Well then. Quite a lot happened in this one, didn’t it?
It really is quite refreshing, when you watch as much TV as I do, to appreciate just how damn well written this show is. With only very minor exceptions, every scene is brimming with good lines. With strong characterisation. With what is not said being just as important as what is. Game of Thrones really is a masterclass in how to write a good TV programme. It just also happens to contain dragons. And eunuch sex.
But seriously. There were so many decent scenes to talk about here that it really doesn’t do it justice to just type about it. So, if you haven’t seen this episode yet, and if you don’t watch Game of Thrones, then for the love of God. Get watching!
So, we began this week on a very stormy Dragonstone, with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) lamenting on the fact that she’s sodding about on a little island and not messing crap up on the continent (believe me, love, you’re not the only one!). Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) once again has wise advice, cautioning that setting dragons loose on Westeros may win Dany her throne, but not the peace she seems to desperately want. Dany, for her faults, hears him, and stays her hand, even quoting him later. In a fine example of the always impressive writing on this show, we are reminded how much Dany values Tyrion as an adviser, but that maybe she’s listening to him a little too much.
It was the bit that followed, however, which was worth the price of admission alone – Daenerys finally interacting with Varys (Conleth Hill). It was a scene that was crying out to happen, and we finally got it. Dany is right to doubt Varys. He follows who he needs to in order to survive, and does what he has to to further his own goals. And yet, with Varys on side, people don’t tend to do so poorly. Varys did not back down from Daenerys, and I genuinely think he was honest with her. His goal has always been to put the best person on the Iron Throne. At the moment, he believes that to be Daenerys. Will his opinion change when he meets Jon Snow (Kit Harrington)? Either way, Varys gets to keep his head for now. And Dany really is lucky to have him.
In fact, Daenerys has quite a few important interactions in this episode. Melisandre (Carice Van-Houton), fresh from getting banished from Winterfell, turns up to bring Dany up to speed on the coming winter. For the first time in Game of Thrones history, Daenerys is now aware of Jon Snow. And then there’s the truly entertaining meeting with her allies, consisting of Yara (Gemma Whelan) and Theon (Alfie Allen) Greyjoy, Varys, Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) and Tyrion. From the outset, it looks like Dany has it made, but this is not a stable alliance.
For one thing, Olenna Tyrell is filled with rage at Cersie (Lena Headey), cautioning Daenerys to be careful with how much advise she takes from Tyrion. She doesn’t trust Lannisters, nor for that matter does she really care about seeing another Targaryen on the Iron Throne. Lady Olenna wants revenge, a motivator that can lead to serious mistakes. A sentiment shared by Ellaria, who seems to think poisoning little girls is the way forward. It actually says a lot that the most sane people at the meeting were the Greyjoys. If anything, it was amazing this alliance had even formed up to this point – and now it’s all over.
Finally, we got a bad ass Euron (Pilou Asbæk). Still not quite as cool as his book counterpart, but I’ll let them off for the last fifteen minutes of this episode. The whole naval battle was as brilliant as it was unexpected. Euron decimated his rebellious niece and nephew’s fleet, taking two powerful allies away from Daenerys and capturing some extremely valuable prisoners in the mean time. And taking out the annoying Sandsnakes whilst doing it. Dorne and the Greyjoys are, for this moment, out of the battle. And maybe things aren’t quite as tipped in the returning Targaryen’s favour as would might appear.
After all, Cersie wasn’t exactly idle this week, calling as many banner men as she could to King’s Landing, including Randyll Tarley (James Faulkner), to remind them of how much they should support her and not Daenerys, because Dothraki. That’s right, people! Support the obviously mentally unstable rich person who uses foreigners as a scapegoat! And people say that Game of Thrones is unrealistic…
It seems that Randyll, at least, seems to like the Lannister idea more than the Targaryen one. And whilst Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) may not be a schemer on the level of his father or brother, he’s not exactly an idiot either. Offering Randyll a job as his head general is a pretty good idea, especially as the guy is pretty much Tywin (Charles Dance) mark 2. A little bit like Euron is Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) mark 2. Jaime doesn’t actually get enough credit for his planning. But it’s time he wised up and offed Cersie.
Speaking of Tarleys, Sam (John Bradley) is fast becoming a stand out character this season. His goal this week was the treatment of poor Ser Jorah (Iain Glen), who’s looking very stoney these days. It seems that the Archmaester (Jim Broadbent) seems to not enjoy actually doing anything useful, telling Jorah he’s better off killing himself as there’s nothing the Citadel can do for him. Or so he says. Sam apparently isn’t having this, remembering the loyalty he felt towards old Jeor Mormont (James Cosmo), and attempts a dangerous procedure himself. Which is not a magical solution through the use of dragon glass, but a pussy flaying off of all infected flesh. That we get to see. In great, great detail.
Let’s hope the treatment is successful. Jorah has unfinished business with his Khaleesi.
Now let’s have a minute to flash back to Season 5. A flawed piece of television, but one of its good points was Jon’s story as the weary ruler who wants to do the right thing, but ends up constantly being second guessed and questioned by the people he’s in charge of. It was a situation that led to his death. And now… here we go again. Not only Sansa (Sophie Turner), but even super cool Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsay). I suppose they do have a point – Jon should not even be considering leaving Winterfell just after being crowned King in the North, but these are not normal times. The Army of the Dead are finally on their way. As Davos (Liam Cunningham) cleverly pointed out (and has fans have been saying for decades) – Dany has dragons, and is camped out on top of a mountain of dragonglass. They need her.
Even though it’s pretty obvious that there’s going to be a weight dragon at some point.
However, it is difficult to stick up for Jon when he insists on making not only his same mistakes, but those of his father’s. Ned Stark (Sean Bean) throttled Littlefinger (Aiden Gillan) once. And Ned Stark lost his head. If you insist on putting your hand on Littlefinger’s throat, you finish the job. Or he will get you back. Littlefinger, scheming as ever, goads Jon to get the measure of him. And Jon responds with violence. That poisonous little team of Littlefinger and Sansa may well just lose Jon the North. And lose any chance of defeating the Night King (Vladimir Furdik).
That is unless Arya (Maisie Williams) has any input into the situation. Maybe her old pet wolf can eat Littlefinger. Maybe not. But at least she’s on her way home.
In all, a solid episode that once again delivered the goods. As if only 5 are left!