A few years back Lady C and I were invited to a casual house party in Los Angeles.
I didn’t feel like going.
The host of the party was this very polite and soft-spoken finance executive and I had visions of having to have to make a bunch of small talk with people I didn’t know and force polite laughter and generally socialize when I didn’t want to socialize. It was also one of those nights where you just really, really want to stay in.
But Lady C worked with the finance exec on projects from time to time and said that he was a really good person. So we went.
I braced myself for a lot of accounting references.
Little did I know, but the finance exec was also worried about throwing a good party, and so he hired a professional magician to come in and entertain the guests.
It began super low key. At first the magician was just kind of hanging out and doing basic stuff for one or two people. But as he kept going, and doing more elaborate tricks, a crowd began to form, the way it does around really dynamic street performers. Before we knew it, the music had been switched off, and everyone at the party was just standing around watching this magician blow our collective minds.
The magician’s name was Chris Korn. I know because I asked him for a card afterward in case I too, needed to throw a kick ass party.
I remember being seated on this sofa, sitting all the way forward on it, as Chris Korn sat across from me with only an ottoman in between us. And he was doing some mind-blowing magic.
I don’t usually enjoy magic.
It’s because I’m a bit of a control freak and because I dislike the feeling of not being in the know. This magician is clearly fleecing us and I’m staring at his hands — inches away — and I can’t for the life of me understand how the hell he’s doing it.
He did these phenomenal coin tricks. Coins disappearing in front of your eyes and you know it’s sleight of hand but you cannot track it for the life of you.
And then he did this thing where a woman signed her name on a playing card and he shuffled the deck and showed her the cards and then some other party-goer had to pick a random lemon from a bowl on the kitchen counter and a third person cut the lemon open and there was the lady’s signed playing card folded up in the middle. And the people that helped him cut and get the lemon were friends of mine, so they weren’t somehow plants of his. It was just excellent.
And though I could have opted to withdraw and bah humbug the whole production, I didn’t.
Instead, I chose to just release any of myself in the exercise, release my need to understand and my need to control and my need to feel intelligent, and just give over. I allowed myself the gift of just letting go and enjoying it.
* * *
That’s pretty much where I am with ‘Game of Thrones’, season seven.
I’ve been recapping this show for a while now, and because I try to look at everything in great detail, a natural delusion I might have is that I know more about the show.
I might convince myself that my opinions about the show matter.
In the end, we watch because it’s enjoyable, and you come here to read these recaps because, hopefully, there’s some value to it. But they exist in completely different spaces. ‘Game of Thrones’ is my favorite show of all time because it happens to tick off check boxes for me that other shows generally don’t.
It’s my favorite show of all time because of the fall of Ned Stark.
And Jon and Mance.
And Jon and Ygritte climbing the Wall.
And the Battle of Blackwater Bay.
And the rebirth of Jon Snow.
And everything Night’s Watch.
And everything North of the Wall.
And everything Ygritte.
And everything Davos.
And everything Brienne.
And everything Tywin.
And everything Sandor.
And everything Varys.
And everything Tyrion.
And everything Jon.
It’s my favorite show because of the Battle of the Bastards — Jon Snow brandishing Longclaw in the face of certain death in the form of Ramsay’s heavy cav: when all is absolutely lost.
Until, somehow, some way, it isn’t.
It’s my favorite show because of the best odd-couple twosomes I’ve ever seen on the small screen.
Arya and the Hound.
Jaime and Brienne.
Tyrion and Jorah.
Tyrion and Bronn.
Jaime and Bronn. Hell, anyone and Bronn. Fucking bad poosi and Bronn.
It’s my favorite show because of characters that I truly care about, and have since I met them, like Arya and Varys and Davos and Bronn and Tormund and Tyrion and Maester Aemon and Brienne and Ser Barristan and Lady Mormont and the Queen of Thorns and Ned and Robb and Sam and Ygritte and Oberyn and Cat.
I never imagined how much I’d come to revere and admire Kit Harrington’s Jon Snow. I never thought I’d get past the hair. But boy, have I ever.
I never thought I’d find myself liking or in any way relating to Jaime Lannister. But I do. I actively root for him, prick that he is.
I never thought I could relate to Stannis and his blind self-importance, but I did. Until he scorched his own child.
I never thought I could be as low as the Red Wedding made me feel or as high as the moot where the North rallies around Ned Stark’s bastard.
“I’m a bastard.”
Those of us who love the show can read that and actually hear Jon Snow’s voice. This is a cultural phenomenon and I’m captivated by it.
I’m not interested in comparing it to other shows the way many people want to. “Yeah, but it’s not as good as ‘The Wire’.” You can’t win these arguments with people because I like a supernatural element to my fiction and while ‘The Wire’ is outstanding, it didn’t have nearly enough zombies and dragons and Red Priests raising people from the dead. You show me a resurrected Stringer Bell eating flapjacks at an IHOP and we’ll talk.
‘Game of Thrones’ is a gift that has been giving for season after season. Raising my temperature with people like Joffrey and The Mountain and Cersei and Littlefinger and Ramsay and making me hope against hope that there was some sense, some order to this fascinating world that George R. R. Martin created. That my people would end up alive.
And maybe, after all is said and done, that my people will end up, somehow, alright.
We’re off book now, in season seven.
Hoooooo boy are we ever off book. And now I’m starting to see people saying “this show sucks.” I’ve seen many a recapper grow pissy about a show as it fades before their eyes. I’ve seen recappers feel slighted by the dip in quality or a lapse of reason, but in the words of Arya to Ned, that’s not me.
I’m going to love this show until the second it ends and I’m going to appreciate it for some of the best casting and performance and worldbuilding and cinematography and score and scope and artistic vision I’ve ever seen.
And the lore. The house sigils and mottos and the histories. I get chills when I hear the Rains of Castamere and The House Stark Theme. And they’re made up! Tywin never executed everyone in House Reyne. It’s made up. But you’d never know it the way my body reacts. You’d never know it based on the flood of emotions that come rushing into my mind when I hear those anthems. It’s a magical, other-worldy deliverance.
So if you’re a “this show sucks now” person looking for an accomplice, you won’t find one here.
That said, while I intend to treat ‘Game of Thrones’ with reverence, I’ll also take it to task when I see poor choices.
I’m not sure ‘Game of Thrones’ has ever done race properly.
