I’m going to address something right now, and then we’re not going to talk about it again for the rest of our lives: it is strange to watch the men tasked with writing Game of Thrones attempt to write intimacy that is not twisted in some way. And so this week’s sex scene between Grey Worm and Missandei was both touching and embarrassing. Grey Worm comparing the feeling of being in love with Missandei with a child’s fear of snakes or the ocean was a clumsy rhetorical choice on his part, and Missandei’s “I want to see you, please” made me want to throw myself off a building. But I’m happy these two kids finally got it together long enough to take it all off. This is the first consensual, romantic sex depicted on Game of Thrones since April 2013, which is remarkable for a show known in some circles as tacky high-fantasy erotica.
That’s pretty tragic in its own way, and particularly in the context of this episode. Even more particularly, it’s tragic given that “Stormborn” is the 11th episode written by Bryan Cogman, whose most famous work on this show so far was the season 5 episode “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” depicting Sansa Stark’s wedding night with Ramsay Bolton. I hope we’re not witnessing this long-delayed gratification for G+M solely as a prelude to one of their deaths being imbued with some extra pathos. In the excitement of yelling “fire and blood!” at my MacBook every Sunday night, I often forget how deeply, serially sad this show is.
Anyway, what I really want is for no one to use any of Grey Worm or Missandei’s come-on tactics for personal use, or ever again on a television program. Please don’t say “You are my weakness,” to people! That’s not a good compliment! And we all deserve better in a world where ice zombies and magical fire pirates are possible. There, we did it, our serious discussion for the week.
Thank goodness, because this episode really delivered on the premise of “rated TV-MA for graphic violence and strong sexual content,” and we have a ton of points to give out. Not just for our young lovers (who we’ll come back to), but for a whole mess of murder.
Here we go, and I’m sorry.
Episode 2 opens with a thunderstorm on Dragonstone that has Daenerys in a funk. She’s already decided Westeros “doesn’t feel like home,” because of all the rain, and probably because of the fact that she has yet to see a single living person that she didn’t bring with her. On the enormous interactive Westeros map Stannis left behind, Dany sees two Monopoly pieces shaped like lions and says, “Ah, not so many lions.” This is how war councils happen to this day, I assume.
More or less, she and Tyrion just want to come up with a plan by which they do the winning part of war without the killing anyone part of war, which is commendable in the abstract but seems unlikely to actually happen. We’re in a graphic violence and strong sexual content show! They don’t put those warnings there for nothing!
Here, due to cabin fever, Dany spontaneously turns on Varys and really lays into him about how many different kings he’s been willing to serve, and the fact that he was definitely involved in the assassination plot against her back in season 1. This whole debate was fairly boring, but it sets Varys up for a withering line (+10): “Incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty. As long as I have eyes, I’ll use them.”
Yoooooo!! Varys just gave the "color purple" "I had to fight all my life" speech!! He choose you QWERN!!!! pic.twitter.com/gfuCTwgdBj— Leslie Jones (@Lesdoggg) July 24, 2017
Daenerys respects it, but it does nothing to lighten her mood, and I suppose I have to award her a +10 for the Daddy Aerys-inspired line, “If you ever betray me, I’ll burn you alive.” I know plenty of people can’t wait for Dany to be queen, but the dragon-fire trump card she’s constantly halfway through pulling out of her back pocket sort of makes her act like a child celebrity who would put 24 alkaline water bottles and six cream sodas on their tour rider.
At this point, Melisandre rolls up in Dragonstone and pitches our secular queen on the concept of the Lord of Light, broadly, and the concept of her and Jon Snow as the prince and princess that were promised, more specifically. It’s interesting to me that Dany doesn’t have any follow-up questions about the ice-zombie war Melisandre is attempting to enlist her for, but at Tyrion’s recommendation, she invites Jon to come hang out, talk shop, and oh yeah, “bend the knee.”
Here, we get a quick cut to Winterfell, where Jon is reading this letter. (We really don’t give the ravens of Westeros enough credit for being the fastest and most accurate postal service in the history of civilizations both real and fictional.) Jon isn’t sure he wants to get involved with a woman with a bunch of dragons, which he’s heard are dangerous, when he’s got so many White Walkers to worry about killing. Davos literally says “White Walkers can be killed with fire. What breathes fire?” and we’re out of here.
In King’s Landing, Cersei is lecturing Randyll Tarly and Sam’s brother Dickon (a new free agent for our player pool) about how they’re going to need to betray Our Eternal Hero Olenna Tyrell and help her fight Daenerys, who’s a vicious dictator with a bunch of fire-monsters on her side. Unfortunately, the atrocities Cersei is accusing Dany of — mass crucifixions, feeding political enemies to her dragons — actually happened. Huh. Also, unbeknownst to Cersei, Daenerys just threatened to burn one of her core advisors to death.
