But the title refers to more than just Dany’s six or seven hundred titles and nicknames. There are many storms a-brewing (and Fangirls and boys of the books know that A Storm of Swords is yet another storm hitting Westeros). So, what is a storm? More than just rain and thunder, as what happened at Daenerys’ birth. A storm is a disturbance, a disruption of normal conditions, a form of severe weather that can take any number of forms: ice storm, snow storm, rain storm, fire storm, thunderstorm, etc. It comes from the German “sturm,” whose etymology comes from a medieval word meaning “noisy.” (And reminiscent of the German cultural movement sturm und drang (“storm and stress”), literature and drama concerning young men driven to vengeance, helpless love and suicide).
So to be “stormborn” is to be the child of noise, the offspring of disruption, disturbance and violent shifts in the atmosphere. To be “stormborn” is to be delivered into a world of stress which drives one to vengeance, violence and selbstmord (“selfmurder” - German for suicide). And this entire episode is full of storms, both present and gathering, full of sturm and drang, and man, is Westeros getting noisy.
Yet in all this Sturm und Drang, three things stand out:
1. A Sea Is Storming in Daenarys
Nobody is safe from Dany in the opening sequence, but Varys is on the hotseat. Now that she is back in Targaryen territory, she has some questions about Varys’ loyalty and his behavior towards her father. Her line of questioning seems to indicate that Varys serves himself most of all, and will happily overthrow one king he serves should a better deal come along. Varys gives a very surprising answer: “Incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty.” Survival tip, kids: when answering the Mother of Dragons about her daddy, insulting him may not be the best strategy, except when it is. Varys gives a glimpse into his own past, being sold into slavery, castrated, surviving on the streets, making the best of his situation (he and Dany have that in common). Then he reminds her, he has been consistent in his loyalty all along. “You want to know where my true loyalties lie? Not with any king or queen but with the people. The people who suffer under despots and prosper under just rule. The people whose hearts you aim to win.” Remember this is Varys, so he might just be saying what he knows Dany will hear and respect, but still it’s a damn good argument. And she knows it. She tells him that it is his job to tell her when she is not doing right by the people. And oh, if he betrays her she will burn him alive. (That’s my girl!)
Tyrion reminds Daenerys in the same conversation that she has not come to Westeros to be “queen of the ashes,” a line she uses in her war council with Yara Greyjoy, Olenna Tyrell and Lady Ellaria Sand. They all want to attack. Daenerys says not yet, and not with her army. Foreign troops laying siege to King’s Landing won’t help rally those people to her: she needs House Tyrell and House Sand to fight so she can send her troops to destroy the ancestral home of the Lannisters.
Next up: Melisandre has shown up to have a conversation with the “Breaker of Chains” (Daenerys nickname #327). Turns out the prophesy about a prince who will serve as savior to Westeros is a poor translation. The noun in High Valerian is gender-free. Either a male or female monarch could be the prophesied one. So either Dany or Jon might be the one prophesied to end the long war for the land. Melisandre brings a second message as well. The “Long Night” is coming. And it should scare the wight out of you.
Dany has Tyrion send a raven to Jon Snow: come down and visit, oh and kneel before Dany and promise she is your queen. Hmmm. A disturbance might form between these potential allies. But Dany at least recognizes the danger from the Night King and his army.
2. Journeys Reverse, and That Ain’t a Bad Thing (Sometimes)
I thought last week that we might see Hot Pie again. The prophesy came true. But the real purpose he served in his scene with Arya, whom he kept calling “Harry,” the name he knew her by, is that he told her that Jon Snow was King in the North. She was, if you recall, riding south to King’s Landing to kill Cersei. In a beautiful, dialogue-free moment, she turns her horse around and heads North, presumably towards Winterfell. Vengeance can wait, she changed direction for a family reunion.
Speaking of reunions, on her way north, she runs into a wolfpack led by Nymeria, her direwolf that she drove off in season one, one of the two surviving Stark family wolves (Ghost is alive and well in Winterfell; R.I.P. Grey Wind, Lady, Summer and Shaggydog). The wolves leave Arya alone when Nymeria seemingly calls off the attack, but folks hoping for an Arya-and-wolf pairing up to take down the Lannisters are now disappointed. Nymeria has been gone for too many seasons to rekindle this relationship.
Jorah Mormont is covered in greyscale and told he will live for another ten to twenty years, but he will lose his mind within the next six months and will spend out his days as a Stoneman. “Hold my ale,” says Sam Tarly, as he wants to try to reverse the disease, even though Archmaester Ebrose forbids him to try as the previous Maester who attempted to do so died of greyscale. (Ebrose’s proposed prescription for greyscale: selbstmord. He’s just all sturm and drangy when it comes to incurable disease.) The process is painful and visceral, and yet Jorah is cool with it, as it might reverse his journey to madness.
Wow! This is the second episode in a row that says GoT fans might hope again.
3. You’re Still Watching Game of Thrones
No, don’t bother hoping. It’s still GoT. C’mon - you know better than that! Yara’s fleet heads south to bring Lady Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes back to Dorne so they might gather their army. Yara and Ellania are about to engage in some pre-war loving when the fleet is attacked out of the mist. A fire storm falls upon the fleet and Uncle Euron Greyjoy is there to remind you this is GoT - don’t get attached. All three Sand Snakes die at his hands and Ellaria and Yara are taken prisoner - presents for Cersei from Euron. Theon, rather than defending his sister to the last, has some Post Bolton Traumatic Stress Syndrome and throws himself overboard in a disappointing but not surprising Selbstmord. There’s the GoT we know - bad things happen just when things are looking up.
This reversal changes Dany’s plans. But she did get some advice from Olenna Tyrell: “The lords of Westeros are sheep. Are you a sheep? No - you’re a dragon. So be a dragon.” Fortune favors the bold, but no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy or Euron Greyjoy.
We also got an odd real world echo in King’s Landing, where Jaime asks Sam’s dad, Lord Randyll Tarly, to be the general of the Queen’s armies. When Tarly observes he is a sworn bannerman of the Tyrells, Jamie responds, “Do you fight with us or with foreign savages and eunuchs?” The Lannisters are going to make Westeros great again by tossing out the Dothraki and the Unsullied. Plus, they already have a wall. The problem being that now that it is winter, the sea around the wall is frozen, which means the Night King’s army does not have to go through or over the wall, just around it.
Oh, and there are dragon skulls in the basement of the palace at King’s Landing. The maesters have built a huge ballista to launch iron bolts at the dragons. Before you can say “Holy Saint Smaug!” however, I am reminded of a variation of a line of Bruce Lee’s: dragon skulls don’t fight back.
But never forget - this is Game of Thrones. Forget the ballista - Euron Greyjoy is going to slaughter two dragons and make sweet love to the third then ride it home. Then, Arya will kill him (I’d like to see that!)
The storms are born. Here come the disturbances. But every storm ends, often after washing the world clean. Let’s see what happens in Westeros. But never forget - this is GoT, where all your hopes and dreams for GoT characters go to commit Selbstmord.
Editorial photograph courtesy of a Google image search.
Kevin Wetmore is an author and professor at Loyola Marymount University. His books include The Theology of Battlestar Galactica, Post-9/11 Horror in American Cinema, and The Empire Triumphant: Race, Religion, and Rebellion in the Star Wars Films. For more information about Kevin, check out his website, Something Wetmore This Way Comes, and to purchase his non-fiction and fiction books, see Amazon.