It frequently does women poorly.
It sometimes goes too far with violence.
In trying to achieve a quantum singularity with the original intent, it sometimes loses sight of a modern responsibility to limit the imagery of violence against women. A brutal world must show brutality. But sometimes the line can be difficult to toe. And that line moves in subtle ways.
It sometimes thinks it can substitute amazing breasts for plot.
Some characters blow.
Frankly, I’m not sure any show will ever be able to go toe-to-toe with ‘Game of Thrones’ in the perfect breasts or floppy wieners departments.
It’s not perfect by any means, and when it missteps, I’ll jauntily rip it a new one. But it all comes from a place of adoration. If it hadn’t already delivered so much, I’d never expect so much.
This episode, for example, I’m going to basically roll up into a wet rat tail and snap some fools in the ass with it. While much of this week was good, a high percentage of the remainder was a maelstrom of urine.
But it’s okay.
In the words of Daenerys Stormborn, “shall we begin?”
We start out with the Khaleesi herself, stuck in Dragonstone with no WIFI and no cable TV. We have a previously-ons, which roll right into the main title theme. No cold open.
Daenerys was born on Dragonstone, but it doesn’t feel like home to her.
Hiyo! Looks like someone got a little too comfy in the tropical hunting latitudes of the Dothraki, where the pungent smell of steaming horse chestnuts filled the air for miles in every direction.
If grownups stomped like angry children, Daenerys would surely be opening this episode a la Veruca Salt:
“I. WANT. TO. RULE. THE. SEVEN. KINGDOMS. RIGHT. NOW!”
But she can’t.
Because there’s a big-ass storm going on. Just like the day she was shot out of her mom’s dragon cannon. Tyrion remembers that day. Varys remembers that day.
Mongrels barking up a cacophony all over King’s Landing! A storm just like this. That’s how she got her name. Stormborn. But isn’t that like the 1% to think naming someone ‘Stormborn’ because they were born in a storm is clever. I’m sure that elsewhere during that storm, a pig farmer’s wife pushed out a baby and they didn’t name it Fred ‘Stormborn’ Pigfarmer. Because they’re not up their own asses like rich, self-important douchenozzles.
“She was born during the Staorm, M’lord!”
“Then we shall call her: STORMBORN.”
“Ooooooh, yer a clever one, M’lord! Because there was a Storm and during it she was Born, eh?”
“I see what you did there. Very clever. Very clever.”
“Yes, I know. That will be all.”
In this case, the father wouldn’t have named her that, because he was already staring at the business end of Jaime Lannister’s peacekeeper in his gullet. It also wasn’t her mother, Rhaella Targaryen, because Daenerys killed her at birth, like all dragons. So it was probably some second tier lord. Pffff.
Did you know that Rhaella Targaryen, Daenerys’ mumsie, was also her aunt? I didn’t know that. And her dad was also her uncle? Just like Joffrey! And Tommen and poor Myrcella.
The Mad King would force himself on his own sister and Jaime Lannister, a sworn knight of the Kingsguard, would just listen outside the door helplessly. Man alive! Imagine the conflicted emotions of enduring that work environment and then going home, having a nice mutton lettuce and tomato sandwich and then knocking up your own sister thrice.
So Daenerys’ older brothers are Viserys and Rhaegar. By the time she’s born, Rhaegar has been killed, but not before he knocks up Lyanna Stark with fan fave Jonathan Snoo. Lyanna, of course, dies right after childbirth because dragons kill their mudders. Jon Snoo grows up in the Stark household, and endures a great deal of shame. But it’s all worth it because many years later, he gets to go down on a Wildling girl in a cave north of the Wall.
Now, we haven’t officially determined that Jon Snow is a dragon, because in one episode he was lighting candles on a birthday cake for Bran and went “oooh!” because he touched something hot. The rule isn’t that fire doesn’t ‘sting a bit’ to a dragon. It’s that fire can’t KILL a dragon. Let’s stay on point.
We know he’s a Targaryen. Half-Targaryen. Half Stark. Heck of a cocktail.
Daenerys is 100% Targaryen. Immediate family Targaryen, bro/sis Targaryen, where loonies are made.
And that leaves one dragon unmanned. One Targaryen dragonrider yet to be unboxed. The eldest living Targaryen who isn’t yet a Targaryen but in my mind will be outed as a Targaryen.
If you’re a book reader, you may remember that Ser Barristan Selmy recalls the Mad King being very bawdy about Joanna Lannister when she married Tywin. Of course I don’t personally remember this because I didn’t read the books. I just cheated and looked online.
But what if, at some point while Tywin was Sex-Waxing his sparring staff, the Mad King was Sex-Waxing his wife?
But you suspect, Tywin. You suspect.
That’s why you flat out refused to give your only living non-Kingsguard son The Rock.
Not THAT Rock fucking Sean Connery!
And what if Joanna actually gave birth to Daenerys’ brother? Her OLDER brohan, no less.
And not to pee in Dany’s Italian Wedding Soup or anything, but I’m preeeettttty sure that the Older Targaryen is the one who gets the Iron Throne first.
So, yeah. Might have to reel that Mad Queen ‘I’m born to rule’ thing back a smidge.
Not having read the books, I don’t even know if this is possible.
I don’t know. But some Targaryen managed to woo and bed (I hope I hope) Joanna Lannister. And she died giving birth to Tyrion. The final dragon. That’s why he’s always been fascinated with dragons and why he could walk up to them and hang with them and watch Six Feet Under with them and do shrooms with them. Because he’s a dragon. And game rekonize game.
I like to think that with the very limited time we have left in the show, the best way for Tyrion and Jon to find out what they are is to be trapped somewhere that’s on fire and be burned alive.
Except they won’t be.
Because fire can’t kill a dragon.
And in that moment, it all becomes clear. No further explanation needed. No need to rely on Useless Bran or wait for Meera to drag him all the way through the snow of the North and the muck of the Riverlands to find a solitary godforsaken raven. They would just know. And they would presumably chest bump and smile and yell holy shit and then ride dragons.
Imagine waking up with your best friend and you realize in a split second that you’re actually related and you both magically have jet skis that can fly and kill zombies. Like that.
