Reply All: A Game of Thrones Email Exchange — “Stormborn”

(Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO)

If you missed last week’s exchange for “Dragonstone”,  you can read it here. If you missed Matt’s top moments, check out the video here. Be sure to keep an eye out for the podcast recap coming soon. 

NICK: I know this is the beginning of our email exchange, but I’m going to pull a Theon and jump ship from normal protocol and discuss the end of the episode first. The short-lived battle that pitted Greyjoy against Greyjoy was just a fantastic demonstration of Euron’s willingness to put an axe to his niece’s throat without a second thought. The dude is a savage who won’t let anyone get between him and his ultimate goal. We saw this last season when he sent his brother and king over the edge of a bridge, but that instant encounter was nothing compared to what he did to Yara’s men. He swung his axe like Paul Bunyan. He took cuts like a director. His bloodlust was insatiable and there was no way he wasn’t going to get what he came for. Which brings us to Cersei’s gift. As the episode neared airing, there were more and more arguments in favor of Ellaria to be the present for the Queen, and this episode confirmed it. So as Yara and Ellaria sailed to Dorne, Euron took advantage of the dragon-less ships, snatching the Queen of Dorne and his misbehaving niece. Five minutes before the attack, Theon expressed how he’s Yara’s “protector”, then opts to take a swim rather than try and save his sister’s life as hints of Reek come to the surface.

So for the time being, Euron has Yara, Ellaria, and Tyene. The latter of the three is Ellaria’s true daughter, which will make for an interesting “gift return” when Euron takes them back to King’s Landing. Cersei hasn’t forgotten who killed her daughter, so potentially killing Tyene in front of her mother now seems incredibly likely.

Obviously this attack puts a hurting on Dany’s army. We don’t know just how bad of shape the Yara’s fleet is in, and whether or not Dorne will still mobilize its forces for Dany if their queen is a prisoner marked for death.

But there’s a bigger question to be asked: how did Euron know of Dany’s plan to send Yara to Dorne? Methinks there’s a mole in the Dragon Queen’s small council, and while Varys is easily the prime suspect, could it be someone else?

KEITH: From a character standpoint, the battle was everything that I needed from Euron. His laugh after Theon reverts back to Reek and leaps, leaving his sister at the mercy of their murderous uncle is so unbelievably perfect that it almost made up for the rest of the battle sequence.

Yeah, that’s right, I hated the battle sequence with a passion. It was easily the least gracefully shot and edited Game of Thrones action sequence that I can remember. Everything was poorly lit, framed entirely too tightly, and edited together in such insanely rapid-fire fashion that making Greyjoy from Greyjoy sounds as difficult and confusing as it was. I absolutely love it from a story perspective, but the execution was simply not up to snuff.

On the speculation side of things, do you think that a serious blow to the armies of her enemies is the gift that Euron had promised Cersei? From the looks of the trailer for the next episode, he seems to be receiving a hero’s welcome back in King’s Landing, but perhaps that’s just because he won a fairly major victory (though it was a small battle I don’t think we can underestimate the importance of losing the Iron Fleet and easy access to the Dornish armies). Or is there something else that Euron’s plotting? I think I’m going to have to go with the latter.

To your point about whether or not there’s a mole in Dany’s army—I’m not sure. Part of me thinks that’s possible, but part of me also thinks that she’s maybe gotten to the point where she’s weeded out everyone who’s going to screw her over. Varys does seem like an obvious choice for a rat, but he’s also one of the two smartest people in that room and I can’t really see him taking an enormous leap of faith in siding with a lunatic and flailing Cersei. Qyburn does now have his own fairly intense network of spies, built on the backs of Vary’s little birds. Perhaps one of them is doing double duty? Maybe it was a stroke of luck that Euron ran into his niece and nephew on the open sea, as he searched for his gift to Cersei? Maybe Euron’s just that damn good?

NICK: I’ll agree with you on how the battle was filmed. It was tough to follow, but fortunately it didn’t last long. It’ll be interesting to see just how bad Danny’s armada was hit and how her plans for a siege shake out. As for the mole, I’m firmly entrenched in the belief that there is one. It’s just too coincidental otherwise, and GoT does not play on coincidences.

It’s pretty interesting that last week emphasized how dire things looked for the Lannisters. Less than half the realm supported their cause, then with one fell swoop and one giant Qyburn crossbow, the playing field starts to feel slightly more balanced.

Speaking of Qyburn, can we take a minute to discuss Sam’s similar career path? Qyburn was kicked out of the Citadel for his questionable practices, which we saw with Ser Gregor in King’s Landing. What’s Sam doing? Stealing books and using unproven medical procedures to try and save Jorah’s life. We may be getting a Sam expulsion before the season’s out.

