Each Monday, Clio Chang, Sarah Jones, Alex Shephard, and Ryu Spaeth will discuss the newest episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, which is in its seventh and penultimate season. Join us as we chat about the latest plot developments, eunuch sex, and giant crossbows.
Ryu Spaeth: In the fantasy genre, there is normally a point when the hero begins to exist solely to fulfill the prophecy that has been made about her. The world has been painstakingly built, we know the characters inside and out, and the plot has reached its peak—all that is left is the downhill race to the end, where all the story’s various strands come together and the hero’s destiny is revealed. Though Game of Thrones debuted in book form some 20 years ago, before Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, we have never experienced this basic element, thanks to George R.R. Martin’s glacial writing pace.
Until now, that is. Last night’s “Stormborn” was a juggernaut of long-awaited plot developments, one after the other. Daenerys Targaryen, with the help of Tyrion Lannister, forms her battle plan to take the Iron Throne and sack Casterly Rock. Jon Snow, the King in the North, heads southward to attempt an alliance with Daenerys against the White Walkers. Arya Stark has an encounter with a direwolf that may be the estranged Nymeria. Greyworm and Missandei even have eunuch sex! It is all happening.
Alex Shephard: IT’S ALL HAPPENING. The craziest thing about last night’s episode was that, despite there being a ton of action, there was still a lot of scene-setting, suggesting that the next five episodes are going to be bonkers. Arya learns, via Westerosi Gossip King Hot Pie, that her family is not only alive but residing in Winterfell. She meets Chekhov’s Wolf Pack—you can’t introduce a wolf pack in episode two of season seven without it appearing at a pivotal moment later on to rip some faces off—in what was probably my favorite scene of the episode.
Game of Thrones is also still taking pieces off the board. No one was worse served by the show’s long, dull middle than the Greyjoys and the Martells/Sands. But it looks like we’re pretty much done with them, save Euron and poor, poor, cowardly Theon, who seems to be the only character in this show who is completely arc-less. The guy who jumps off a ship while his uncle has an axe to his sister’s throat—this is who Theon has been since the beginning. Last night was the first time I thought that he might never redeem himself.
Sarah Jones: I agree that Nymeria’s reappearance was the best part of last night’s episode. Dany’s war council simply confirmed my opinion that she’s becoming one of the most insufferable people in Westeros. Sansa ruling Winterfell—sort of cool, but not as cool as Jon Snow almost strangling Littlefinger to death in the Stark family crypt. But Nymeria is great and she’s totally going to appear at some later point to save the day, and then maybe die in tragic and heroic fashion.
Clio Chang: The developments are happening so fast that it’s almost comical. Melisandre shows up at Dragonstone and she’s the first person to ever tell Dany about the existence of Jon Snow, a union we’ve been waiting to see happen for years. They speed through the scene and it is a bit funny to hear Tyrion say, “Jon? Snow? Yeah I know that guy, he’s great!” when nerds have been shipping Tyrion, Dany, and Jon on Reddit boards forever. I, for one, am thankful for the brevity.
The bunkmate Sands sisters meet a merciful end that should have happened seasons ago. As mentioned, the best development was Arya running into (probably) Nymeria surrounded by some very good boys. When was the last time we saw a rapturously happy Arya? But Game of Thrones never treats its characters well for long—she’s about to arrive at Winterfell only to find a Cersei-inspired Sansa in charge and Littlefinger lurking in the crypts. And she’ll just miss a beloved family member, Jon, once again.
Sarah Jones: Why were the Sand Snakes included at all? They’re significantly more interesting in the books, where it’s implied at least one of them has a major role to play in moving the plot forward. The show gives them a few lines of bad dialogue, then kills them off. Entirely pointless.
Alex Shephard: Speaking of Jon leaving Sansa in charge, why is Olenna Tyrell the only person in Westeros who comes prepared for meetings? Like, I’m not saying that Jon and Sansa have to bring identical binders or anything, but do they seriously not talk at all between these all-hands sessions at Winterfell?
Ryu Spaeth: We also saw some developments in other parts of the Seven Kingdoms. Sam Tarly appears to be well on his way to removing the molten rock that has attached itself to Jorah Mormont’s body. Randyll Tarly seems torn about whether to side with the Lannisters or the Tyrells. And in what was the most laughable part of the episode, Cersei and Maester Qyburn unveil their secret weapon for defeating Dany’s dragons: A … big crossbow?
Clio Chang: THE CROSSBOW. Maester Qyburn can bring back Gregor Clegane from the brink of death and nuke all Cersei’s enemies with wildfire and his big new invention is a crossbow?!
Sarah Jones: I feel like Qyburn’s anti-climactic super-weapon actually suits Cersei’s turn as the Donald Trump of Westeros.
Alex Shephard: Guys, it’s called a scorpion. And it has killed before. RIP Meraxes.
Clio Chang: You know who else had a crossbow? Joffrey. You know who’s dead? Joffrey.
Ryu Spaeth: It was definitely an ominous callback to Joffrey. The crossbow is the weapon of sadistic weaklings.
Clio Chang: If Randyll Tarly sees that crossbow he will quickly forget his oaths to the crown.
Alex Shephard: Randyll snatched the “Most Hateable Guy in Westeros” crown last season, but I found him … weirdly persuasive in his conversation with Jaime? Though mostly I was distracted by New Dickon, who appears to have arrived in King’s Landing after a truly special lacrosse season at Holy Cross.
Sarah Jones: Randyll Tarly is the Moderate Republican of Westeros. He may think it’s uncouth to blow up one’s enemies in a house of worship, but when push comes to shove he’ll fall in line with whoever promises to fight the foreign hordes.
One other broader plot turn of note: The emergence of Westerosi matriarchy. Cersei is on the Iron Throne (for now). Daenerys’s war council is mostly female. Melisandre’s prophecy about Azor Ahai’s return, we learn, also applies to women! Sansa rules Winterfell, with Brienne at her side. I would like to think this signals danger for Westeros’s surplus of garbage men, but that’s probably optimistic.
Alex Shephard: I’m a bit worried about Sansa. Littlefinger’s extremely creepy smile after Jon choked the shit out of him in the crypts left me mystified until I remembered the scene it parallels from season one, when Ned choked the shit out of Littlefinger—and then Littlefinger, with a creepy smile on his face, says, “Ah, the Starks: quick tempers, slow minds.” Littlefinger clearly thinks that he has the make of Jon now—that he is his father’s son. But, as we know, Jon is not Ned’s son, which may come back to bite Littlefinger in the future.
Sarah Jones: Sansa needs to kill Littlefinger. I’m excited and ready for this to happen.
Ryu Spaeth: This might be a task for Arya?
Clio Chang: Or for Nymeria!!
Sarah Jones: That would be a neat throwback to Sansa feeding Ramsay Bolton to the dogs. I’m fine with this being the response to men who wrong the Stark women.