Thoughts on Game of Thrones, Season 7 Episode 2, “Stormborn”

Ok, after long last I’ve watched Episode 2. Here’s what I thought about it:

Overall:

Unsurprisingly, with Bryan Cogman writing, the dialogue is better written even if there are some strange lapses in scene construction from a “what does X character want in this scene, what does Y character want” level, and some ongoing major issues with some characters (although not others).

However, the editing was much worse – there was far too much Season 2-style jumping back and forth (from KL to Oldtown back to KL, etc.) that really didn’t need to happen for any reasons of constructing parallels or so forth. As was discovered in Seasons 3+4, it’s far more effective to have one KL section, one Oldtown section, one Riverlands section, because it makes those locations feel more real and gives us more time to get into that storyline. Moreover by establishing a clear contrast, it would also have been more effective if the only jumping back and forth was between Winterfell and Dragonstone, since the overall arc of the episode was about whether the North would ally with Dany and vice-versa.

Dragonstone:

While not without its faults – the arrival of Melisandre seems very forced although it’s nice to hear the words Prince Who Was Promised and the whole gendered-noun thing out loud, and at this point I really feel like Ellaria should sue for libel – this was some of the strongest writing of the episode and a rare example of doing politics well on this show. Dany doesn’t trust Varys for very good reasons, but Varys earns her trust by making a case for his utilitarian idealism (link); Tyrion sees the advantage in an alliance with the North, but has also (mostly) out-thought Cersei when it comes to the xenophobia angle and his strategy of putting KL under siege and then pulling out the Lannister power base is a good one; Dany does a good job of managing her somewhat fractious team (although the “betray me and I’ll burn you alive” line landed with a bit of a thud).

The only bum notes to me in the council scene were that, while Yara seemed very much in-character, Olenna was very much not in character. Ignore your advisers, fear over love (link), be a dragon – this is not how House Tyrell has kept itself in power for three hundred years, nor how they advised the Gardeners for millenia before.

Finally, I’m just not feeling the Grey Worm/Missandei romance here. The speeches are well-written, the actors are giving it their all, but it feels very perfunctory, that it’s there to tick off the nudity box for HBO’s Producers.

King’s Landing:

Here’s where the wheels completely came off the wagon, politics-wise. Cersei talking about Dany killing noblemen? She just openly murdered not just the High Septon, but also the Lord Paramount of the Reach, his heir, the queen, and all the nobles who were in attendance at Loras’ trial, many of whom would be the kinsmen of these Reacher lords. And I hate to keep harping on about it, but Cersei has no claim whatsoever to the throne she occupies. Forget a hypothetical tyrant queen, they’re looking at one right now.

And yet no one even mentions it! You’d think that a straight shooter like Randyll Tarly (pun intended) would throw out that when Jaime offers him the Wardenship of the South to betray Olenna Tyrell.

At the same time, the fact that Qyburn has invented the ballista is rather unimpressive. While show-only viewers might not know this, the characters on the show know dragons can die, they know the history of the First Dornish War and Rhaenys’ death at Hellholt, and the Dance of the Dragons.  Why not use that, Cogman?

Winterfell:

After raging so hard during the King’s Landing sequence, I actually thought the Winterfell sequences weren’t so bad. Yes, they still have a problem with presenting politics well: the introductory scene with Jon talking with Sansa and Davos about Tyrion’s letter was good, but the council scenes are just not getting any better. There’s plenty of blame to go around here: for Sansa’s part, she’s still constantly trying to win the argument rather than trying to persuade and she still fails to grasp the idea of a pre-meeting where you find out what’s on the agenda in the main meeting and have a chance to count votes, but Jon…you have council meetings to help deliberate over an open question or to gain people’s buy-in by making them part of the decision-making process. If you’ve already made up your mind before the council, don’t have a council – just issue a decree.

That being said, the argument for the alliance between the Starks and Targaryens makes sense, even to the point of being a bit obvious and over-emphasized, and I’m looking forward to Jon’s scenes with Dany and Tyrion and a little curious as to how and when R+L=J will come up.

