Is anyone else having a hard time focusing while watching Game of Thrones these days? For once it’s not mentally juggling the various storylines and backstories and motives just to stay on top of the action. But this season my eyes are having difficulty adjusting to seeing so many huge characters in the same room! It’s like seeing two friends that you know from separate ways chatting on Facebook. It’s disorienting! And amazing!
Tyrion and Daenerys was one thing. Now it’s them, and Varys and Olenna and Yara and Theon AND Ellaria?! (Throw Grey Worm in there and try to name anything else you’ve ever seen with three eunuchs as main roles all in one room!) It’s no wonder Daenerys is getting antsy with all these major players to bounce tactical plans off of. Though she also seems to be displaying that earlier-season tendency of impatience, wanting everything right this very moment without consideration of the consequences. And I get it, now that she’s finally in Westeros she’s anxious to get things going.
She’s also feeling understandably dubious about Varys’ position in her council, considering the slew of kings he’s unscrupulously served under, including her father. But even when you’re tempted to think of Varys as just another self-serving social acrobat like Littlefinger, it’s important to remember that Varys has never been manipulative for his own personal gain. Daenerys doesn’t know that, of course, so she grills him on his flip flopping allegiances (including the touchy subject of who conspired to have her killed in Essos, and most likely Varys used his little birds to get to the wine merchant in season one) until he’s had enough, and offers this zinger: “Incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty.” One thinks immediately of Maester Pycelle. He goes on to admit that his true loyalties lie “not with any king or queen, but with the people.”
And then Dany toes that line between reasonable and ruthless as she so often does, and makes Varys swear to “look her in the eye” and tell her if he thinks she’s ever failing her people… with the condition that if he betrays her, she’ll burn him alive. Reasonable, ruthless.
Who better to follow-up a scene about fickle loyalties with than Melisandre?! She rode from Winterfell to Dragonstone after Jon banished her for burning Shireen alive. This is also after proclaiming he was the Prince Who Was Promised, after proclaiming it was Stannis for years, and now telling Daenerys she’s the Princess Who Was Promised, thanks to some deft translation skills from Missandei.
Melisandre is brash in her opportunism, but at least these days she’s willing to admit that “prophesies are dangerous things,” even if she spins the truth to tell Daenerys that Jon believes she has a part to play in the grand Lord of Light scheme. I’m pretty sure Jon barely knows who Daenerys is at this point, but at least Tyrion can vouch for him as a quality ally.
What Daenerys says next is quite telling: “Tell Jon Snow that his queen invites him to come to Dragonstone… and bend the knee.”
This makes the second command in as many episodes for Jon to bend the knee by a queen who supposes herself omnipotent. I like Dany, you like Dany, we all like Dany. But it’s hard to ignore this declaration as a comparison to Cersei. Daenerys has a lot of good guys on her side, but that haughtiness of hers can get her in trouble.
Especially if she doesn’t listen to the ONE person she’s appointed herself to listen to above all others. Yara, typical Ironborn, just tells Daenerys to take the King’s Landing with all their might while they still have it. The Iron Price for the Iron Throne, as it were. Ellaria has been out for blood since season four (for as much as she’s been in the show, which isn’t much) and wastes no time cutting Tyrion down with grievances about the respective deaths of Oberyn and Myrcella. “My greatest regret is that he died fighting for you,” she says to him. Ouch. (Let’s take another moment to appreciate how deep the seeds were sown on this show to get to that line.)
Daenerys echoes Tyrion’s advice earlier in the episode about not being “queen of the ashes,” but when Olenna comes out with the pithy directive “they won’t obey you unless they fear you,” it seems to speak to Dany’s very intuition. Olenna’s bloodlust is more reined in than Ellaria’s, but it’s definitely there. And considering Olenna Tyrell is up there with Tywin as the most cunning wordsmiths of Westeros, why wouldn’t Dany listen to her when she implores her to “be a dragon”? Isn’t that all that Dany wants to do, anyway? That Cersei comparison may become more prescient the longer she waits to take the Iron Throne.
