'Be a dragon'

By James Hibberd
July 23, 2017 at 10:41 PM EDT
Macall B. Polay/HBO
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Game of Thrones delivered on its promised faster pace of season 7 with an episode so crammed with major events, reunions, a riveting battle, deaths, and twists that it almost played like a season finale — yet this is only episode 2! After last week’s foreboding and stately premiere, “Stormborn” floored the narrative pedal, with nearly every scene delivering some kind of major consequence for our characters, setting the stage for a cross-section of battles and major power-player meet-ups. We start with:

Dragonstone: It was, quite literally, a dark and stormy night. Daenerys unexpectedly grills Varys about his loyalty because, let’s face it, on paper, his resume admittedly doesn’t sound very reassuring. That he’s a far bigger fan of King Robert than he was of her father doesn’t help either. “Incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty,” shoots back Varys, in what sounds like a rare bit of modern political commentary from GoT. “You wish to know where my true loyalties lie?” he continues. “The people.” Tough to argue with that, and Dany doesn’t — though also threatens to burn him alive if he ever betrays her.

Hey, speaking of burning people alive, here’s Melisandre! She was last seen banished by Jon Snow and told to head south for killing Shireen. She went south all right, straight back to her former home that she used to share with Stannis Baratheon. I wonder if she still has some clothes there she wants to pick up.

The Red Woman is brought before Dany. She fills her in on the prophecy of Azor Ahai — a messianic figure in her Lord of Light religion; lived thousands of years ago, forged a flaming sword which he used to defeat evil; he’s prophesied to be reborn as the Prince That Was Promised, etc. etc.

Or perhaps it’s Princess That Was Promised? Experienced translator Missandei corrects Melisandre’s prophecy description. 

Melisandre explains she thought Stannis was The One. Then she thought it might be Jon Snow. Now she’s not ruling out Dany either. For being some powerful Lord of Light sorcerer, Melisandre’s less confident in her Azor Ahai theory than most Game of Thrones fan blogs. Not to mention, Stannis would be so pissed if he died because of a grammar mistake.

Matchmaker Melisandre successfully gets Dany’s curiosity up about Jon Snow. Tyrion notes that he’s a decent man. She has Tyrion pen a letter to the King in the North requesting to see him and ordering him to “bend the knee” (and the Jon-Dany shippers lean forward). As much as I’d love to see Dany and Jon Snow meet, anything that Melisandre suggests based on prophecy I’m inherently wary about. 

RELATED: EW’s Game of Thrones Weekly podcast dissects ‘Stormborn’

Before he goes, Jon pays a visit to the family crypt. In slinks Littlefinger, who starts purring sweet nothings in Jon’s ear, and you can see him getting increasingly annoyed. Don’t think for a second Jon hasn’t noticed the conniving twerp’s smirking and eye-rolling in the back of his class.

Then… disaster. Euron has found them. What follows is a thrilling sequence from director Mark Mylod. One of my favorite things about GoT action scenes is they’re always unique from one another; this frantic fiery ship battle plays like nothing we’ve seen on the show before. The energy feels like a reflection of Euron, who gets one helluva entrance: His ship The Silence pierces the side of the Greyjoys’ vessel, then a manic screaming Euron rides its jaw-like walkway that clamps down on the ship, both preventing the ship from escaping and providing a way to board.

It’s apparent from the outset that the Greyjoys are being overrun. Euron is a bloody nightmare of psychotic rage-joy. Ellaria and her daughter Tyene are captured below decks, and Ellaria’s request for death is denied while Obara and Nymeria fight Euron (yes, the Sand Snake played by Jessica Henwick is named Nymeria… only Game of Thrones would have two characters with pivotal sequences in the same episode who are both named Nymeria).

Their fight is raw and brutal, with Euron turning their signature weapons against each other, piercing Obara with her spear while strangling Nymeria with her whip. Two of the three Sand Snakes are down, their bodies left to decorate the ship.

Euron also captures Yara despite her Glow-like flying pro-wrestling leap down on top of him. Theon spots them, and Euron tries to bait him into attacking. Euron has no fear. Theon is full of fear. Hot Pie and Nymeria the direwolf aren’t the only long-lost characters to return this week. Reek is back. And Reek does what Reek does — he flees, jumping over the side. Yara is heartbroken at the betrayal. But it was probably Theon’s wisest move given Euron’s fighting skills. Theon rushing at Euron would totally be pulling a Stark.

Here are some exclusive new interviews with GoT cast talking “Stormborn” that I really think are worth reading… 

Maisie Williams on that long-awaited Nymeria reunion

— Nathalie Emmanuel on that ‘vulnerable’ and romantic nude scene

— Sand Snake actress Jessica Henwick on that brutal episode ending

Indira Varma and Gemma Whelan say their kiss was improvised

Actor on Hot Pie’s surprise return: ‘It was a big shock’

(Almost forgot the trivia question for the HBO Store prize! So I’ll keep it super easy: What is Sand Snake Nymeria’s weapon of choice in George R. R. Martin’s books. First correct to ewdigital@ew.com gets a ‘Winter Came for House Frey’ T-shirt and mug).

Episode Recaps

HBO’s epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.
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  • 8
  • 73
  • TV-MA
  • 04/17/11-05/19/19
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