Then Randyll makes a case for himself as the dark-horse fantasy league pick of the year. Jaime follows him outside and pitches him on a job opening: be his general (+25), his second-in-command, and when the war is over, Randyll can have Olenna’s job as Warden of the South. Ever the quietly sociopathic student athlete with an immaculate jawline, Jaime sells this as an opportunity to kill “foreign savages and eunuchs.” Randyll seems like he’s in (and we sure do know that he’s a racist), but not before laying a sharp burn on the Lannister family, bragging that the Tarlys, who do threaten to murder their own children, at the very least “don’t stab our rivals in the back or cut their throats at weddings.” (+10)
We’re jumping all over the place this episode, and here, we take a quick trip to the Citadel for a two-minute scene of Archmaester Marwyn explaining to Jorah that he has 10 to 20 years before the greyscale kills him, but he’ll go nuts in about six months. Marwyn’s bedside manner isn’t exactly commendable, and he has no medical advice other than “You should have cut your arm off.” Rude! Jorah is given one day to contemplate suicide-by-sword before the Archmaester plans to ship him off to Valyria to die with the rest of the stone men. I know we are not being encouraged to root for this outcome, but with all our guys and gals finally united on the same continent, I’m feeling a little claustrophobic. It could be a fun road trip / death sentence?
We’re back in King’s Landing before you can say “The feature-film debut of pop sensation Britney Spears,” and it seems to me like we could have just stayed here and held off on the 90-second greyscale explainer video until later, but it’s not my show. Cersei and Qyburn take a stroll through the Red Keep’s basement collection of skulls, where he unveils his dragon-slaying plan: a sinister-looking mechanical crossbow loaded with an enormous spear, which he claims “the finest artisan blacksmiths in King’s Landing” have been working on for months. I don’t know, I mean, it’s just a crossbow loaded with a spear. It looks to be only about 1.5 times larger than the one Joffrey was using to pick off prostitutes six years ago. But it successfully shoots a centuries-old dragon skull that is sitting perfectly still… on the ground… about 15 feet away. Oh baby, here is a foolproof plan if I ever saw one. And artisanal!
Back on Dragonstone, we’re now in a second war council meeting with the full dream team — the usual Dany advisors, plus Yara and Theon Greyjoy, Ellaria Sand, and Olenna. The showdown between Tyrion and Ellaria over her murdering his teenage niece in cold blood last season is approximately four seconds long. There is really not much of a premium placed on the life of young women in this show, and we should all know that by now, so I’m not going to dwell on it. Anyway, Tyrion’s plan is to send the Unsullied to take Casterly Rock and shake up the Lannisters a little, while the Dornish and Tyrell armies lay siege to King’s Landing, essentially just starving Cersei and her army into submission. The Dothraki are sidelined because he thinks Cersei would be able to weaponize everyone’s racism against them too easily. I’m not totally sure why they came to Westeros at all, in that case! This meeting drags on, but Olenna gets +5 for “I’ve known a great many clever men. I’ve outlived them all. You know why? I ignored them.” Nice. Me, too.
As much as we needed some Queen of Thorns comic relief, we also needed a heartwarming five minutes of beautiful people smooching. To that end, as we know: Missandei sneaks into Grey Worm’s room in a dress that laces all the way up the front (respect) and tells him he better fess up to being in love with her right now before he possibly dies. Yeah, it’s darlin’. Missandei gets +25 for nudity of the “whole shebang” variety, Greyworm gets +15 for a nude butt close-up, and they get another +15 each for finally throwing down. Whatever else Daenerys does or doesn’t do to the Seven Kingdoms, it’s too bad there’s no mechanism in the Game of Game of Thrones rules that will allow me to give her some points for bringing Westeros its second-ever dude willing to go down on a lady.
Back at the Citadel (who can I give a -500 for the utterly ridiculous sequencing of this episode?), Jorah is writing Daenerys a rueful love letter, and it’s unclear who is going to agree to mail his toxic germs to the new self-proclaimed Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. He is like a walking 180 pounds of anthrax, and very, very sad. But luckily, Sam is now practicing experimental medicine. He and Jorah get +5 each for taking swigs of rum while discussing how best to violently rip off most of Jorah’s skin.
From Jorah’s oozing pus, we cut to a meat pie in Arya’s favorite road pub. Hot Pie is there (another new free agent for our league). He is, as ever, delightful, and not only feeds Arya some free pie, but takes it upon himself to inform her that Jon took back Winterfell from the Boltons by winning “The Battle of the Bastards.” I didn’t even know we were calling it that in-universe! +5 to Arya for eating, and one little tear, roiling in the corner of my eye to Arya for deciding to abandon her murder plot and go home.
Sidebar: There is just way too much happening in this episode. I’m kind of over it. We’re back in Winterfell, where Jon has just gotten Sam’s letter about dragonglass buried in Dragonstone. Again, I have to say: Uh-doy! Now convinced that he needs to go visit Daenerys right this second, Jon faces some pushback from Northern lords who really just got used to having a dad again. Sansa hates the idea, and provides a quick recap for the folks at home of what happened when her grandfather Rickard went off to serve a Targaryen. (He got roasted, uh-doy.) But she warms to it when Jon says he’s going to leave her in charge (+25). My greatest dissatisfaction in life is that I have no way to award points for this masterfully executed “Who me?” face:
Seconds later, in the crypts, Jon is having some quiet reflection time and staring at a statue of Ned when Littlefinger sidles up to tell him that he has a sick obsession with Catelyn Stark (who has been dead for four years) and Sansa Stark (who is a teenager). This seems poorly thought-out, but whatever plan Littlefinger is cooking up clearly doesn’t require Jon or Sansa to like or trust him, and he’s just trolling them whenever possible at this point. I’m a little worried about why he’s still in Winterfell, and why exactly he looks so… thrilled (?) when Jon nearly strangles him to death against a wall. He can get his kicks wherever he wants, but I’d prefer it was off-camera.
