Darren Franich and Shirley Li tackle season 7, episode 2, 'Stormborn'
With the seventh season of Game of Thrones in full swing, EW’s Darren Franich and Shirley Li will venture into the weeds of Westeros every week to untangle the latest burning questions, ruminate over theories, and trace the show’s remaining connections to the unfinished books. Consider it EW’s small council, made of two people far too obsessed with everything Thrones. This week’s burning question: Does Cersei and her new pirate boyfriend, Euron, actually stand a chance against Daenerys?
DARREN: Enemies to the east, enemies to the west, enemies to the south, enemies to the north! Does Cersei Lannister have the slightest prayer of turning her fragile hold over Three Kingdoms into a full continental set of Seven Kingdoms? Is there any chance that she survives 11 more episodes? The short answer is “no,” which makes her an underdog, and how can you not root for an underdog, even if she occasionally incinerates half her own city with wildfire? The long answer is “Maybe, thanks to Euron,” and I love the Greyjoys, especially Greyjoys who dress like they’re on the cover of a Coldplay concept album about pirates. Euron just handed Cersei a significant naval victory in “Stormborn,” so things are looking up for their alliance. You’re EW’s ranking Thrones theorist, Shirley, so what do you think the near future looks like for Cersei?
SHIRLEY: Well, Darren, I think it’s safe to say that Cersei’s future, like Coldplay’s collaboration with the Chainsmokers, is definitively Not Great. You point to Euron as her potential savior, but while he delivered a harsh blow to Dragon Queen, I doubt it’ll be enough to warrant a “maybe,” let alone ensure Cersei’s continued reign.
For one thing, there are still the dragons to worry about, and that ballista Qyburn gifted her may be a good reference to the books (R.I.P. Meraxes), but do you really think good aim and a sharp arrow will bring down Dany’s living nukes? For another, Euron’s not a secure ally; how invested is he really in the idea of Cersei for a queen? Even though he’s bringing her a gift in the form of Ellaria and the remaining Sand Snake, I’m wary of his end goal. He appears to be a benevolent pirate with a penchant for awesome entrances, but I suspect Euron has more cards hidden up his sleeve. (Speaking of which, before this week’s episode, I had deluded myself into thinking that the series might introduce Dragonbinder — his dragon horn that would supposedly bend dragons to his will — as the gift. That would’ve been quite a trump card.)
To be honest, I suspect that Euron might even outlive Cersei, at least by, um, half an episode? And if he survives, I could see him setting his sights on wooing Daenerys, if only to match up again with the Euron we know from the books. Maybe I’m putting too much stock in Book-Euron, though. We’re never gonna get that eyepatch, are we, Darren?
DARREN: You’re bringing up THE major season 7 topic, a least for those of us who keep refreshing George R. R. Martin’s “Not A Blog” waiting for another chapter about the Greyjoys and Martells who didn’t make it into the show. How different is TV-Euron from Book-Euron? Are they even remotely the same character?
At the risk of simultaneously spoiling Book-Euron’s arc and completely misunderstanding it, Martin seems to have conceived of the character as a major Final Act antagonist, a nemesis figure for all of Westeros on a deep spiritual level. I’m loathe to quote heavily from a chapter that has only been read in public, but in the Aeron Damphair excerpt Martin read last year, there’s a lot of Lovecraftian imagery circling around Euron, and some vague notion that he is a literal-or-figurative godkiller. Fair to say, this is NOT the interpretation of Euron that David Benioff & D.B. Weiss have run with in the last couple episodes.
To your point, the lack of Dragonbinder makes Euron’s impressive fleet look like so much chic painted firewood. On a broader level, TV-Euron seems like a cheerful nihilist, maybe the least ambitious King the show’s ever had. I think it’s a good change? Thrones could use some levity, now that Jon and Dany are locked into their grand-destiny endgames. Euron is kind of like Bronn with sails, and I like Bronn, and I like sailing!
My longterm Euron theory: He’ll lose his eye (and most of his fleet) in a literal firefight with Dany’s forces, at which point he’ll put on an eyepatch, hop on a red ship, and sail away into the only spinoff I want: “Vikings But With Dragons Also.” Which leaves Cersei alone in King’s Landing, with a dragon-killing crossbow that seems specifically designed to kill one dragon while just seriously angering two others. Do you have different feelings about the radical Euron reboot? And even if Qyburn’s weapon can take down three dragons, does that really leave Cersei in a secure position?
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SHIRLEY: When it comes to how different TV-Euron is from Book-Euron, I think that in the case of TV-Euron, what is dead about Book-Euron’s qualities may, er, have died, and that’s for the worse, not for the better. You may like him for being the least ambitious King the show’s ever had, but he’s very underdeveloped so far. Yes, we need Euron around to remove some pieces from the board, but he’s not a game changer or a wild card, really. He’s like if I were, say, playing online chess and weren’t allergic and therefore had a cat and said cat leaped onto my keyboard and made me lose a couple of pawns. (Seven hells, Cat Euron.) He’s screwing with the pieces but not playing a long game because there are 11 episodes left and there is no time left for long games. So yeah, sail away, Euron! Go off to Yi Ti! I want to know more about Yi Ti!
Where was I? Oh, right — if you want more levity, the show can mine plenty of levity from its characters not named Jon Snow. We just had Hot Pie drop by last week, didn’t we? And at this point, I think what Thrones lacks the most isn’t levity. I think it lacks moments that define the stakes for this world. Take that scene with the Lannister soldiers and *whispers* Ed Sheeran. We could, if you remove pop-star-who-shall-not-be-named-again, use more of that. I know we’re headed for the Great War™ but seeing the soldiers and smallfolk helps shade in bits of the world I’m afraid the show has forgotten for too long. Like, why isn’t anybody in King’s Landing more incensed about the fact that their queen blew up the city? Is anybody even left in Dorne? Has Westeros been emptied of regular people since the War of the Five Kings? If the point is to save Westeros, shouldn’t we see why it’s even worth saving?
