GoT Recap: Queen of the Ashes

It is a dark and stormy night. Suddenly out of the darkness, light shines from the cold war room of Dragonstone! So begins my recap of the second episode of the seventh season of Game of Thrones.

Watching the storm crash over their heads, the Imp and the Spider share their happy memories of Hurricane Katrina and how it made all the dogs in Flea Bottom howl while Daenerys Stormborn was fighting her way out of her mother’s uterus. Or something poetic to that extent.

Impatient with all the reminiscing, Dany takes a wooden dragon in her hand, saying Viserys would’ve sacked King’s Landing by now. Her advisers are all about caution, which seems to irritate her, and she starts in on Varys for his constantly wavering loyalties. Not quite sure why she waited this long to grill the eunuch on the whys and wherefores, when all Ser Arstan Whitebeard had to do was save her life for her to actually forgive him, but a little conflict never hurts, they say.

“If he dislikes one monarch, he conspires to crown the next one,” she bitches over Varys’ head. Maybe she’s stewing over him bringing in Highgarden and Dorne without consulting with her. Maybe she’s chomping at the bit to start the maiming. Whatever her reasons, she’s out for blood, Tyrion is busy trying to placate her, but Varys stands his ground.

“My true loyalty lies with the people,” he says defiantly  after a tidy verbal flashback of his own personal history, and masterfully calls her bluff with a one-two punch of truth and flattery. What a courtier.

Into the fray steps Melisandre of Asshai, who brushes off the whole Stannis Baratheon thing as human error (that human error lasted at least four seasons and ended with her burning a young girl, thanks for stretching that out) and continues to believe in the prince who was promised. When Dany points out that she isn’t a prince, not having the prerequisite penis Missandei engages in a little bit of revisionism, claiming the High Valyrian word for prince doesn’t actually mean prince, it could mean prince or princess. How convenient. Hard to tell if this is the exact end G.R.R.M had in mind, but eh. We’ve strayed this far from canon and are deep into fan fiction territory anyway. Let the Dany is Azor Ahai theories abound!

Anyway, Melisandre’s purpose becomes clear. She’s at Dragonstone to pimp out Jon Snow, the conduit that connects the being of fire and the being of ice. “Summon him,” she urges Dany.

Meanwhile at Winterfell, it isn’t a dark and stormy night. It’s a grey, cold day. Jon has shared Tyrion’s invitation to RVSP at Dragonstone with his own advisers. Everyone agrees it’s likely a trap, there being no good endings for Starks every time they’re summoned to appear in the south.

As Jon mulls over his decision, Cersei is busy inciting the remaining lords and ladies she has under thrall to aid her in keeping her crown. She’s down to the more minor lords, led by Randyll Tarly, who doesn’t seem convinced. Whatever else Sam’s father may be, his honour is worth a lot to him, and not only can he barely stand the Lannisters, he also respects his allegiance to Highgarden, and House Tyrell.

Again proving his worth as a tactical commander, Jamie Lannister knows just which buttons to push when it comes to Lord Tarly, who as we know, cannot stomach foreigners and weak men. He manipulates the Lord of Horn Hill masterfully by reminding him just what his direct superior brought to Westeros: Dothraki heathens! Soldiers without dicks! And then, the crowning touch: Jamie offers him the position of Warden of the South on a plate. Yep, that’ll do it.

As Lord Tarly faces the distasteful reality of sacrificing honour to gain power, his son faces his own distasteful reality: the greyscale of Jorah Mormont. Oooh that would make a lovely album title. Anyway, the ArchMaester is busy telling Ser Jorah to either kill himself or get gone because either way he’s a dead man, while Sam screws his face up with all the pity he can summon and we all know this is going to end with Sam helping Ser Jorah. Whether or not he succeeds will remain to be seen.

The Westerosi women are baying for blood, with Asha Greyjoy, Ellaria Sand and Olenna Tyrell all urging Dany to obliterate King’s Landing. It’s the men who caution patience, putting the drag in Dragonstone. Like his brother Jamie, Tyrion is a strategist, correctly predicting that Cersei will run on a platform of hate and exclusion and her ultimate goal will be to build a wall between Mexico and the United States, wait, wrong regime. Anyway, he  presents his masterplan, which involves everyone Westeros-based converging on King’s Landing while the foreign invaders bring down Casterly Rock. First he kills his father in the loo, now he uses eunuchs to throw down the stronghold of the Lannisters? Cheeky! Tyrion Lannister in Look At Me Now, Dad!

