Unsullied Recap—Game of Thrones, Episode 702—“Stormborn”


Spoiler note: “A girl says nothing. A girl keeps her mouth closed. No one hears.” —Girls, boys, and everyone alike, Jaqen H’ghar has spoken, so please remember: This recap is primarily for non-book readers. If you’re a book reader, please avoid posting any spoilers here, and instead take those thoughts to our book-reader’s recap. Thank you!

This week’s official episode title might be “Stormborn,” but a more apt name would have been “The Foreshadowing That Was Promised.” But then, that might be pushing the fourth wall a bit too obviously, so “Stormborn” it is.

We begin more or less where we left off: at Dragonstone, where Daenerys and her forces have gathered. There is immediate dissent among her ranks, first between Dany and Varys, and later between her collected smorgasbord of allies. Perhaps Westeros’ climate doesn’t suit her after her stint in sunny Essos, because Daenerys digs into Varys almost as soon as the opening credits fade out and lightning strikes outside her castle.

Varys has, admittedly, switched loyalties a lot, but he reminds Daenerys that she needs to check herself before she wrecks herself:

"DAENERYS: “If [Varys] dislikes one monarch, he conspires to crown the next one. What kind of servant is that?”VARYS: “The kind the realm needs. Incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty. As long as I have my eyes, I’ll use them.”"

And the first hint drops. In my educated opinion, this exchange foretells a parting of the ways between Daenerys and one of her lesser-trusted advisors. Unlike Jorah, Barristan, Daario, and Tyrion, Varys feels no personal attachment to Daenerys whatsoever. He is neither in love with her nor burdened by the regret of betraying her family, à la Barristan Selmy, and so his judgment remains unclouded. Simply put, Varys believes her to be the lesser of two evils, and better for the people than reigning queen Cersei has proven to be. He has laid his cards on the table, and if he doesn’t play them right, Daenerys has plans for him: “If you ever betray me, I’ll burn you alive.”

Sounds reasonable.

Before Daenerys can ask if Varys wants to wake the dragon, Melisandre makes a special guest appearance to ask if they’ve heard the Good News. While she doesn’t push her religion on Daenerys per se, she does push the Lord of Light’s supposed agenda—that is, The Long Night is coming, and Melisandre believes that both Daenerys and Jon Snow have a part to play. There is talk of the Prince That Was Promised, but thanks to Missandei’s Google translate skills, we learn that “prince” in HIgh Valyrian is genderless.

This perhaps raises more questions than answers, but Daenerys seems to be more hung up on the fact that Jon is King in the North, and therefore a threat to her position. Harkening back to their established camaraderie in season 1, Tyrion vouches for Jon, to which Daenerys responds: “Tell Jon Snow that his queen invites him to come to Dragonstone… and bend the knee.”

Maybe Melisandre should have been a bit more specific. You’d think if Daenerys knew exactly what “The Long Night” referred to, she’d reallocate her priorities. But nah.

Further dissension arises during Daenerys’ war council, which is comprised of herself, Tyrion, Varys, Yara and Theon Greyjoy, Ellaria Martell and the Sand Snakes, and Olenna Tyrell. Bad blood flows to and fro, most notably between Tyrion and Ellaria, considering the latter poisoned his beloved niece last season. Family feuds run deep, and they’re harmful to Dany’s plans. Then again, Daenerys’ allies aren’t so much loyal to her as they are eager for vengeance against Cersei, so the links aren’t particularly strong to begin with.

Tyrion proposes that they take King’s Landing with Westerosi armies, rather than the foreign Dothraki and Unsullied, in order to appeal to the common people and noble houses. Meanwhile, the Unsullied forces will upset the Lannisters’ seat of power at Casterly Rock. And so, the Greyjoys and Martells are discharged to Dorne to gather their armies. Daenerys then requests a private audience with Olenna, who apparently captured her attention when she declared that “[The people] won’t obey you unless they fear you.”

