So we’re only on episode 2 of this season and a lot is already happening. The pacing of this season is much faster than the previous ones and while it’s a little funny to watch a letter being sent and received in the same episode rather than in three, it’s also a little sad. We are only five episodes away from the season finale and only 11 away from the series finale. While I am excited for what’s to come, it feels bittersweet because it’s clearly time for things to come to an end.
We start this episode off on Dragonstone, where a storm is raging all around, clearly symbolizing Daenerys’s homecoming. We join Dany in her council chambers with Tyrion and Varys, and here she questions Varys’s loyalties, pointing out all the ways Varys has plotted against other Kings in the past. This scene reminded me that Dany and Varys hadn’t had a scene together yet, and it also gave Varys a moment to really explain to Dany - and to us - what his end goal has been all this time. While he’s said time and time again that he serves the realm, a lot of his actions have seemed to suggest otherwise. His answers seem to satisfy Dany, however, and she implores him to tell her if she’s failing the realm rather than plotting behind her back, or else, of course, she’ll feed him to one of her dragons.
Then Melisandre shows up. Like everyone else, I was wondering where she would go after being banished from the North, and part of me thought she might end up running into Arya - who she told eons ago she would see again. Ever consistent in her faith, Melisandre tells Dany, Tyrion, and Varys about the Long Night and the Prince That Was Promised. Missandei corrects Melisandre, explaining that in its original language “Azor Ahai” was not gendered and for a second I thought Mel would change her tune again and declare Dany the Chosen One, but instead she’s more vague, saying that she believes both Dany AND Jon have a role to play. Tyrion pipes up at the mention of Jon Snow, saying that he likes and trusts him despite not having seen each other in six whole seasons. Melisandre suggests that Dany and Jon come together and Tyrion agrees - not only can they together defeat the white walkers (which I’m not sure any of them truly believe exists yet) but the alliance would give Dany the North, continuing to cement her claim over Westeros. Dany tells Tyrion to write to Jon, inviting him to come to Dragonstone to bend the knee, which seems unlikely, but maybe it’ll end in marriage instead?
We also see a quick scene between Missandei and Grey Worm, who is going off to fight at Casterly Rock. They finally have a night of intimacy and it’s so sweet and I want nothing but good things for them which makes me think they won’t get it. I’m going to move on before I make myself too sad.
There’s a war council including Ellaria Sand, Yara Greyjoy, and Olenna Tyrell. All three of them are impatient and want to start the warring now, but Dany is listening to Tyrion’s council of caution, repeating to them that she does not want to be the “Queen of Ashes.” Instead of attacking King’s Landing she wants the Dornishmen and Tyrells to lay siege on the city - using Westerosi to do this so that she doesn’t lose the citizens of King’s Landing and the larger country to xenophobia against the dothraki and Unsullied. Instead, she’s going to send the latter to Casterly Rock because Tyrion loves irony and using the traits he inherited from his father to mess with his legacy. Dany then meets privately with Olenna, who cautions her against listening to Tyrion’s council. Through Tyrion and Olenna we see the two warring sides against Dany - the desire to be wise and loved and the desire to burn everything to the ground. Hopefully bathing the whitewalkers in dragon flame will be enough for her and then they can go ahead and have true peace in the realm.
Meanwhile Westeros apparently has e-raven now because Jon and Sansa got the message from Tyrion and Dany quicker than we’ve ever seen a letter arrive on this show. I love that we get to see Jon consulting with Sansa more, even though as we saw in the last episode - and later in this one - he does make the final decision himself. Sansa doesn’t trust that the letter is real, though both she and Jon don’t exactly have ill will towards Tyrion. In their eyes, it could definitely be a trap but, as Davos points out, if it’s real it means there are dragons and dragons can kill wights because they are the best creature in all of the Known World.
And then Jon gets another letter from Sam, who chose to use snail-crow because the Citadel is old fashioned or something. This letter seals Jon’s decision to go and meet with Daenerys, and though there is an uproar from Houses Royce, Glover, and Mormont for various reasons, he declares that he and Davos will head south to Dragonstone and that he is leaving Winterfell and the North to Sansa. While Sansa is initially upset - and with good reason as the Targaryens and the Lannisters are the reasons why their family only has four (though they think two) people left in it - she takes on the responsibility.
Jon then goes to the crypts to pay his respects to Ned, but Littlefinger ruins it by existing and sticking his face where he doesn’t belong. For some reason he can’t keep Ned and Cat’s names out his mouth, and Jon is already over it. But when Littlefinger tells Jon he loves Sansa as he loved Catelyn, Jon has the appropriate response and almost chokes him out, telling him that if he touches Sansa he’ll kill him. Jon then leaves - splitting up the Starks once again - and Littlefinger continues to not gain any perspective in the wake of the frozen zombie apocalypse.