Particularly when Tyrion’s entire plan just went up into smoke (sorry, it’s really hard not to use fire puns). The goal was to lay siege to King’s Landing after Yara and Ellaria sailed to Dorne and got their armies together, and also for the Unsullied to sail to Casterly Rock to take it from the Lannisters. That was an excellent plan that did not for a single moment take into consideration where in the Narrow Sea Euron Greyjoy was plotting. If anyone Yara should have known better. But more on that later.
Since the Unsullied are heading out for who knows how long, this seems as good a time as any to consummate Grey Worm and Missandei’s relationship. Or, not quite relationship, more than a silently-agreed-upon love. And… consummate? Well, I think we’re still not sure of exactly what Grey Worm has going down there, but it’s really besides the point. Even though sex scenes feel increasingly superfluous (which is weird to say for Game of Thrones), Grey Worm and Missandei’s love is one of the purest on the show. Both of them grew up as slaves, their bodies used in respectively horrendous ways until Daenerys came along. Having a well-rounded idea of how to love is not something either of them were taught.
Grey Worm calls her his “weakness,” explaining that the Unsullied training was meant to kill all the fear in him, but now he feels fear because of her. Fear of losing her, perhaps, or fear of something happening to either of them. The tragedy is that the fear (love) he feels now could trip him up in battle.
And who knows if he’ll even make it to Casterly Rock now that it seems the entire fleet Daenerys waited so long for has been taken over by Euron. The timelines on this show are so wonky it’s a waste of time to consider how this all happened, but if Euron wanted to get Cersei that “priceless prize” he must’ve known to head for Dragonstone. Maybe he got a lucky break bumping into Yara and company on their way to King’s Landing.
I think it’s safe to say at this point that the prize Euron wants to give Cersei is Ellaria. She who got back at the Lannisters by killing Myrcella after the Mountain killed Oberyn on behalf of the Lannisters after the Mountain killed Oberyn’s sister and children. Yikes. It’s a real shame the Dornish plotline lived and died with Oberyn in season four, I’m sure their cunning had more to offer the world. Who wants to put money on Ellaria dying the same way as Oberon?
And then there was Theon. I, unlike my boyfriend and my brother and most of the internet, thought Theon’s abrupt exit was tragic rather than maddening. Of course I get it. He had the opportunity to rise above his abuse and prove himself strong and capable. But let’s be real here: the most strength Theon has been able to muster since getting captured by Ramsay was pushing Myranda off the Winterfell balcony. He’s had several scenes in which it was made very clear that he has not recovered from the seven hells he went through as Reek, mentally or physically.
And if we’re considering his opponent in that moment is Euron, who’s salivating with adrenaline-filled excitement at taking over Yara’s fleet, Theon would never have beaten him. Theon was never a very capable warrior even at the height of his physical strength. So he bails. I’d like to think it was purposeful, but that may be giving him too much credit. He looked like he was suffering a PTSD flashback and couldn’t handle it, but it’d still be convenient to say that it was better if one of the Greyjoys didn’t get captured so he can report what happened to Daenerys. Let’s go with that.
It’s safe to say that Cersei will be thrilled with her present once Euron gets back to King’s Landing. She may even offer her hand in marriage, which did seem like the agreed upon arrangement. Enron gets her a present, Cersei gives him a more impressive crown than the one that rules the Iron Islands.
The wild card is how Jaime will respond if Cersei gives herself away. Now she’ll only do it symbolically, of course, but their love has been a symbol to them for the whole series narrative. They could never express their love openly (even though everyone knows at this point) so they built the idea of their love into an incorruptible symbol of strength and perseverance. It feels like it won’t be long before Cersei forsakes even Jaime in her quest for power.
And Jaime’s trying so hard to help her! He’s trying to rally support wherever he can find it. Which includes connvincing Sam’s dad, Randyll Tarly, to back the Lannister army, even though the Tarlys swore an oath to House Tyrell. “We’re not oathbreakers, we’re not schemers,” Randyll tells Jaime. But you look at his face and tell me he’s not a bad guy, especially after all we know about him through Sam. There’s no way that alliance will hold.
Really, it feels like the only person giving Cersei joy these days is Qyburn. Not only did he create Zombie Mountain, but he just gifted the queen with a crossbow the size of Zombie Mountain with which to kill dragons. It’s a fitting gift, really, considering Joffrey’s favorite toy was his crossbow. It’s almost adorable.
