There’s always a sense of dread with certain episodes of Game of Thrones; this episode is titled The Queens’ Justice, and given that one of our two queens employs a giant undead strongman with a penchant for rape and crushing faces, boy oh boy you know we’re in for some good old fashioned tension.
“I’ve brought Ice and Fire Together.” – Melisandre
Before we get to that event, we need to get the little matter of the two main characters of the series meeting for the first time out of the way; the meeting of the titular Ice and Fire, Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. This is a meeting that fans have been waiting seven years for (more if you’re one of those hardcore book reader types) and, well, it goes pretty much as you would expect. Daenerys,*ahem* “Rightful heir of the Iron Throne, rightful Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, The Unburnt, The Breaker of Chains” does her Daenerys thing: strong, proud, conqueror that has faced overwhelming odds to get to a title that you have to take a breath or two to get through, and I’m not going to take shit from anyone. And of course Jon Snow (“He’s King in the North”) does the stoic Jon Snow thing: he’s not going to say much, maybe he’ll brood a little bit. This fateful meeting works out pretty well, the gist of it being Jon is too honorable to bend the knee and swear fealty to Daenerys and Daenerys has the little problem of being too preoccupied with a war that she has just started to send men up north to fight Night’s King and White Walkers on the word of an oathbreaker that she’s just met. Jon is about to give up when the world’s greatest hype man, Ser Davos Seaworth chimes in with some of Jon’s greatest hits, like the time Jon united the Wildlings and the Northmen, or his becoming King in the North despite being a bastard. Or that time that he came back from the dea…oops, heh, easy there Ser Davos. Maybe bringing up the fact that Jon Snow is actually an undead abomination to the skeptical queen who’s already on the fence about feeding you to her three dragons probably isn’t a good idea.
The back and forth is nice, but surprisingly, this part of the Song of Ice and Fire isn’t the best confrontation of the episode. More on that later. The end result of this fateful meeting is as such: Dany, of course, is not going to have Jon killed, instead she will allow him to mine the dragonglass under Dragonstone to forge weapons for the war against the dead, which is the outcome that most of us expected to happen. Also expected was Melisandre making a hasty exit after her arrival last week to bring “Ice and Fire” together in the first place, and was I the only one groaning at this almost title drop? I swear, if Grand Maester Jim Broadbent named that book that he was writing in series opener “Game of Thrones…”
At King’s Landing
The Iron Men fish up a waterlogged Theon Greyjoy, and they, like the rest of us, are disappointed that he’s not dead yet. Sure, his actions of bravely running away instead of having your head cleaved open by a large angry man with an axe are totally justifiable. Survival instinct you see; but I’m not really satisfied.
But the show wants us to think about this. Should we be angry because he’s a coward? Disappointed that his PTSD has reverted him back to Reek? I don’t know. I do know that out of all of the Job like characters on this show (Tyrion, Jon, Dany…) Theon is the least interesting because there never seems to be any payoff to his suffering, nor does his character really have any agency left on the show. The height of his arc seemed to be when he and Sansa jumped off of the ramparts to certain death at the end of Season 5 somewhat redeeming his pathetic character as he saved his sort-of former sister. After those events, with Sansa safe with Jon and Brienne, Theon’s return to the Iron Islands to be his sister Yara’s, erm, bodyguard just seems like they’re trying to give him something to do. It makes me wonder if Theon will die during the escape from the Boltons in the books because as it stands, now I just don’t know where he fits.
Cut to King’s landing proper where Euron Greyjoy marches a defeated Yara, Ellira Sand, and and her daughter Tyene through the streets. GoT has been pretty consistent in its protracted torture scenes of men and women alike, but it’s approach to violence towards women, of both the sexual nature and the riddled with crossbow bolts nature, is particularly grisly. Sexist? Maybe, but it doesn’t change the fact that tension was palpable as I envisioned any number of scenarios of how the titular “Queen’s Justice” could have played out. Overall, I guess it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Sure, Ellaria Sand’s final fate of having to watch her daughter slowly die and rot for the rest of her life is awful, but given that Cersei is insane and vicious, it could have been much worse for the viewer.
After that spot of murder/torture, we transition into a sex scene between Cersei and Jaime. As if to show how far gone Cersei is at this point, she seems to have no problem flaunting the incest around to whichever handmaidens happen to show up at her bedchamber. Yeah we’re clearly in the final stages of her character and I’m going to miss her dark queen villainy when she’s gone in a few more episodes.