That’s all I’m holding out for. Jon and Tyrion and Dany in Blue Angels military formation, crop dusting the Army of the Dead with magma hellfire and witty barbs of mockery. Like Tyrion could blast a whole rank of charging zombies and yell “DOWN IN FRONT!” as the whole front rank falls down and melts and Jon could point at him from atop the other dragon like Quagmire and be like WHOOOOO HOOOOOOO! YOU ROCK, UNCLE. And maybe there’s some Led Zeppelin playing. Is that too much to ask?
And maybe, just maybe, not being the on-ly-fuh-king-dra-gin might chill Dany a little. She might pull the self-important pole out her ass and live a little.
But before we get there, we have to get Daenerys off of Dragonstone: Quetzalcoatl’s Carriage House.
“Not too many Lions” Dany says, studying the limited edition ThinkGeek Game of Thrones home game that Stannis conveniently left behind. Varys gives her a brief strategic summary while Tyrion and Missandei look on. Behind them, an ever vigilant Grey Worm stands at attention. They’re in the Great Game now, and the Great Game is terrifying. This isn’t Essos. Someone could attack at any minute, and Grey Worm stands at the ready. This sort of institutional hyper-vigilance will surely serve them well in the coming minutes.
But it’s raining and everyone has cabin fever and you guys know what happens when mom can’t do her shopping or watch ‘HGTV: Westerosi Barns’.
She verbally abuses someone.
Do you ever get the feeling that no matter how much you want to like and root for Daenerys, the writers try desperately to stop you?
It’s like at some point in the writer’s room someone was like
“hey, yo, like have we ever addressed the fact that Varys was King Bob’s spymaster and sent assassins to kill Dany and shit?”
And someone else was like
“shit! We forgot about that. Well, let’s just handle it at the beginning of episode 2.”
“And how should we have Dany handle it?”
“In the worst, bitchiest, most judgemental and ignorantly spiteful way possible.”
“Okay, cool. I’ll write that.”
And that’s what we got. This checkbox. This scratched out line-item on a to-do list. And so begins the new Pajiba series…UM, BUT. Where we point out the fucking OBVIOUS.
So yes, Dany had to somehow address the fact that Varys has worn many hats for many rulers.
UM, BUT they’ve been prepping and sailing ON THE SAME FLAGSHIP for like two years. You think at any point in that voyage, maybe one night while Dany was tipsy on grog and Varys had just lost all his Faceless Man coins in a game of poopdeck five card stud, she couldn’t have nudged up against him and been like “speak to me eunuch. WTF, hoss?”
And maybe this could have been handled with more grace?
Because when I look at the true motivations for every major player left on the show, Dany doesn’t have a foot to stand on compared to the Spider.
From where I stand, only Jon and Varys truly have a selfless desire to help people. Dany is the Marcia Brady of the Targaryens. Me me me!
But let’s take a moment to just appreciate Varys’ speech in the face of such a poorly timed and needlessly contentious threat ceremony from Daenerys:
“Incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty. As long as I have my eyes, I’ll use them. I wasn’t born into a great house. I came from nothing. I was sold as a slave and carved up as an offering. When I was a child I lived in alleys, gutters, abandoned houses. You wish to know where my true loyalties lie? Not with any queen or king, but with the people. The people who suffer under despots and prosper under just rule. The people whose hearts you aim to win. If you respect blind allegiance, I respect your wishes. Grey Worm can behead me or your dragons can devour me. But if you let me live, I will serve you well. I will dedicate myself to seeing you on the Iron Throne because I choose you. Because I know the people have no better chance than you.
So then Dany is like:
“that’s a good speech — just promise me that you’ll always be that dude and you’ll tell me if I’m trashing my constituents.”
And it’s like whew! Okay Dany is cool. She gets it. This is all gonna work out! Varys is like, hell yeah I can promise that. Piece of cake.
So we’re all good. Whew! Tyrion exhales for the first time in six minutes.
And then Dany says that she also has a promise. That if he ever conspires against her she’ll burn him alive.
Ho! Power trip much? Dragon humblebrag? You kind of suck, Dany. You kind of suck. Is it just the ghosts of Stannis and Melisandre in the war room? What’s with the burning people alive shit, lady? Are you your father’s daughter? Yeesus. You sound like the Red Woman.
Grey Worm is like “there’s a priestess from Ashai here to see you.”
Dany is thrilled for the company. And she and Varys are cool now that he knows she’ll toast him like a dollar store marshmallow if he ever fucks up. There’s no corporate culture like imminent death corporate culture! It’s how the pyramids were built, right? Five million pieces of hand-carved limestone can’t be wrong! Way to play it like a fucking man, pretend you’re solving something you aren’t solving and bring zero natural female intuition to a pretty basic interaction, Sheryl Sandberg.
The gang hurries downstairs.
UM, BUT Melisandre is dry as dirt. Not a droplet of water on her 800 year old hair. Apparently the Lord of Light bakes her shit from the inside. She can’t get wet.
“How is it that you were able to traverse the storm, my lady.” Tyrion might have asked. But didn’t.
“You must have a kick ass ship. Where is it? Can we borrow it? Where’s your crew? How did you get here? How did you survive a Stormborn-level perfect storm? Who does your hair? How do you keep your skin looking like that? Where the hell is Ashai?” Anyone might have asked, but didn’t.
Now color me suspicious if you must, but if I’ve spent years building a team and carting them across the known world and setting up shop on an Aztec pavilion during hurricane season, here’s what I’m going to do:
A) Be suspicious of anyone who magically arrives out of the blue when I haven’t invited them.
B) Not shit on my top advisors in front of someone I just met.
Varys is like “she used to work for Stannis.” And Dany is like: “well I just pardoned some deceitful assholes on my own team who backed the wrong racehorse.”
Oh, thanks, there, The Fucking Breaker of Chains! You gotta air our dirty laundry with guests? What in tarnation?
And Daenerys is like “The Lord of Light doesn’t have many followers in Westeros, does he?”
And Melisandre is like “Not yet.”
Yeah no shit The Red Lady! Because you burned anyone who might have converted. And you burned their families and their friends. Why, not all that long ago you and Stannis had a burning party on the very beach where Daenerys landed and made a kindergarten handprint in the sand. Not yet! Yeah, no shit not yet.
Now here’s where the conversation gets extra crispy.
Daenerys asks “what does your Lord of Light expect from me?”
(To rule the seven kingdoms I presume? Please stroke my ego. I haven’t packed my entourage with enough groveling sycophants!)