In King’s Landing, Cersei has called Sam’s delightful father Lord Randyll Tarly and the other lords of the Reach to court. She tries to convince them to forsake Lady Olenna for her, citing Dany’s cruelty like she didn’t just reanimate the Mountain, have all the dwarfs in Essos beheaded in her hunt to find her brother, and blow up a place of worship. Randyll isn’t completely convinced given Dany’s dragons but Qyburn mentions that there are ways to kill them pushing him higher on my list of people in this world I need to die and not come back as whitewalkers. Jaime speaks with Randyll privately, asking him to be the general of Cersei’s army. Randyll is hesitant because he doesn’t want to go against his vows to the Tyrells, but Jaime both appeals to Randyll’s racism against the dothraki and offers him the title of Warden of the South, so that alliance is more or less shored up.
Meanwhile, Qyburn takes Cersei to the dungeon where all of the old dragon skulls are kept. He shows her a giant crossbow, mentioning Drogon’s injury from the fighting pits and defiling Balerion’s skull because his mama clearly didn’t raise him right. This is scary because it almost guarantees that one of the dragons may die and then HOW WILL WE GET THREE RIDERS. I honestly just need Cersei gone so we can have ALL THREE dragons fight the Night King and live. If they don’t all survive, I will be writing a strongly-worded letter.
Rather than focusing on the real task at hand - the one on how to defeat the frozen cadavers marching south - Sam, for some reason, wants to help Jorah Mormont. Like I get that Sam doesn’t know Jorah’s history and just knows that he was the son of Lord Commander Mormont, but trust me fam, he’s not worth it. Remember why you’re here! We need more information on the whitewalkers not the writers trying to make us feel sympathy for Jorah. Stop trying to make fetch happen.
Sam keeps sneaking around doing things he’s not supposed to (and this time it’s not even for what really matters) and I have a feeling Archmaester Ebrose or one of the other maesters will catch him soon. Rather than doing the research Ebrose gives him, Sam is thinking of ways to cure Jorah though Ebrose tells him it’s impossible. So instead of listening, he decides to cut Jorah’s grayscale off with a scalpel. If Sam gets grayscale trying to help this dude I’m going to be mad but also Sam brought this on himself.
Arya is on her way to kill Cersei but then she sees Hot Pie! It’s nice that she runs into someone familiar, but it’s also clearly strange for her given that she’s changed so much since she last saw her friend. Hot Pie mentions Brienne to her, asking if they ran into each other, and then mentions to her that Jon is King in the North. In the last episode I was wondering why Arya wasn’t heading to Winterfell but it was because she didn’t know the Boltons were defeated! While this seems a little strange given how long she was at the Twins, I suppose it is possible that she was so entrenched in her revenge plot against the Freys that she didn’t hear about the Battle of the Bastards. However, this news forces Arya to make a decision: will she continue on her trek south to kill Cersei or will she go home to Jon and Sansa? Thank the seven, our girl is headed North! Of course she - or maybe Bran - will probably arrive just after Jon leaves for Dragonstone because the Starks can never have nice things.
As she travels north, some wolves surround her camp. It’s Nymeria and her gang coming to see who’s on their turf, and Nymeria has GROWN. Arya asks Nymeria to come back with her to Winterfell, but Nymeria says nah and leaves. Arya realizes that it’s not in Nymeria’s nature to be domesticated or to be a pet and lets her go. I’m not totally clear on why this scene was there - on the one hand it was great to see Arya’s direwolf but we haven’t seen or even heard hints of her since Arya sent her away in the second episode of the show. The only thing I can think of is that the scene was meant as a parallel with Arya herself - she doesn’t have it in her to be a lady the way her sister does and she never did. I’m wondering what this will mean for Arya’s character in the future - will she turn away from Winterfell and go back to Cersei as was her original plan? Or will she get to Winterfell only to realize that she can’t fit into the box she’d been forced into as a girl? I can’t imagine Jon and Sansa would try to force her to be someone she’s not, but who knows what would happen when there are alliances to be made in order to defend the coming cold? And where is Ghost???
The Narrow Sea
We then go to the Narrow Sea, where the Greyjoys and the Sand Snakes are making their way to Dorne on Daenerys’s orders. Yara and Ellaria flirt and mess with Theon and Theon decides to give them some privacy when they are attacked by Euron’s Iron Fleet. This battle was brutal, and the first pirate battle we’ve really gotten to see. It’s a slaughter though, with Euron killing Obara and Nym and taking Ellaria and Tyene captive. Euron captures Yara and Theon has a moment of PTSD, becomes Reek again, and jumps overboard. It’s clear that these women are the gifts he’s going to give Cersei and I’m very worried about their wellbeing. I’m a little annoyed at Theon, but also we all knew he was damaged by Ramsay and that was only partly his own fault given Ramsay’s sadism. I am still curious about Euron and how he knew Yara was traveling. It’s possible he went to Dragonstone and followed them from there, and other than seeing him fight with a badass hook, I’m still not seeing signs of him being worse than Joffrey or Ramsay - again, not that I want to see that. His character so far has been meh for me, in part because he just ended the Sand Snakes’ weak storyline, usurping it with the Greyjoy storyline for least compelling. Of course that could all change and I’m interested in seeing where it’s going and how Dany will take this L.