Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 2: Stormborn
After a disappointingly slow and drawn out first episode, the second one tries to ramp up the stakes, but ends up creating one of the most disastrous episodes in the entire series. Horrible dialogue, overused tropes, and perhaps the most disgusting scene transition to be put on any screen. Follow me through the second episode and brew a strong tea beforehand, because this will be rough ride.
Rather than going through the episode in a chronological fashion, I will just cover every section associated with a specific character in the order that I deem fitting and entertaining. Starting off with Daenerys and her group of whacky councilmembers in Dragonstone. The scene is plagued by recapping dialogue since the creators must have an all-consuming fear that most people forget what had happened a year ago and therefore need to clue them in with ham-fisted dialogue. Ellaria Martell’s reminder that Oberyn died for Tyrion is bad enough but might receive a pass, since it was a somewhat fitting counter to Tyrion’s accusation. The crown for obnoxious and badly written dialogue must go, however, to lady Olenna and while we are on the subject, let’s talk a moment about fan favourite Lady Olenna, Queen of Thorns. This is a character that has been run into the ground because they could not restrain themselves. After having some good scenes with Sansa in the garden where she throws out some not-lady-like dialogue, everyone was on board with her. Problem is, she is a shallow character that should never have received as much screentime as she did. From that point on, whenever Olenna was in a scene, she had to throw out some “cool” lines just to keep her gimmick going and it is now nothing but annoying and infuriating. Even more so, because I can see them going the same direction with Lady Mormont, the new strong female character with the badass lines but no character. Anyway, Olenna works a reminder about Margaery’s death into her contribution as nice and smoothly as a river of socket wrenches flows down a street. How one can write that, deliver that, edit that, and not realise how atrocious it sounds is simply beyond me. Oh, but she is not done: After everyone left, there is a another piece of dialogue from Olenna’s “lines that sound badass but don’t mean a lot upon closer inspection” when she tells Daenerys to “be a dragon”. Okay… but she just said she didn’t want to be Queen of the Ashes, which would just be another title to add to her ridiculously long chain of nouns. “But hey, it’s from woman to woman and it sounds badass, leave it in.” The rest of the scene is not worth mentioning apart from the fact that Tyrion’s strategy to attack Casterly Rock is the soundest plan that has been on Daenery’s agenda so far. Anything positive about this scene? I liked the storm… Later on, she meets Melisandre, but it is just a set-up for the longed for meeting between Jon and Daenerys so it isn’t even worth mentioning.
Now to get the two most useless scenes out of the way: Arya. The reunion with Hotpie is about as interesting as it sounds on paper. It serves to show her lack of humanity for the ten-thousandth time through her dead staring while munching on a loaf of bread. This is stupid in a lot of ways, simply because through the faceless men training she should be able to fake a decent expression and not look like a lobotomised vegetable. Life briefly flushes into her at the mention of Jon being King in the North, although I don’t understand how she knew about the Bolton’s having taken over Winterfell but not Jon taking it back. Afterwards we get another ham-fisted moment which seems to be a running theme, when a rider announces that he is going to King’s Landing and rides off to the right and Arya ponders while finally going left. It is so crude and forced. Just showing her pondering and then having her take off in a direction would leave some mystery as to how she decided even though it would hint at her going to Winterfell, but with an air of suspense. The next scene with her is yet another showcase for her lost humanity when her old wolf recognises her, but rejects her, because she is not the same anymore. But, once again, this is in such stark contrast to what we have been shown. She refused to become a complete faceless (wo)man and never truly abandoned her identity as Arya to begin with. She is just a well-trained assassin acting edgy all the time. Also, I thought her resolution was to go to Winterfell anyway after leaving Jaqen. Now you may say that this is when she found out that the Bolton’s hold Winterfell now. Right, but it was also around the same time that Jon took it back. So, her decision to not go to Winterfell is inconsistent with what we have been shown. The repeated beating over the head with her lost humanity and self, contrasts with her reclaiming of her identity and never abandoning it in the first place (represented by Needle). What is this storyline about? Answer: Arya being badass which doesn’t make much sense upon closer inspection. Do you see the pattern emerging?