Melisandre quotes the prince who was promised in High Valyrian. What a snob the Red Woman is.
Oh, when I quote scripture, I only do so in High Valyrian!
Well guess what, Mel? The people in that room besides Dany are Varys, Grey Worm, Tyrion and Missandei and THEY ALL SPEAK HIGH VALYRIAN, HON!
Pfffff. Please. Please get over yourself.
“Only the prince who was promised will bring the dawn.” Dany repeats. “I’m afraid I’m not a prince.”
…And since I’m the alpha and the omega, all prophecies must therefore refer to me. I’m not going to bring the dawn! I’M GOING TO BREAK THE DAWN!
(Side note: How’s that wheel-breaking of the Westerosi feudal system coming?)
And then Missandei is like that noun has no gender in High Valyrian. Oh! Isn’t that convenient that the prophecy is in a fake language that no one can check? Okay fine so it’s prince or princess. Fine. Dany can go back to knowing that she’s the center of everything.
“Doesn’t really roll off the tongue, does it?” Says Tyrion.Wink wink. We know it’s dumb.
“No but I like it better!” Says Dany. “And you believe this prophecy refers to me?”
Since, y’know, it’s me.
Yeah, because she literally said ‘prince’ not twenty seconds ago. Just take a quick peek to see how many testicles you have on your body. More or less than, say, Varys?
Then you’re not a ‘prince’, are ya?
Melisandre then plays a little defense.
“Prophecies are tricky. You literally wouldn’t believe how many I’ve gotten wrong over the years. Girlfriend it would turn your hair blue. Someday if you don’t figure out that I’m a black magic sorceress from hell who pushes Naagloshiis out of my vajayjay I’ll tell you alllllllll about it!”
“But I believe you have a role to play.”
OHOHOHOHOHO! You’ve been cast in H.M.S. Pinafore as…let’s see here…sailor #3! Congrats!
But I’m Stormborn! Because I was BORN in a STORM!
I’m certain I must be Josephine, The Captain’s Daughter!
Uhhhh…let’s just double check here…nope! It says Josephine will be played by…Jon Snow, The King of the North.
And now we kind of see some trouble in paradise. Because Tyrion is like…Jon Snow? Ned Stark’s bastard?
UM, BUT when we left last season Jon was voted in by unanimous consent of all Nordic lords. Little Sam in Oldtown is at least 3. Euron built a trillion ships. You sailed across the world. You’re telling me in all that time you didn’t know what was happening in the North? You’re telling me that all this time you’ve been sending handwritten notes on Ale of the Month club packages to Roose Bolton?
What good is Varys if his little birds don’t chirp? How could none of you know what’s going on in the North? Did you have to have Ravens sent by ship from China? Melisandre can navigate in a hurricane and you can’t even subscribe to a basic news feed? What the?
Varys is then like “and why do you think the Lord of Light singled out this ‘Jon Snow?’
THIS Jon Snow? You seriously don’t know who Jon fooking Snoo is, Lord V? I was just singing your praises and now I don’t know why. Fucking dunce. This Jon Snow. Like it’s the first time you ever heard that name. I THOUGHT YOU WERE A FUCKING INFORMATION BROKER. I made a Dickon Tarly joke the other week and I’m not a goddamn Spider. How do you define the term ‘information’? If a Ned Stark and a Cat Stark and a Robb Stark and a Bran and Rickon Stark fall in the forest and no one is there to hear it, would an information broker maybe wonder who the next of kin is? Is Baelish the only person connecting the fucking dots here? What the hell?
Mel goes on to tell of his great deeds: saving the wildlings. Uniting the clans. I would have added that he slew the Magnar of the Thenns, but that’s just because I hate fucking Thenns. I notice that she conveniently leaves out the part where she rezzes him from the dead or where she admits that it was her in Ygritte’s body saying “you know nothing” or that he’s regarded as one of the finest practitioners of cunnilingus north of the Twins.
Big mistake, I think. Because Dany hasn’t felt the touch of a man since Daario, lo those many years ago. Because this has taken years. Little Samwise Gamgee Jr. is like 3 or 4.
Nevertheless, Tyrion vouches for Jon. He liked him. He trusts him. That was like episode three of GOT! Talk about a slow burn. I can honestly say that I’ve never heard of anyone vouch for anyone like that on the show. Not after that much time has passed. Goddamn, I enjoyed that moment. Tyrion genuinely likes Jon. That’s awesome.
Look how adorbs they were back then. Jon still couldn’t grow facial hair and Tyrion was still trying to look like a surfer. He still had all of his nose and no beard.
Here’s the part you may not remember: Tyrion tried to talk Jon out of joining the Night’s Watch. When Jon arrived in Castle Black he was immediately despised by the lowborns. He was young and arrogant and thought himself better than them. In addition, he was the only one with sword training and when they initially sparred in the Castle Black yard, Jon fucked a few of his fellow recruits up pretty good in front of their training officer, Alliser Thorne. Recruits like Pip and Grenn and Rast.
After that, those three found Jon in an armory room in the barn and put a knife to his throat when in walked Tyrion Lannister. He casually mentioned how their heads would look on a spike in King’s Landing and they left Jon alone. Jon commented about how everyone, even his own father, lied to him about what the Night’s Watch really was. Only Tyrion told him the truth. Tyrion then mentioned how Grenn was abandoned by his own father, and how Pip was caught trying to steal for a younger sister who hadn’t eaten in days. Jon began to relate to them more, and the next time Tyrion saw John in the yard, he was laughing with Grenn and Pip and teaching them how to fight. Tyrion was impressed, both with how Jon took his guidance and how Jon made quick allies of men who had sought to carve him up only a day before. When Tyrion left, Jon remarked that he was sad to see him go.
(Side Note: It does my heart so much good to think that the person who cast the deciding vote for Jon to become Lord Commander was his great great uncle. Goddamn, that’s a beautiful thing.)
And so, a powerful bond was formed between the two men. Melisandre suggests that Daenerys summon him. Tyrion agrees that “if he does rule the North” — and he can’t confirm it because apparently Dragonstone has been hermetically sealed for three years, he’d make a powerful ally.
The Unburnt concedes. Isn’t it nice when rulers listen to reason? Ahhhh.
“Very well,” says Daenerys. “Send a Raven North. Tell Jon Snow that his queen invites him to come to Dragonstone…”
Okay! Well that’s settled! Sweet. Who wants a Capri Sun? This is-
“AND BEND THE KNEE.”
