I can’t believe it.
I simply can’t believe it.
After all this time, I didn’t even think. I didn’t even realise it could be so easy.
Send a raven north! SUMMON JON SNOW!
All these years I’ve been grappling with how to get the now-King in the North to notice me, and Dany goes and flips off an interview request like it AIN’T NO THANG and lo and behold my beloved is in the saddle and riding ferociously for White Harbour.
If only I had thought to send a raven and SUMMON JON SNOW! sooner he might be in the saddle and riding my White Harbour ferociously.
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, that’s crass. Unladylike. Beneath me (Gods I wish Jon Snow was beneath me).
But people, people! For the first time ever, in this glorious, suspenseful episode, we heard DAENARYS talking about JON and JON talking about DAENARYS. I don’t know about you but I got goosebumps. The prospect of that pair meeting IN THE FLESH next week… oh Gods, I just slipped off my chair.
Of course, there was much more goodness in this episode. Kate Bush turned up! Missandei got her boobs out! Grey Worm got his ? out! Jorah got his scabs lanced! Cersei got a giant f***-off weapon! Old Mate Euron went barkingly bonkingly batshit! Jon beat up Baelish! NYMERIA! HOT F***ING PIE!!!
So without further ado, let’s get cracking on another installment of Raven On, the Game of Thrones recap series that cannot keep whatever it’s got in its pants in its pants.
S7E2: “Stormborn” aka "Choose Life"
I hate to be a f***ing cliche and cite that “two roads diverged in a yellow wood” poem, but this did seem to be an episode about choosing paths, and the relative risks of those choices.
Of course you could argue that picking “the one less travelled by” is probably just as likely to end up in DEATH MURDER BOAT MURDER MORE DEATH MORE BOAT AND PIE as the other, but that poem was written by Robert Frost, and given the context of the icypocalypse heading south, still seems apt.
Dany and Tyrion are plotting a course for victory by rejecting their allies’ counsel. Jon’s making calls on who the North’s allies have to be. Cersei’s having a proper gander at anti-dragon propaganda. Jaime’s convincing Hard Man Randall Tarly to break his oath to House Tyrell. The Hard Man’s elder son disobeys instructions to save his old Commander’s son. The Hard Man’s younger son realises he has to live with the name “Dickon” (snort). And ARYA F***ING STARK IS HEADING HOME.
Let’s address the events that top this episode - Dany’s plan for the invasion of Westeros - so we can tail it with how one of its key elements goes horribly wrong.
It was a dark and stormy night when Daenarys was born on Dragonstone, and so it is again as she calls her competitive LARP team meeting to order.
Dany starts with a some-might-suggest-long-overdue dressing down of Lord Varys for acting against her on the orders of Robert Baratheon back in the day, before cosying up to her as his preferred saviour of Westeros.
There was a nice moment when Dany just cut Tyrion off mid-sentence as he tried to Lanns-plain that Varys had been the one to convince him to believe in Dany like he used to believe in Santa Claus (or Santa Claws, for the Lannisters?).
But Varys stood his ground, telling Dany that his support will always lie with the guttersnipes and bottomfeeders that he himself grew up with. I never thought the Spider’s intentions were 100% pure, but I’m starting to think maybe they simply are. He was left destitute and de-genitaled after all, so maybe his sympathies do indeed lie with the victims, the innocents. After years of trying to pin down his loyalties, it seems Varys really is doing it for the people.
Certainly Dany seems to recognise that. She makes him pinky swear that if he ever thinks she’s “Doing a Dad” and failing the people that he look her in the eye and detonate a truth bomb. Aaaaaaaand if he f***s her over again, she’ll Mortein his spidery ass with dragon breath.
Then 80s chanteuse Kate Bush turns up.
Tell you what, Dany’s not wrong when she says Dragonstone doesn’t feel like home. She goes to meet Melisandre in the throne room, and boy it’s drab. All cold deep blues and greys, so unlike the warm, sensual colours of the East. Honestly, would it kill someone to throw a few citrus-coloured scatter cushions about the place? I guess this is Game of Thrones, so yes, it probably would kill someone, but I feel like Mary Poppins needs to spoonful of sugar the place up.
