Game of Thrones Series 7 started with a bang, and episode 2 (Stormborn) only ups the stakes. Gone are the days of slower-paced story and character development; in the penultimate series, every scene counts. And the final sequence of the episode delivers one of the jaw-dropping plot-twists that fans love being knocked out by.

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Stormborn sees Daenerys (EMILIA CLARKE) getting settled in Westeros, in her ancestral home of Dragonstone. We see her airing her suspicions of Varys’ (CONLETH HILL) loyalty, considering he originally served her father, only to then be an adviser to Robert Baratheon (MARK ADDY) and sending people to kill Daenerys, and then defected to support her claim to the throne instead. Varys has always been somewhat of a man of mystery, but seems to be more trustworthy than Little Finger (AIDAN GILLEN) – perhaps due to Tyrion (PETER DINKLAGE) being in his corner, but who’s intentions have never been particularly clear. It’s interesting to hear him speak for himself and his past actions. He defends himself as someone who’s loyalty is to the people and what’s best for them. Daenerys believes him and shows humility in asking him to tell her honestly if she acts in a way that isn’t what’s best for her people. However, there’s a growing edge to her and she cautions that if he conspires against her, she’ll burn him alive. Could this be traits of the Targaryen ‘madness’ as she loses her humanity and empathy, or is it a leader to be respected coming to light?

Melisandre (CARICE VAN HOUTEN), the Red Priestess, arrives at Dragonstone and meets Daenerys for the first time – but there are more exciting meetings on the cards soon. They discuss the Valerian prophecy of ‘the prince who is promised to bring the dawn’, but how the correct translation specifies no gender – prince or princess. While Daenerys takes this to perhaps mean herself, Melisandre mentions Jon Snow. With Tyrion vouching for him, Daenerys decides to send an invite to the King in the North, with the always ominous requirement of ‘bending the knee’. So far this request hasn’t paid off for anyone in Westeros, Ned (SEAN BEAN) and Robb Stark (RICHARD MADDEN) as examples. Let’s hope this instance doesn’t end in a similar disaster.

We cut to Winterfell, with a scene of young boys practising archery – reminiscent of series one where Bran (ISAAC HEMPSTEAD WRIGHT) is learning too. Except now, these young boys are preparing for war with the White Walkers. With Jon (KIT HARINGTON) receiving Daenerys’ invite, via Tyrion’s hand, Sansa (SOPHIE TURNER) is suspicious that it could be a trap. Davos (LIAM CUNNINGHAM) realises that her dragons could play a part in their war with the ability to burn huge numbers of White Walkers. Later in the episode, Sam (JOHN BRADLEY) sends word to Jon that their a mountain of dragonglass under Dragonstone, which sways his decision. In a meeting with the houses of the North, he explains his intentions, much to their dismay. Lyanna (BELLA RAMSEY) steals scenes as always with her pleas for the King in the North to stay in the north. Jon puts his foot down, despite Sansa disagreeing with him publicly yet again. He says that she’ll be in charge, which handily shuts her up. The glances exchanged with Little Finger’s sneaky watch, plus Sansa’s notable Cersei (LENA HEADEY) hairstyle concern me that she can’t be trusted. 

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Before Jon leaves, he visits Ned’s grave, only to have Little Finger disturb and taunt him. Jon lashes out with his hand around Little Finger’s throat, similar to Ned doing the same in series one. While Jon displays his dominance and that he won’t be taken for a fool, Little Finger sought revenge on Ned before, and is likely to attempt the same again. We can only hope the comparisons between Jon and Ned are to show that while he has Stark blood in his veins, the Targaryen in him will help him out, and he won’t meet the same fate.

Interspersed with these scenes, we find Arya (MAISIE WILLIAMS) making her way towards King’s Landing to exact her revenge on Cersei, only to meet Hot Pie (BEN HAWKEY) again. He discusses Brienne (GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE) searching for her, and makes conversation, while Arya seems distant and disconnected. She almost comes back to herself when thinking about telling Hot Pie what she’s been through, only to decide against it and choose chugging ale instead. She’s come a long way from the Arya we first met. Luckily Hot Pie does provide some good news, revealing that the Bolton’s are dead and Jon is back at Winterfell. Traces of the little girl Arya once was appear again, as she chooses to turn away from her revenge and head home to her remaining family instead. 

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On her way, there’s another pinnacle meeting fans have been looking forward to, but the scene doesn’t quite match expectations. Arya is alone in the woods, when her horse becomes very nervous. We realise she is surrounded by a pack of wolves… led by none other than her direwolf, Nymeria. The animal recognises her, but when Arya asks her to come to Winterfell, the wolf turns away and leaves with her pack. Though broken-hearted momentarily, Arya whispers, “That’s not you.” This harks back again to a scene with Ned, where Arya was pushing against doing ‘ladylike’ activities and told Ned, “That’s not me.” Arya then received her ‘dancing lessons’, but this scene suggests Arya knows that as much as she couldn’t be tamed, neither can Nymeria. The likelihood is that this won’t be the last we see of Nymeria and her wolf pack though – there’s a big war to come, and a big group of wolves could do some serious damage to turn the tide in the final battle.

