‘Stormborn’ starts as the title suggests, amidst a thundering storm, that rages around Dany in Dragonstone. Reminiscent, Tyrion and Varys remind her, of the one she was born into. This was not the only storm to hit Dany and her followers in this episode, as the end sequence showed Euron annihilating Yara’s Dorne-bound fleet in a surprise attack. The acting in these scenes was superb, with Pilou Asbaek chillingly portraying the increasingly manic Euron. A special shout-out, however, has to go to Alfie Allen, for transforming from a fighting Theon Greyjoy to a tortured, damaged Reek, all in the space of a few seconds. Many viewers were left heartbroken by Theon’s betrayal of his sister, but it is worth hanging onto hope that he can redeem himself; especially as, in jumping off Euron’s ship, he is safely away from whatever Cersei-related fate awaits Ellaria and Yara. Who knows, maybe Theon will be picked up by a stray Gendry, still rowing around in his little boat…
This episode was ultimately an episode of links and connections, with the many disparate storylines of the Thrones universe finally starting to meet. Near the start of the episode, Dany was introduced to Melisandre, who was exiled from the North, last season, by Jon Snow. This was a connection that many fans have been waiting for, as Dany was encouraged by Melisandre and Tyrion to reach out to Jon, inviting him to Dragonstone to ‘bend the knee’. Jon accepts the invitation, against the wishes of his followers in the North, in order to exploit this potential alliance to his own advantage, hoping to mine the dragonglass beneath Dragonstone for weapons to use against the White Walkers.
In the space of two episodes, the tables have turned in the war for the Iron Throne.
The potential meeting of arguably the two main protagonists of the books and the show, Dany and Jon (aunt and nephew Targaryen) promises the merging of two previously very separate storylines. Yet the fans are reminded by Melisandre of a greater purpose behind this meeting than purely the creation of a political alliance. The prophecy of Azor Ahai, the prince (or princess) who was promised is reused here, with Melisandre suggesting that both Dany and Jon have their part to play.
Still in Dragonstone, in a refreshing scene that shows four female leaders discussing battle strategy, whilst the men stand back and agree, we see Dany moving wooden pieces around a map of Westeros, illustrating her plan to lay siege upon King’s Landing, whilst also attacking the Lannister seat, Casterly Rock. The last character we saw planning to attack Casterly Rock, whilst moving wooden pieces around a Westeros map, was Robb Stark back in Season Three, shortly before he was murdered at the Red Wedding. Whether this was a deliberate ploy by the creators suggesting that Dany’s attempt to conquer Casterly Rock will fail, or simply an ominous coincidence, I’m unsure.
Meanwhile, down in Kings Landing, Cersei was busy spreading anti-Dany propaganda, exploiting the Westerosi fear of a foreign invasion of pillaging Dothraki hoards. Qyburn also let slip that he has created what he believes is the ultimate dragon-killing machine, what seems to be a very large crossbow. Another connection across storylines is made when Jamie tries to persuade Lord Tarly to betray the Tyrells and join the Lannisters. Whilst in the Citadel, Lord Tarly’s son Sam, is seen trying to unsuccessfully convince the Archmaester to treat Jorah Mormont for Greyscale. Upon finding out that Jorah is the son of Jeor Mormont, the 997th Lord Commander of the Nightswatch, under whom Sam served at the Wall, Sam decides to attempt to cure Jorah himself. This involves a gruesome scene of Sam digging into Jorah’s skin to peel off the Greyscale scabs, that became, in a wonderful edit, a scene of someone in a pub digging into a soupy looking pie.
This pub happened to be where more connections were made, or re-connections in this case. Arya bumped into Hot Pie, her old friend and travelling companion from seasons two and three, shortly before having another emotional, albeit very short, reunion with her Direwolf, Nymeria. Tragically, Arya is heading north to reunite with Jon, who has just left Winterfell for Dragonstone. Instead, Arya will be met by her sister Sansa, who Jon has left in charge of the North. This is much to Baelish’s delight, as he no doubt hopes to control Sansa, and thus the North through her. Before leaving, Jon encounters Baelish in the Stark crypt, in what spookily echoes a scene from season one. This time, instead of Ned (Sean Bean) threatening and holding Baelish up against the wall, Jon does, telling him if he ever touches his sister, he will kill Baelish himself. Thus Jon unwisely makes an enemy in Baelish, who quite easily betrayed Ned, and without hesitation (I am sure) would do the same to Jon.
‘You’re not here to be Queen of the Ashes’ – Tyrion talks battle strategy with Dany.
‘Are you a sheep? No, you’re a dragon. Be a dragon’ – Olenna gives the best pep-talks.
‘Drink this please.’ ‘What is it?’ ‘Rum. Drink it all please, I’m afraid this is going to hurt’ – Sam reassures Jorah, before attempting to remove his grayscale.
‘You all crowned me your King. I never wanted it. I never asked for it. But I accepted it because the North is my home’ – Jon, the reluctant king. Much like Ned, the reluctant Hand. Do I draw too many comparisons? Probably.
Most random plot line/character appearance:
Nymeria’s appearance and swift disappearance left viewers confused. Yet as creator D.B. Weiss has said of the episode: ‘Arya’s not domesticated, and it makes total sense that her wolf wouldn’t be either. Once the wolf walks away, at first she’s heartbroken to have come this close, and then she realizes the wolf is doing exactly what she would do if she were that wolf.’
Easiest moment to overlook:
The scene where Arya dithers over choosing which path to take, home to the North to find Jon, or south to kill Cersei, with the Stark music soaring in the background. I feel this could be a crucial moment in Arya’s personal journey, choosing family and her home, over her desire for revenge that has consumed her recently.
Obviously has to be the end sequence, where in one strike, Cersei (through Euron) has now substantially evened the odds between her and Dany by taking out Dany’s key ally, and means of transporting her troops. In the space of two episodes, the tables have turned in the war for the Iron Throne.
Based on Next Week’s Trailer:
Dany gives more inspirational speeches about being born to rule; Euron triumphantly returns to Kings Landing; Cersei boasts about drawing first blood; Jon meets Dany. Yet I’m still wondering…where is Gendry?!