The Imp’s cleverness convinces all thee women, even making Olenna Tyrell smile. Almost. Not nearly enough though, as the Queen of Thorns, hellbent on taking her pound of Cersei’s flesh, tells Daenerys that she’s basically made a career of ignoring clever men, that peace is bullshit and that there’s no use being a dragon if Dany doesn’t act like one. Welp, she does have a point. I get why Dany doesn’t want to destroy everything in her path before even starting to rule, but come ON, child.

Speaking of burning, a different sort of inferno is going on somewhere else in Dragonstone. Missandei and Grey Worm, you naughty duo, you. After some verbal foreplay about how the Unsullied are trained, they finally get down to playing naked twister and Grey Worm does all the giving, answering my question of two months ago.

The Joker approves.

As those two get it on, Sam is in the middle of another gutsy display of his own. He’s decided to ignore the warnings of the ArchMaester and repay his debt of gratitude to Commander Mormont, by peeling the flesh off his son in another grotesque montage as if all the slop and shit of the first episode wasn’t bad enough.

Hot damn it’s Hot Pie! Arya gets reunited with her sweet-faced baker friend but not with her etiquette as she basically plays snatch and grab with every bit of food in sight. As she learns that Jon Snow is King in the North, her face changes from battle hardened urchin to the hopeful little girl she was way before she moved to Kings Landing and ended up with a lifetime’s worth of therapy. Hurriedly finishing her pie and ale, she thanks Hot Pie for the food, tells him to stay alive (death knell! your time is coming Hot Pie!) and she mounts her trusty steed. For a moment she’s unsure, not knowing whether to go south to King’s Landing or north for Castle Black and the half-brother she always loved. We are on tenterhooks. Cersei? Or Jon Snow? Death? Or life? She turns north for Castle Black, and fanfare and confetti shoot in the air because the Stark Reunion of 2017 is coming up right around the bend and it’s going to be glorious!

Meanwhile Jon has decided to roll the dice and meet with the Dragon Queen. Faced with everyone else’s upset including Sansa’s, he silences them all by informing them that Dragonstone is a motherlode of dragonglass. “More importantly, we need allies,” he says matter of factly, the implication being that dragons just may help them turn the tide. He pacifies Sansa by handing her the North, with one stroke giving his sister what she feels she is entitled to, ever since Littlefinger wormed his way into her brain – the title of  Wardeness of the North. She accepts and Jon goes to the sept, to pray to the effigy of Boromir Eddard Stark where the oily Littlefinger clearly mistimes his approach. He sidles up to Jon in the sept, professing his fealty and love for Jon’s half-sister. Dude, no. In front of her father’s bones, the same father you betrayed? Littlefinger, in his own version of Look at Me Now, Dad! It’s a version that does not go over well. He gets a mailed vise at his throat for his troubles. What did he expect? A handshake?

Was anyone else wondering how the Greyjoy/Sand Snake alliance was faring? Yeah me neither. I’ve never really shared the distaste the rest of the internet world has for the ladies of Dorne, my reaction has always been sort of meh. But they more than makeup for their blandness as what has been a slight drag of an episode ends with a scorcher of a  a sea battle, as the ships of Euron Greyjoy converge on those of Asha’s, deals a massive blow to Dany’s navy. Without further ado, Euron boards the ship, disembowelling one Sand Sister and garrotting another, leaving only Ellaria and her daughter as hostages. Not content, he finds Asha amidst the chaos, and overpowers her in a duel, challenging Theon to come and save her. “Come on, you cockless coward,” he taunts.

This episode clearly wants the cockless to prove they have metaphorical balls even if they no longer have literal ones, but the the third of tonight’s featured eunuchs fails the test. Unfortunately Theon is way too broken and fearful to face yet another crazy bastard even if it’s to save his sister. He jumps into the black water to escape as Euron cackles in triumph and sails away, leaving the Greyjoy ships burning in another dark and stormy night.

 

Featured Image from WinterisComing.Net, by way of HBO

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