David and Adam Shimer are twin brothers —and close Game of Thrones watchers. David is an incoming senior at Yale and the editor in chief of the Yale Daily News. Adam is an incoming senior at Northwestern University.
Tywin Lannister In Memoriam Award for Best Political Maneuvering: Cersei for somehow finding a person crazy enough to be her ally
Eddard and Robb Stark In Memoriam Award for Worst Political Maneuvering: Littlefinger earning yet another Stark chokehold
Gilly-and-Her-Baby Award for Most Boring Storyline: The adventures of Sam the surgeon
Jaime Lannister’s Right Hand Award for Best Fight Sequence: The Iron Fleet sacking the other Iron Fleet
‘You Know Nothing Jon Snow’ Award for Best Quote: “I’ve known a great many clever men. I’ve outlived them all. You know why? I ignored them” — Queen of Thorns
Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons and Breaker of Chains Award for Melodramatic Flair: Euron raising an impaled sand snake (RIP) into the air like a baby Simba
Breaking It Down
AS: The core of this episode was in Dragonstone, where longtime characters dramatically converged. Ever wonder what happens when you throw the Mother of Dragons, the Imp, the Queen of Thorns, and the Spider into one room? Now we know: The most dysfunctional war council in the show’s history. Ellaria complained about how awful the Lannisters are. Olenna made sad, slightly irrelevant remarks about her beloved granddaughter (“Did someone say ashes? Margaery is ashes now! Oh, Margaery she was just so great, wasn’t she. Does anyone want to see a picture?”). Tyrion plotted to sack his own home and kept referring to the enemy as “Cersei”, as if Cersei rules King’s Landing alone. Perhaps he is trying to forget that Jaime — the one family member to ever truly accept and love him — is right by her side. This conundrum will only get more and more difficult for Tyrion as he draws closer to King’s Landing.
DS: In contrast to the season premiere, which to me felt like an extended recap, this episode moved Thrones forward swiftly and unpredictably. During the war council scene and others, it also built upon an important trend: the ever-growing influence of transformed women, and the limitations of men presented as leaders seasons ago. Back in season one, Dany was so unimportant that Varys knew little about her, Cersei was miserably married to a drunken king, and Sansa wanted to be Joffrey’s queen. Now, for the first time, these three formerly abused women rule in Winterfell, King’s Landing, and Dragonstone. The men around them can’t keep up. Tyrion’s overly complicated plan, which Ellaria, Olenna, and Yara all vocally opposed, has cost Dany her fleet. Jon refuses to make a decision that literally anyone supports. And Theon is, well, Theon. With Dany and Jon poised to meet at Dragonstone, I for one am looking forward to watching Jon try — and fail — to keep up with the dragon queen.
AS: It’s rather remarkable that Sansa, whose character development in earlier seasons ranged from shrieking about wanting to marry Joffrey to crying about being a stupid girl, and in general just being intolerable, now controls the largest of the Seven Kingdoms. Remember that time Jon reasonably asked Sansa not to question his decisions in public? Well Sansa clearly doesn’t, because before Jon had finished his usual stump speech about the “army of the dead,” she was verbally assaulting him all over again. She implored him not to go to Dragonstone, but quickly changed her tune when she realized that meant she would inherit Winterfell (her warm nod more or less said: “don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”). I’m not questioning Sansa’s loyalty to her brother. Nothing demonstrated their mutual devotion more than when Jon, without a moment’s hesitation, warned Littlefinger not to lay a hand on his sister. Sansa is excited by the opportunity to rule the North not because she wants to depose of Jon, but simply because she believes she can govern better than he can. She has learned from Cersei, Tyrion and Littlefinger, and as she noted to Jon last episode, understands that while Ned and Robb were incredibly honorable, they were also incredibly flawed.
DS: A key theme this season has been testing Jon and Dany — both Targaryens, both protagonists — as leaders. Well-known characters in Winterfell and Dragonstone, none more so than Sansa, have repeatedly questioned their judgement. This episode, a refreshing similarity between the two emerged: their instinctive rejection of “clever men” who tend to betray, scheme and plot. I’m referring to Varys and Littlefinger, perhaps the most clever men in Westeros who, in typical fashion, tried to gain leverage over these young leaders. Varys reminded Dany of his long-standing support for her family, and Littlefinger reminded Jon that if not for him, the Boltons would still rule Winterfell. Their words fell on deaf ears. So much of Game of Thrones has been driven by Varys and Littlefinger, including the ascensions of Dany and Jon. But after six seasons, their manipulative tactics felt, at least in these scenes, painfully transparent. In strikingly similar exchanges, Jon and Dany both lost their patience — the King in the North threatened to kill Littlefinger, and the Mother of Dragons threatened to burn Varys alive.
AS: The real danger to Littlefinger may be Arya, the faceless assassin galloping toward Winterfell. I was shocked last episode when she said she was travelling to King’s Landing to kill Cersei rather than to Winterfell to reunite with her family. It indicated that her need for revenge eclipsed all else. One of the show’s all-time heart-wrenching moments came in Season Three when Arya was approaching the Twins, about to reunite with Catelyn and Robb, only for the Red Wedding to occur at that exact moment. All she has ever truly wanted is to return to the family that she was severed from the moment Ned’s head was severed from his body (too soon?). Arya’s final words to Jaqen were that she is not no one, but “Arya Stark of Winterfell.” So it all makes sense now — news of the Bolton’s demise simply hadn’t reached her. Now, as a grown up Arya nears home, something as subtle as her savagely slicing open a piece of bread brings her transformation to attention. Her emotionless, uninterested demeanor led Hot Pie, who last saw Arya when she was a child, to ask, “What happened to you Ari?” It’s not just Hot Pie who barely recognized her. The direwolf we saw last night was the same beast who viciously attacked Joffrey (RIP the Butcher’s Boy) in season one. The Stark direwolves are tremendously loyal, and so nothing epitomizes that Arya has become a stranger in her own home more than a direwolf — the symbol of the North — turning its back on her.
• Euron killed the sand snakes! Euron for king!
• Saying in a really creepy voice: “I love your underage sister just like I loved the stepmother who despised you” isn’t the best way to get into Jon’s good graces.
• Just like Dany always has a “Drogon” card up her sleeve, Arya now has a Nymeria card. Calling it now — in the near future, when Arya is in mortal danger, Nymeria will save the day.
• GOT showrunners: “So, Dany can realistically seize the Iron Throne whenever she wants, but that would be boring… I know! She doesn’t want to kill the innocent, sweet people of Westeros, so instead is going to create a contrived plan that elongates the conflict.”
• Once a Stark returns safely to Winterfell they shouldn’t be allowed to leave.
• Tyrion plotting the destruction of “The Rock” has Tywin rolling over in his grave.
• Olenna’s pump up speech to Dany was too good: “Are you a sheep? No — YOU’RE A DRAGON! Now go get ‘em!”
• Davos and Melisandre are on course for an awkward reunion.
• Qyburn’s latest evil concoction: a giant crossbow… Joffrey would be ecstatic.
• Sam discovered that Dragonstone is built on top of a mountain of… wait for it… Dragonglass. Genius! So glad he went to train in Westeros’s premier research academy to reach such inspiring realizations.