You’re a psycho. I see. Shit.
CUT TO: THE NORTH
Kids shoot arrows into targets. No one smiling anywhere. Like I said, The North.
Sansa is reading the invite from Tyrion. Hot diggidy dawg that was a fast raven. Sansa worries that it’s someone trying to lure Jon into a trap.
“It might be one a them TRAP RAVENS.”
But no, Tyrion signed it with a code Jon would recognize. “Both of us had fathers who were cocks.”
Tyrion also forgot to mention the Bend the Knee thing. It was more like “Hey Big Jon! Johno! It’s your boy T-dog. Stop. Coalition of Equals! Cersei has WMDs. Stop. If you agree come hang with us. Stop.
Sansa is like “fuck that it’s too dangerous.”
Ser Davos snags the message from Sansa and parses it immediately. Remember like two seasons ago when he was stuttering past basic dipthongs? Now he’s like “Isn’t it charming that he casually mentions a Dothraki Horde?” Well possum on a gumbush, someone’s been practicing his reading. Somewhere the ghost of Shireen Baratheon smiles.
Then, Davos has a thought.
“Fire kills wights, you told me. What breathes fire?”
“Cersei after a few glasses of chardonnay. But seriously folks…”
“Shut up Sansa.”
“I give up.”
“Ohhhhh. Right. Damn, good call Ser D. Dragons. Nice.”
As the King in the North ponders this, we shoot over to King’s Landing. Cersei is giving a speech. It’s basically Fox News, Westeros.
“The Mad King’s dauwtah is approaching our beloved shores with a vast army of non-whites. Yes, you have all pledged your loyalty to Olenna, but did I mention non-whites? And they use the metric system! Just weigh that in your mind for a moment. What’s more important, a silly agreement you made an eternal blood oath about or the thought of having to someday possibly pay for health care and unemployment for dark-skinned people? Raise your hand if you’re ready to have your children listening to Rap music! I thought not!”
UM, BUT Cersei has no actual right to the crown. And are you fucking kidding me that everyone has just conveniently forgotten how Cersei came to power? This is Republican 101. Remember how the Mad King was? He burned individuals!
Yes, but you incinerated the entire ruling class of King’s Landing, your own uncle, daughter in law and nephew and caused your son to take his own life. You burned several hundred people all at once without so much as batting an eye.
At least the Mad King had fucking MADNESS to use as an explanation.
But that’s not the most bitter pill to swallow.
Because the lords are like “but she has dragons” and Qyburn is like wheeze:: wheeze:: we’re working on something!
To me that sounds like boooooolshit.
Kids did you clear the table?
“Um…we’re, um…working on it.”
If you have some sort of weapon prototype, maybe that’s the time to bust it out? I mean I don’t know. I’m no Gregory Hines in ‘Deal of the Century’ but that’s how I’d try to persuade people that we actually have something: by showing them. Fucking Qyburn you weaselly little shit.
But that’s not the most bitter pill to swallow, either.
That hardest thing to swallow is the idea that Olenna Tyrell, who we adore for her candor and her cunning, would embark on a path of rebellion without securing the absolute unflinching loyalty of her primary Bannerman. I’m no steenking book reader, but my understanding is that Horn Hill is a Spartan-like, militaristic house, and the primary supplier of elite soldiers to House Tyrell. Their motto is “First in Battle.” So we’re to believe that before commencing a civil war, Olenna didn’t chat her people up? She didn’t make sure that she had Randyll Tarly’s horcrux in her pocket? Come on.
And we’re to believe that a House or houses in open rebellion against the crown would send their head of house to a meeting with Cersei? Are you fucking shitting me?
Let’s put it in terms that are easier to understand.
Cersei is at war with House Stark. Cersei sends a raven to House Mormont and House Manderly and House Glover and House Umber and House Karstark and she’s like “hey I just want to chat.”
Do you think there’s a chance in hell that any of them show up? PUH-LEASE.
Because that’s an invitation to get murdered. But somehow the dimwits in the Riverlands are too fish-drunk to understand that Cersei is a banshee who might drink their soul like a smoothie right then and there?
Come on. Come on. Just meeting with her is treason to Olenna.
But the writers know this. Jaime hustles to Randyll Tarly, that big creampuff, and he introduces his son.
“Rickard was it?” Jaime asks.
That’s a little nod of the head to those of us who like Jaime and think Dickon is a dick.
Jaime then starts selling. What do I have to do you put you in a mint condition pre-owned camry today?
Hows about we make you the boss of all the armies?
And also Warden of the South?
Instead of you sucking House Tyrells dick they’ll be sucking yours.
And isn’t that the way it should be?
Don’t you want Dickon to be as big of a dick as you someday?
Look how well it worked out the last time we made an arrangement like this with the late Roose Bolton and his late son Ramsay! They both got to be the boss for a while!
But Randyll Tarly is a man of honor! He’s like:
“We’re not oathbreakers! We don’t kill people at weddings, motherfucker! I swore an oath to Olenna Tyrell! You spineless paramecium! HOW DARE YOU!
And Jaime is like:
Olenna Tyrell is a woman, and a liberal democrat who thinks you should send a percentage of your hard-earned sword money to NPR and the National Endowment for the Arts! And did I mention that she’s a hysterical feminist activist who is shrill and only thinks with her vagina and thinks women should have the right to get the same salary as men? She probably doesn’t even think it’s her responsibility to sexually please a man!
And Randyll Tarly is like okay fuck it, let’s kill her.
We’re in Jorah’s cell, where we see the extent of the scale. Jim Broadbent is shaming him for not cutting his own arm off immediately when it was infected. But oh well, his funeral. We find out that the greyscale won’t kill him for a decade or two, but his mind will be gone in a matter of weeks. Tough luck, fucker. You should have done the sensible thing and lopped your own arm off like any thinking person would do!
The archmaester’s bedside manner is borderline Vulcan. Sam takes notice and tries to give Jorah hope. Maybe this? Maybe that? Shireen Baratheon was cured as a baby…
But Jim Broadbent shuts him down. The scale is too far advanced.
“Were you a commoner I’d have you shipped to Valyria at once, to live out your life with the stone men. As an anointed knight I’ll allow you one more day.”
Hard core. Looks like the end of the line for old Jorah.