And now the second and arguably even worse scene: Missandei and Grey Worm finally doing sexual stuff. Not only is this love story ridiculously underdeveloped and unnecessary, it is also so awkward to watch. But I suppose we didn’t see any nudity in the first episode, so there you go. Got to fill the quota. What is there even to be said about this? Both characters are flat as pancakes and their love story is about as engaging as stacking one pancake upon another. I am not yet sure if it isn’t a bit misogynistic that a woman cannot express her affection any other way than undressing completely on the spot. Grey Worm may struggle to express it, but at least he tries some other way than just whipping out his non-existent junk. I find it also weird that she doesn’t wear anything underneath, because leather is sure to grind your skin off if you do not wear some linen, but that is just a small nit-pick. Grey Worm apparently has no scars that we see, not even the one from the battle where Selmy died and he had to be bandaged up and stay in bed for weeks. I also do not quite understand where Grey Work learned his “skills”. He never had any experience before, possibly watched some other people doing it. It just doesn’t make sense to me… Go away, scene, go away!
King’s Landing is pretty good for a change. I enjoyed Cersei rallying up the different bannerman like a true queen would. Her arguments, in this context, made sense and did not feel forced. The conversation between Jamie and Randyll Tarly was like a middle manager painting a nice picture for a broker of the life he could have if he bought shares of the company he is working in. Forced, crude, ham-fisted, you know the adjectives by now. Luckily, King’s Landing also had the only scene in this episode I truly enjoyed: Cersei talking with Qyburn. First, I must give credit that Qyburn is not an immensely developed character but one they haven’t completely destroyed by attaching stupid quips to him. Qyburn is still mysterious enough to be intriguing. The scene itself is nicely lit and shot which grants some scale to the set. The shot of Cersei firing at Balerion was also nicely framed and the underlying score of her new theme from Light of the Seven was fitting and well placed. Finally, something I can praise. In addition to that, it brings in a new level of tension as the dragons are now no longer almighty super weapons with no possible countermeasure.
The hardest-to-watch-scene must be Sam and Jorah in Oldtown. While I am not 100% certain where Sam’s determination to save this one man is coming from, I enjoyed the scene for its gritty visceral imagery. Jorah is still one of my, if not absolute, favourite character on the show and seeing him suffer like this made it all the more painful. (#TeamJorah). There is not much to be said about this, other than I do not know how someone could survive with that large a wound in such an unhygienic time, but I would cross my fingers until the break for Jorah any day. The scene transition into the North is equally disgusting and becoming somewhat of a staple for Oldtown scenes. Apparently, they must include transitions of bodily fluids into food.
In another meeting where Jon decides to head South, we see how much Sansa really cares as the dialogue basically plays out like this:
Sansa: You cannot leave the North. The North needs a king.
Jon: I am leaving it in your hands.
Sansa: When are you leaving?
The subsequent scene with Littlefinger is far too short, but satisfying. Even though they are really overdoing the trope of cutting from Sansa to Littlefinger smiling fiendishly for my taste. But I still enjoy watching Littlefinger being Littlefinger as he still has some mystery to him. And with that we already leave the North behind and arrive at another horrible sequence.
The sea battle between the Greyjoys starts off with some, you guessed it, atrocious dialogue. Yara, possessing the sexual allure of ten Helenas apparently, finds herself yet another woman to play with. And Ellaria actually uses the line “a foreign invasion is underway” while tracing her fingers up her inner thigh. The cringe from this scene broke several windows in my neighbourhood and this doesn’t even take the “mama, mama!” scene before into account, which I really don’t want to remember. In the crude and ham-fisted department, we have a new arrival with Yara stating that Theon would defend her at any sign of danger which literally happens five minutes later, except he doesn’t. (You could not drop this even an episode before this one?) The lovemaking between Yara and Ellaria is interrupted when Euron’s ship emerges Pirates of the Caribbean-style out of a storm (Lord knows how he found them inside a storm in the first place) who then proceeds to drop a huge phallic enter bridge onto the ship of Yara and Theon in an entrance that is akin to a Wrestling champion. While the entire sequence does end in the death of most of the hated Sandsnakes, I am once again left wondering why they did not use poison this time around or why Euron is capable of beating two of them anyway. Sure, he is a strong guy, but you are using a spear and a whip, both of which can be used to keep him at a distance. Anyway, the most hilarious moment is the brief seconds of silence before the battle after the ships become visible where Yara exclaims “Euron” in perfect comedic timing that I almost expected Theon to say something along the lines of “and I still owe him money” Captain Jack Sparrow style. The battle has the usual problem of one cut per second with no chance to understand what is happening and where. And let it just be said that I liked Euron much more when he seemed truly delusional and thought himself to be the storm among several other things. Now he is just a slightly whacky pirate. Theon does the only thing sensible in the end and lives to fight another day.
There you have it, my thoughts on the second episode “Stormborn”. One of the worst in the series with so much horrendous dialogue, unnecessary and inconsistent scenes, but also some truly impressive (maybe too impressive) make-up. I would say it can only get better from here on out, but that is what I thought after the first episode as well…