Is this the wrong thing to say to a Targaryen? Absolutely it is, but Olenna has her own agenda that potential insanity simply cannot deter, as evidenced by further questionable tips and tricks:

"He’s a clever man, your Hand. I’ve known a great many clever men. I’ve outlived them all. You know why? I ignored them. The lords of Westeros are sheep. Are you a sheep? No. You’re a dragon. Be a dragon."

See, this is why I wouldn’t be surprised if Daenerys quoted her brother somewhere down the line: “You don’t want to wake the dragon, now, do you?” Well, it’s too late now, because Olenna’s just prodded the sleeping beast with a very sharp stick.

Olenna’s advice may sound like girl power, but not when we view it objectively. When it comes down to it, Daenerys is a foreign invader. Not only is Tyrion her in for allies, strategy, and knowledge of Westeros, but she appointed him as her Hand, and in doing so agreed to collaborate with him. If she ignored his wisdom in favor of acting on her own desires last season, she would have destroyed a fleet of ships that she desperately needed. To actively encourage her to dismiss his counsel may not prove consequential in Olenna’s endgame, but it doesn’t bode well for Daenerys, either.

The tension is riding high, so we have a short intermission in the form of Grey Worm and Missandei consummating their romance. If Game of Thrones were a horror movie, this would likely preface at least one of their deaths. Then again, that possibility is never off the table on Thrones.

In true savvy politician form, Cersei uses the people’s fear against them as she attempts to undermine Daenerys’ challenge. She cites the foreign armies, the Mad King’s reputation, and Daenerys’ own penchant for brutality to sway the Tyrell bannermen to her cause. These bannermen are led by Sam’s father and brother, Randyll and Dickon Tarly, the former of whom is initially reluctant to heed Cersei’s warnings on the grounds of his loyalty to the Tyrells. When Jaime tries to sway him, Randyll pulls a pretty sick burn:

"I’m a Tarly. That name means something. We’re not oathbreakers, we’re not schemers. We don’t stab our rivals in the back or cut their throats at weddings."

I’m glad to see that Randyll doesn’t save all his verbal abuse for Sam, but rather doles it out to those deserving of it, as well. But in the end, Jaime appeals to Randyll’s xenophobia (which was established in season 6 with his hatred of the wildlings) and dangles the title of “Warden of the South” in his face. That seems to seal the deal, the threat of Daenerys’ dragons notwithstanding.

Indeed, the dragons may not pose such a life-or-death threat at all, according to Cersei’s right-hand man. During an idle stroll through the seedy underbelly of the Red Keep, Maester Qyburn tells Cersei that dragons are “powerful, but not invincible.”

Want proof? They’re surrounded by the skeletons of these fallen beasts, and Qyburn has a new tool to make more: a giant crossbow. Cersei launches the weapon into a particularly large dragon skull—one that belonged to Aegon the Conqueror, who spearheaded the Targaryens’ reign in Westeros—and while death-by-crossbow may not be the most apropos for the dragons, in the end, those weapons of mass destruction have to go somehow. I don’t know that the crossbow will necessarily do the trick, but I’m calling the dragons’ destruction by series’ end, anyway.

Daenerys’ claim to the throne is the hot gossip at Winterfell, as well. Jon has received the raven Daenerys bid Tyrion send, and actively seeks Sansa’s counsel on the matter. Character development. They, along with Davos, agree that a trek to the south would be dangerous at the very least, but three dragons against the army of the dead is an asset they may not be able to refuse. This, coupled with Sam’s letter in regards to dragonglass, ultimately convinces Jon to head for Dragonstone.

“Lord Tyrion has invited me to Dragonstone, to meet with Daenerys… and I’m going to accept,” Jon reveals during another audience with the Northmen lords, but he looks straight to Sansa. In a way, this conversation is as much a private talk between the two of them as it is a public announcement. She warns him against it, reminding Jon that the Mad King called their grandfather to King’s Landing only to have him burned alive.