Where the writing really fell down was in the scene with Littlefinger. From a very basic writing level, what was Littlefinger trying to accomplish by going to the crypts and telling Jon how much he’d like to bone Sansa? It smacked of a scene that started at “Jon should choke Littlefinger just like Ned did in Season 1” and then reasoned backwards from there, rather than one grounded in actual character dynamics.

The Riverlands:

Look, Maisie Williams acted the hell out of these scenes, but the bit with Hot Pie was a pure info dump meant to clue her in on the new status quo, and they don’t really give the dilemma of King’s Landing vs. Winterfell (i.e, revenge vs. family) any time to breathe and thus it has very little impact.

Speaking of which…yes, from a purely Pavlovian angle, it tugged my heartstrings to see Arya reunite with Nymeria. But I’ll bet dollars to donuts that when GRRM writes this scene in TWOW, there’s going to be way more consequence to their meeting than this. As Ivan Hernandez is fond of saying, you don’t put a direwolf on the mantle in Act 1 if it’s not going to go off in Act 3, and having the two characters meet and then do nothing and go their separate ways is not “going off.”

So once again, a scene that’s conceptually lovely but doesn’t have a satisfying dramatic consequence.

The Battle:

Ok, so I wasn’t in a good mood when this started, what with the Sand Snakes being hateful little sadists, Ellaria being an exoticized bisexual parody of herself, and Yara being the broiest woman ever.

The battle itself? So-so. The fire at night was gorgeous, but we really need to see our heroes act rather than just mutely react and Yara was doing a hell of a lot of that. I would have preferred to see her trying to stave off defeat, belting out orders to her fleet, rallying her men, making it look like it might actually be ok…so that when Euron comes down on the raven’s beak, the audience empathizes with Yara. I will say though that this episode really did make Euron look good, although he seems to be coming across a bit more like Victarion tbh.

In terms of the rest of the fight…I wasn’t a huge fan of the Jason Bourne-y shakey-cam. Yes, I get that you want to make the battle feel chaotic, but you can do that and make it clear where the characters are in relation to each other. (Hell, they did it last season with the Battle of the Bastards – for all my problems with that battle from a military history perspective, it’s always quite clear where people are and what they’re doing.) I’m quite glad that the two Sand Snakes are dead – they were useless caricatures and the whip was an especially stupid weapon to have in combat, and they’re a cheap way to establish Euron as the new Big Bad. I’m less glad about the rape threats against Ellaria and the remaining Sand Snakes.

And now to the big controversy…Theon jumping overboard when faced with Euron’s axe at Yara’s neck. Honestly, I felt like he did the right thing – Euron’s men had taken the ship, he’s not strong enough to face Euron one-on-one, so he was not going to do anything other than die if he stayed on that boat. However, I think the controversy exists because of poor communication on the director’s part: had it been better demonstrated that Theon was having a PTSD episode already (instead of showing him rather gamely fighting) or even showed him fighting through it but losing stamina and then hitting the wall, I think people would have understood. Had Yara flicked her eyes over to the side, as if to say “save yourself,” I think people would have understood. But as it was, it seemed to come out of nowhere.

 

 

Advertisements

27 thoughts on “Thoughts on Game of Thrones, Season 7 Episode 2, “Stormborn”

  1. djinn says:

    If the Tyrells are against Cersei in KL, wouldn’t they starve it like in S2, to cause food riots? And why would the westerosi oppose a unsullied/dothraki attack at KL but not at CR/Lannisport? If Hotpie konws Cersei destroyed the Great Sept, why wouldnt all pious Seven followers turn on her, like they did with Maegor?

    Tyrion dwarfsplainning scene was very simbolic and amusing. The only person with a cock in there’s gets to think and devise the plan.

    Is it me or Sam seems the most likely person to save the World(WW killing, GS curing, VS wielding, DG finding,…)?

    I do agree that many actors really try to give good performances, but the scripts full of dead ends.

