Game of Thrones: Stormborn

“You’re a dragon.”

One of my favorite parts of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels was the importance of information: pre-Twitter, pre-telegraph, communicating up-to-date news was no easy task, and being well-informed was a luxury of the wealthy who had access to ravens. That same emphasis on informational access led, of course, to the messiness of the later works, as innumerable characters got stuck in a state of perpetual reaction to news that was often out of date.

Increasingly untethered from the books, in Game of Thrones Benioff and Weiss have simplified the transmission of information in favor of streamlining plot and reaction time. The result? Tauter episodes and more immediate consequences. This technique makes the show less novelistic, but a change in scope is appropriate given the necessity of eventually ending this darn story we’ve lived with for so long.

Take, for instance, Dany’s best-laid plan, which went quickly to waste. She and Tyrion rightly surmised that an invasion of King’s Landing by “foreigners” would ruin their stated claim of making Westeros great again. So the Dothraki and Unsullied should go to Casterly Rock while the Dornish, the Iron-born, and the Tyrells head to King’s Landing. The plan stems from Tyion’s ability to anticipate Cersei’s anti-foreign-invader propaganda and his unwillingness, demonstrated since the Battle of the Blackwater, to avoid the death of random civilians. It’s a good plan.

Until it isn’t, because Tyrion didn’t know (information!) that Euron was even a piece on the game board. Three seasons ago, it might have taken weeks, in TV-scheduling time, for the consequences of these cascading decisions. Now it takes one episode and one fairly nifty sea battle.

We still don’t know all the outcomes. Is Yara dead? (I couldn’t tell if that was her hanging from the prow or not. That might have been one of the Sand Snakes.) What will poor Theon do, and how will his post-traumatic panic affect his worldview? What about the Tyrell bannermen? Even if the Tyrell forces are just decimated and not destroyed, it looks like dragons and Dothraki are in store for the people of King’s Landing. Although I suspect they’ll go to Casterly Rock first. Wouldn’t you?

Jon wouldn’t. He’s heading to Dragonstone. A few years ago, I would have bet that he would just miss Dany and her crew. In this new, streamlined show, I doubt we’ll see that sort of near-comic delay. They can get the Jon/Dany meeting over with, thank goodness, since—like Sansa and Lyanna Mormont and a bunch of bearded guys—I don’t think the King in the North should go to the South. It’s like King in the North 101. A class both Robb and Ned failed, as the Stark vassals were happy to point out.

Jon regained some of my lost affection this week. He still knows nothing. (You think he’d at least learn to run his ideas by Sansa before meeting with his vassals.) But he stood up for his sister against Littlefinger and spoke of his trust in both Samwell and Tyrion. Again, we see a streamlining: Jon ought to have more complex feelings about Tyrion that he does. But that’s okay, because simplification leads to forward movement, and I’m in favor of that. Plus, we all know Tyrion is a good guy, so it’s convenient if our putative hero thinks so, too.

Similarly, years ago I would have guessed that Arya would just miss Jon as he journeyed south and she, based on useful information conveniently communicated by Hot Pie, headed north. Now, I’m curious about where they will meet up and whether or not they’ll run into Beric Dondarian, the Hound, and the Brotherhood on their way there.

But while I am glad that Arya is, finally, headed home, I am sad that she is not quite the Arya—not even the "Arry"—that she used to be. When her horse was spooked, I wondered if we would finally see Arya reunite with Nymeria. When we saw Nymeria, I teared up a bit. But the worst part wasn’t the sweet reunion: it was the bittersweet fact that Nymeria is lost to Arya. Are they both too wild? Have they spent too long too far apart? After Nymeria left, Arya said “That’s not you.” She could have been speaking to herself or to her direwolf.

Grumpkins and Snarks

• I enjoyed Dany and Melissandre chatting about the gender-neutral prophecy: “The prince or princess who was promised will bring the dawn.” Have fun with that, internet theorizers!

• Dany and Olenna Tyrell. Beautiful.

• Everything Samwell is also beautiful, although I had to avert my eyes, and then just close them, when he peeled off Jorah’s skin. Sweet Lord of Light! That looked awful.

• Watching this episode, I realized that I’m now rooting for two different people to be leader of Westeros: Samwell and Lyanna Mormont. (To be clear, I am not advocating that they get married, since I love Samwell’s relationship with Gilly.) Who would you vote for?

• I’ve been trying to come up with a handy way of referring to Dany’s new wardrobe. I've come up with a few possibilities: Renaissance Nazi and Cromwell Chic. Any thoughts?

Three out of four Shoulder-Pad Puritans.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

6 comments:

TheShadowKnows said...

It was two of the Sand Snakes hanging from the prow of the ship - the one with the spear, and the one with the whip. The youngest one (aka "the one who pops her top for no particular reason") was captured alive, along with her mother. I assume Yara was as well, unless Theon finds her corpse floating in the bay next episode or something.

(Can you tell the Sand Snakes didn't exactly impress themselves on my mind as vivid characters?)

Anonymous said...

I can't remember, does Arya know Littlefinger betrayed her father, which ultimately led to his death? I can't imagine Aryas arrival at Winterfell will bode well for Littlefinger in any case-

And does Euron's victory mean he now controls the seas around Westeros? If so will it mean Dany's army can't get to Casterly Rock and the Dornish army is stuck in the south (and with Randyll Tarlys army between them and King's Landing)? Quite the gift for Cersei...

Julia

Logan Cox said...

Great review of an excellently written and directed episode.

Anyone who reads my Preacher reviews knows that I am getting pretty tired of the uber dark anti-hero formula that is all the rage nowadays. This is why I love Kit Harington as Jon Snow so much. Sure, he's obviously got some PTSD issues beneath the surface, but overall Jon is a very noble and kindhearted man. His speech about why he accepted the King in the North title was so moving, as was him leaving the North in Sansa's hands; though, as others pointed out, it's kind of hilarious how Sansa no longer had a problem with Jon going south after that.

I'm even starting to mind Tyrion's lack of moral grayness a whole lot less than I did previously; his levelheaded seriousness, while not as realistic, is a bit more tolerable than his misanthropic book counterpart.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

Jon's been an excellent king for the last two episodes. (He's really not stood out as the sharpest pencil in the box before.) He makes all those around him, including Sansa and Lyanna whom I love, look like petulent children in comparison.

So, yeah. I'm aboard that train. Remains to be seen how his meeting with Daenerys, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Mhysa, Breaker of Chains, the Unburnt, Mother of Dragons, Protector of the Realm will play out.

Of course, we all know it will lead to sex.

Logan Cox said...

Haha, yeah. While I don't believe they'll come to an agreement in the next episode, I think a little accidental incest is inevitable where those two are concerned. She already thinks "He sounds like quite a man." And I'm sure it won't take much for him to fall for her like every other guy.

Patryk said...

So they did delay the arction scenes and sex till the 2nd episode. Wouldn't be HBO without it.

I do like the new streamlined show with everyone finally coverging and working together. There's not many bad guys left and the writers are elimnating dead weight like the Sand Snakes. So far a really great season.