"JON: “We need allies. Powerful allies. I know it’s a risk. But I have to take it.”SANSA: “Then send an emissary. Don’t go yourself.”JON: “Daenerys is a queen. Only a king can convince her to help us. It has to be me.”SANSA: “You’re abandoning your people. You’re abandoning your home.”JON: “And I’m leaving both in good hands.”SANSA: “Whose?”JON: “Yours. You are my sister, you’re the only Stark in Winterfell. Until I return, the North is yours.”"

This scene accomplishes three things: First, I cried my eyes out all three times I watched it. Second: it parallels Catelyn’s reluctance when Ned went south in season 1. And third: to jump off that point, it provides what I believe to be some significant foreshadowing.

Yohn Royce claims—and the Northerners agree—that “[a] Targaryen cannot be trusted,” and at this point the audience knows that Jon is a Targaryen by blood. This suggests a possible dissolution of faith in Jon when his true parentage is revealed; the North may have been willing to follow Ned Stark’s bastard, but will they follow a Targaryen? Chances are slim. How will Jon win back their trust? Why, by making a marriage alliance with the Lady of Winterfell and the woman he just named his de facto queen, Sansa Stark. The political advantage here really can’t be bested.

This also brings up the question of how Jon will react when he finds out his true parentage, which may be subtly addressed when he says:

"You all crowned me your king. I never wanted it. I never asked for it. But I accepted it, because the North is my home. It’s part of me, and I’ll never stop fighting for it, no matter the odds."

Jon’s name may not be Stark, but as Ned once told him, he has Stark blood. Whatever may happen in the interim, Jon’s heart is in the North, and I think this is going to play a major role in series’ end.

But before any of this can come to fruition, it’s been far too long since someone choked out Littlefinger. Cue Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero,” and enter Jon Snow.

For seemingly no reason at all, the audience is treated to Jon reacting violently to another man’s interest in Sansa. Littlefinger follows him down to the crypts, where Jon is contemplating Ned’s statue, and proceeds to be his usual weird self. Observe:

"PETYR: “I love Sansa—”JON: *twitches*PETYR: “—as I loved her mother.”"

Jon then pulls his best John Mulaney “That’s my wife!” impression, but in his efforts to remain aloof and mysterious, says, “Touch my sister, and I’ll kill you myself.”

This scene cleared my skin, paid my bills, and lifted the curse that has been plaguing my family for generations. And yes, you guessed it: I’m feeling the eventual marriage vibes again. The mere suggestion that Littlefinger may have romantic designs upon Sansa, and Jon flies into a fit of murderous rage. I don’t know what your definition of “platonic” is, but mine certainly doesn’t fall beneath that particular umbrella.

Jon leaves immediately thereafter, waving at Sansa as she watches from the balcony. They share a lingering gaze—you know, as totally platonic siblings do. Sansa’s gaze remains on the gates well after Jon has left. Meanwhile, Littlefinger slithers up from the crypts. He watches Sansa watch the gates, perhaps wondering if his life is worth trying to cop another feel. Or maybe he’s experiencing the same Ned/Catelyn flashbacks the rest of us have since season 6. Your guess is as good as mine.

At the Citadel, Jorah’s greyscale has progressed to the point of incurability, according to archmaester Harold Zidler, and yet he still manages to be the Handsomest Man On the Planet. Unfortunately, the disease will likely take his face (and his life) eventually. Sam’s research has taught him that there is a possible cure for advanced greyscale — it’s been successful twice before. But Maester Zidler nips Sam’s hopes and dreams in the bud when he informs him that the maester who conducted those experiments died of greyscale himself, hence the procedure becoming forbidden.

Does this deter Sam? Hell no. This is the guy who killed a White Walker, stole his shitty dad’s sword, and trespassed in the Citadel’s library for the greater good. Far from backing down, Sam and Jorah instead get tipsy together and engage in questionable medical practices. Reminds me of college.