Time to make his peace and send his farewells.
The Red Keep
With that, we bounce over to Qyburn shooting a big harpoon into a stationery, petrified dragon skull. I’m okay with working demo, but don’t fuck up a historical artifact, Qyburn, you asshat.
Actually, I take that back. I kind of admire Qyburn.
First of all, he’s got one name. Like Cher or Pink or Beyonce.
Secondly, you may remember way back in season three, the Cleganes had left Harrenhal but not before slaughtering two hundred Northmen prisoners of war. Qyburn was among them, but they somehow missed his jugular when they slit his throat and he survived. Lannister bannermen tried to kill him, but he ends up being Cersei’s instrument.
And what an instrument he is! He’s like a one man band. Qyburn is Cersei’s nicotene. He cures what ails you. Hungry? Have a smoke. Full? Have a smoke. Angry? Have a smoke. Happy? Have a smoke. Horny? Have a smoke. Just had sex? Have a smoke. It cures what ails you. Qyburn is like that.
Need wildfyre to blow up several hundred people? Qyburn.
Need to repurpose Vary’s little birds into murderers? Qyburn.
Need to take out a Grand Maester? Qyburn.
Dead champion got you down? Qyburn.
Hey, how would we take out proverbial death from the sky? Qyburn.
Say what you want, but Qyburn shows initiative. We see how backasswards the Maesters at the Citadel are. Who are you going to back, the Maester Jim Broadbents of the world, Wallace and Grommiting their way through autopsies or a Qyburn? A man who wouldn’t take no for an answer! A man too progressive for the antiquated bullfrogs in Oldtown. A self-taught master of ballistae, zombification, incendiaries and psychological warfare. You give me twenty Qyburns and I’ll conquer Cincinnati by next Wednesday.
Obviously I’m kidding. No one wants Cincinnati.
With regard to the Windlance Qyburn built: that fucker better not shoot down a dragon. If you tell me that they have one every ten feet on the ramparts and every time Drogon flies over them they fire off a hundred harpoons at once, then okay MAYBE one of them hits him. That doesn’t mean it could kill him. He looked like a pincushion in Meereen and he lived to tell the tale. But factoring in distance and velocity and all the in-flight turning? No way should any projectile hit any flying dragon unless they’re part of a Patriot missile surface to air battery. The math is just against you.
Finally, the war council is in full session. Yara wants action! She’s a pirate! The Ironborn fuck first and ask for safe words later! But Tyrion has a really well thought out plan. He knows that Cersei is going to go Fox News on him and try to capture the racist vote. He says only Westerosi armies head to King’s Landing.
The Unsullied? They’re gonna take The Rock.
Not THAT The Rock!
Casterly Rock. Home of the Lannisters.
This plan is like a black hole in the room. Everyone stops and makes no noise. Because the prospect of actually destabilizing The Rock? It’s so amazing that no one can muster a single word. Everyone signs on. It’s looking good for Tyrion to finally stick it up Tywin’s butt, albeit posthumously.
Okey doke! Meeting adjourned. Except for you, Olenna. You stay after class.
Now I love Olenna, and maybe I can’t see past my own white male perspective, but I think the advice she gives Daenerys here is the worst thing she’s ever said. It’s not old school Olenna. Or rather it is, if she was talking to a young Lady Mormont or a young Magaery. But she’s talking to a young Cersei. She’s talking to a young Ellaria. Daenerys doesn’t rule with her head, she rules with her heart. You don’t light a match and toss it into a powderkeg.
And that’s when I started to kind of look back and review my feelings about Olenna. I adore her. I’ll always adore her. I think that type of character, the elderly player with a sharp mind, is so magnetic. She is above all the bullshit. She’s seen every trick everyone has and knows how to weather every storm.
But did she, in the end?
Because if you start to really tally the numbers, Cersei Lannister, a boor and a meathead compared to Olenna’s intelligence and worldview and strategic planning, beat her. Cersei soundly and completely destroyed her. Cersei wiped out her whole family line. There are no tomorrows for House Tyrell.
And so, if your team is only as good as your record, how truly brilliant and evolved is the Queen of Thorns? I know I want her to be this scion, but if Aristotle can be clubbed by a thug, how bright was he really?
With this misguided advice of Olenna’s, lumping Tyrion with all the men she’s known and suggesting Daenerys ignore all of them, Olenna is opening a color-by-number painting of a power-hungry lunatic. Dany needs support and reason and restraint. She doesn’t EVER need a reason to burn.
Look at the face on Stormborn when she gets that approbation from the Queen of Thorns. Finally, someone who realizes how special she is.
Ultimately, Olenna wants a dragon, because her interests involve vengeance and misery and not team building and instituting Pre-K for all children from Oldstones to Lemonwood. She doesn’t have time for negotiating. She needs fire.
But that’s the thing about lit fuses. They’re tough to blow out.
Elsewhere in Dragonstone, Missandei pops over to Grey Worm’s dorm to ask him if he was going to even say goodbye.
But she is his weakness, and we all know what that means.
Au revior, le ver gris. There’s a Lannister arrow with your initials carved into it.
After that, we get some sweet sweet nakedness, where Grey Worm does the Jon Snoo.
That’s nice. I really like both of these characters, but somehow the relationship just never clicked for me. Can’t say why. Individually, I love them. Together? Eh. I like Missandei so much that I actually felt guilty seeing her naked. Like, I have too much respect for her suffering to be allowed so see her so vulnerable or something. Also, if it’s me directing that, you’d get a look at where Grey Worms jumblies used to be. People needed answers in that scene, damnit!
My takeaway: Great asses all around. Did Missandei take her undergarments off before she arrived in anticipation of pulling the leather ripcord and having everything fall off her, or does she always rock it cowgirl style? Does anyone wear loincloths in this show or is it all a Game of Chafes?
So long, either Grey Worm or Missandei. We barely knew ye.
Samwell tries one last time to get Horace Slughorn to help Jorah, but the mission goes belly up.
You think that’s enough to keep Samwell Fucking Tarly, wielder of motherfuckin’ Huntsbane, down?
Then you on acid, son!
What Sam does here is the very definition of character. This is what ‘Game of Thrones’ is all about. Sam respected and admired Jeor Mormont, and was there when the Lord Commander was killed by traitors in the ranks. Sam’s sense of integrity and purpose is so powerful and so solid that he refuses to follow the rules of the various dowager countesses who run The Citadel like a bakers dozen of gutless bell ends. Damn the torpedoes!
