The episode begins appropriately on a dark and stormy night at Dragonstone where Dany is consulting with Tyrion and Varys. There’s a great moment where Dany interrogates Varys as to his loyalty considering he served Robert after her father and was secretly setting up Viserys as the next king. He candidly admits to her that he serves the realm and the people rather than one ruler. She admires this but asks of him to appeal to her if he thinks she’s not acting in the interest of the people. It would appear Dany’s the first Queen open to criticism. Later she meets with her council and it cannot be understated how significant it is that her three major allies of power in Westeros are women. But there’s some old wounds that are still open. Olenna Tyrell cares only about avenging (get it?) her family, and Yara Greyjoy wants to attack King’s Landing right away. But heeding Tyrion’s earlier words, Dany tells them she doesn’t want to potentially destroy all her subjects. There’s harsh words between Ellaria Sand and Tyrion who knows she killed his niece and hasn’t forgiven her for it, while she regrets her lover Oberyn dying for him. These bits are mostly to remind the audience what the past relationship these disparate characters have to each other before Dany and Tyrion reveal their plan. The Greyjoys and Dornish will blockade King’s Landing while her other armies will take Casterly Rock. The willingness Tyrion has to invade his own home seems to convince the others. Dany has a brief chat with Olenna, who gives her what sounds like pretty bad advice, though sounding noble coming from Diana Rigg. Before departing, Grey Worm says goodbye to Missandei and they have sex before he leaves -well as much as they can, him being a eunuch and all. It’s interesting that this show has created an interesting and believable romance for such minor characters as these two. Probably the most important development in this storyline however is that Melissandre arrives back at Dragonstone and reveals to Dany that the Lord of Light has plans for her and Jon Snow. Hearing that he’s been proclaimed King in the North and remembering their mutual bonding from way back in the early first season, Tyrion tells Dany she can trust Jon. Liking what she hears, she summons him to Dragonstone.
Jon receives this word and considers it with Sansa and Davos. As both he and she can attest, Tyrion is the one trustworthy Lannister and Jon’s especially interested by her dragons’ potential use against the white walkers. Not long after he receives word from Sam confirming the dragonglass at Dragonstone needed to fight the walkers. When he calls a meeting of all the lords he reveals he intends to go, and none, not even Lady Mormont, think it’s a good idea. Sansa even specifically references their grandfather who upon summons by a Targaryen was subsequently killed. And many of the other lords remember the Mad King too well. Jon delivers a good speech though about how he didn’t ask to be their king but he loves the north and has to take this risk. He decides to leave Sansa in charge while he goes with Davos. Not only does this mean we’ll get to see Sansa in power, but maybe some good road trip moments between Jon and Davos! Of course the meeting of Jon and Dany is a really anticipated thing considering the reveal they’re now related, and as the human representatives of fire and ice, are maybe the only guaranteed characters to survive into the last season. Before leaving, he’s met by Littlefinger down at Ned’s tomb, and Littlefinger just knows all the wrong buttons to push, first mentioning how Catelyn never really liked Jon, and then how he loves Sansa like he did her mother. The latter causes Jon to justifiably threaten Littlefinger violently if he touches her.
In King’s Landing, Cersei’s also calling on various lords in response to Dany’s arrival. There’s about as many people there as in Winterfell, and considering this is the capital, that’s not a good thing. Qyburn is still hanging around if only because Anton Lesser’s so good and he shows Cersei a plan he has to fight back the dragons. Essentially just what you’d expect, a large crossbow similar to the one Bard used in the last Hobbit movie. But the tomb of Targaryen dragons is cool. One of the lords who came happened to be Randyll Tarly played by the still intimidating James Faulkner. Though he’s stern and loyal, he seems swayed when Jamie promises him the title Warden of the South to take the place of House Tyrell if he would join their side.
Randyll’s son Sam is still learning from Jim Broadbent and we see Jorah, now whose greyscale affliction has covered most of his chest and abdomen. Upon learning who he is, Sam decides to use an obscure and forbidden treatment for greyscale he found in a book, not really caring that as Broadbent informed him, the creator of the treatment died …of greyscale. It’s really a long shot but Sam goes through with it anyway out of respect for Jorah’s father who was his commander at the Night’s Watch. The treatment is quite painful too as we see it involves literally ripping off the affected tissue. Jorah’s not going to be having a pleasant experience the next few episodes.
In one of the best transitions this show has yet had, we go from one of Jorah’s pusy pores to some slop Arya’s eating in a pub. And who should she meet there but Hot Pie, her travelling companion from the early seasons. It’s really interesting seeing these two together again after so much has happened to Arya since she last saw him but it’s a cute reunion. More importantly, Arya learns that Jon took back Winterfell and has been declared King. I assumed she might have known this and was on her way to Cersei anyway, but the knowledge her home is out of the hands of the Boltons brings with it that glimmer I mentioned last week of the old Arya. And so she decides to change course and return home. Sadly, it’s most likely Jon won’t be there by the time she arrives. But Sansa will. And possibly Bran. On her way she also reunites with Nymeria, the direwolf pup she adopted back in the first episode, who now is full grown and leads her own pack. Though rather than return to Winterfell with her, Nymeria just leaves her alone, possibly indicating she no longer sees her owner in Arya.
The last storyline of the episode is also its big action piece. Yara’s fleet is on its way to King’s Landing, everything seems to be going fine, and she’s flirting with Ellaria while also defending Theon as her protector. However everything soon goes to shit when the Iron Fleet arrives and begins a brutal assault. Euron has the strength in numbers and he’s absolutely crazed as he fights, it’s quite insane. As Greyjoy battles Greyjoy two of the Sand Snakes are killed and it quickly becomes apparent what the gift is that Euron intends to give Cersei. After pummelling them and wiping out the entire fleet, Euron takes both Yara and Ellaria captive. This would be bad enough but what’s worse is once Euron has Yara in his grip he taunts Theon to rescue her. But rather than even attempt it, Theon, so traumatized, battered by the battle, and perhaps still suffering from “Reek”, abandons ship instead. After coming so far to redeem himself, it’s horrible to see Theon cower like this, losing all the respect he’d gained back from Yara. But at the same time I still kind of sympathize given there wasn’t much he could’ve done anyway. It’s a huge defeat to Dany’s cause that what was really her first battle upon returning to Westeros was a disaster. Let’s hope she can take Casterly Rock. As for Ellaria and Yara, they likely don’t have long for the world, which is a shame.
But that’s the nature of Game of Thrones. If things went according to plan and the just side always won, it wouldn’t be as compelling a show as it is. This episode cranked up the action and began on the road to some of the greater interactions and developments to come. But the way this episode ended indicates there’s no easy or predictable road ahead. I think Arya will make it back to Winterfell but she might not. I think Dany and Tyrion will take Casterly Rock, but maybe not. Maybe Cersei will stay on the throne and go full Mad Queen until Jamie’s forced to kill her too. But whatever outcome, it’s bound to be exciting!