    • Tywin of the Hill says:

      1. Maybe the Lannisters stocked up enough food. The fact that the Riverlands aren’t off-limits also helps.
      2. King’s Landing is the capital of the 7K; everyone’s looking at what’s happening there. Casterly Rock, no so much.
      3. Good question.

      • 1. Why didn’t they just mention that then? Also isn’t the Riverland still ravaged by war and bandits?
        2. If that’s the case why does no one care that the Great Sept was destroyed by wildfire and Margaery and Tommen were killed?
        3. Agreed.

        Sorry if I sound mean or accusatory. I just can’t get this show sometimes.

  2. sandorcleganes_lostidealism says:

    The winterfell stuff is the most interesting to me so far this season. I’d like them to flesh it out more but I agree that the politics stuff doesn’t come across well, more so,imo, because its rushed rather than its bad writing.

    As a show purist (I say tongue in cheek but to illustrate my point) Sansa’s bad politicking and political naivety actually makes sense. She was a horrible little girl, was schooled, mentored and abused by a succession of horrible people. Is it any wonder she has turned out the way she has?

    Where I agree I suppose is that I don’t trust B&W to take this to its logical conclusion in a satisfactory way which eventually will be bad writing.

  3. olisimpson88 says:

    Main reason Cersei’s claim is not contested and Jaime not raising anything so much as a frown is because d&d are in love with Lena’s great portrayal of Cheryl. And are bending the plot and characterization so they can keep her around on the show even when it breaks their own lore and suspense of disbelief.

    Which from the rumors of Lena expecting a pay rise for season 8. Buckle in for a while until Jaime finally decides to do the deed. In the final episode I bet considering how much D&D love the Lannister’s.

    As for the episode. Poor Bryan, having to try so much to fix in where he can of the plotholes, but even he can’t so much as fill them and call attention to them without being able to untangle the mess D&D leave in their wake.

    Varys for starters. They really screwed up with him in cutting out all the Aegon and Blackfrye stuff. Which I can understand from a time and budget view as a acceptable action. But in doing so they make Varys characterization logic bomb hole in that he had backed Viserys over Robert. Which Varys actor really acted the hell out of trying to untangle. But only in not answering the question of Viserys. Again Cogman tries and some credit is due, but it’s a mess that like many others on the show could have been averted if D&D had been more attention to detail on matters like this around not just the last two seasons, but in earlier seasons as well.

    Sansa and Jon stuff again the conflict balls are not just bad writing, but not actually good tv and Littlefinger at this point is just filling air.

    Arya stuff, again Cogman tried very hard here and Malaise as always acted the hell out of her stuff, but again the mess of the last three seasons of Arya’s writing, characterization and arc can’t save it. Nor can only now having her wolf turn up after 6 seasons when she hasn’t mentioned Nymeria once in that time. GRM builds this sort of stuff up so when it happens it’s earned.

    D&D do this to earn brownie points with book fans like they did in the season 6 finale with the arya pie stuff and the Qyburn stuff. Without the context and build-up they had in the books. They simply end up being the self indulgent acts they truly are.

    As for the battle, visually looked great for the most part. Sand snake deaths again, nothing to celebrate when they screwed up the writing of them in the first place. The take that scrappy trope avoids the writers actually owning up to their mistakes and trying to write the scrappies better.

    Due credit for them not whitewashing Theon’s PTSD and showing he’s not healed after Yara’s bullshit man up shit of season 6.

    I really wished they actually had Victorian in the show. So they could have Euron actually being Euron and not just some combed mix of Victorian and Donald trump cock obsessed pirate.

    The romance bit went too long, even at this point in their run, they still stalling in pacing. D&D need to understand not all HBO shows need to have all the big stuff in the last two episodes. Especially when they don’t have the writing chops to fill that much time like the writers of the Sopranos and Wire had with actual interesting world building and character interactions.

    But the show is the show at this point. Come for the dragons, visuals, acting and music and nothing else.

