Fine. But maybe wait a second before approaching Daenerys and asking her to open a second front, in her brand new war, against a race of mythical beings? Jon’s role in Winterfell has to be healing the bitter divides of a just-ended civil war, and, as his lieges point out, the last King in the North who left Winterfell never returned. The only reason I can think for his rashness is that foul mistress, plot. Jon doesn’t make much sense as a King in the North anyway—the title should fall to Sansa, pronouns be damned, just like with the so-called prince who was promised. Jon came back from the dead to defeat the Night’s King, and if he has to make a few stupid decisions to spur that final confrontation along, so be it.
In these final episodes of the show (remember, there’s just 11 left—total!—and five left this season), such silly twists may become a matter of course just to get all the pieces in the right places on the board, plausibility be damned. Just how did Euron find that invading fleet and sail himself straight into it without any detection? Who knows! But that’s another plot point sewn up as we point our giant, mechanized crossbows at the grander confrontations to come.
Sophie Gilbert: A quick note that I’m subbing this week for Lenika, and maybe I spent too much time watching Anthony Scaramucci this weekend but Varys reminded me of nothing so much as the new White House communications director in his season-seven return, seamlessly switching allegiance from Bush to Baratheon without batting an eyelid. Sorry, Spencer, I know you wanted a break from current events but the politicking in this episode did feel nakedly relevant. Cersei warning the lords about foreign savages who will rape their wives and murder their children? Varys warning Daenerys that incompetence shouldn’t be rewarded with blind loyalty? It all cut a little close to home, IMO.
The other thing I noticed in “Stormborn” was the proliferation of women taking charge. You had Sansa, stepping in for Jon while he heads south to (finally) meet with Daenerys and Tyrion. Cersei, preaching hate in a rather drafty throne room. The Dragon Queen, of course, determining whether or not Varys is a simple opportunist or a true threat to her rule. And then Olenna, Ellaria, and Yara pondering the ethics of war and the need for an iron fist. Olenna’s warning that pure politics alone leaves a leader vulnerable felt like the counterargument to Varys’s calls for populism. “They won’t obey you unless they fear you,” she told Daenerys, entreating her to be a dragon, not a sheep. But as a leader, Dany has always understood that simple fear alone won’t cut it. True allegiance needs to be based on respect, too, and that can only be earned, not taken by force.
David, last week you praised the famed Ed Sheeran scene as one of the quieter moments of respite during otherwise ceaseless war and strategery. The (lovely) scene between Grey Worm and Missandei seemed to serve the same purpose this episode, presenting a moment of vulnerability and connection between two people that was genuinely moving. For once, the nudity didn’t feel gratuitous so much as pivotal, and Grey Worm’s description of Missandei as his “weakness” emphasized the episode’s constant tension between humanity and strength. So did the encounter up north with an old friend, as you noted. Nymeria had enough of her former self (good dog!) left to recognize Arya, but not enough to abandon her new pack and accompany Arya north. “That’s not you,” Arya murmured as she left. But Arya isn’t the same person she was either—she’s arguably just as fearsome and potentially predatory a figure as her direwolf has become.