Three words closed out last week’s season premiere of Game of Thrones. Three words to set up the season ahead.
In the war-room at Dragonstone, Daenerys turns to her retinue and says ‘Shall We Begin”?
In ‘Stormborn’, the Dragon Queen begins to lay plans to reclaim the Seven Kingdoms and sit on the Iron Throne. But by episode’s end, it’s very obvious that this will be NO walk in the park.
But first, we find Daenerys confronting Varys and the question of his ‘loyalties’. After all, he supported the Mad King and then Robert Baratheon and now her. She’s savvy enough not to buy his courtly platitudes.
“If he dislikes one Monarch, he conspires to crown the next. What kind of servant is that”?
But the Spider is just as direct in his response; making it clear he will always put the needs of the people before the needs of a mad king or an indifferent monarch.
“ If you let me live, I will serve you well. I will dedicate myself to seeing you on the Iron Throne because I know the people have no better chance than you”.
But Daenerys demands more that just his loyalty. She wants his honesty, something that very few rulers really ever want.
“Swear this to me, Varys. If you ever think I’m failing the people, you won’t conspire behind my back. You’ll look me in the eye, as you have done today, and you’ll tell me how I’m failing them”.
Talking of questionable loyalties, who should turn up at Dragonstone? The Red Woman, Melisandre. She sees nothing wrong with jumping ship and abandoning the Stannis cause. She’s seeing the ‘end game’.
“The Long Night is coming. Only the Prince who was promised can bring the dawn”.
And apparently in High Valerian, that can mean prince or PRINCESS. But Melisandre is making no promises that Daenerys is The One.
“Prophecies are dangerous things. I believe you have a role to play. As does another. The King in the North. Jon Snow”.
She advises Daenerys to send for Jon. To hear what he has to say and describe what he has seen of the Wight Walkers.
On this, she gets the backing of Tyrion. He liked Jon (way back in season one) and trusted him. As he points out:
“The Lannisters executed his father and conspired to murder his brother. He has even more reason to hate Cersei than you do”.
The old ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend’ argument. Well played, Tyrion.
Sansa is dead against Jon going off to meet with Daenerys. She senses a trap and of course, she challenges him (again) in front of all his supporters.
But he holds firm. He will make the journey to Dragonstone, where there are dragons and Dragonglass. To placate her, he leaves the North in Sansa’s hands until he comes back. A smug looking Littlefinger watches and smiles.
Someone stab him. Please.
The nearest we get to that is Jon trying to strangle him in the crypt after he professes his love for Sansa. If only Jon squeezed a little harder. Oh well.
The problem is, with Jon heading south we won’t get the Stark family reunion that we’ve been hoping for. Arya runs into Hot Pie (season one companion) who tells her Jon is alive and well and is now King of the North.
She abandons her plan to kill Cersei (for the time being) and turns her horse northwards. A long the way, she makes camp in the snow.
Her horse is nervous. It’s not Wight Walkers she’s encountered, but a wolf pack. It’s Nymeria, her direwolf.
“I’m going north, girl. Back to Winterfell. I’m finally going home. Come with me. Come with me”.
And it’s heartbreaking. The last piece of her childhood disappears as Nymeria leads her pack away.
Speaking of Direwolves; has anyone seen Jon’s lately? Maybe the budget doesn’t run to multiple direwolves in each season.
In King’s Landing, Cersei is very much aware of the threat she’s facing and it forms part of her strategy to convince the remaining Lannister supporters to stay true to the cause.
She plays up Daenerys’ reputation for cruelty in Essos. She warns them the Unsullied will wreak
while the Dothraki horde will rape and pillage their way across the Seven Kingdoms.
Jaime takes up the argument when he offers to make Lord Randall Tarly (Sam’s father) his ‘ranking General’ if he abandons his alliance with the Tyrells.
“You have to make a choice. Do you fight with us or the foreign savages”.
We then cut away to Cersei and her creepy Maester in the dungeons below the Red Keep, where King Robert stored the skulls of the Targaryen dragons.
It’s here that he unveils the Westerosi Weapon of Mass Destruction: a giant crossbow that has the power to bring down one of Daenerys’ dragon children.
Meantime, in the Citadel, Samwell decides a bit of book reading will help him cure Ser Jorah Mormont of Grey Scale. Defying the Archmaester, who’d decided Jorah was a lost cause, Sam gets to work.
“My name is Samwell Tarly; sworn brother of the Night’s Watch. I knew your father. I was with him when he died. You’re not dying today, Ser Jorah”.
And he begins to cut away the Grey Scale scabs in a scene almost as stomach turning as last week’s ‘emptying-of-the-chamber-pots. Poor Sam, he gets all the crap jobs. Literally.
At Dragonstone, Daenerys resists pressure to descend on King’s Landing and instead announces they will lay siege to the city with the Martell and Tyrell soldiers.
The Unsullied and The Dothraki will be deployed to Lannister heartland to capture Casterly Rock. It’s Tyrion’s plan and Tyrion is one of many who have sought to advise/control/manipulate the Queen.
But now she gets advice from one of the astute players of the Game of Thrones: Lady Olenna Tyrell.
“The Lords of Westeros are sheep. Are you a sheep? No. You’re a dragon. Be a dragon”.
It’s a nice moment. And nice moments don’t come around very often.
Although Grey Worm and Missendei have a ‘nice’ moment as they bid each other farewell. He’ll be heading to Casterly Rock and she’s staying at Dragonstone.
And the Internet goes into meltdown as they GET IT ON. Yes, he’s a eunuch. But they make it work.
It could have ended there. The credits could have rolled and we’d be happy to wait until next week to see what happens.
Instead, GoT unleashes a spectacular battle scene at sea. Daeny’s fleet is ambushed by Euron Greyjoy and what unfolds is a bloody and ferocious five minutes.
The fleet is destroyed. Presumably the Unsullied and Dothrakis perish at sea. Two of the Sand Snakes are dead. Yara Greyjoy is being killed by her uncle. And what does Theon do?
He becomes Reek again and runs away. He jumps into the sea as Euron laughs manically.
Tyrion’s plans to capture Casterly Rock have come to nothing. The first battle in the war for the Throne has been lost. Everything has changed.
Where does that leave us? The playing field has been levelled. Daenerys has dragons. Cersei has a way to kill them. Jon has an army of Wildlings. Will they tip the balance?
We shall see.