But maybe I’m being nit-picky when there are bigger questions to consider. Darren, what are you hoping to see more of (or less of!) as we head into episode 3, “The Queen’s Justice”?
DARREN: You’re right to identify Euron as a blunt instrument. He is the fearsome sword of schaudenfreudic showrunner vengeance, hacking off all TV-character arcs that failed to blossom into novella-sized sagas. And to be clear: I am HERE for two (three?) more books about Eyepatch Euron the Pirate Cthulhu. But it feels like last season’s finale was a real statement of purpose from Benioff & Weiss. We’re rushing headlong towards Lannister v Stark v Targaryen v White Walkers. Maybe one of those v’s will be a ❤️, now that ravens fly faster than emails and Winterfell is just a hop-skip away from Dragonstone.
I do think the show left some story on the table with Yara and Ellaria, who I assume will get “The Queen’s Justice” in the bloodiest, Ned Stark-iest, Mountain-Revealing-His-Gross-Face-ingest way possible. Didn’t you want to see those two take King’s Landing, and then declare themselves co-queens of however many Kingdoms they have left? In the long game, did Cersei just help Dany out, eliminating a couple of potential traitors with powerful armies at their back? But if this season is all about mopping up the pawns, then at least Euron is a fun mop. All hail Euron, the Cat Mop!
Where the hell was I? Episode 3: I’m buying what you’re selling with the soldiers and the smallfolk. That Lannister scene made the world-stakes clear, AND it had a bit of levity — more of that vibe, please! Which at this point, really, means more of Arya and the Hound. Together and now separately, they’re our most interesting envoys into the wider world of Westeros. Admittedly, given the accelerated pace of this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if Arya’s in Winterfell and the Hound’s up at Eastwatch this Sunday. And Arya’s reunion with her (remaining, diminished) family would fit into this season’s general Long-Awaited Main Character Hang Sesh motif, and just the idea of Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner facing off on camera is exciting. (Wolfsbane and Jean Grey, together again for the first time!)
What do you want to see in episode 3, besides evidence that not everyone in Westeros hangs out in a throne room? And how did you feel about the pronoun-centric resolution to the “prince/ss that was promised” prophecy? I’m reminded of something Jon Snow tells Melisandre in his last chapter (so far?) in the books: “It seems to me that you make nothing but mistakes, my lady.”
SHIRLEY: Wait… I didn’t even think about Yara and Ellaria (Yallaria? Ellariara? Yarallaria? Asha?) being co-Queens! That would have been fun to watch and would have pushed the envelope in a way Thrones hasn’t before. But you’re right, we’ve gotta fast-forward to the endgame that is Everyone v Ice Zombies — a v that won’t turn out to be a ❤️ except in really wild fanfic, probably — and so yes, Arya will probably wind up in Winterfell by Sunday, while the news of Bran being at Castle Black probably won’t. Sigh.
As much as I’m looking forward to seeing Arya reach point B and to seeing what’ll go down in Dragonstone between Jon and Dany and Davos and Melisandre (I fear that the episode will close on them meeting before — cut to black! — a single word is uttered, but we’ll see…), I’m more invested in Casterly Rock. I’ve got my fingers and toes and eyes crossed that Grey Worm survives the ambush. If the Greyjoys can’t last, I’m hoping this shade of Grey does. (Sorry.)
As for the prophecy and its translation, well, I’ve always thought — along with the majority of fans, I’m sure — that Azor Ahai/The Prince That Was Promised/The Stallion That Mounts the World/Neo has to be some combination of Jon and Daenerys. And yet, that’s always felt too obvious, hasn’t it? Having Missandei clarify that last week only made me more worried that what we’re expecting will not be.
There’s been a great, if somewhat spoiler-ish, theory floating around on Reddit that Jaime — yes, Jaime — might be Azor Ahai in the end. If you read all the textual evidence and look at a key scene featuring Jojen Reed, it actually makes sense, except for the fact that the show has never seemed to set up Jaime as anything more than human, and to pull the rug out from under us this late in the game would be annoying, to say the least. What’s the point of killing Jon and bringing him back if he didn’t have a bigger part to play? I know I’m starting to sound like Melisandre, but have you read into this at all, Darren? What do you think?
DARREN: The Jaime-as-Azor-Ahai theory is my second favorite Azor Ahai theory, behind the (somewhat shakier, but Liam Cunningham-approved!) Davos-as-Azor-Ahai theory. The problem, as you point out, is that Show-Jaime has been on a VERY different track than Book-Jaime for years now, and now seems to be frowning through a nihilistic death spiral with his sister-lover. So I’m more intrigued by the very human drama that will emerge between Jaime and Cersei when Euron returns with his priceless gift. The Kingslayer could become a Queenslayer, no prophecy required!
Let’s wrap up this broad theorizing with some specific predictions, Shirley: Who won’t survive “The Queen’s Justice”? I want to believe The Kraken’s Daughter Formerly Known As Asha will live to pirate-fight another day, but I think Sunday will see the complete end of all Cersei’s prisoners: Bye bye Yara, Exit Ellaria, so long whichever Sand Snake didn’t die this week!
SHIRLEY: Her name is Tyene, Darren!!! R.I.P. IN ADVANCE.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.