Stormborn is a very neat and plot-laden episode that wastes nothing in its linking up of the parallel storylines. There is intrigue, alliance building, destruction and a surprise visitor to Dragonstone.
So, let’s recap. The King in the North, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), has been invited south by two of the claimants to the Iron Throne, Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen – both of whom expect him to swear an oath of fealty and bend the knee. They obviously do not know Mr Snow.
The Dragon Queen has assembled a war counsel at Dragonstone and newly promoted hand of the queen, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), lays out the plan of how they are going to claim the Westerosi throne. It’s a convincing plan and is supported by among others Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), the Greyjoy siblings and Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma). But then the Red Woman, Melisandre (Carice van Houten) turns up and you can pretty much guarantee that when she arrives, something is sure to go wrong. So off sail the Greyjoys with their fleet and the first part of the plan is set in motion.
I’m not sure what the future holds for Daenerys Stormborn, yet? She talks the talk, but will she walk the walk when it comes to being a good queen. Those Targaryens do not have a good track record once they’ve got themselves comfortable on the throne and a taster of the steely nous of the young queen is shown when Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) steps out of line. The loveable giant eunuch is the consummate survivor, as used to changing allegiance as he is to changing his pants and Daenerys lets him know it in a public dressing down that is full of menace and intent.
And while we are on the subject of someone having a strip torn off them, we can pass seamlessly to the greyscale-afflicted Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) who, while quarantined at the Citadel, is undergoing some eye-watering experimental treatments by Sam Tarly – these basically involve him being flayed of the top layer of affected flesh with a blade. It is a brutal scene but further illustrates the importance of Tarly in knitting together the story and as the man most likely to find the answers to the burning issues of the day – IE, how do we save ourselves from becoming a zombified army of the death under the heel of the Night King?
Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) has been so consumed with her need for revenge that she’d not caught up with the gossip from Winterfell, that A. Sansa is alive and B. Her half-brother Jon defeated the Boltons at the Battle of the Bastards and is now King in the North sitting with his counsel at the family’s ancestral stronghold. After a brief, but welcome, tête–à–tête with Hot Pie, she turns on her heels (her horse’s hooves, actually) and heads back into the north country.
Never an episode goes by that features the bastard Littlefinger (Petyr Baelish played by Aidan Gillen) that does not involve this revolting lickspittle trying to politic an advantage for himself. Baelish thinks he has the ear of Sansa and turns his attention to leveraging influence over Jon Snow. However, he finds the young Snow in uncompromising mood and narrowly avoids having his neck wrung in the cloisters beneath the castle. This does, however, set the scene for Baelish to go to work undermining Snow – just like he did his father Ned Stark. Ah, don’t you just love symmetry?
You know we talked about the Greyjoys a little earlier? Well, they have a bit of a surprise as they approach Westeros and it comes in the shape of good ole uncle Euron. He lays wastes to the Targaryen fleet and holds Yara (Gemma Whelan) under his knife. Faced with the choice of saving his sister or saving himself. What do you think Theon does? Yep, that’s right, the snivelling little twerp played by Alfie Allen abandons her to her fate. We shouldn’t be surprised, he has form.
Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) is the show’s new wild-eyed, utter, utter bastard. Where once Ramsey Bolton ruled supreme as the go-to guy for sadistic killings, brutal reprisals and wonderfully intricate psychological tortures, this season has seen the anointing (post Ramsey expiration ) of a new sadistic, brutal chaos fetcher – and this one, unlike the dear departed young Bolton, enjoys doing the killing himself – and is really rather good at it.
Roll on next week.
Photos: Helen Sloan – © 2017 – HBO