    • Mr Fixit says:

      Well, since you’ve been coming for “dragons, visuals, acting and music and nothing else” for countless years now, does that make your perseverance a good thing or bad? I mean, I’ve never hate watched a thing in my life nor do I know anyone who has. These “fandom” people really are strange. I mean, when they are not issuing death threats to actors (like classic BSG fans did to Edward James Olmos for daring to suggest they not watch the show if they don’t like it).

  4. Keith B says:

    Olenna was very much not in character … this is not how House Tyrell has kept itself in power.

    House Tyrell is dead, though. All that’s left is a bitter old woman who has nothing to live for but revenge. She wants to goad Daenerys into being as destructive as possible, not to help her conquer and rule.

    the fact that Qyburn has invented the ballista is rather unimpressive

    I can’t really agree. Dragons can be killed, but unless you have another dragon, it’s incredibly difficult. You either have to be lucky enough to drive a bolt through the eye of a moving target, or trap it in the Dragonpit or a similar location so that you can cause enough damage to kill it. Even then, you can count on taking enormous casualties before you finish the job. It’s hard to believe that the show-runners presented this invention without intending it to kill at least one dragon.

    Frankly, for all the buildup the dragons have received, they seem to be almost superfluous at this point. It’s already possible to kill White Walkers with dragonglass and Valyrian steel blades, and you don’t need dragon fire for the zombies; just ordinary fire will do. The Night’s Watch and the North already know who the enemy is, and they know how to fight him. Dragons could be convenient in burning up an entire column of zombies at once, but they aren’t absolutely necessary. Also there are only three dragons, and if the White Walkers get through the wall they’ll be everywhere. Large numbers of well trained and equipped units would appear to be more useful in stopping them than an mere three fire breathing monsters.

    Regarding Sansa, I can guess where the show-runners are coming from. She’s not arguing because of political incompetence. Rather, she’s unhappy about being sidelined and she wants to prove that she’s someone who has to be reckoned with. Her scenes with Littlefinger are a clue. She doesn’t want to rely on him, but she’s clearly not getting what she wants otherwise.

    I can see why the show wants Jon to go to Dragonstone. D&D want to show confrontations between characters for dramatic effect. Possibly they also want Jon to interact with a dragon and have people wonder why he seems to have an affinity for it. Still, Yohn Royce, Lyanna Mormont, and everyone else is right that it’s a dumb move. Jon’s excuse that Daenerys would only be willing to negotiate with someone on her own level is silly. Rulers send envoys all the time. Davos could probably do a better job on his own than he and Jon could do together.

    I don’t get the Nymeria scene either. The show-runners obviously want to use the direwolves as little as possible, because they’re too expensive and too much bother. So what’s this scene accomplishing that’s so important? Most show watchers have probably forgotten about Nymeria by this time. (Although I don’t know where GRRM is going with Nymeria either. Arya is training to be a secret agent/assassin. Wouldn’t having a horse-sized direwolf padding after her make her too conspicuous for that line of work?)

    The deal with Theon, I think, is that the show-runners thought his huge heel-face turn where he decided to be a hero and rescue Sansa was a big success, and they want him to do it again and try to rescue Yara, as she tried to rescue him in Season 4.

    Anyway, those are my guesses about what the show is trying to accomplish. Actually approving of their decisions is a different matter. Still, after making allowances for the fact that they’re stuck with the choices they made in the last two seasons, I think they’re doing reasonably well in Season 7 so far.

    • Jude says:

      “Arya is training to be a secret agent/assassin. Wouldn’t having a horse-sized direwolf padding after her make her too conspicuous for that line of work?)”

      She’s a *warg* sir, and long-distance warg-controlling can be great help to a secret agent or an assassin. Create distractions, whack-off people deniably using Nymeria’s wolf underlings…

    • Steven Xue says:

      That ballista did look pretty advanced for something made with medieval tech. It looked like it was completely made of metal and was sitting on a tripod, and the size of the thing made it look like a WWII AA gun. I’m assuming that Qyburn is going to mass produce them so they they will be firing at the dragons in barrages if they come near King’s Landing, either that or they will lure the dragons into a trap and BAM!