“No one else will try, so I’m the best you’ve got,” Sam tells Jorah, and proceeds to scrape away the infection. I presume that’s the gist of it, anyway, but I must admit that as soon as Sam pulled the knife, I screamed and covered my laptop screen. There was no tasteful cutaway, and I had to protect myself from the visual.

In a less gross development, Arya considers a couple more murders during her stay at an inn. She overhears two travelers discussing their trek to King’s Landing, and seems to be debating taking them out, taking their faces, and taking Cersei down.

Cue another round of Bonnie Tyler, and enter Hot Pie: “What happened to you, Arry?” he asks, a question reminiscent of season 6, when Brienne asked Sansa the same regarding her marriage to Ramsay. This parallel hits hard, and further suggests the bond that’s drawn the Stark sisters together throughout their time apart.

Hot Pie goes on to tell Arya precisely what she needs to hear: The Boltons are dead, and the Starks have Winterfell once more. This is what Arya has needed: a purpose aside from vengeance. She’s been working to gain justice for her family and loved ones, but she’s been doing so more or less alone; she needs to have those loved ones near, to show her that what she’s done has been worth it, that what she’s been fighting for still exists.

This point is fortified on Arya’s journey home—because, yes, obviously she would abandon her kill list when given the choice between that and reuniting with the family that’s left to her. Her family has been the point all along. We see this when Arya, on her way through the Riverlands, runs into her direwolf, Nymeria, and her wild pack of wolves.

"Nymeria, it’s me, Arya. I’m heading North, girl. Back to Winterfell. I’m finally going home. Come with me. Come with me."

But Nymeria only leaves Arya be, and—echoing what she said to her father in season 1—Arya says, “That’s not you.” Like Arya herself, Nymeria has taken a separate journey and has become a different creature for it. Nymeria is no longer a pet, a companion, but her own being apart from her ties to the Starks; Arya, conversely, has found her way back to her family’s name and identity. Personally, I see Arya’s scenes as evidence that she’ll finally find her place when she arrives home.

On their ship to Dorne, the Sand Snakes engage in some good ol’ fashioned, sisterly-but-homicidal bickering. Meanwhile, their legal guardian is getting fresh with Yara in another cabin. Just as Ellaria and Yara are about to get down to business, Euron—who is quite obviously riding on too many Red Bulls—attacks with his fleet, because if he’s not getting laid, then no one is.

Obara and Nymeria are killed during the ensuing battle, while Ellaria, Tyene, and Yara are taken hostage. Rather than protect his sister, Theon succumbs to post-traumatic stress disorder and jumps overboard instead, much to Euron’s delight. I don’t say this lightly; as someone who suffers from my own PTSD, I find Theon’s reaction to be not only believable, but understandable under the circumstances. The torture he endured at Ramsay’s hand isn’t something you just move past, regardless of Yara’s tough love pep talk last year. The violence that surrounded him during Euron’s attack was a potent trigger. I would argue that his character arc will bring him to Yara’s rescue later, but for now his fight-or-flight response is as accurate a portrayal as any I’ve seen.

What’s on the horizon for next week? Where does Theon go from here? If he’s meant to rescue his sister, what fate awaits Ellaria and Tyene? Will Daenerys and Varys make peace, or are they going to Mean Girls their way through this relationship? Will Bran and Arya make it back to Winterfell for another heartwarming Stark reunion? How will Sansa adjust to her queenship? And will we see Ghost at all this season, or has he peaced out because the Starks are just too much drama sometimes?

Next: Watch the trailer for 'The Queen's Justice,' the third episode of Game of Thrones season 7

Remember—speculation is encouraged, spoilers aren’t! Please refrain from posting book spoilers here! Feel free to discuss the episode in the comments or Tweet me @kattymaj, but don’t ruin any surprises for the viewers who haven’t read the books. While the show has largely diverged from its source material, you never know what details will crop up later. Thanks, and see you next week!

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