(Side note: Two episodes in and we get a second grotesque Sam scene. Last week was the bowl and bedpan montage, and now a way to close look at his skin removal skills.)

KEITH: Holy cow did I love the scene with Sam attempting to cure Jorah. The body horror of greyscale has never been on full display before now, and it’s terrifying to see a character that we’ve spent so much time with slowly being consumed by it. Coupled with that smash cut to the pot pie, this was one of my favorite moments in the episode.

I love the comparison that you’re drawing between Sam and Qyburn in this season. I’m really enjoying Sam’s arc thus far, and I think that you’re right in that we’re likely to see an expulsion at some point in the very near future. It’s really interesting to see him pushing back against the stuffy old academics in the Citadel, but it’s important for us to remember that, despite being incredibly well-read, he’s not a Maester. I sincerely hope that his efforts to cure Jorah work, but I can also see him screwing up so badly that it not only gets him kicked out of the Citadel, but creates even more unforeseeable problems.

You also make a really solid point about how the field suddenly seems more level for Team Lannister. We don’t know just how damaged the Iron Fleet is, nor do we know what’s going to happen to Theon or Yara (though I have a really hard time believing that Euron doesn’t just kill her), but that attack was a serious blow to Dany’s strategic capabilities. Couple that with a potentially dragon-slaying bolt thrower and it an easy conquest of King’s Landing suddenly seems out of reach. Although let’s be real, did we ever expect Cersei to make this easy for Daenerys?

We also got to spend a lot of time with Arya this week, and I have to be honest: it was a little off-putting for me. Maisie Williams’ performance in this episode seemed so incredibly emotionless and flat that it just felt off. Is that a character change for her now that she’s become a faceless mass murderer? Then there was the reunion with Nymeria. What did you make of Arya’s “That’s not you” line?

NICK: Arya seems incredibly more mature and cold-hearted since even last season. Her interaction with Hot Pie was mostly cold for someone who hasn’t seen a friendly face in quite some time. I think this is the person she’s becoming now that she’s an assassin with an incredibly specific, single-minded mission to complete her To Do list. Though to be fair, her excited response to the news that Jon is King of the North was truly great to see. How can she not go to Winterfell now that she knows Jon and Sansa are not only alive, but leading the northern masses? Chances are she’ll miss Jon as he treks towards Dragonstone, but with Sansa taking filling in for Jon, the two sisters could be reunited very soon.

As for her interaction with Nymeria (and it definitely was Nymeria), it kind of makes sense. Arya’s line was a callback to season one when the Stark girls were about to head to King’s Landing, as the showrunners explained in an interview released after the show. Ned told Arya that she’d marry a lord in a nice frilly dress, to wit Arya responded “that’s not me”. Now in “Stormborn”, Arya finally comes across her long-lost friend and wants to be reunited as she treks back to Winterfell. She quickly realizes that—like herself—Nymeria has forged her own life and that going back to the Stark home isn’t for her. Like Arya in a frilly dress, it’s not her destiny.

I really enjoyed that scene and actually marveled at just how large Nymeria has become. She’s mentioned numerous times in the books as a wandering wolf and the leader of a large pack with a deeper connection to Arya than the show digs into. I don’t think this is the last time we’ll see Nymeria, but now I’m anxious to see how she fits in going forward. Also, where has Ghost been? Jon’s heading to Dragonstone, and there was no Ghost following along, and that seems questionable to me. Jon’s become King of the North and all of a sudden he’s too good to hang out with his old pal? How soon are we done with these northern team meetings where people just argue until Lyanna Mormont shuts everyone up while Baelish smirks in the corner? Littlefinger is playing his game, though I have a sneaking suspicion Jon and Sansa are playing their own game against him.

KEITH: Oh man, I really hope Jon and Sansa have a plan to deal with Baelish. That man scares the piss out of me (as he should), and I can’t help but think that Jon choking him down in the crypts did nothing but destroy whatever good will Baelish might have harbored for the King in the North. Also, Littlefinger is a really, really smart dude. How has he not realized that people—especially the Starks—are going to react poorly when he does something like tell Jon that he loves Sansa like he loved Catelyn. I can only hope that Jon didn’t just sign his second death warrant.

Good point about Arya’s reaction to Hot Pie. I had initially thought that she would have been happier to see him, but maybe she’s just gone so far down the path to being a stone cold killer that it just didn’t hold the emotional resonance that I thought it would. Her reunion with Nymeria, though, was exactly what I wanted it to be. That is one HUGE doggo, and it’s good to know that there’s at least one other dire wolf hanging out in the wild, living and thriving and doing her thing.

