Beware! The night is dark and full of terrors, and this review will have spoilers. Which could be a scarier prospect. If you need a briefing for this season, DO NOT READ ON. But go here instead.
This week: Sea people.
While we must admit we're not thrilled to see the return of Ellaria Sand and the Dorne gang, they're part of the most visually rich part of the episode at the end. But let's kick off at the beginning, where Dany and Tyrion are discussing tactics and allies. In fact, there are a lot of scenes of people discussing who and what they need to win this conflict. It could have turned into a dry discussion of forces and castles, but given how the stakes have been raised and who – Tyrion, Jon etc. – are having the discussions, it's actually compelling. One of the more pleasing aspects is the fact that at least one of the war councils is almost entirely made up of women.
Dany's scene with Varys is also fascinating, since we know the man's history with betrayal... And so does she. Little Birds coming home to roost, people. Quite why she would trust him, even with Tyrion's blessing, is a tad suspect, but when you have dragons backing you up (who we assume were sheltering from the driving rain), you can afford to extend a little trust.
That said... Melisandre? Really? REALLY? Smoke demon birthing lady? The woman who encouraged someone to set their daughter on fire? While it's good to see Carice van Houten back, her character has been trouble before and will be trouble again.
At Winterfell, Liam Cunningham got the usual assortment of good lines as Davos as Jon and Sansa read Dany's communication about a meeting. Jon doesn't seem to be the most likely ally, but as we see later, Dany's certainly going to need him. And she's got not only the Dragonfire, but, as Snow has now learned, copious supplies of Dragonglass.
As for Cersei, she's attempting to marshal her own forces, spreading fake news about Dany's plans. That said, there's an interesting angle to be found here, that the Mother Of Dragons' seemingly heroic actions can be spun any number of ways. She's experienced it directly herself and here Cersei uses it to her own ends, attempting to bring those who previously swore loyalty to House Tyrell to her side. Including Sam's dad! Makes you wonder whether he'll ever meet his father on the field of battle. Doubt it, but you never know.
Talking of Tarly Jr., he's got his own problem to solve. Without poop duty this week, he's focusing on somehow curing Jorah Mormont whose father – surprise! - he knew at Castle Black. A shade convenient, that, but we'll allow it. If he ends up somehow befriending Lyanna, then we'll cry foul. The scene later of Sam trying to scrape the infected skin from Jorah's body was a cringe for the ages, and not for the faint of heart.
And how do you solve a problem like Daenerys? Or, more specifically, her dragons? Qyburn (Anton Lesser) thinks he's found a way: a big giant crossbow. Clearly someone has watched The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies.
In a couple of pleasing breaks from either war chat or battles, we finally see Missandei and Grey Worm getting close. We're fairly sure the shippers were out in force for their gentle, sweet sex scene.
Much less sexy, but no less warm, was Arya's reunion with the one, the only Hot Pie! (Ben Hawkey). It was a tiny moment amid big decisions, but it was a key one for Arya, who learned that Jon is alive and now the King in the North. We'd say that it'll be refreshing to see all the surviving Starks together in Winterfell, but Jon is already on his way to see Dany. D'oh! But on her way, we do also get that lovely reunion with Direwolf Nymeria. Even if the animal heading off with her new pack did make us think of this.
While there was a lot of talk this week, when the show truly got back into action mode, it was devastating and deadly. Though the battle at sea may not quite have been the scale equal of Blackwater Bay back in Season 2, it more than made up for it with brutal intensity. Euron's fighting style is berserker-level fury and while the Sand Snakes put up a good fight, they were no match for a man who proves he's more than just a good talker. And poor Theon, who discovered that the scars of his past are not so easily forgotten: when faced with real peril again, he leapt overboard. The effects work and the sheer commitment to the personal cost of the battle made it truly effective.
If last week was the pieces being put into position, this one represented a violent new gambit, with Dany's position now a lot less powerful than it was. Shifting the dynamics, even at this later stage, was a smart move, and opens up even more drama. Plus, the show didn't skip some secondary characters, giving the likes of Sam some meaty material to chew on.
Highlight: Sea fight!
Lowlight: The grim moments of Sam trying to help Jorah. Sam really, really doesn't have the best luck, does he?
Kill of the week: Sand Snakes, strike three.
Quote of the week: "I've outlived them all." - Olenna Tyrell, talking about "clever men".
MVP: Arya, for her wonderful moments with Nymeria and Hot Pie.
Random thought: Were women really impressed by King Robert's skull collection? Weird.
- What has Hot Pie been up to all this time?
We figure training for The Great British Bake-Off while honing his skills.
- Is Euron's ultimate target Dany herself?
Could be: after all, she's Cersei's most dangerous enemy and if he could somehow get control of those dragons for the woman he wants to marry... That's a gift and a half!
- Does everyone in Dorne have to use dreadful sex puns?
Appears that way. But Ellaria in particular won't have many more chances, we fear.
---Season 7 Episode Review Guide
Game Of Thrones airs Sunday evenings on HBO in the States, with a simulcast on Sky Atlantic and Now TV in the early hours of Monday and a repeat Monday evenings at 9pm.