“There’s nothing quite like it is there? The Love of the People.” – Euron Greyjoy
Oh yeah, this guy. I’ve said before, but Game of Thrones always seems to have a cartoonishly evil villain that you love to hate, and sure Euron Greyjoy is really trying to build up some Heel Heat with the audience, what with viciously murdering family members, Sand Snakes 1 & 2, capturing Ellaria and possibly making sexual threats to his niece Yara. The thing is, there’s only room for one “superprick” on the show and Euron isn’t it. This character has a much larger plot in the books and is an interesting addition to the cast of characters vying for the Iron Throne. His late game introduction into the pantheon of villains on the show however feels rushed. At this point he’s just a swarmy shithead who we can’t wait see Yara murder the fuck out of when he inevitably tries to rape her in the next few episodes. That’s not a spoiler, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are getting predictable.
Oh hi Mark Gatiss. Tycho Nestoris (Mark Gatiss) has arrived sans beard from the Iron bank looking to make good on the whole “Lannisters always pay their debts” thing. Cersei tells him that they’ll have their gold… somehow. More on that next week. Always fun to have Mark Gatiss who is definitely more Mycroft here than he was in his previous appearance in Season 4.
In the North
“Fight every battle, everywhere, always, in your mind.” – Littlefinger
At Winterfell, Littlefinger is desperately trying to get Sansa to go Chaotic Neutral. Littlefinger has always been the wild card because we’re still not sure what he wants exactly. He’s stated that he does want to be on the Iron Throne but how exactly is he going to pull that off? He definitely has some kind of psycho-sexual obsession with Sansa because she looks like her mother, but now we’re getting into Twilight territory and frankly it’s making me uncomfortable.
I don’t know where this plot is going. Sansa will likely turn on Jon a little or make some kind of crucial error that will inevitably result in her death or someone else’s. Like Bran, who has just arrived at the gate and has gone full on Three-Eyed Raven. Bran is now a mystical seer with…some kind of unspecified future seeing (or past seeing) powers. I’m not really sure how he will fit in any kind of practical way during the war with the Night King, but he’s definitely going to factor into this little power struggle between Jon and Sansa in Winterfall.
“I read the book and followed the instructions.” – Samwell
Sam’s residency is going pretty well I think; a few months in and he’s already curing incurable diseases. And not expelled for potentially infecting the entire Citadel with Greyscale. He’s one step closer to getting to those forbidden books that will presumably contain information on how to defeat White Walkers other than “Stab really hard with Dragonglass.” Other than raising Samwell’s esteem in the eyes of Grand Maester Jim Broadbent, I’m not really sure what Jorah’s whole subplot with the Greyscale was about. I guess he’s cured now and is going to go back to join Daenerys’ camp. Cool.
Oh, and I realize that the Grand Maester’s character has a name but I’m just going to call him Maester Jim Broadbent. Sorry.
Highgarden and Casterly Rock
“As a good friend of mine once said: Give me ten good men, I’ll impregnate the bitch.” – Tyrion
Finally we come to the end, Tyrion plans a siege of Casterly Rock using the sewer system that he designed in his youth and the Lannister forces take Highgarden. Both of these sequences demonstrate judicious use of a limited budget, the siege of Casterly Rock is done mostly in voice over as Tyrion narrates the plan and we see it play out as the Unsullied dominate the limited Lannister forces. Only the whole thing was a trap: the Greyjoy fleet destroys the Unsullied ships in the bay shortly after the siege. The first appearance of Casterly Rock is surprisingly disappointing, however this may be what the show as going for. This place is mythical as we have heard about it many times, about how wondrous it is, and it just looks like a random castle with some not so great CGI battlements.
The centerpiece of this scene however is the siege of Highgarden. Not the battle so much (we’re saving the big budget battles for the end of the season), but the battle of wits between Jamie Lannister and the Queen of Thorns herself. Jamie, who has learned from his mistakes, has taken the bulk of his forces to seize the completely unguarded Highgarden (“[fighting] was never our forte“ The Queen of Thorns quips). Olenna Tyrell, resigned to her fate accepts defeat, but doesn’t go out quietly. Jamie, knowing what fate Cersi has planned if he brings her back alive, offers to give her a quick and dignified death with a spot of painless poison. However, the Queen of Thorns has the final word as, after taking the poison, she informs Jaime who really killed Joffrey and prophetically warns Jaime that Cersi will be the death of him. Diana Riggs’ final scene is, of course, excellent. This was the real battle and the reason why we watch this show to begin with. The war of words. Yes, battle scenes are great, CGI dragons melting faces are great, but where Game of Thrones excels is in its characters. The political machinations of one faction (or house) besting another. Olenna Tyrell may have lost this particular battle, but with this one act of confessing the truth to Jaime, she may win the war. Thanks for stopping by Dame Diana Rigg, you will be missed.
So far this is the best episode of the season. Slow to be sure, but all the better. This season is all about the slow burn to the explosive end to a war that’s been raging for the last seven years and I’m fine with that. Four more episodes left this year, it’s going to be a hell of a ride.