and beautiful the castle looks as Dany makes her way through it, compared to all the time Stannis occupied it in practical darkness.

The calming sequence, which includes a moment in the throne room when Missandei holds Grey Worm back from approaching Dany as to let the queen experience each section of this walk on her own, ends with Dany at the head of the stone table.

“Shall we begin,” she asks, her closest advisers standing around the room — a significant quotation before the credits roll, suggesting in a larger context at the end of a calculative season premiere that action will move much more swiftly this season than in past.

Stray movement

. . . . Jorah Mormont has gone to the Citadel in search of a cure for greyscale and appears to be losing that battle from his enclosure. He frightens Sam, who’s there to tend to the sick people of this particular wing, by reaching his arm out after him and asks if “she” (Dany) has come yet.

. . . . The Hound in fact joined the Brotherhood Without Banners, which returns for shelter overnight to the home where he and Arya stayed a night before he murdered their hosts the next morning. There, he sees the light in the flames — White Walkers breaching the Wall.

. . . . Bran and Meera arrive at Castle Black.

. . . . Arya finds Ed Sheeran singing and camping with a group of soldiers somewhere along the road in the Riverlands.

5 thoughts on the Emmy nominations or non-nominations

1724_McCarthy_Mothers_Day_Monologue_AIR_038Sad isn’t it — the Emmy nominations are the first thing since March that I’ve chosen to comment on using this blogging platform. I’ve seen at least 10 movies since The Edge of Seventeen I’d like to review soon. I let all of Girls‘ final season blow by without weighing in — one of my two or three favorite shows of all time. Yet, here I am again. It’s the Emmys, the academy that completely ignored Girls and its terrific final season, save a few guest appearance and music nominations.

Therein lies my greatest beef. These are a few of my other thoughts:

For guest actress in a comedy series

Is Carrie Fisher a wild card candidate for a post-humous award? Possibly. But Melissa McCarthy. Her guest-starring turn as Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, on SNL shook up the world. The first of her four Spicer sketches was one you knew was the stuff of legends as you were watching it — and ripe for an award. Also seeing reports that Spicer’s days in the White House are limited, there may not be another opportunity for the Emmys to properly distinguish her performance.

For lead actress in a limited series or movie

A play-the-odds predicament. Six nominees. Four shows. Forget who’s most deserving. Will same-show nominees Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, of Big Little Lies, and Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, of Feud, take votes from one another? That could improve the odds for Felicity Huffman and Carrie Coon.

For lead actress in a drama series

The Crown, with Claire Foy, was my favorite new show of the year. Tales of the British monarchy, what can I say, they’re my muse, and The Crown was seriously terrific. But my wife and I are watching The Handmaid’s Tale. We have to rest a week between episodes, it’s that daunting and that good. It’s impossible to me that Elisabeth Moss doesn’t win this Emmy. She’s paid her dues — six nominations for Mad Men, one for Top of the Lake. Nothing to show for it. Until now.

For supporting actress in a comedy series

I’m a fan, so it’d be pleasing to see Vanessa Bayer exit SNL with an Emmy; though, I’m not so sure she’s be the top pick from SNL contenders in this category (Hi, Kate McKinnon). Also, where’s Jemima Kirke’s nomination for her part in Girls? But someone not nominated can’t win, so for goodness sake give the thing to Anna Chlumsky already.

For outstanding comedy series

Write-in for Girls.