The Red Woman pays tribute to the Breaker of Chains and in turn is welcomed as part of the Lord of Light’s expeditionary peacekeeping force.
Varys tries it on by suggesting her previous role of lowercase “b” batman to Stannis’ uppercase “B” Batman didn’t turn out so well, but is roundly smacked down by an on-form Dany who reminds him that today happens to be the day they’re handing out pardons for past mistakes in kingly loyalty. BOOM.
Melisandre brings up “The Prince Who Was Promised”, sparking a delicious linguistic discussion about the non-gendered nature of “prince/princess” in High Valyrian which just made me love Missandei more than ever.
Dany quite fancies this new translation, although Melisandre doesn’t want to confirm that Dany herself is this fabled prophetic figure. But she does have a role to play, along with…. oh yes… oh gods yes… Jon Snow. The King in the North.
You could have knocked Tyrion down with a feather as Kate Bush rhapsodised about Jon’s achievements as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and King in the North. Yes Tyrion, that moody teenager you met all those years ago is now an EVEN MOODIER grown man with sexual experience and a MAN BUN. He is GLORIOUS and you should all be flocking to his sexy beard and extremely furry cape.
But no, Dany insists on being all Queenly and summoning Jon to Dragonstone on the premise that he will bend the knee. No, Jon, no…. answer my summons instead, and you can bend me over your knee. I promise it’s a much better outcome for everybody and mostly me.
Later, Dany pulls the rest of the recruits into line for a serious D&D session. It’s an impressive turn out: Yara and Theon Greyjoy keen to roll a critical hit against King’s Landing; Ellaria Sand in a mood of prickly revenge; and Olenna Tyrell bringing the cheese.
Dany is grateful for her allies’ advice… but decides not to listen to it. She and Tyrion have devised a Plan to surround King’s Landing from all sides rather than go in all dragons blazing. Dany does NOT want to be Queen of the Ashes. She’ll leave that to Elizabeth II after an England/Australia cricket match, thank you very much (sporting reference! Look at me go!)
This requires the Greyjoys to ship the Dornish up the Narrow Sea (I feel the internet has already been shipping such relationships) to apply pressure from the south; while the Tyrell vines squeeze from the west. The armies have to be Westerosi to avoid accusations of a foreign conquering force, you see, a point Cersei is busily making from atop the Iron Throne. But more on her in a moment.
Tyrion does however have a plan for the Unsullied. They will sail ALL THE WAY AROUND WESTEROS to Casterly Rock where they will take the ancient stronghold of House Lannister. I mean, that’s a hell of a long way to go, but I guess Spanish Inquisition-style, nobody will expect it (note to self: replace lazy Monty Python reference with something funnier).
With the plan in motion, it was left to Missandei to bid farewell to Grey Worm, who would head the Unsullied mission to penetrate the Lannister fortress.
So it was only natural that he should penetrate NOPE NOPE NOPE NATALIE DON’T USE THE WORD PENETRATE OH GODS NOW IT’S THE ONLY WORD I CAN THINK OF.
The couple’s little bedroom tete-a-tete was so sweet and pure and wholesome I just feel seedy attempting to make light of it. In fact, everything about that scene felt oddly… voyeuristic, and not in the saucy way. I felt like I was watching something very personal that wasn’t mine to see.
Grey Worm’s description of Missandei as his weakness was gorgeous, and his subsequent explanation of how Unsullied boys were trained to overcome their weaknesses was possibly the most we’ve ever heard him speak in the entire series. Turns out he’s a poet.
Eventually Missandei dropped her winter robes (chillier than Essos but clearly not cold enough for long johns yet), and persuaded Grey Worm to let her see him. There was a whole lot revealed, but some key items concealed, as they got down to business.
