I’m going to cut to the chase as fast as the latest episode of Game of Thrones did: Jon Snow meets Daenerys Targaryen. Finally.
Emilia Clarke may be a notoriously bad actress, and Kit Harrington notoriously brooding (as referenced by Tyrion in a sort of wink to the audience), but having these two together just seems right. Acting aside, there was a tangible chemistry between the Mother of Dragons and the King in the North.
However, there’s a problem. Both Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow are too prideful to be able to listen to each other. Both of their needs are valid: preparing for the Night King and his Undead Army should really be everyone’s top priority. But Cersei’s villainy is also a pressing issue, and no one is going to be killing White Walkers anytime soon if she and Euron Greyjoy are setting everything on fire. With Daenerys’ own experience with the supernatural – from necromancy (using blood magic to save Khal Drogo) to dragons to purple-lipped warlocks – she really should put more stock in Jon’s word. Meanwhile, Jon should heed the advice that he once gave to Mance Rayder and just bend the knee. Instead, they find themselves in a stalemate.
Luckily, these characters are introduced to each other in the same manner as so many romance movies: two people from opposite backgrounds start off disliking one another until they learn that they’re more alike than they thought (Targaryen blood anyone?). Whether you ship them romantically or not, there’s no denying that thematically any kind of union between them feels destined, as the name “A Song of Ice and Fire” may foretell. Plus, with Dany’s army being so continuously obliterated, she’ll probably be much more willing to compromise very soon. My prediction is that these two will have an irritatingly stubborn conversation in which Daenerys realizes she actually does need Jon, and in return for helping her defeat Cersei before the Night King she will allow him to remain King in the North. We’ll see. In Game of Thrones, nothing is for sure, and no life is sacred. Jon doesn’t necessarily need Daenerys anyway – he could be the culmination of fire and ice all on his own, and may even be able to tame a dragon considering his bloodline.
Back to the present though, and Varys lets Khaleesi know that things didn’t go so hot with their fleet in the last episode. Jon goes to brood (he may not enjoy it, but he is good at it) until Tyrion suggests something productive. Jon requests dragonglass and it’s the first step toward a union between the last two Targaryens.
Over in King’s Landing, it’s Euron’s time to shine. He really is no replacement for the late Joffrey or Ramsay in terms of villainy or psychosis. But he does add a refreshingly unique vibe to the show with his rockstar swagger and general nonchalance. He rides into the capital on horseback at the head of a parade I wouldn’t be surprised if he organized himself. The only other person with the gall to ride a horse into the throne room in this series was Tywin Lannister. But Euron does as he pleases, and he presents a chained-up Ellaria and Tyene Sand combo to Queen Cersei. He has proven that he is at least useful, and his promise of a gift has been fulfilled. Cersei is a happy Queen. Euron continues to roast Jaime with burns so bad he might need some milk of the poppy.
In this episode’s stand-out scene, Cersei (long may she reign) decides to make use of Euron’s gift by way of torture and death. After triggering Oberyn lovers with a recounting of his gruesome demise, she calmly recounts her thought process regarding justice, murder, and consequence. In kissing Tyene, she seals her fate. Indira Varma as Ellaria and Lena Headey as Cersei both give exquisite acting performances.
Nothing turns Cersei on quite like being awful, and so after swigging the antidote to a deadly poison, she heads straight for Jaime’s room. These siblings definitely need a lesson on “no means no”, but as far as unhealthy relationships go, at least they’ve been horrible to each other. There is a tender moment where we see them post-coital. Tender, if you can discount Lannister wretchedness. If you can, Jaime watching Cersei sleep is actually kind of sweet.
But Cersei is also a busy woman and has to meet with the Iron Bank’s representative who demands their gold be repaid. The Lannisters may say they always pay their debts, but the crown’s debt is considerable. Cersei promises that she will repay it, and she means it. The solution, of course, is something only Cersei could come up with. Much like her “blow up the Sept” mentality, and exactly as Lady Olenna references in the episode’s final scene, Cersei proves that there is literally nothing she won’t do if it pleases her she decides to think outside the box and make use of Tyrell funds.
But first: The North is also enjoying a female ruler. Sansa is killing it as she makes plans for the impending winter. Of course, it’s not quite believable that the professionals and advisors around her are quite so incompetent, but it’s good to see that she has some potential as a leader.
Sansa is told that someone is at the gate. That person is … not Arya. Which is disappointing, but at least it’s still a Stark! Bran Stark has finally made it home after a journey that has been epic in every sense. But he’s changed, and not just because of puberty.
