The following review is the second part in the series of seven episode reviews of the Season 7 of popular series Game of Thrones. Each episode will be reviewed from a feminist lens by SMIW readers. Read the review of the season’s Episode1: Dragonstone before you begin with episode 2. Or, if you’ve already seen it, move right ahead to the review of the latest edition:
When it comes to episode 2, from season 7 of Game of Thrones (GoT), I am far from falling short of feminist innuendos.
From the very title of the episode to undoing the basics of a gendered language, we had it all!
Let’s look at them little by little, though the show-makers don’t seem to be taking it slow at all. Feminism seems to be an exigent calling in GoT-verse, and equally pressing are the womanista fandoms.
The episode opens with a feministically-potent (though not a registered adjective but sounds feministically avant-garde, so let’s keep it. Don’t bother my obsession); when Melisandre (who’s now joined Team Dany it seems), quotes the promised-prince prophecy to Khaleesi,
“The prince who was promised will bring the dawn,” to which, Daenerys relents, “I am afraid I am not a prince.”
But joy! Missandei interjects, telling them that unlike most languages, High Valyrian isn’t gendered. So, the exact translation of the prophecy would be,
“The prince or princess who was promised will bring the dawn.”
Ms. Woolf and her ideology of undoing a hegemonic, gendered language seems to be at play here. Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? Well, maybe the men of Westeros.
At this point, the male in Tyrion rears his head with:
“It doesn’t have the same ring to it.”
and BOOM Dany drops the first mic of the day with:
“No, but it is one that I prefer.”
In following scenes involving Dany’s new council, we see it’s all the ladies in power – as Daenerys sits alongside Yara Greyjoy, Lady Olenna Tyrell and Ellaria Sand to plan an overthrow of Queen’s Landing. You can’t help but marvel at what a spectacular and refreshing change this is!
At this stage in the series, the inner circle of Team Dany looks like this:
Dany herself, Tyrion Lanister, Missandei, Grey Worm, Varys, Olenna Tyrell, Ellaria Sand and Lady Mellisandre.
That’s quite a fem-focused team, won’t you say?
Interestingly though, while the Mother of Dragons is happy listening to Tyrion’s advice of attacking Queen’s Landing with only Westerosi armies and is able to have Yara and Ellaria see reason, Lady Olenna won’t have any of it.
Although she begrudgingly nods in agreement, Olenna later tells Khaleesi,
“You Hand is a clever man, but I’ve seen a lot of clever men and I’ve outlasted them all. Do you know how? By ignoring them.”
The feminist undercurrents are electrifying.
The older woman further asks Daenerys a rhetorical question – punchy enough to rage Targaryen blood,
“The Lords of Westeros are sheep. Are you a sheep?” “You’re a dragon.”
That’s one way to pep-talk a queen.
And surely enough, we get to see how profound Olenna’s advice is before the episode ends – as the easily-persuaded women are attacked and held hostage at the sea by Euron Greyjoy. And, while Theon did what Theon does best – betray the ones who love him – it isn’t clear what will happen to Yara and Ellaria. But the future sure looks bleak, if not altogether dark.
Big hit for Team Dany!
However, the most empowering scene of the episode was without a doubt the lovemaking scene between Missandei and Commander of The Unsullied, Grey Worm.
While the show makers have teased romance between the two characters since season 5, the two have always stopped short of taking it to the next level – mostly due to Grey Worm’s lack of male genitalia and the ever-present, deeply-conditioned patriarchal notion that a man isn’t man without male organs.
Not anymore thought, as we finally saw their relationship consummated. Right before Worm needs to lead his troops to Casterly Rock.
The scene should once and for all answer the age-old question: Does a woman need a penis to be satisfied sexually?
And with that, it might be time to get over Freud’s idea of penis envy. Good riddance!
Similarly, the scene where Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand make out is remarkable in many ways. While the exchange is cut short by Euron’s attack, it still establishes a shift in GoT’s narrative by being the first-of-its-kind consensual homosexual activity between two women of power on the show.
The way they send Theon out of their stateroom follows the idea of ‘sisterhood’ by Christina Rossetti.
Are women of GoT assuming power and replacing a homogenic society that once was only about a man transacting with a man? Remember the Renly and Loras relationship from season 2? Here we see an alternative: Women seeking pleasure without the ever-present male gaze. Lipstick Under My Battle Armour, anyone?
