Disclaimer: This review containers spoilers, as well as speculation about future episodes
I must apologize at the outset for the delay in posting this review. I’ve been traveling this week on work, and unlike the characters of our favourite weekly show, I must operate under normal constraints of time and space.
Really, has Elon Musk piloted the hyperloop in Westeros? In the time it’s taken the Unsullied and Dothraki to sail from Dragonstone to Casterly Rock, (a) Jon Snow has made the journey from Winterfell to Dragonstone (b) Euron has sailed from King’s Landing to Dragonstone, back to King’s Landing and then to Casterly Rock (c) Jaime Lannister has marched from King’s Landing to Casterly Rock and then back to Highgarden. Even if you were to argue that these timelines line up theoretically, there’s no denying that Game of Thrones would once have taken a season or two for journeys of these length. They’re now regularly being covered in the course of a single episode. The show is treating the spacetime continuum in such a carefree manner that I can’t help but think that any day now, Matthew McConaughey is going to turn up behind a bookshelf in the Citadel and mumble that love is the secret to defeating the white walkers, Murph.
That’s not to say that I dislike the breakneck pace. I can’t help but wonder with glee at the scale of things left to come, if such monumental events are being fast forwarded. And the thing with Thrones is that it is much like one of its favourite subjects: sex. Sometimes it is grand and poetic and perfect. But even if it is rushed and messy, there is still nothing quite like it.
Let’s visit our key characters from the week:
The Dragon Queen
Did anyone else notice that dragons soared over Jon Snow as soon as he uttered the words “I’m not a Stark”? Clever. That sly bit of writing was shortly followed by what will go down as one of my all-time favourite GoT moments:
“You stand in the presence of Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen. Rightful Heir to the Iron Throne, Rightful Queen of the Andals and the First Men, the Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains.”
“Uh…he’s Jon Snow.”
I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder during a Game of Thrones episode. Who would have thought humour would be the first note in the long-awaited, iconic introduction between Jon and Daenerys? The show continues to surprise. Opening hilarity aside, the two had a great conversation. Jon urgently tried to get Team Dany on board for the fight against the white walkers. In response, Dany pulls a classic CEO move, brushing aside the critical long-term issue to focus on a quick win: swear loyalty to the crown, she says. It doesn’t matter who sits on the throne, says Jon – there’s no time to squabble. Dany’s response is logical: If it doesn’t matter, why not bend the knee? It’s not a time-consuming activity. Ultimately, they each stick to their guns: Dany believes she is queen of seven kingdoms, Jon thinks it’s six.
Jon and his men have had their weapons confiscated, so they are forced to remain at Dragonstone while the queen thinks things over, prisoners in all but name. Tyrion visits Jon and learns of his quest to mine dragonglass. He relays this to Dany, who appears remarkably just in agreeing to the request and providing Jon with manpower, to boot.
Is this an act of goodwill? The reciprocity principle in action as a negotiation tactic? Regardless, I suspect Dany’s good humour, already dented by the news of Euron’s naval blitzkrieg, will evaporate once she learns of the disastrous events that have unfolded in Highgarden. Which takes us to…
The Queen of Thorns
By one fan’s astounding estimate, there have been close to 151,000 deaths in Game of Thrones so far (including animals and bugs, LOL). It’s safe to say that until this week, not one of those doomed souls managed to own their death scene. Enter (damn, exit I suppose) Olenna Tyrell. Diana Rigg smashed the last fifteen minutes of the show, sending her character off in a swansong of swag. Jaime, bragging about his adoption of the Robb Stark bait-and-switch strategy, tells her he always learns from his failures. “You must be very wise by now,” she cracks. She follows up this roasting by calling the late King Joffrey a cunt, instantly securing MVP status for the week. Then, as she downs a glass of poisoned wine, she casually starts to contrast the painless death Jaime has so graciously granted her with the agonizing end that Joffrey met. “That was never what I intended,” she says. As horrified comprehension dawns on Jaime’s face, Olenna delivers the kicker: “Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me.”
I think it’s unlikely that Jaime, softie that he is, actually conveys this information to his sister-lover. He will probably spare her the pain for now, but the important takeaway for me is that he now knows Tyrion didn’t murder his son-nephew. I expect this to play out somewhere down the line.