Becoming the Three-Eyed Raven has apparently sapped Bran’s ability to feel human emotion. Sansa is thrilled to see her brother, but I guess since he can see her all the time in his mind he’s not moved in the same way. Together they go to the old Weirwood heart tree to catch-up. Bran awkwardly tells his sister that she was beautiful on the night he saw she was raped. He should probably work on his social graces before rejoining society.
Back to Sam at the Citadel. The two most boring characters, Jorah and Sam, finish up their greyscale business. Jorah is anticlimactically cured, and once again there are absolutely no consequences for Sam’s disregard of the rules. I would like to demand to know what purpose Jorah’s storyline will serve, but I just don’t care enough.
Jaime is not getting the credit he deserves. He’s had to deal with the reputation of being basically useless since murdering the King he was serving under. Now he’s kicking ass – his command soundly defeats the Tyrell army, and, more impressively, outsmarts the notoriously brilliant Tyrion. Daenerys’ forces may have taken Casterly Rock, but Jaime had bigger fish to fry over at Highgarden.
As smart as Jaime is though, Lady Olenna tears right through him after accepting her fate. With one most fatal and epic mic drop, she tells Jaime exactly who is responsible for his son Joffrey’s death. And that is the “Queen of Thorns’” justice.
That’s the bulk of the episode, but here are a few more thoughts:
Despite the moral ambiguity of the show and complexity of its characters, the Lannisters have always been the sort-of villains. Still, I think it’s okay to feel good that Cersei and Jaime avenged two of their children in one episode – and both with poison.
Tyrion has always been a fan favourite, but he spent season 5 and 6 depressed and boring. Sure, killing your lover and father will take its toll on you, but the show did suffer from a lack of Lannister wit. This episode finally welcomed back the Tyrion we know, the Tyrion we love, the Tyrion we’ve missed. Even despite his poor strategic choices regarding Daenerys’ battle plans, his conversation and charisma have finally returned, and in scenes between ice-queen Daenerys and snow-cold Jon, his warmth is definitely needed. He is aided handily in this regard by Ser Davos, who delivers some of the episode’s funniest moments.
Two questions: Why is it a secret that Jon Snow was resurrected? And why hasn’t anyone – including Varys, the master of whispers – heard about it yet?
On top of meeting Daenerys, Jon Snow also sees dragons with his own eyes. I’m itching to see how his Targaryen identity will be revealed!
Speaking of Varys, his dislike for the Lord of Light and his followers is no secret. But Melissandre doesn’t bat an eye at his prodding. He may have already guessed why she didn’t show her face to Jon Snow, but he doesn’t leave well enough alone. As a reward, she drops a delicious hint regarding both of their deaths.
Who knows what the Dothraki are up to. Considering how historic a journey it was for them to cross the Narrow Sea, and how barbaric and untamed they naturally are as a people, they seem oddly content to play servant to Dany on Dragonstone.
As someone who was team Daenerys for so long, I find it disappointing that her attitude has become so arrogant and entitled. Clarke is not a good enough actress to justify making the character so alienating, and if I have to hear a monologue about all of her accomplishes one more time, I’ll turn that TV off faster than you can say, “Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, rightful heir to the Iron Throne, rightful Queen of the Andals and the First Men, protector of the Seven Kingdoms, Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains.”
Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, I’m slightly uncomfortable with how much I’m into Dominatrix Queen Cersei. She is vile and horrible, but her strength, viciousness, and power are more compelling than any other leader on the show. Despite what I predict will be a brief reign, I still say: all hail the Queen!
The pace remains speedy in this episode. Even though there’s a lot of talking, there are also two battles that occur. Neither would be too impressive visually, especially considering the high bar Game of Thrones has set for itself with episodes like “Hardhome” and “Battle of the Bastards”. So overlaying Tyrion’s narrated insight with the attack on Casterly Rock works well as the Unsullied easily overtake it. And completely omitting any actual fighting at Highgarden is also a sound choice.
My final thought:
The episode may have been titled “The Queen’s Justice”, but thematically it dealt more with the subject of hindsight and foresight. Littlefinger’s advice to Sansa was not only a perfect summary of his thought-process as he slithers from ally to ally but an appropriate foreshadowing for Bran’s return. Bran, of course, is the epitome of someone with extensive sight. But nothing showcases the theme more clearly than Cersei’s torturous treatment of Ellaria and Tyene Sand. Ellaria’s murder of Myrcella Lannister did seem extremely short-sighted. Now she must spend the rest of her days looking back on the decisions that lead to her own poetic justice.