“Stormborn” Review

Ah…much better. After some random guy on Facebook dared to question my love for Game of Thrones last week (true story), I was very satisfied with “Stormborn.” In case you were wondering from my last post what good setup looks like, this is it. There aren’t unnecessarily drawn out scenes with no dialogue that do nothing for the story; instead we are treated to compelling dialogue and the promise of bigger things to come. Nearly the entire episode was a win for me, though I will mention some drawbacks.

Where to begin? I think the storyline that made me the happiest this week was easily Arya (again). She finally finds out that Jon has retaken Winterfell, prompting her to travel back home, something we have all been waiting for since the first season. Speaking of which, she then briefly reunites with her direwolf Nymeria. In a bittersweet moment, Arya realizes that what was once her pet is now a completely different beast. She has to watch Nymeria leave with her pack, acknowledging that she has also changed quite a bit since the two were together. Maisie Williams absolutely crushes it with her facial expressions in this scene and the line “that’s not you” poignantly hearkens back to a conversation she had with her father about being a proper lady. While it may have been hard to let go, it was the necessary progression for her. Powerful moment for something I never thought would come to fruition on the show. Plus, how can you not love Hot Pie making an appearance? He’s one of the few genuinely good people still left in Westeros and his interaction with Arya really shined in this episode for me (I nearly died when he said, “friends don’t pay”).

What also stood out from “Stormborn” was the Sam and Jorah Mormont stuff. We’ve been holding our breath wondering what will happen with Dany’s closest adviser, and just when all hope seemed lost, Sam stepped up! Amidst the disgusting greyscale removal scene (props to the makeup department), we get a tender moment between the two unlikely companions. Sam realizes that one of his father figures, Lord Commander Mormont, is also the father of Ser Jorah. So he vows to do all he can (even though he has no experience whatsoever), if only because there’s still a chance for Jorah to reunite with his family? The subsequent transition from the greyscale to the pie was brilliant editing and worked better than last week’s vomit montage in my opinion.

You can probably guess that I liked most of the other storylines as well, so I’ll just give a quick rundown of it all. I totally called Melisandre coming to Dragonstone; I just wish that had happened in the last episode. It was refreshing to see so many powerful women planning for battle (while Tyrion offers his usual sage advice). The conversation between Lady Olenna and Daenerys was expertly written and may foreshadow the latter’s decision-making after what transpires at the end of the episode. The revelation that Qyburn has secretly built weapons to combat the dragons is a quietly important detail that substantially improves Cersei’s position in the oncoming war. Of course, the final battle at sea between Euron and Yara’s fleets was incredible. I found the aesthetic of the fire sparks surrounding the characters to be oddly pleasing. As if the episode didn’t contain enough jaw-dropping moments, Theon momentarily converting back to Reek after witnessing the carnage carries far bigger implications than most everything else. Can we just give Alfie Allen all the accolades?

However, let’s not celebrate just yet. I thought the Grey Worm and Missandei scene could’ve been drastically reduced to save time. While I admired the story he tells about having no weakness until meeting herm, I think that could easily end with them embracing in a kiss. We don’t need to see, ahem, what comes after. Listen, Nathalie Emmanuel is one of the most attractive women on Earth, but I was secretly hoping that HBO had learned to cut down on the nudity. Oh well.

In addition, the scene with Jon Snow and Littlefinger feels completely unnecessary. It seems like another retread of the showrunners telling us, “Hey, look at Littlefinger being creepy again, except with another character this time!” Now with Jon gone, he has even more motivation to meddle with Sansa, but I already got that from their scene last week. Finally, it seems like I will have a small gripe each week, but why did you recast Dickon Tarly? I might be wrong, but I don’t think he’s ever going to play a huge part on this show (maybe only if his dad dies), so you could’ve saved, I don’t know, ten seconds of Jaime messing up his name? I make jokes, but there are ways this episode could’ve been trimmed down to fix the slightly horrendous editing of the sea battle. I understand that in a show of this magnitude, it’s hard to shoot using longer takes, but it would help a little if we didn’t have several hundred images rapidly flashing past us on the screen.

Overall, I thought “Stormborn” was a massive improvement over the first episode and really showcased why we love Game of Thrones. Yes, the action will always be exciting, but it’s the small moments that ground the show in reality. When characters make decisions that feel earned because the writers have been setting them up for years, everyone goes home happy. I can’t wait for next week and the epic confrontation between Daenerys and Jon Snow as well as a host of other storylines that have now been properly set up.

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