The first blood was drawn in the war for the Seven Kingdoms on HBO's "Game of Thrones" on Sunday, but not at the hands of Daenerys Targaryen.
Goodbye Flayed Man, hello Kraken. Between the Joker-esque cackle and the Ramsay-esque war tactics, Euron Greyjoy showed us that he truly is as ruthless as he promised. His warship is a monster compared to Yara’s, he collected Cersei’s gift without even batting an eye and he single-handedly killed two of the Sand Snakes with their own weapons. It was Reek more than Theon who jumped overboard because the scene was all too familiar. Cersei doesn’t care enough about the Iron Islands to want Yara—Ellaria and her daughter will be satisfactory enough—and it’s terrifying to think what Euron will do with his niece.
Theon can still risk everything to protect his sister. Once Yara took the Iron Islands, she was confident her brother would be her most trusted advisor and protector. The look of betrayal on Yara’s face when Theon abandons her is as heartbreaking as any other betrayal we’ve seen—but I don’t believe Theon has quite given up on her. It’s possible that Reek took over in that moment, but it’s also possible Theon made a calculated decision to jump knowing that if he hadn’t, they would both be dead. If Theon was willing to die to get Sansa to the Wall, he should be willing to make twice that effort to rescue his sister.
Only one of Daenerys’ allies was lost in the battle. Yara’s fleet was on its way to Sunspear to pick up the Dornish army, which can only mean the Dornish army is still safe at home. Without a fleet, the Dornish will need a new means of travel—but Cersei has Ellaria, who appears to be the new leader of Dorne in the absence of Martells. Yara’s army and fleet may be gone, but the Dornish will be as determined as ever to retaliate against the Lannisters.
Dragonstone is making Daenerys a bit prickly. Daenerys said herself that Dragonstone does not feel like home, and taking her frustration out on her most valuable allies and advisors is exactly why the Westerosi are so hesitant to trust a Targaryen. The Lords of Westeros would be more inclined to rally behind someone who is from Westeros and knows its people—and Cersei is already using that to her advantage. Conquering is a Dragon’s strong point; ruling is not. Without someone to counsel patience and leadership, her Targaryen instincts will continue to tell her to “answer injustice with justice.”
Dany needs to meet Tyrion and Olenna in the middle. Daenerys not only heeds Tyrion’s counsel, she demands respect for him and even takes a step back while he shares his war plans. At Tyrion’s suggestion, Dany hoped to take the Seven Kingdoms without too much bloodshed, but unfortunately, it’s too late for that. She’ll soon learn that Lady Olenna’s advice to “be a dragon” is as valuable as any Tryion could give her. In Meereen, Missandei reminds Dany that she has often had a better outcome by ignoring her advisors when she saw a better choice. Tyrion and Olenna both understand the ways of Westeros and will be major assets on her war council. She needs both of them in order to make her own informed decisions.
Jon will always trust his instincts. Dany needs Tryion to explain why Jon would be a valuable ally, but Jon doesn’t seem to need any convincing. He has seen what’s coming and understands the value of the dragonglass beneath Daenerys’ castle—not to mention her army and three fire-breathing dragons. Even when Lyanna Mormont, arguably Jon Snow’s number one fan, asks him not to leave, he stands his ground despite the risk. Now that Dany is short a few Ironmen, she’ll need more allies. If anything, Dany should admire Jon’s determination to protect his people and agree to a negotiation. Even if she insists that they attack King’s Landing before taking on the Army of the Dead, at least she’ll make Sansa happy.
Sansa holds down the fort. Last week, Jon reprimanded Sansa for publicly undermining him; this week, I think Jon was hoping she would do the same. He believes the North’s best chance is to forge an alliance with Daenerys, but he knew he would not receive a positive reaction. When Jon receives Tyrion’s letter, he asks Sansa’s advice, proving that he finally values her insight. But rather than privately warning Sansa of his decision to accept Tyrion’s invitation, Jon announces it publicly, knowing that it would get a rise out of her. Jon was named King in the North only after he insisted Sansa was the rightful heir to Winterfell. In his eyes, the North belonged to her—but the people chose Jon. He allows Sansa to vocalize her commitment to protecting the North because he needs his people to know that they will be in good hands until he returns. Her initial reaction, however, is a glance toward Littlefinger, who sits smirking in the corner as ever, pretending not to be happy to have Jon out of the way.