I want to make a JRR Tolkien-inspired “Grey Wormtongue” joke here, but again, crass. I’ve given you the components, you can assemble it yourselves.
Meanwhile over in King’s Landing, Darth Cersei is giving a tongue-lashing to a bunch of lords loyal to House Tyrell that she’s trying to lure over to the Dark Side.
In a Goebbels-inspired move, she manipulates the truth about Dany’s activities in Essos to make it sound like the Mother of Dragons is a veritable war criminal. The lords have an important choice to make - break with a centuries-old oath or risk their castles, their lands, their families and their legacy.
Jaime tries to secure Hard Man Randall Tarly’s support by offering him the position of general in the Lannister forces. Tarly, a hard but proud man, is not wholly convinced, but the Kingslayer makes some salient points about Olenna just being after revenge and Cersei needing a new Warden of the Whatever.
Meanwhile, in the cellars of the Red Keep, Qyburn has a present for Cersei. Amidst the giant f*** off skeletal dragon heads lies his prototype secret weapon against Dany’s dragons - a giant f*** off crossbow.
“If they can be wounded, they can be killed,” Qyburn intones ominously, proving once and for all he really is the Upside Down version of Q from the Bond films.
With a twang, Cersei releases the mechanism and the bolt goes straight through the head of Balerion the Dread, Aegon’s own flying lizard. BOOM. It’s a massive development for Cersei, who doesn’t really deserve breaks like this, and it won’t be the last one this episode. Also we need a name for the weapon. Please vote, or add your own suggestion:
*The Really Crossbow
*The Debt Payer
*The Maester Missile
Over in Old Town, Sam Tarly is being instructed in how to write histories by Archmaester Jim Broadbent, who insists he read examples from the Citadel’s library.
There’s a cute little in-joke there about the Archmaester’s own book about “The Wars Following the Death of King Robert I”. Sam suggests something more poetic, a reference to the book title, “The War of Five Kings”. Har har, take a bow, nicely done all.
Something far less nice is Ser Jorah’s scaly torso, which we see unshirted for the first time ever this series. Well done, Ser Jorah, if it wasn’t for that hideous infectious disease you’d look pretty great for someone who didn’t have Jon Snow’s abs.
Archmaester Broadbent is adamant that Ser Jorah’s condition is too far gone and untreatable. He gives him a day to “take care of things” (ie, send a teary letter to Dany then off himself) but Sam is not willing to give up without a fight. Sam served under Jorah’s father, Jeor Mormont, at Castle Black, and he wants to return the kindness the Old Bear showed him.
“You’re not dying today,” he tells Jorah, before shoving a flagon of rum down his gullet and making him bite down on a stick. Sam then performs some fairly confronting skin removal, to the soft accompaniment of Jorah’s muffled screams of pain.
It’s less pain and more pane (the bread, not the sheet of glass, it’s a sophisticated Italian joke) over at Hot Pie’s Fine Dining Establishment and Stables.
A resplendent Hot Pie is surprised and happy to see the girl he knew as ‘Arry, even if she is somewhat deadpan (deadpane? No, it didn’t work, move along Natalie) about it. He proceeds to feed her with both delicious foodstuffs and important exposition, including the key information that WINTERFELL IS BACK IN STARK HANDS.
As ‘Arry, sorry, Arya, leaves the bistro, we see her contemplate her original plan to continue on to King’s Landing… before nudging her horse to the right and heading north.
BABY BIRD’S GOING HOME.
And then, if that wasn’t enough, she stops to rest in a patch of snowy forest somewhere, only to see her horse spooked by rustlings in the bushes. I once spooked someone by rustling in the bushes, but I stopped when they got scared and also when they filed a restraining order against me.
Slowly, Arya finds herself surrounded by wolves, brandishing her sword. Ye Gods, it’s finally happened - she’s become Liam F***ing Neeson. She does have a very particular set of skills, after all.
Then, the great direwolf appears - Nymeria! Last seen waaaaay back in Season 1, Episode 2 (yes, that far back), Arya had pushed away her direwolf to save her from a Lannister knife. There seems to be a moment of recognition, and Arya begs her old friend to come back with her to Winterfell.