Here’s my last question on that scene: do you think that Arya’s “That’s not you” line was just for Nymeria, or was she perhaps talking about herself as well? Sure, she’s not frilly dresses, but at this point in her life, she’s also not really Winterfell or Sansa or Jon. She might have reclaimed her name and her identity, but I can’t help but think that there’s more than a little bit of Arya Stark still on the floor of the House of Black and White. Maybe she realizes that going home isn’t really what she should be doing and turns back around to continue her quest to kill Cersei.

NICK: Arya’s line to Nymeria had hints of her realizing just how much has changed since she and Nymeria parted ways. I hope this isn’t the last time we see Nymeria, so perhaps she makes a triumphant return somewhere down the line, whether it’s by Arya’s side or not.

I think Littlefinger knew exactly what Jon’s reaction would be, and that’s why he did it. He knows how sacred the crypts are, and he knew that admitting his love for two Stark women would rub Jon the wrong way. To be fair though, he does deserve a “thank you” from Jon for his arrival in the Battle of the Bastards, but Jon does have other things on his mind I guess. But as you said, Littlefinger is smart, so it’s likely that every step he takes is predetermined. Remember what he told Sansa at the end of last season? “Every time I’m faced with a decision I close my eyes and see the same picture. Whenever I consider an action I ask myself, ‘Will this action help to make this picture a reality? Pull it out of my mind and into the world?’ And I only act if the answer is yes. A picture of me on the Iron Throne and you by my side.” Unless THAT was a straight up ploy (which it might be), I fully expect all of Littlefinger’s actions to be based on that statement and that whatever he does or says is to move him closer to the throne. I have a feeling someone is going to best him one way or another, but it’s hard to set a trap for the one who sets traps.

Up next is “The Queen’s Justice”, and if even with a thirty second trailer there’s a lot to be expected. The Unsullied are unleashed, Euron makes a grand entrance, and Jon comes face to face with the Dragon Queen. Do we get Bran? The Hound? More Doctor Sam? Tell me, Ser Keith, what are you most looking forward to in episode three?

KEITH: One last comment before I let you in on my deepest and darkest desires for Episode 3: yeah, Littlefinger is only ever acting in pursuit of the Iron Thrones; however, maybe (just maybe) that last little bit about having Sansa at his side is a ploy. Is he betting on her having some sort of secret desire for power? Or does he simply realize that a marriage to the Wardeness of the North (or whatever title she has or might eventually have at this point) is key for his eventual move to the Throne. I suppose we’ll just have to sit back and watch the game be played.

For “The Queen’s Justice” I’m looking forward to some serious action. I’m hoping that we’ll return some more finessed camerawork/editing, but style aside, I think the biggest question is which queen’s justice we’re talking about here. Cersei points out that she’s drawn first blood in the war, and she’s not wrong. I cannot wait to see how Daenerys responds. I’m also super pumped to see her first encounter with her nephew, Jon Snow. I also hope that we get some updates on our friends at/nearing the Wall. At this point I think I’d like to touch base with Bran for more than thirty seconds more than I’d like to see Sandor and company, although who am I to deny a good Hound scene?

What are you looking forward to?

NICK: My fingers are crossed for a meet up of the Hound and Tormund because the interaction between those two would be amazing, and this season is all about characters meeting for the first time. I also hope that we find out why Bran is staying quiet at the wall. Jon’s received ravens from King’s Landing, Dragonstone, and The Citadel, but Edd and Bran have remained mum on his appearance and there has to be a reason why, AND I WANT TO KNOW!

I’m not sure if we’ll get that answered this episode, but the Jon and Dany meet up is something that fans have been waiting for since…basically forever. I’m looking forward to their conversation which I hope takes place this episode. I really don’t want Jon walking into the throne room, making eye contact with Dany, then seeing the credits roll. I want some solid screen time with the both of them, and it’ll be good to see Tyrion and Jon together again. Also the Unsullied. I’m quite anxious to see them in full-on army mode (which we haven’t really seen since Dany took the reigns), and Grey Worm taking out some Lannisters at Casterly Rock. With Dany’s plan dented from Euron’s attack, this battle and the ending result becomes all that more important.

Check out the trailer below for “The Queen’s Justice”, and catch the Game of Thrones Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO


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Nick Hershey

The author Nick Hershey

Nick was born and raised in Amish country, has a beard, but isn’t Amish. He’s a fan of winter as long as he’s at the top of a mountain with a board under his feet. He’s an avid sports fan, movie junkie, tv bum, and music enthusiast who still purchases CDs for some reason.