Warning! This post is full of "Game of Thrones" spoilers, so stop right here if you haven't seen Season 7 episode 2, "Stormborn." Or maybe you just don't care about spoilers, in which case, read on...
Finally, things are starting to happen on "Game of Thrones," even if a lot of it is still stage-setting and planning. At least Daenerys is gathering her allies and putting together a strategy to retake the seven kingdoms. At least Cersei is rallying the houses around her by lying about what an awful wretch Daenerys is. At least Jon Snow is keeping his focus where it really needs to be. Forget the Iron Throne, have you seen those scary ice zombies beyond the wall?
But as we've been told countless times, in the game of thrones you either win or you die. A lot of people have died, but there are more people playing every day. Daenerys has stepped into the game in a major way, as have Ellaria Sand, Yara Greyjoy and the Lady Olenna Tyrell. They've all sided with Daenerys. But none of them can hold a candle to the player who made the biggest move of this week.
Uncle Euron came calling while Yara and Ellaria were heading to Dorn to secure her troops and make their next move. When we last saw the usurper of the Iron Islands throne, he had promised Cersei he would bring her a gift fit for a queen. It would appear that this was his move, and I'll be honest … it's not what I expected. I fully thought he would take his bluster right to Dragonstone and take one of Dany's advisers: Varys or Tyrion most likely.
Instead, it was Iron Islands vs. Iron Islands as he ambushed Yara's fleet in the middle of the night. The battle was bloody and brutal, with a few notable casualties among them. We've enjoyed Ellaria's fighting daughters for a few seasons now, all of them as angry and manipulative as Ellaria. Euron himself dispatched two of them, while the third stayed behind only to get captured alongside Ellaria.
In the most intense moment of the battle, Euron managed to overpower Yara and held her captured. He then challenged Theon to do something about it, calling him coward and taking him mentally back to the torture he endured under Ramsay Bolton. I was hoping for Theon to show some strength, but instead he jumped off of the boat and was last seen floating among the wreckage as Euron sailed away.
In one swift attack, Daenerys lost two of her staunchest allies, the leader of Dorn and Yara Greyjoy's fleet. It wasn't Theon's proudest moment, but at the same time, what would have been the better play in that moment? Euron's men had won the day, and Theon was surrounded by them as they butchered his people. Had he challenged Euron, Yara may well have been gutted instantly and then Theon would have died, or been captured. Yara isn't much leverage for trade, so the “gift” he's bringing to Cersei would seem to lie more in Ellaria and whatever value she might hold to the Dornish.
Euron was mesmerizing in this scene, truly a madman relishing every moment of the killing. It's been awhile since we've seen someone this crazy on-screen, and perhaps since the Mountain that we've seen someone enjoy killing so much. That he's also quite charming and intelligent makes him a dangerous foe. Yara and her forces were so overmatched here it wasn't even a contest. If she's to be a competent queen, she needs more than confidence.
The other big move of the week came in the North, as Jon Snow accepted Daenerys' invitation to come to Dragonstone and chat about how they're going to deal with Cersei. It's unclear if he'll bend the knee, but he just might as he has lost all interest in the battle for the Iron Throne. After what he's seen, Jon knows the true danger facing Westeros, while Dany has no idea.
This should be an epic conversation next week as she tries to convince him to swear fealty to her and help her conquer the continent, while he tries to convince her to let him mine the dragonglass beneath their feet and join him in the coming battle with the White Walkers. Maybe it'll be a thing where he scratches her back and she'll scratch his later, if there's time.
After a painfully slow start to the season, things really picked up in this second installment. If the extra minutes gave us that uncomfortably long sex scene between Grey Worm and Missandei, they can keep the minutes next time. Last week I could have handled a trim in Sam's shit-and-serve montage. So far, I'm not seeing the value in these extra moments.
Only five more episodes this season on “Game of Thrones,” Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.