But the great beast turns away, all her wolfy minions following suit.
“That's not you,” Arya says mysteriously. But yes, it was! It must be! We need this reconciliation, it’s the perfect time for it! While one wolf survives, no sheep is safe, Arya said it herself when she killed all the motherf***ing Freys last week! Come back, Nymeria! Pity Arya didn’t have any Schmackos in her pocket.
UPDATE: It's now been pointed out to me via numerous sources that Arya's "that's not you" quote referenced her acknowledgement that Nymeria is wild and untamable, just like her, and was a callback to when she told Ned Stark in Season 1 that she was not destined to be a lady. It makes perfect sense and I am very jealous of all the recappers and obsessives who have the time to work that stuff out.
Still, Arya was super close to reuniting with her puppy, and I’m sure it will happen in some form. It seems only fitting to encourage her onwards a la the Pet Shop Boys:
It’s not peaceful there
There is frigid air
But you can start anew
See your sister too
You might find your dog
Baelish will monologue
Please stab him in the face
Make your home a better place
So let’s head back to Winterfell, which I’ve shamefully neglected until later in the recap in the hope it leads into a suitable concluding loop-back. Oh Gods, I hope you’re still reading, this is long one.
Jon receives Dany’s letter at Winterfell, and while little kiddies practise their archery, discusses its meaning with Sansa and Ser Davos.
My beloved is sure Tyrion is the author; he references that great “dwarves are bastards in their father’s eyes line” he used on J-Snow when they first met. Sansa agrees it’s him, but she and Davos say it’s too dangerous for Jon to go to Dragonstone to meet this Targaryen Queen.
Jon, though, has other motivations. To the assembled court, he reads out Sam Tarly’s raven outlining the large cache of dragonglass buried on Dragonstone. He says they need that stuff to beat the White Walkers - once again, it’s the only end goal he has in sight. Jon stays his path; not even the combined pleas of Lord Royce, Lord Glover and Lady Lyanna Mormont (“The King belongs in the north!”) can change his mind. Sansa half-pleads, half-lectures him about the risk he’s taking - that it could be the same trick the Mad King sprang on Ned Stark’s father and brother all those years ago.
Jon is concerned. Jon is ALWAYS concerned. He hurts so much deep inside it hurts me to admit it really does things to me. But ultimately Jon is unmoved.
I tell you what does move him though, and that’s an appearance by the creep-tacular Petyr Baelish. There Jon is, quietly paying his respects to his father (nope, apparently) in the Winterfell crypts, when Littlefinger sidles up and starts talking shit about how Catelyn didn’t like him, but here he was, the last hope against the oncoming storm, oh and by the way I love Sansa like I loved her mother, and BOOM--
---Jon shoves him against a wall and I think my ovaries exploded.
“Touch my sister and I’ll kill you myself,” he glowers at the rat bastard pinned against the crypt wall. FINISH HIM OFF NOW JON, I’M ALREADY SUPER TURNED-ON.
But he doesn’t, because he’s a good man, I guess? Who knows. He’s got places to be, I suppose.
Jon leaves the crypts and saddles his horse (to be that horse etc), ready to make for Dragonstone. He turns and waves a sombre farewell to Sansa, who returns the gesture. It’s a sad vignette, but not hopeless. I don’t think Sansa intends to fire up the Northern lords against Jon while he’s gone. He did trust her with command in his absence, after all. I remain confident Jon can do his business quickly and return to a positive relationship with Sansa. And shut up if you want to spoil that for me.
Meanwhile can Sansa look forward to another family reunion next week, with Arya coming back? Will Arya regret her choice to return, if her favourite sibling Jon isn't there?
Finally, let’s all aboard the Greyjoy fleet, complete with Sand Snakes and a very flirty Yara.
