Game of Thrones - S7E2: Stormborn - Review: The War Begins
Whether it’s TiVo, Sky+ or whatever playback streaming service is in your throne room , they are a wonderful thing. Not only for their convenience of watching your shows when you want but the barriers have broken down like watershed times. No longer are you waiting until the late pm’s for the good stuff, it’s yours on demand.... and sometimes that comes at a price. Just because you can watch something anytime, doesn’t mean you should. Case and point, whenever you decide to watch this week’s excellent Game of Thrones, in the name of all the Gods old and new DO NOT watch it while eating. Unless you’re genuinely curious about which cleaning products will shift half-digested meat loaf off a plasma screen hold your hunger a little longer. For the night is dark and full of terrors.... and this episode comes with one hell of a gag reflex warning!
Stormborn – As Daenerys sets out her plans for conquest, word of Jon Snow and the coming war for the Dawn sees her she summons him, much to animosity of Jon’s Northern Lords. Sam makes a daring move to try and save Jorah from his greyscale. Some surprising news changes Ayra’s destination and the war for Westeros begins.
So Season 7 continues its welcome approach of moving its characters with purpose by building upon past events. Rather than a new season brining a new direction for people to wonder in, its crossing of the bridges the first 6 years have been building to achieve new heights. This allows for quick and meaningful story developments in the brokering of alliances best shown in bringing together Daenerys and Jon. Tyrion vouches for Jon for their time together in season 1. Sansa admits that Tyrion is a good man to Jon for their time together in Season 3, and suddenly the vital connection is made. This built into a larger theme across the episode in both the difficulty and importance in putting the past behind you. In her opening war council, Daenerys full on interrogates Varys with valid points over past actions in service of many monarchs, some which we even against her. Yet while it is not easy for her to look past these things, she eventually sees the value forgiving Varys in hat he will ensure she never forgets her people. Then by contrast, Jamie tries reward Lord Tarly for forgetting his past to turn against the Tyrell’s but his reward comes from holding his honour, “we don’t stab our rivals in the back or cut their throats at weddings”.
Then in the North, we see many older Northern Lords judging Daenerys by their horrible memories of the Mad King or Tyrion by the recent actions of his Lanister kin. Jon is the voice of reason in promoting their alliance but the wounds go so deep he finds himself alone. Although nothing conveys this better than 3 seconds of Lyanna Mormont speaking against him. This all builds to a wonderful crescendo in the climax as someone discovering they can’t forget their past has vast consequences.
Speaking of the climax, anyone waiting for some proper action this season will wait no longer. The episode goes all out in its final section as someone’s best laid plans will now require a major re-think. Forgive the vagueness because detail of who is involved is a spoiler to the suddenness of the surprise attack which is a key strength of the event. The rapid setup and badass entrance all come together for an immediate sense of peril and anticipation that something awesome is about to go down. Everything that follows is a hard gritty affair of dirty close quarters fighting with enough named and known characters involved to give it some real stakes. The fact that most lighting comes from the blazing fires makes it all the more intense. The more sprawling visuals convey the scale while the action itself stays intimate. It carries an outcome of major consequences and a few surprises in how it unfolds. Yet as the dust settles, the awesome feeling of all is that despite its heart pounding satisfaction; this still only feels like a taste of what the season has in store.
For all the bigger moments, there were great subplot character scenes too, each with their own payoff. The aforementioned gag reflex warning comes courtesy of Sam de-scaling Jorah (health & safety trumps spoiler etiquette). I’m really enjoying these Citadel scenes as Sam has already achieved more than he did all last season while his scenes with Jim Broadbent continue to be a delight. As for the greyscale, a knighthood to the show’s make up team please because Jorah’s vastly scaled torso looks incredible. God and/or Google knows how long it must have taken them to create the effect but it was worth it. As for Dr Sam MD, yes the imagery is more than a little graphic but it’s offset very well with humour in Sam’s almost casual tones to everything their doing. The scenes killer blow comes from a genius yet evil scene transition that, while its creativity should be applauded, for a couple seconds is every shade of wrong. I also really liked Ayra’s scenes this episode. It’s always difficult to savour a character having a moment of happiness (because it often leads to quite the opposite) but Ayra’s feel good moment was rewarding. There’s a nice nod to larger book story too that feels like it may rear its head again later in the season. I wasn’t crazy about Grey Worm and Missandei finally getting their grind and grind on but in was not without purpose or meaning.
Season 7 is 2 for 2. Everything is moving quickly towards promising destinations. It’s delivering both with big action and smaller character moments. It may have you scrubbing the lounge carpet afterwards but it’ll be worth it.