In King’s Landing, Cersei addresses the court to tell tales of Daenerys’ actions overseas, and it’s funny to hear how her actions could be misconstrued if the reasoning behind why she’s done things is left out. Sam’s father – Randyll Tarly (JAMES FAULKNER) – is there, as a bannerman for house Tyrell, and Jaime (NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU) attempts to persuade him to stay loyal to the Lannisters, with particular reference to killing Olenna Tyrell (DIANA RIGG). Qyburn (ANTON LESSER) takes Cersei to see the skulls of the dragons – Robert’s ‘trophies’ – and demonstrates an enormous crossbow he’s developed with the best blacksmith’s in the city. The arrow pierces through the dragon’s skull, so let’s just hope Drogon knows how to zig-zag, where Rickon Stark (ART PARKINSON) didn’t…

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In the Citadel, Archmaester Embrose (JIM BROADBENT) assesses Jorah’s (IAIN GLENN) dragonscale affliction. He comments on how the disease won’t actually kill him for years, but he’ll lose his mind within months. He permits Jorah one final day before he’ll be shipped to live out his remaining days with the stone men (who infected him in the first place). Sam remarks about Stannis’ daughter Shireen (KERRY INGRAM) recovering from the condition, only to be shot down by Embrose. Sam asks to send word to Jorah’s family, and discovers who he really is. Unwilling to let Commander Mormont’s son die, he attempts a dangerous method to cure Jorah himself. It’s a brutal, stomach-churning scene where Sam picks the scales from Jorah’s flesh with a knife, and has one of the most disgustingly brilliant scene cuts, from Jorah’s pussing skin to a Lannister soldier dipping bread into a cheesy dish. We have hope yet that Jorah can be saved, and Sam’s becomming a much more significant character, learning all the vital things that fans have been theorising. The theory we’re waiting on Sam to put together is that dragonglass can heal people, and despite Jorah going through hell in his attempt to save him, it seems quite a simple solution when most people do die from dragonscale. I think it’s far more likely that Jorah will also end up heading to Dragonstone, which just happens to be where his Khaleesi is. If, like Benjen Stark (JOSEPH MAWLE) – whom the Children of the Forest saved from being a White Walker by stabbing in the heart with Dragonglass – Jorah is also healed by dragonglass, but his scales remain, he might prove to be vital in the fight against the White Walkers, with a natural armor and possible resilience to dying.

The end of the episode sees a big twist, lots of deaths, and some serious bad-assery. Yara Greyjoy’s (GEMMA WHELAN) fleet is making their way to Sandstone to collect the Dornish army, when they come under attack from her uncle, on Cersei’s command. Euron (PILOU ASBAEK) shows himself to be a maniacal fighter, able to take numerous hits without succumbing, and violently kills two thirds of the (awful) Sand snakes. The battle scene is viseral, explosive and horrific. The fighting is what we’ve come to expect from the final few, big episodes of a series of Game of Thrones, but we’re learning here that every episode counts in these final two series. A battle of this scale in episode 2, can only mean bloodshed beyond our imagination to come soon. 

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Ellaria Sand (INDIRA VARMA) is captured, alive, by Euron’s men, and we can only imagine the horrendous torture Cersei plans to inflict upon the woman who killed her daughter. Meanwhile, Yara senses all is lost for her as she looks around to see her fleet on fire, but shows courage as she fights on, jumping headfirst into combat with her uncle. Euron takes the upper hand, and Theon (ALFIE ALLEN), who has been fighting, freezes and mentally unravels. He sees Euron’s men ripping the tongues out of their men. His uncle calls him a ‘cockless coward’ – which is a pretty apt description – as Theon seems to slip away to Reek. Yara’s final words prior to the attack come back to haunt her, where she described Theon as her advisor and protector. Despite his sister saving him repeatedly, he can’t get past his memories of torture at the hands of Ramsey (IWAN RHEON), so drops his sword and jumps overboard, abandoning her.

While I’m no fan of Theon, I think it is understandable that he can’t mentally cope with the thought of being hacked apart, tortured and destroyed on a daily basis. The biggest problem for me, is that we all long for him to finally step up and show some courage to repay all the people who’ve saved him, and the closest he’s come is saving Sansa. Unfortunately, I feel that if now wasn’t the time for him to face his uncle regardless of what might happen to him in the process, then he never will step up. Though his cowardice is part of his character now, I can’t see him ever having a redeeming moment to make up for all he’s done.

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After an action-packed episode, where we’ve lost numerous characters, we’ve reached a point where the road to power is not going to be as straight-forward as it initially seemed for Daenerys, and perhaps Cersei has more up her wide-sleeves than we originally thought. With Jon on his way to Dragonstone, and more and more crucial elements to winning the war against the White Walkers being in that area, it looks like the next few episodes with lay the foundations for some massive discoveries for the bigger war next season, while setting alliances for the war for King’s Landing now.

Stormborn delivers crucial plot movement, emotional reunions, teases fan theories and delivers a knockout final scene on the seas. Game of Thrones series 7 is not letting us down – unlike Theon…

GAME OF THRONES SEASON 7 AIRS ON SKY ATLANTIC, MONDAYS AT 9PM

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