Daenerys would be wise then to heed Davos’ deductive reasoning and keep the dragons in the north where they could avoid Cersei’s crossbow and also take out hundreds of wights with every fire-spewing breath they took. Okay, so it’s doubtful she’d delay her conquering just to defeat a nameless foe that could take over the whole world. But if anyone can convince her it’s Davos!
The events in Winterfell in this episode really hammered in how quickly things are moving on GOT these days. Jon is addressing his constituents with both the ravenscroll from Sam and the one from Tyrion, and again, worlds collide! But it’s clear from both of these trusted sources that Dragonstone is the place to go. After most everyone in the room voiced their discomfort with Jon leaving the North (including Lyanna Mormont, and really, I don’t care who’s king or queen, if little Lyanna speaks that should be the final word!) he still decides to go. Obviously the right call, and I know none of us can wait until Jon’s meeting with Dany. Remember how intense it was when Tyrion and Daenerys met?
I’m less worried about Jon and Davos’ trip to Dragonstone (and their meeting with Melisandre when they get there) than I am with Sansa’s wardenship of Winterfell. She and Jon have the same intentions, but entirely different tactics. And with Littlefinger skulking around? I imagine it won’t take long for his little fingers to wrap themselves around Sansa’s leadership skills.
Meanwhile, in the Citadel, Sam’s busy once again disobeying the Archmaester. This time it’s not just stealing books, rather it’s performing an extremely risky medical procedure. Sam’s moral compass is too much sometimes. But of course, it’s a noble cause: to rid Ser Jorah Mormont of the greyscale that’s taken over the right half of his torso. And it’s SUPER gross. I’d call it ridiculous, but Sam has always found the way to be on the right side of history.
Speaking of history, the bit from the scenes in Oldtown that’s hard to forget (including the puss spewing from Jorah’s right pectoral) is the Archmaester mentioning he’s writing a history of King Robert and the events following his death. Which, it’s not hard to break down, is Game of Thrones. The show we’re watching is being written AS we’re watching! Westerosi Inception!
And then there’s our lone wolf. Arya had the opportunity of two huge reunions in this episode, neither of which were heartwarming. Her focus was so honed-in on killing Cersei that she barely registered Hot Pie’s existence as she ate his bakes. Makes you want to slap her. But she knows how rare it is to find someone again in this brutal world, and she didn’t regard it all the same.
That is, until Hot Pie told her that Jon is King in the North. The person Arya’s been cultivating since season two, the faceless assassin with vengeance to spare, seemed to melt away in that moment. Since witnessing her family’s demise at the Red Wedding, she hasn’t even considered a Stark reunion was possible. Now, of course, Jon is headed out of Winterfell just as Arya’s arriving, but that should give Arya and Sansa some much needed reconciliation time. And little do any of them know, Bran is at Castle Black!
The second reunion was more surprising and obtuse at the same time. Nymeria, Arya’s long lost direwolf, appears to her in the woods, seemingly the leader of a great wolf pack. It’s touching as Arya reaches out to her pet, trying to get her to come to Winterfell, (I actually had goosebumps) until Nymeria turns away. “But WHYYY?!” we’re all shouting at our TVs. And then Arya says, “That’s not you.”
And what the hell does THAT mean? I briefly took the literal route, assuming it meant that the direwolf was actually Lady and not Nymeria, but that would require a hefty amount of plotting acrobatics. But thanks to The Hollywood Reporter, D. B. Weiss clarified that that line was a “direct reference” to what Arya tells Ned in the first season when confronted with a hypothetical future as a lady to a lord. She tells him, “That’s not me.”
So I guess that’s all to say that Nymeria is off doing her thing, and she’s not interested in following Arya anywhere? One of the things I love most about this show is its commitment to its own history, especially in bringing up lines or visual cues (including the way Jon choked Littlefinger against the wall this episode, as Ned did in season one) to remind us of the connections to the show’s past. But “That’s not you” was stretching it a bit.
I have a feeling Nymeria will indeed continue on, protecting Arya from a distance, eventually coming around. Considering the urgency with which everything is progressing this season, it’ll likely happen sooner than later. I mean, we’re only bouncing between six storylines this season! Only six! Can you imagine an episode where everyone is in one place?! Insert Andy Dwyer gif.