Jon might be inclined to bend the knee. Robb Stark was ready to bend the knee to Renly Baratheon on the condition that he could remain the King in the North; and Renly accepted for need of an alliance with the North. We shouldn’t write off Daenerys’ demand that Jon come bend the knee as unreasonable just yet. After all, she did agree that Yara Greyjoy could remain Queen of the Iron Islands so long as Yara swear allegiance to Dany as the rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. The Northerners would not be thrilled, but Jon never asked to be their king and he certainly has no interest in the Iron Throne, so what difference would it make if Daenerys agreed to fight with him in return for his allegiance?
Jaime seeks an unlikely ally. The Lords of the Reach only answered Cersei’s call for fear of retaliation, as Randyll Tarly blatantly states to Jaime. Despite being the world’s worst father (with the exception of Stannis Baratheon), Randyll Tarly is known as one of the greatest military men in Westeros. Jaime knows that the Tarlys and the other Lords of the Reach, many of whom are Tyrell bannermen, won’t fight for the crown out of love for Cersei. He even ackowledges Cersei’s greatest weakness: she doesn’t have the love of the people. Instead, Jaime takes a page out of his father’s political playbook by offering Lord Tarly something else to fight for: the safety of his people and the title of Warden of the South.
Arya snaps out of it. Until her run-in with Hot Pie, Arya thought she was alone. Arya told the Freys it was a mistake to “leave one wolf alive,” as if the rest of her pack was gone. Unfortunately, the pattern of Arya’s storyline continuously leaves her on the brink of reuniting with family only to find them dead or dying. We already know Jon won’t be there if/when she arrives home, but her history on the show and Hot Pie calling her a survivor just about convinced me that something else will hinder her journey to Winterfell.
If Nymeria can make it on her own, Arya can too. For all we know, Arya’s interaction with Nymeria was enough to make her turn back toward King’s Landing. Even in the moment Nymeria turns her back on Arya, she feels a strong connection to her direwolf and her need for freedom. Like Arya, Nymeria was never meant to be domesticated. Arya understands the feeling of having to find her own way after being separated from her pack and has been a lone wolf ever since. Now Arya has a choice to make: to complete her solo mission to avenge her family, or risk a Red Wedding repeat.
Assuming Jorah won’t die, he has a long road ahead. It still bothers me that Jorah didn’t immediately cut off his arm—it’s not even his sword arm. I have no idea what the recovery period is on Sam’s little experiment, but the Citadel is only allowing Jorah one more day until they ship him to Valyria. He needs to leave quietly (so as not to get Sam in trouble) and he needs to leave alone—but where will we see him next and in what condition? Dragonstone is his most likely destination if he can make it there in one piece. However, I would be interested to see an interaction between Jon and his former Lord Commander’s son as well as how Lady Mormont would react to the return of the exiled heir to Bear Island.
Missandei’s sex scene with Grey Worm. I’m just going to leave this one alone and say that one of them is probably going to die. And also maybe she should get some undies.
"The Queen's Justice" is the perfect title for the next episode, where we’ll see major decisions being made by Daenerys and Cersei. Hopefully we’ll also hear from characters missing from this Sunday’s episode, including the Hound, Bran, Tormund and Bronn, who we have yet to see this season.
A note about the Hound’s vision: Some superfans have noticed a sneaky change in the opening credits of the HBO series that could explain why the Hound saw the dead walking “past” the Wall, rather than through or over it. I won’t say anything else except to keep an eye out for the Wall in Sunday’s intro.
To read the recap of last week's premiere, click HERE.