She and Ellaria enjoy some Dornish wine and corny sexual tension, mocking Theon as they go. “Protect her from the foreign invasion!” laughs Ellaria, as she goes in for what can only be described as an “anchors a-WA-HAY!"
But it’s float-us interruptus for the adventurous pair, as the Greyjoy fleet comes under sudden and fiery attack. It’s like the Armada circa 1588, except the Spanish are winning.
On deck, Yara and Theon look up to see a giant ship loom over theirs, before plowing into it. A drawbridge descends, and out from the darkness, from over their heads, he comes: The Flying Crotchman.
It’s Old Mate Euron and his supercharged fleet of Iron Islanders. Honestly, I cannot even calculate that there are this many Ironborn in existence - the whole kingdom looks like it has a population only marginally bigger than Bear Island. Still, they quickly wreak havoc in a bloody immersive sea-born battle sequence.
Yara has the heart and stomach of a king, but unfortunately she has the body of a weak and feeble woman - at least compared to Old Mate Euron. She puts up a valiant effort against a bunch of salty seadogs and her Unky, but he appears to have snorted a barrel full of anabolic steroids and cocaine before launching his surprise attack.
The guy is a ferocious and insane fighter, that’s for sure. He wields an axe like I wield a karaoke microphone - boldly, without mercy and probably to a bitching 80s soundtrack.
Some of the Sand Snakes, who were gossiping below decks, emerge to help the fight and protect Ellaria Sand. But Obara and Tyene (I think) are murdered, with Tyene suffering a brutal Wolf Creek-style spinal cord adjustment.
Ellaria is captured, as is Yara. No doubt these are the “gifts” Old Mate intends to bribe Cersei with in exchange for a walk down the aisle. Should make for an interesting trip back to King’s Landing next week.
However, in one of the saddest moments possibly ever in this series, we see Theon abandon Yara to her fate. Euron has her tightly in his grip, urging Theon to help her, tears are rolling down Yara’s face, the skies are exploding above them, but all of a sudden Theon disappears and Reek returns in his place - cowardly, snivelling, scared. And Reek chooses to survive.
He jumps overboard, plunges into the water, grabs a piece of driftwood to cling to and re-enacts his own version of the ending of Titanic. Except he totally let go. Sorry Yara.
That's the problem with plans. They don't survive contact with the enemy, and Old Mate Euron is clearly this season's chaotic enemy.
And with Dany and Tyrion's best laid plans ganged agley, big time, it seems like the Mother of Dragons might not be in the best bargaining position against Jon Snow next week...
Yay! Best Moments
Again, so many, but I’d have to say I adored that little chat Olenna Tyrell had with Dany. For someone who never had a mother figure, it must have been refreshing to hear the Queen of Thorns lay the smack down on all the jumped up jerks, knobs and fools she’s outlived over the years. Her wise words are ignore all the men, don’t be a sheep, and instead BE A DRAGON.
Can I get that on a t-shirt?
Zing! Best Lines
Hot Pie: The secret is to brown the butter before making the dough. Most people don’t do that. Arya: I didn’t do that. Hot Pie: You’ve been making pies? Arya: One or two.
I’ve had scabs in my time, but wow, Ser Jorah really is Crust Central. I felt like the director and cinematographer took particular pleasure in close-up shots of Sam’s surgical excisions, with raw infected flesh and pus right up in our faces. The inevitable scene change juxtaposition with a pie in Hot Pie’s pub was enough to put everyone off their dinner.
I guess it’s kind of sad that several Sand Snakes were turned into extremely realistic figureheads for Euron’s fleet. Their limp bodies really put the “flag” into “flagship”.
ALSO THERE WAS NO TORMIENNE. WHAT THE HELL, HBO.
.....Phew, this was a long one. Thanks for sticking with me, Beloveds! I also want to give a massive shout out to all the amazing Patreon subscribers who've jumped onboard this groove train. In particular, holla to Kamal A, Val B, Paul D, Kerrie and Fraser B. You are all as sexy as the fur on Jon Snow's cape. If you want to subscribe, click here! And I'll see you next week.