Queen of My Heart
Sophie Turner <3
While the other queens in this episode were more concerned with forging alliances, destroying enemies or getting the last word against their aggressors, Lady Sansa occupied herself by taking stock of Winterfell’s food supplies ahead of the long winter. It’s a dull task, but no less critical for survival than the war games the others at playing at, and shows just how well-rounded a leader Sansa is turning into.
Where there is Sansa, there must be Littlefinger, whom I’ve been quite disappointed with lately. For so long, he was arguably the leading scheming mastermind in Westeros. Now he seems more like one of those westernized bahus in an Ekta Kapoor serial, whispering into Sansa’s ear and trying to turn her against her brother. Amidst all the hands that are now moving the chess pieces in the grand game of thrones, Petyr Baelish is not much more than…a little finger.
He does get in a great line this week, though. Something about seeing everything that has happened and can happen everywhere all at once, so that you’ll never be surprised by anything. It’s more sneaky foreshadowing, because minutes later, someone who can literally do this mental Sherlock thing shows up – Bran Stark is back in Winterfell!
The Sansa-Bran meeting was an emotional and touching one. Weeeeelllll, for Sansa, at least. The three-eyed millennial raven on the other hand, chose to mark the reunion by telling his sister how beautiful she looked on the night she was raped. Happy Raksha Brandon.
Okay, this one is a forced segue, but I’m going for a theme here, so bear with me.
Last week, Archmaester Ebrose looked at Jorah and was like “Another One Bites the Dust.” Sam was like “The Show Must Go On. Don’t Stop Me Now.” Sneakily, he employs A Kind of Magic, Jorah fights through Sheer Heart Attack, thinking of Somebody to Love…and golly, it works. But boy oh boy, Samwell is Under Pressure now.
It’ll be a little deus ex machina if Sam discovers another secret to beating white walkers during his new detention activity of copying old books. However, I do think it’s hilarious that the same guy who played Horace Slughorn is giving Sam free access to rare magical literature. Er, remember the last time you gave a student access to the restricted section, Professor?
Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms
Damn, Cersei Lannister. If you’re still looking for proof that the queen of Westeros has achieved peak villainy, look no further than the ringing endorsement that Tycho Nestoris gives her this week. You know you’re messed up when a banker approves so enthusiastically of your actions.
What can I say? The woman has been on fire since, well, she set everyone else on fire in the Season 6 finale. After her shock routing of Dany’s navy last week, she continued her streak of devastation this week, finding a ghastly, yet poetic way to finish off the Sand Snakes. A tip of the hat to the writers here – it was in an episode titled “Mother’s Mercy” that Ellaria Sand killed Princess Myrcella via kiss by poisoned lipstick. In “The Queen’s Justice”, Cersei engineered the ultimate mother’s revenge by using the same lipstick method on Tyene Sand – with Ellaria chained to a wall, looking on. On Cersei’s instructions, Ellaria will be kept alive in the dungeons, forced to watch her daughter’s slow death and eventual decomposition.
This week, Cersei also fell into bed with her brother for the first time in quite a while. I’m not sure if this was genuine passion, or Cersei’s way of manipulating Jaime into staying on her side. It could well be the latter – seeing how riled up Jaime was getting by Euron’s taunts, Cersei may have decided the Kingslayer needing some Queenlaying to prevent him from doing something rash and foolish.
Cersei’s rise to Machiavellian mastermind has come as a fantastic surprise. She (and this week, Jaime too) is now consistently out-thinking Tyrion on a weekly basis, and I’m curious to see what repercussions this has on our beloved Imp. He’s having a torrid time with his military strategies being regularly thwarted. From what seemed like certain doom at the end of last season, Cersei has practically evened the odds against Dany. And let’s not forget that other devious weapon Qyburn is cooking up. Anton Chekhov famously said that one must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. The same applies to loaded, dragon-killing crossbows too. Gulp.
So the way I see it, there were several queens in play this week, each doling out their own form of justice. Some were benign – like Dany’s granting of a mining permit to Jon and his men, or Sansa making practical arrangements for her people to survive the winter. Others were brutal. There was Cersei’s ruthless retribution against the Sand Snakes, and her attempt to punish Olenna Tyrell, which succeeded, but not before the Highgarden’s oldest rose made it clear she had already served justice of her own. All this means that the title of this week’s episode was wrong. Titled “The Queen’s Justice”, it suggests incorrectly that the quantity of queens involved = 1 . “The Queens’ Justice” would have been far more appropriate. Somewhere, Stannis Baratheon’s severed head is frowning.
Overall Rating: 4 / 5 stars