We’re back here again. Monday night, a new Game of Thrones episode – ‘Stormborn’. So why does it feel a bit tedious? What is it that makes this perfectly good episode feel like it’s almost the last straw on the camel’s back?
This episode tackles a fair amount of plot, updating us on the plights of many characters: Cersei vying for Queenly popularity, Sansa (essentially) becoming Queen of the North, and the Red Priestess meeting with Daenerys. In fact, it’s strange to see Dany with so many characters that we’ve become accustomed to seeing in Westeros, the cross-over marking anticipation for the eventual clash with the Lannisters. For such an early episode, there are even some (semi-)major fatalities.
‘You’re not here to be queen of the ashes’, Tyrion tells Dany. It’s a prominent image, one that sticks throughout the episode and embodies Daenerys’ rule. It is these parts of the episode that feel the most worthwhile. Tyrion’s words are a striking reminder of the differences between the two Queens, Daenerys and Cersei. Script is, of course, something that Game of Thrones has always done well.
Daenerys is the Queen that Westeros does not deserve, but also does not need
Fortunately, it’s not just Tyrion who gets the best lines; instead, we see a deeper side to Varys’ character, as he stands up to Daenerys’ demand for full unwavering commitment, instead declaring himself a man of the people. His speech, which evokes a similar power to Chaplin’s in The Dictator, is poignant and rousing. It reveals to the audience that someone might, perhaps, be looking out for the little people of Westeros. However, these opening moments are set with a character I’m sadly growing tired of – Daenerys herself.
Daenerys, so exciting a feminist icon, has become wise beyond her years whilst also becoming increasingly tiresome. Whilst her naivety has (rightly) dissipated by this point, she bears a certain weariness that all the younger characters now seem to have. They have battled through seven seasons, just as the audience has – but why does it seem like a struggle now that we’re nearly home and dry? Whilst she has become a fitting ruler, she may not be fit for the intricate web of relationships and scheming that makes up Westeros. Daenerys is the Queen that Westeros does not deserve, but also does not need.
What does excite me, however, is the prospect of a meeting between Jon and Dany. These two are not only the fairest rulers of Westeros; they are unknowingly related to each other. How will they find out?! Will Jon be impervious to fire?! I just don’t know, but it’s something that I can’t wait for. However, if he can’t stand the heat, Bran better hurry up in his journey from the wall.
To be clear, this is not a full condemnation of the episode. It was compelling in many ways, including several poetic lines and a surprising ending. It has left me concerned for Dany’s dragons (why Cersei, just give up), feeling fairly sick after watching Samwell peeling off Jorah’s dragon scale (marking Jorah’s possible return as a character of significance), as well as slightly sad that Arya doesn’t have control over a pack of wolves.
How are they going to bring back that fire when the idea of dragons won’t cut it anymore?
The ending of the episode is perhaps more pertinent to discuss: what on earth is Theon doing? The battle scene, set against sparks and fire, was a testament to how unsafe the supposedly winning alliance really is. It brought back a degree of fear for the characters and increased my dislike of Euron as a pesky meddler, who I’d rather went and meddled in someone else’s business. It also presents a realisation for Dany that the conquering of Westeros is a far different kettle of fish to that of Slaver’s Bay. So, as the episode ends with Theon jumping for safety (rather than saving Yara) and Ellaria captured, one question remains – what will happen to them all?
This is less a damning review, than a confused one. There’s nothing to fault in terms of production, and there were several interesting plot developments. However, I’m still not gripped, and I’m definitely not impatiently waiting for the minutes to pass until the next episode. Whilst, true to form, the episodes will probably get increasingly well-made as we progress, I’m starting to wonder whether it all feels too ‘safe’. The biggest problem with using shock to compel your audience is what you can do when they are no longer shocked. I’m sure some of my favourite characters will die, but that is the Game of Thrones. How are they going to bring back that fire when the idea of dragons won’t cut it anymore?
You can watch the show on Sky Atlantic in the UK, and pre-order the DVD on Amazon here.