You know why they outlawed the flay the shit off him technique? Because the maester that did it died.
But damn the torpedoes again because I’m Samwell Tarly, a sworn broother of the Night’s Watch and this is the only living soon of me Lord Commander. Yes, I may be committing suicide, but by all the bleeding trees in the Godswoods everywhere, this man will live.
Now then, just bite down on this pencil and I’m going to use a plastic knife from an EZ bake oven to kind of saw your flesh off your body. I’m not a maester yet, so I don’t have access to cool shit like milk of the poppy, but I did bring you a camping-sized canteen of A&W Root Beer. Just sip it. It has to last. Oh, and whatever you do, don’t make any noise. Because I’m technically not supposed to be flaying you. Okay! LET’S DO DIS!
I know people had a hard time with it. I loved it. Sam is awesome. And yeah, maybe the planning wasn’t ideal, maybe Sam could have tried to trade some maester shit for some narcotics in Oldtown, but Jorah might have fallen on his sword any second. Time was of the essence. And the sounds coming out of Iain Glen’s mouth? They made me believe. That was some damn fine acting.
Some people gagged about the edit from scale to chowder, but again, I loved it. Great transitions make for an interesting visual experience.
Thanks to Sam, Jorah is going to live. He’ll be a scarred husk, but he’ll live. And that means an emotional reunion with his beloved Khaleesi. Something to look forward to. Jorah has a knack for showing up at just the right time.
Hot Pie’s Restaurant and Bread Shoppe
I don’t know Arya anymore.
I don’t know if that IS Arya, honestly. Like yes, it looks like her and everything, but in so many ways she feels so different. It’s true that people grow and change all the time, but Arya’s transformation is striking. Hot Pie sits down and she’s grabbing shit and grunting and giving him one word answers and staring off past him as if he isn’t even there.
In many ways it feels positively Hound-ish. If you took that dialogue and gave it to the Hound, it would work without a blip. But it’s Arya, little Arya. Ned’s baby girl. Is is awesome how she’s survived and grown and transitioned from prey to predator? Hell yes!
But at what cost?
Did the real Arya die that day in the House of Sand and Fog? Is this just a shadow of the former Arya? Hot Pie is really taken aback. He’s like “what happened to you Arry?”
And she ignores the question and stuffs her face like a starving longshoreman.
It’s when Arya hears about Jon being alive that she seems even remotely human again. It was a great bit of acting there from Masie Williams and when she was in the saddle outside, trying to figure out which way to go and she turned North toward home? I cheered in my living room. Because spending that amount of time at a constant 11 on the rage and murder and vengeance scale has to take a huge toll on you. I just want to see her back at Winterfell before all semblance of who she was and every iota of her innocence is gone forever.
That’s why the scene with Nymeria stung so much. Because Nymeria knew it was her, somewhere in there, but she wasn’t really Arya any more. She had dipped her foot too far into the well of No One, and lost part of who she was forever. It made me think of the Golden Compass. Imagine if your own Daemon didn’t recognize you. Kind of chilling and excruciatingly sad when you think about it.
So Jon’s not going to Dragonstone. Both of his key advisors decided that in the last scene. No mas. Too dangereaux.
It’s been decided. Jon’s not going to Dragonstone.
Jon calls the lords to a Moot.
“I’m going to Dragonstoone me lords.”
Wha? What the?
“I never wanted this fookin’ job. I never asked for it. And none of you have even the foggiest concept about what’s coming to kill you and kill your children and kill your children’s children, and so I have to go. We need this Dragonstone, my lords!”
YOUR ABAONDONING YOUR PEOPLE! YOU HORSE’S ASS!
“Aye, abandoning them to you.”
OH. OH SHIT. CARRY ON THEN. AS YOU WERE, KING. NICE SPEECH. GOOD LUCK DOWN SOUTH! STEER CLEAR OF ANY WOMEN FROM VOLANTIS, AMIRITE YOU GUYS? RIGHT? LIKE ROBB? HEH HEH. DON’T WORRY I’VE GOT THIS UNDER CONTROL. TOTALLY. I’LL STAY RESPECT. RESPECTED. BY OTHERS. AND UM, GOOD LUCK. I’M THE RIGHT PERSON FOR THE JOB. SO OKAY.
He’s going to Dragonstone and he personally announces his trust for Tyrion Lannister. He has no idea that across the Known World, Tyrion Lannister has done the exact same thing. Publicly. Where no one lays their cards. It’s pretty amazing, the connection these two made.
I’ve gone into great detail about the myriad of ways I loove Jonathan Sneaugh. He is such an absolute hero. He never wants to have to deal with ANY of this HUGE, LIFE CHANGING SHIT, but it somehow always falls to him. He’s always Atlas with the world on his shoulders.
And my guess is that the history books will write about how his were the only shoulders strong enough to bear that particular weight.
He’s never in it for himself. He’s never seeking glory. He’s never trying to do anything but save lives and help people and protect his family. In fact, in the same way Dany showed more character than anyone else on the show by validating and promoting Tyrion to Hand of the Queen, Jon has done likewise for his sister.
Sansa has had a five cent head for most of her life, but there’s something in her recent maturity that leads me to believe that she’s finally ready to bear the mantle of rule. Let’s hope the various malware implanted by Cersei and Joffrey and Ramsay remain dormant and unused. Perhaps we can hope that the things she admires about Cersei are what will help her avoid becoming like her.
I watched that scene maybe ten times, and the second it crashes to the statue of Ned in the family crypt I get misty every time.
How we all long for the love and approval of our parents! How we all wish we had them around to bounce shit off of when they’re gone.
You think of this man, this world-changer. The King of the North, who killed the boy and became a man like the North has never seen, just like his great great uncle told him to.
And when he’s about to head South, all he wants is a quiet moment with his dad.
Until Fucking Petyr Baelish shows up, interrupting his meditation in the family crypt.
Now I don’t really know why Jon despises Littlefinger. They’ve had no real contact. But Littlefinger just rubs Jon the wrong way. Men like Jon? They are never fooled by men like Littlefinger. They never think “oh maybe he’s telling the truth.” Straight edges don’t trust liars.