      Personally although I don’t think the dragons are going to be the magic bullet to overcome the Others and their army of wights, I think out of everything else those living Black Hawk helicopters with napalm cannons are still the best hope they have to defeat them. Besides wild fire, flaming arrows, VS blades and obsidian (assuming Jon’s right about it being able to kill the wights), its really, really hard to kill the Others and especially their hordes of undead thralls which in my opinion are probably already in the millions and that number is set to explode once they cross the Wall. Plus unlike any regular army they are not affected by attrition. They don’t need food, can’t get sick or tired and won’t run from battle. If anything else they would put the fear of god into the people who will be facing them.

      If you think about it the dragons are the best chance of beating the Others on the battlefield. But you’re right that their limited numbers won’t be able to do a lot. Its my opinion that Jon should start evacuating the North. Start emptying entire towns and hold fasts north of Winterfell and begin migrating south. This will not only save many lives but will also deprive the Others of additional manpower. At the same time he should also fortify key areas like Winterfell, Torrhen’s Square, Hornwood and the Dreadfort and make them viable to defending against hordes of the undead. And besides dragon glass, Jon also needs to find a way to import other stuff he can use against the Others like wild fire or at least similar incendiaries or flammable substances for arrows like tar.

  5. artihcus022 says:

    Book Ellaria Sand and the Dornish “should” feel as angered by GOT as people of India do about The Temple of Doom. I mean Show!Dorne is just the worst pulp-fiction trash, full of Desert Orientalist sterotypes, psycho-lesbian bisexual stereotypes and it even falls to the level of equating bisexual and extra-marital cohabitation with incest….yikes…Libel is the least thing. My guess is that Cersei will feed Ellaria and/or Tyene to the Mountain like she did Unella, or maybe Ellaria can serve as a version of Euron’s “dusky woman”…yeesh.

    The amazing thing about the tin-eared nature of the tone, is that when Hot Pie mentions to Arya that Cersei destroyed the Great Sept, he says “I wish he could have seen it”, I mean it’s basically imparting that the smallfolk see the Great Sept as Cersei’s “boss move” and a moment of awesome rather than sacrilege or an act of blasphemy that signifies the coming of the end times. And of course the fact that the issue of Cersei being Queen isn’t brought up once, or the legality of it.

    • At least Temple of Doom was somewhat self-aware of what they were doing. The Sand Snakes weren’t good characters to begin with but their show counterparts are just pathetic and would fit much better in an exploitation film from the 70s.

      The smallfolk not giving a crap about the Great Sept being destroyed is blatant Plot Armor. Cersei cannot be killed by an angry mob as she should be because she needs to an antagonist for our “heroes” to defeat.

      • Hedrigal says:

        Although honestly, moreso even than Jaime, Cersei being lynched by the commons who she so thoroughly dismisses and belittles would be the perfect ironic defeat for her.

  6. Andrew says:

    1. Regarding the ballista, one would be lucky to hit just one dragon with it. Ballistas are siege weapons designed for large stationary targets like fortifications or massed troops. It would be of little use against mobile targets. The dragonskull in that scene was standing still, Dany’s dragons wouldn’t be, and they would be moving in a 3-D plane of motion making aim more difficult. They would most likely miss (in a realistic scenario), and all Dany would have to do is have Drogon attack with the operators likely not being able to reload and aim in time.

    2. I’m really surprised Cersei has managed to stay in power this long, as many Reach lords would be calling for vengeance. She has not a shred of legitimacy.

  7. thatrabidpotato says:

    I’m not going to make this a long comment, as I’ve already made my views on the show clear. D&D have not the slightest conception of how the medieval world worked, and not the slightest desire to learn, and a perversely arrogant belief that their ignorance has made their abomination somehow better than its source material.

    I do want to note, having see the clip of it on FB, that Arya meeting Nymeria is just stupid. Because if Arya wants Nymeria to follow her, the wolf isn’t going to have a choice. Arya is a powerful warg. Nymeria goes and does what Arya tells her, she’s not going to just walk away and never come back.

  8. Stannerman says:

    Greetings, Maester Attewell!

