If the first episode of Game of Thrones Season 7 set the table for the wars to come, the second brings an appetizer to those wars. Euron Greyjoy’s fiery ship battle is a stark reminder that Jon Snow is pretty much the only person who wants to ignore politics and focus on the impending White Walker invasion. Everyone else is keen to continue fighting. Meanwhile, the calm before this storm is jam-packed with fan-service like Arya’s reunion with Hot Pie and references to characters long gone like Jeor Mormont, Ned Stark, and even his father Rickard Stark.
*Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones* season 7, episode 2, “Stormborn.”
The North Remembers
You’d think Jon Snow would have learned from his past experience of making unpopular decisions and having his own men kill him as a result, but nope. In “Stormborn” Jon continues his streak of making unpopular decisions as a leader. This time, he’s departing for Dragonstone to meet Daenerys and her Hand Tyrion. His rationale for this journey isn’t just the dragonglass Sam Tarly’s letter informs him about, either. It’s also the lure of Daenerys and her forces as potential allies against the Night King.
This decision goes over about as well as his Wilding-friendly policy did at Castle Black. Even Lyanna Mormont isn’t in Jon’s corner about cozying up to the Mad King’s daughter. Jon is too progressive-minded for Westeros. But crucially, before he leaves Winterfell he solidifies his relationship with Sansa and antagonizes Petyr Baelish.
The Lannisters Send Their Regards
At King’s Landing, Jaime tries to win Sam Tarly’s dad over to Team Lannister, even though he’s Team Tyrell. Sam’s brother Dickon Tarly, who has been recast as Tom Hopper — Billy Bones in Black Sails — makes his debut. But that’s hardly important, because Queen Cersei Lannister has a giant fucking dragon crossbow.
Qyburn teases that he has a “solution” to Daenerys’s dragons, and Game of Thrones surprisingly doesn’t make the audience wait long to see it. Looks like Sansa might have been onto something in “Dragonstone” when she advised Jon not to ignore the threat of Cersei in the south.
Arya’s segments of “Stormborn” hold two emotional reunions: First she meets Hot Pie, who traveled with Arya and Gendry back in Season 2 when she donned the alias of “Arry” the boy. Hot Pie is taken aback by her brusque attitude, since he knew her before she was influenced by The Hound or The Faceless Men. Crucially, he informs her about the change of power in the North. As her encounter with the homesick Lannister soldiers in “Dragonstone” foreshadowed, the knowledge that Jon Snow is King in the North brings forth Arya’s own homesickness, and she changes course.
Her next reunion is the most emotionally impactful. Arya’s Direwolf Nymeria has been missing since Season 1, when Arya sent her away to save her from retribution for biting Joffrey. Sansa’s wolf Lady was executed in her place. As it turned out, Nymeria has taken a similar path to her Stark: Her time in the wild has made her feral. But unlike Arya, Nymeria has found her own pack, and she recognizes them over her old Stark. It’s a crushing moment for Arya, but she realizes that it’s not Nymeria’s fault. This is likely not Nymeria’s last appearance in the story.
What is dead may never die
While the episode title “Stormborn” refers to Daenerys’s nickname, thanks to the night she was born, it’s got a dual meaning. When Euron Greyjoy first appeared in Season 6, one of his first lines was “I am the storm.”
Her sure brings it to Theon, Yara, and the Sand Snakes in “Stormborn,” rolling up to their ship with the most dramatic entrance possible and proceeding to fire-bomb them. In the first episode of Season 7, the newly fashion-forward Euron told Cersei he would woo her with a “gift.” While the odds were always that it was the gift of death, there were many possibilities who his victim would be. Tyrion would make Cersei the happiest, but he’s got too much plot-armor. Sand Snakes it is! After all, they’re responsible for Cersei’s daughter Myrcella’s death.
After Euron gains the upper hand with a knife to Yara’s throat, Theon turns tail and runs, leaving poor Yara on her own. While you could look at this reaction as a remnant of Theon’s Ramsay Bolton inflicted trauma, he was never exactly the bravest guy pre-Ramsay.
This week in Sam Tarly and the Half-Blood Prince, Sam continues his quest to work with every gross bodily fluid imaginable at the Citadel. Luckily in “Stormborn” it has a plot-important purpose: Sam is working with Jorah to try to cure Greyscale. It just so happens to include skin-oozing, because of course. As the Archmaester points out, the odds aren’t in their favor: The Maester who wrote the book where Sam read about the cure died of, uh, Greyscale.
Still, once Sam hears that Jorah is a Mormont, like his beloved former Lord Commander, he feel compelled to help.
I will take what’s mine with fire and blood
The Mad King’s legacy weighs heavily on Daenerys in “Stormborn.” As she challenges Varys about his true intentions, she implores him to swear that he won’t plot behind her back. If he feels that she’s ruling in a way that’s detrimental to the common people, she wants him to come to her.
Olenna Tyrell, however, is proving to be something of an Iago. She implores Daenerys to stop taking the council of wise me and to embrace her dragon side. From the look on Dany’s face, Olenna’s words hit home. This could spell doom for her already tenuous alliance with Varys.
Also complicating the matter is Melisandre. When she returns to her old stomping grounds, spouting her old prophecies about “The Prince that was Promised”” Missandei drops a grammar- bombshell: It’s not gender-specific. The “prince” could easily be a “princess.”
Game of Thrones Season 7 is currently airing Sunday nights on HBO.