Sometimes, like Ned, the liar runs the end around, and submarines the straight edge, but something tells me that Jon isn’t going to fall into that trap.
And you can see in this amazing matched shot just how much Jon is like his father (uncle) and what a great job Aidan Gillen does in matching his choking facial expressions. Great stuff.
Knowing that a snake is slithering around his family crypt, you’d expect Jon to pull Brienne or Tormund aside and be like “I have to go, but this asshole is really dangerous. Keep an eye on him while I’m gone.”
Regulators mount up and with a wave to Sansa, they’re gone.
Somewhere in the ocean
This is definitely the most-discussed part of this week’s episode and that’s because it’s the dumbest and most heartbreaking. Whenever you’re building something up in a story, you have to have a foil worthy of knocking it down, and if you don’t there are no stakes and no drama.
That’s why this show takes place during a period of immense upheaval and roiling turmoil. If it was the peacetime handshakes of King Kevin the Mild, no one would tune in because there’s no drama.
So we accept that the writers had to manufacture a huge fleet out of thin air because they didn’t have an adequate foil. Okay fine, we accept that.
But I’m not sure we accept this:
That’s some truly terrible television, fit only for people who feel comfortable with the over-the-top stylings of professional wrestling and reality television and comparably staged constructs of modern society.
But what’s behind it is a neolithic misunderstanding of what’s actually going on by the writers themselves.
So, let me get this straight:
Tyrion and Varys don’t know who the king of the North is.
Olenna doesn’t know her top general is meeting with Cersei.
Yara and Theon and every bright mind on the good guy team have no idea that a legendary buccaneer is roaming the seas with the biggest fleet ever constructed. (Like no fisherman gave them the 411?)
Dany never thought to just ride a dragon to scan the path of her fleet ahead of time?
Bran is in Castle Black but there’s no way to get a message to Winterfell because, presumably, there’s no maester?
A raven can get from Dragonstone to Winterfell with no problemo but we can’t get a rider on a horse from Castle Black to Winterfell to let Jon know his brother is alive?
And while the most plugged in people in the known world are fumbling around in the dark, Melisandre can ride unsplashed through a tsunami and Euron can not only know where the enemy fleet is, but attack unseen and himself board the one ship where Ellaria Sand is hiding?
Because while he was searching for treasure in Valyria all those years he made sure to keep up on the gossip about who was killing who on the other side of the planet in case he ever needed to hunt them?
So Varys has never HEARD of Jon Snow, but not only has Euron heard of the woman who poisoned Myrcella Lannister, he knows exactly where to find her on the open sea in a fleet of hundreds of ships, and which people to kill as opposed to capture, and that she’ll make a suitable prize for what she has done because somehow knows. For example, he knows which two sand snakes to kill and which one to capture, ostensibly to give her as a gift so Cersei can kill her in front of her own mother.
Whatever you say.
And I love Yara but come on! Fight better!
When we met Euron I understood he was a troll, but I didn’t realize that he was a Barristan Selmy/Peak Jaime Lannister level of fighter. He’s a superstar. While I certainly never liked the Sand Snakes, I was absolutely rooting for them. And here’s the thing: be good at your job or begone.
So everyone is talking about how the standard for trans people in the military is “can they do the job’. Period.
That’s also the standard we should hold the Sand Snakes to as well. You’re a whip fighter? Are you good enough to bring a whip to an Axe fight? You’re a spear fighter? Are you good enough to bring a spear to an Axe fight? In both cases, the answer was a clear no.
And it’s sad, because we heard that they were these legendary fighters. But Euron was too much for them. Way way way too much. It was never even close. And his twisted joy and bloodlust was disturbing. Certainly there’s an artistic question around the shot where the two Sand Snakes are displayed hung and stabbed on the bow of the ship. Does it do service to inform the brutality of the Ironborn, and in doing so, further the narrative, or is it the gratuitous imagery of a deeper misogyny? Is it necessary to stage the bodes that way to elicit a reaction that furthers the story in sort of a Conan the Destroyer graphic novel framing? Or is it just more run of the mill scumbag men once again abusing female imagery to further diminish it?
Like I said before, it’s a moving target. My gut says they missed it on this one.
But like an officer who is killed with his own service revolver, there is nothing more humiliating than being on the receiving end of your own weapon. How is Euron so much more talented than them that he kills each of them with their own primary weapon?
This is why Pilou Asbæk was cast. Now I get it. It was for this crazy berzerker death angel thing he has cooking. Makes sense and he’s great at it. I’d offer that it’s a horrible directorial and story choice, but if that’s what they’re asking him to do and be, he’s very good at that. Papa no like.
As for the Theon of it all? He probably did the right thing. Euron was just itching to slit Yara’s throat in front of him. If Theon had charged, Yara was dead. Honestly, Theon reminds me of the Pete Campbell character on Mad Men and I can’t stand either of them. I quit Mad Men in season one because I just didn’t want that Pete Campbell character in my life every week. I just don’t like people like him. They irritate me. So I wasn’t at all surprised when Alfie Allen masterfully transitioned back to Reek. I rewatched the whole series and on the second go-around I like Theon even less. His cowardice and galactic stupidity are even more readily obvious and I wouldn’t mind of he drifted away for good.
Yes, I’m happy that he saved Sansa, but I got no love for ya, boy. You can’t squeeze that kind of fear back into the tube.
As we crash to black, we know that Ellaria, her daughter and Yara are about to be subjected to some barbarism on the way back to King’s Landing. It’s almost worse that we have to imagine it because there’s no governor on the number of horrors my mind spins to. In the previews for next week we see Euron getting a hero’s welcome. Who are these people? Who is in Cersei’s court? It’s sick! She’s a mass murderer. Humans are fucking disgusting when you come right down to it.
My hope is that we get some drama around Bad Poosi.
Like Maybe Bronn ain’t having it. Or maybe Jaime will get to see Cersei’s hatefulness up close. Maybe there will be a schism of sorts. And what’s Cersei to do when Euron presents her with these gifts? Refuse him again?
No, she won’t be able to.
Which begs the question: what role does your brother-lover play in the court of the Corsair Madman Superstar? Jaime is no match at all for Euron these days. What’s he going to do? Who will he ally with when his sister kicks him to the curb?
All interesting quandaries.
No doubt they’ll have scintillating resolutions. After all, it’s Game of Thrones, and there’s plenty of tread left on those tires for us to have a really good time.
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