    As always, your views were well-presented, thought-provoking and showing your keen understanding of the world of Westeros.

    In my opinion, the show has deteriorated to a parody of itself and has lost the unique characterlization, moral ambiguity and skill in world-building that defines Martin’s writings.

    Was very sorry to hear the bad news about your health. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  9. Hedrigal says:

    The total non-reaction to the murder fo the high septon seems totally odd to me. I’d in the very least like some ass covering like a single mention that they’re happy to see him gone because he was such a rabble rouser unfit to the station he was placed in. (which wouldn’t account for most of the issues, but which would atleast be better than essentially leaving unmentioned that the queen murdered the rough equivalent to the pope).

    • Makes perfect sense to me. Cersei has Plot Armor until Jamie finally decides to kill her. Therefore, she’ll retain control of KIng’s Landing even though it makes no sense and the smallfolk will just shrug about the destruction of their most holy site.

  10. Maybe I’m missing something but why is it bad to attack King’s Landing with foreign soldiers but it’s totally fine to do so with Casterly Rock and Lannisport? No matter what Dany will have foreigners attacking a major Westerosi city and by the show’s logic that will bring nationalistic support to Cersei.

    Also, why is there no middle ground in using the dragons. Either Dany “rules over the ashes” by unleashing them or she can’t use them at all. We’ve seen Dany control them enough last season in Meeran to ensure that they don’t accidentally burn down a city and instead focus on the enemy, so why can’t she do that in King’s Landing? Seems like a weak way to remove Dany’s trump card.

  11. Warwick the Wild says:

    Who the fuck brings a whip to a sword fight? I blame Indiana Jones for convincing people that a whip is a weapon and not an implement for punishing people or controlling animals.

    Regarding LF: one of the things that baffles me in the show is that as written he doesn’t seem to realize that nobody likes him. Then again, neither do the writers, apparently. He keeps putting himself in insecure positions and provoking people, and this appears to be his public persona, rather than the smug prick surfacing from beneath the snide-but-obsequious bureaucrat mask he wears in the books.

    • Hedrigal says:

      LF does that all the time in the books too. Remember when he deliberately taunted Tyrion with the knife he used to frame Tyrion.

  12. Brett says:

    Maybe everyone is afraid that the “Mad Queen” will burn them all with wildfire if they riot, but the show really needs to reference that rather than simply have it be “Oh, Cersei burned the High Septon and some of the Tyrells – on to the next plot point”. Show King’s Landing being super-tense in the streets, with some people quietly leaving the city as fast as they can over it.

    But instead, it looks like Plot-Fitting Plot Armor again. The show needs for there to be an antagonist in King’s Landing when Daenerys finally takes it in the penultimate episode of this season, and since fAegon was dropped from adaptation we get Cersei and Jaime.

    I’m worried about the results of that last battle. Does Euron capturing Ellaria and her daughter plus Yara mean that Cersei is going to burn them in some horrific fashion in a future episode? And what is Theon even going to do at this point in terms of storyline – end up as a tool for Daenerys when it comes to the Ironborn, even though they’re already following an openly-admitted kinslayer? Kill Euron in some revenge scene later this season?

    It smacked of a scene that started at “Jon should choke Littlefinger just like Ned did in Season 1” and then reasoned backwards from there, rather than one grounded in actual character dynamics.

    I think they came to the plot point on the checklist that says, “Have Littlefinger try and force himself on Sansa, and have her turn the tables on him*”. So now, after not really digging into it for a while, they’re going to have him get back to being creepy for Sansa again and wanted to have a blunt scene to show that.

    All of which they could have avoided by simply not sending her north to marry Ramsay in Season 5, because the Robert Arryn in the show is older and could fill the “Harry the Heir” role with Sansa dominating him personally and turning the tables on Littlefinger in the Vale – but enough.

    * Not that I think they’ll have Sansa turn the tables on him in the show. Instead, it looks like they’re telegraphing that Arya will save her.

  13. kaduzy says:

    “When” George R.R. Martin writes that scene??!!? Ha! At this point, I think you mean, “IF.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: