REVIEW: Game of Thrones 7.02 ‘Stormborn’ is eventful but contrived
After a lukewarm season opener, Game of Thrones had a lot of ground to make up with this week’s episode ‘Stormborn’. It did so by means of sex, gore and violence – all standard Game of Thrones fare and very effective.
The highlights of the episode are the gore and the battle. In one scene, Sam begins a gruesome medical procedure to cure Jorah of greyscale. It’s the sort of scene that is unequivocally Game of Thrones in its ability to disgust, shock and enthral all at once. And it’s followed by a brilliant scene transition.
Elsewhere, Yara and her fleet are ambushed by Euron at sea while travelling to Dorne. If we ignore how contrived it is that apparently nobody on board Yara’s fleet had any idea of the impending danger, the following battle scenes were excellent to watch. Television rarely depicts naval battles – particularly those pre-cannons – with a semblance of realism, but Game of Thrones made an honest effort to capture the intimate and frantic nature of an attack at close quarters.
The cogs are very much in motion now, with Daenerys discussing her strategy for taking Westeros and questioning the motives of her allies. However, the fact that Daenerys may finally be meeting up with fellow fan-favourite Jon Snow does not exempt her from the bizarre choices the show has made for her character. Why is it only now that she chooses to question Varys on where his loyalties lie? Her lust for power is also growing increasingly evident, and Varys’s declaration that he serves the people – not the monarch – is very clunky foreshadowing that all may not be well in their future relationship.
Elsewhere, Cersei gathers support for her side for the oncoming Targaryen invasion. One can’t help but wonder why little both nobles and smallfolk barely seem to be reacting to the fact that the current Queen blew up a city landmark and all her political enemies. Nevertheless, she is proving a suitably unhinged villain and has even found a way around that pesky dragon problem, courtesy of Qyburn. It’s her brother Jaime, though, who does the best job of convincing loyal Tyrell bannermen to switch sides. His exchange with Lord Tarly, Sam’s dad and a powerful military commander, is one of the best parts of the episode. Tarly comes across principled and throws shade at the Lannisters, but an offer of power can turn even the most moral of men.
Over in the Riverlands, Arya reunites with Hot Pie and learns that the Boltons are dead and Jon has retaken Winterfell. We get a glimpse of the girl that Arya used to be as she struggles with her desire to return home – and ultimately acts on it. It’s a welcome flash to the past, but not as welcome as the arrival of her dire-wolf Nymeria. This reunion is short-lived, however, which is almost certainly nothing to do with CGI budget constraints. At least Game of Thrones bothered to tie up the loose end.
There was a lot to enjoy in ‘Stormborn’, particularly for those hoping to see more classic Game of Thrones. However, the return of gore and violence does not completely mask the fact that the show’s writing has grown steadily less intelligent following the departure from the source material. It’s best enjoyed as a casual fan, and more fool us for considering character motivations and plot plausibility.