“It won’t be long till the fighting starts,” says Lord Tarly, Father of Sam, Friend of Olenna, and, in a week where we are reminded prophecies are tricky things, something of a soothsayer himself. Before we get to the actual fisticuffs – and the stabbing! So MUCH stabbing – though, much of “Stormborn” is taken up with various factions trying to consolidate and organise their teams for the war to come.
In Kings Landing, Cersei tries to recruit the unimpressed Tyrell bannermen, but with Tarly’s glorious “We’re not oath breakers, we’re not schemers. We don’t stab our rivals in the back or cut their throats at weddings” speech suggesting they might not be too keen on being recruited, Jaime falls back on a “Brexit! Stop the foreigners!” type argument which looks suspiciously like it might work. In art, as in life, I suppose. Sigh.
Team Daenerys, or at least Tyrion, is alive to the sensibilities of the “Westeros for the Westerosi!” brigade, however, and comes up with a plan to send the Martell, Greyjoy and Tyrell forces to Kings Landing, while Grey Worm and the Unsullied are sent quietly off to Casterly Rock on the basis that since we haven’t seen it in 7 seasons, presumably nobody in the rest of Westeros is watching it that closely and/or will care.
Before Grey Worm heads off into the night, however, he and Missandei come off the subs bench and score a couple of goals of their own (yes, that is a euphemism). With only 11 episodes to go, ever, I wouldn’t have thought there’d be quite so much time for these two to fill and I would frankly rather there hadn’t been – separately, I find each of them dull, and as a couple, they’re soporific – but hey ho. This particular pairing has a lot of fans, and with its season one-esque display of breasts and backsides, this particular episode might have won them even more.
While the quietest couple in the cast seek solace in each other, meantime, Dany sulks a bit and threatens Varys (who is more than capable of holding his own – TEAM VARYS FTW) with fire, and I wonder why it is people on this show keep choosing to follow someone so teenage and vicious as their supreme ruler. I don’t suppose I’ll be getting to select my own monarch at any point but, just in case there is anyone out there with aspirations to the title, please note that the promise of doughnuts is far more likely to win my undying love and loyalty than the threat of immolation.
This show has no such qualms – at the moment, anyway – however, as this week we find out the “Prince that was promised” might actually be a Princess, which fills the feminist in me with pride and the GOT viewer in me with dread because, FFS, Daenerys Stormborn, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, already thinks she has a divine right to rule, and now you’re telling her she’s even more special? Never mind crowning her Queen – there won’t be a crown in the Seven Kingdoms big enough.
Since last season hinted that the Targaryen madness hasn’t skipped a generation, though, I’m hoping this is a feint, Daenerys is a fake, and the real Prince is a King, the King in the North being an entirely different type of ruler. When he’s summoned by Tyrion to “bend the knee” to the Dragon Queen, neither Sansa nor Davos are too keen on the idea, and when Sam’s Raven makes it a foregone conclusion that Jon will go anyway, everyone’s apoplectic. (Except Littlefinger whose smirk remains firmly in place.) Jon seeking Sansa’s counsel in private first shows he has learned some lessons from last week, bless him, but Jon announcing he’s changed his mind without warning her shows he needs to learn some more. Still, the look of understanding that passes, along with the reins of Winterfell, between them when he tells her he’s leaving the North in her hands is – since I love them and I don’t want them to fight – significant and reassuring. Although not quite as significant and reassuring as Jon Snow almost killing that reptile Littlefinger with his bare hands. Violence is a bad way to settle your differences, kids. Unless it’s Littlefinger, in which case, carry on.
Of course, talk of violence brings me to Westeros’s assassin du jour Arya who somehow passes the week without killing anyone, reconnects with Hot Pie and his, er, hot pies, has some sort of existential crisis when she bumps into the long-lost Nymeria, and finally heads off towards Winterfell – which Jon has just left, natch. Remember when the Starks in this show kept just missing each other? I’m hoping we’ve moved on from that and she’ll meet him on the way. Ideally in less violent fashion than the Greyjoy family reunion, which might prove Lord Tarly right but still comes as something of a jolt at the end of this otherwise quiet but compelling (apart from the Grey Worm sex and Sam and Jorah’s horrible adventures in scale-scraping, that is) episode. Since we’re not going to blow the whole budget on the Greyjoys, the battle isn’t as heartstopping as Blackwater or Hardhome, and it does have a very studio-based apocalyptic rock video look about it, but the fireballs, blades and blood spurting everywhere – so much blood spurting everywhere – are pretty impressive nonetheless, and if it does for the unspeakable Sand Snakes, I’m down with it. Even if the whole gory business proves too much for Theon, who is living proof that what doesn’t kill you (unimaginable torture at Ramsay’s hands, unimaginable danger at Euron’s) does not, contrary to popular belief, necessarily make you stronger. Never mind Theon, not long to go now – another gripping episode, another week closer to the end.