Jon gets +15 for the death grip and +10 for “Touch my sister and I’ll kill you myself.” I am a little embarrassed that I found this display of violent masculinity and paternal posturing to be super satisfying, and I’m only confessing it to you because Missandei and Grey Worm taught me to Speak My Truth even when it’s disgusting.
This brings us to the episode’s last scene, and its best: it’s Nymeria! She’s back, after Arya set her loose in the woods in season 1, and she gets a +25 for discovering herself and assembling a roving wolf militia in the process. Thank the Seven for letting us end on a high note. What a beautiful communion between girl and pet! Now we can rest easy and enjoy sweet dreams about cuddling with a pup the size of a small truck.
Oh, I’m sorry, I was just kidding! Next we will be suffering through 15 minutes of absurdity.
We open on Ellaria and Yara on their way to King’s Landing, doing some heavy flirting (+5 each), drinking (+5 each), and making out in front of Theon, I guess just to be rude. In the ship’s hull, the Sand Snakes are mocking each other and bragging some more about just how much they love murder.
Suddenly, they’re under attack. (Why is it that no one on this show ever has the ability to see an entire immense fleet until it’s five feet away?) Euron Greyjoy, who is channeling the Tasmanian Devil, is hacking everyone to pieces and literally frothing at the mouth. It is very hard to see what’s going on, thanks to the manic direction from Mark Mylod (he’ll also be back for next week’s episode), and some 300-inspired editing. I was into it, but my co-workers were not, and rightly pointed out in a Slack conversation that this scene looks like a back-door pilot for a crossover Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. At the very least, it got my heart rate up, and what else do you want from your Sunday night graphic violence? Uh, some points! Yara and Theon net +50 each for random kills. (I couldn’t actually see, but they were both in the thick of the indecipherable fray for quite awhile.) Nym gets +10 for a random kill and Tyene gets +30 for the three kills she manages before she and her mother are taken hostage.
This dizzyingly fast hostile takeover spells doom for the plan Daenerys and Tyrion came up with in approximately three minutes. But more importantly: the god-awful Dorne plot comes to a god-awful end, with two Sand Snakes (Nym and Obara) teaming up against Euron and meeting gruesome, gory deaths inflicted by their own signature weapons. (+50 to each for dying memorably.) I would love it if someone could explain how these two women, trained from birth as formidable warriors and absolutely singularly defined by their desire to kill people, were defeated so easily by a man who has done nothing much beyond sailing around and beating up unarmed civilians his entire life. Is it just because he is crazy, and looks even more terrifying when backlit by sparks from the fire-launching weapons he somehow has? I am bound by duty to give him +50 for random kills, +25 for killing Nym, +25 for killing Obara, and +15 for taking Yara hostage.
I don’t really know what to say about Theon, drifting off into the ocean, staring up at the silhouettes of the Sand Snakes, who have already been laced up on the bow. I’m so sorry, my guy, and I have no idea what your plan is from here. This show is very sad.
Correction: I am very sorry to report that I did not realize Harrag (one of the newly introduced Ironborn), was responsible for one random death and the capture of both Ellaria and Tyene Sand. +40 to him! Additionally, we missed one of Tyene’s kills (+10), and that Theon and Obara both drank on screen (+5 each).
And don’t forget to pick up some free agents to fill out the spots left by your dear departed.
THE VERGE LEAGUE STANDINGS:
MICHAEL ZELENKO: 215 POINTS
Top scorer: Obara Sand, 55
Special team: The Royal Army, 0
ANDY HAWKINS: 165 POINTS
Top scorer: Euron Greyjoy, 115
Special team: The Unsullied, 0
TC SOTTEK: 140 POINTS
Top scorer: Nymeria Sand, 60
Special team: Wildlings, 0
LIZ LOPATTO: 105 POINTS
Top scorer: Yara Greyjoy, 60
Special team: The Lord of Light*, 0
*Liz traded in the Old Gods last week
KWAME OPAM: 100 POINTS
Top scorer: Tyene Sand, 30
Special team: The Dothraki, 0
SARAH SMITHERS: 70 POINTS
Top scorer: Varys, 10
Special team: Dragons, 0
LOREN GRUSH: 60 POINTS
Top scorer: Theon Greyjoy, 55
Special team: Brotherhood without Banners, 0
TASHA ROBINSON: 45 POINTS
Top scorer: Harrag, 40
Special team: White Walkers, 0
CHAIM GARTENBERG: 40 POINTS
Top scorer: Randyll Tarly, 35
Special team: Wights, 0
BRYAN BISHOP: 20 POINTS
Top scorer: Ellaria Sand, 15
Special team: The Night’s Watch, 0