Meanwhile, further up-north, Jon Snow seems eager to erase loser points from the last episode as he finally does the right thing by recognising Sansa’s swag and appointing her in-charge of the North, while himself deciding to go and answer Dany’s call to meet-and-greet over dragon flavoured pastries and fire scones.
YES! IT’S REALLY HAPPENING!!
Jon also finds time to grab Littlefinger by the collar and threaten him. Of course what would be a GoT episode without all the macho huffing-puffing.
Speaking of the North, Arya (sans Ed Sheeran) meets the ‘survivor’ Hot Pie, who tells her that the Stark family has re-assumed control of Winterfell. A news that sends the young Stark running back Northwards – presumably to manage things there with her older sister (with whom she didn’t leave things on a such a good note the last time they met).
With these two, Brienne and Lyanna Mormont (who by the way should wear an I-Am-Awesome T-shirt in all her future scenes) around, things are about to get really interesting in Winterfell.
There was also the rare and never-before-seen-in-GoT bit of animal agency in the episode when Arya meets her long-lost direwolf Nymeria. In the scene, Arya is surrounded by a pack of wolves, the leader of which she recognises to be her season 1 pet. Seeing so, Arya asks Nymeria to come with her to Wintefell. However, the wolf just turns around and walks away. Prompting a sad Arya to say,
“That’s not you.”
While initially one would think of simpler explanations, like; the direwolf was simply not the one Arya had in Season 1, or; you know, direwolves probably don’t speak English – the answer is more profound.
With help from showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, we now know that the direwolf in last night’s episode was indeed Nymeria.
Weiss explains that “That’s not you” is a direct reference to something Arya said in a season 1 scene where Ned Stark is speaking to his youngest daughter about her future as the lady of the castle. She responses to that prospect with, “That’s not me.”
According to Weiss,
“Arya’s not domesticated, and it makes total sense her wolf wouldn’t be either. Once the wolf walks away, at first she’s heartbroken to have come this close. Then she realizes the wolf is doing exactly what she would do if she were that wolf.”
Benioff also said when Arya found Nymeria, “she, of course, wants her to come back home with her and be her loyal companion again, but Nymeria’s found her own life.” This just goes to show how much every character has changed over the course of the show’s seasons.
Even the direwolves have developed and found their agency and that is severely cool for a TV show that has otherwise used animals as battle fodder or sacrificial pets.
In other news, Samwell seemed as eager as Jon to erase loser points and came up with a really painful and hard-to-watch way to try and cure Jorah’s greyscale – even as the showmakers continued the trend of playing disgusting bodily material + food montages in loop.
Surely, you gotta hope that after those extreme measures, Ser Jorah will finally be whole again. Can you imagine what he’d then do? He could enjoy the old town scenery… Read a few history books… Appreciate human interaction and small talk again… Play with little Sam and tell him bedtime stories.
OH COME ON, WHO ARE YOU KIDDING? HE WILL RUN TO DANY THE MINUTE HIS BAND AIDS COME OFF!
Greyscale? more like Bae scale!
All in all though, Stormborn was an extremely satisfying and slightly disturbing episode which opens us to many more questions as viewers:
Will the feminist strain continue with equal potency or will the dark night sway it away? Will our women role models be able to assume power or will the all-destroying winter smash them? Only HBO can tell! But can we wait?
Episode Rating: Four Missan’ Grey Worms (*wink*)
Episode Winners: Missandei and Grey Worm, Olenna Tyrell, Jon Snow, Sansa Stark, Nymeria the direwolf, Jorah Mormont(?)
Episode Losers: Theon Greyjoy, Team Dany, Littlefinger, Jorah Mormont (?), Viewers with weak stomachs.
Updated Season Leaderboard: Sansa Stark (1st), Lyanna Mormont, Euron and #Sheerya (joint 2nd)
Updated Season Loserboard: Littlefinger (1st), Sam, Jamie and The Hound (joint 2nd)
About the Author:
Sangeeta Soni is a copy editor with a leading media firm. She is a self-claimed bibliophilic and a dramaphile, in fiction and in real life.
This review contains inputs and additions – including, but not limited to, the winner and loser ratings – by the SMIW editorial team.