Game of Thrones – 63

Let me just say first that “The Queen’s Justice” was a faith-restorer for me, to an extent.  The first two episodes of this season were good, but reinforced the growing sense that this was no longer the same story it was – that was a past we could never get back, not even with a Three-Eyed Raven in the house.  Things are still moving way too fast and there were a couple of moments that seemed to fail the logic test, but on the whole this is the most authentic-feeling episode of Game of Thrones since “The Door”.

The headline of course, as it should be, is the meeting that’s been foreshadowed since the very earliest moments of the series.  Whether Jon Snow and Daenerys Targeryn truly represent “Ice and Fire” as Melisandre immodestly says (she wisely bolts before Davos finds out she’s present) – some feel that refers at least as much to white walkers and dragons – and whatever the truth of Jon’s parentage is, this is a truly momentous coming together of storylines that seemed as if they would never combine.  Add in Tyrion, and you have arguably the three most important characters in “A Song of Ice and Fire” in the same place.  In GoT terms it doesn’t get much more momentous than that.

One of the reasons this episode works as well as it does is that it gives us moment after moment of the series’ best actors in tense, critical conversation – the dialogue sizzles as it hasn’t for a long time, and the cast (as usual) are up to the challenge.  Tyrion and Jon have a mutual respect, that’s certain – but Daenerys’ arch pride and Jon’s no-guff honesty were always destined to collide.  There are some wonderful moments in this exchange – Jon’s “She’s starting to let on”, Daenerys’ apology for her father’s sins – but as is so often the case it’s Davos and the peerless Liam Cunningham who steal the moment.  From his brusque response to Daenery’s endless string of titles to his bristling defense of Jon’s character, Davos Seaworth is as he usually is – the most truthful and unshakeably determined person in the room.

Danerys doesn’t come off too badly here, but Jon (despite being framed as a small figure repeatedly by the scene composition) emerges as the more substantial presence.  His response to Dany’s “We all enjoy what we’re good at” – “I don’t” – says everything you need to know about Jon.  He didn’t ask for any of this – he was happy just to be a grunt night’s watchman at the Wall.  Jon always does what he has to do, not what he wants to do.  Tyrion is right, of course, that what Jon asks of Daenerys might not be reasonably expected to be given – the matter of the dragonglass is a perfect ground for compromise, and the larger matter of whether he’ll bend the knee can be left for another day.  Daenerys has more immediate problems than the white walkers and the northernmost kingdom, and Jon has what he ultimately came to Dragonstone to collect.

I won’t say too much about Euron marching through the streets and Cersei gloating over the Sand women.  At the least he’s more entertaining than the likes of Ramsay, and I’m incapable of feeling sympathy for either Cersei or Ellaria Sand (though I am glad we didn’t have to watch The Mountain rip her apart).  I will say, though, that Cersei (and Jaime, to an extent) have exceeded expectations in terms of survival.  Cersei as queen is no paper lion – admittedly Euron coming into her life was a stroke of luck, but she’s outflanked Daenerys (and by extension, Tyrion and Varys) at every turn so far.  She effectively let them have Casterly Rock after gutting its stores, and has now burned nearly every ship the Mother of Dragons had in her fleet.  And she’s made the strategically brilliant decision to march north, to Highgarden – a poorly defended honeypot of the very gold she needs to buy off the Iron Bank of Braavos (who are a more valuable ally than any lord with an army).

Once again Sam provides some of the more memorable moments of the episode.  His quiet courage in saving Jorah will prove important before the end, of that I’m certain – perhaps Jorah will prove instrumental in keeping Daenerys from slipping into madness when things get really bad for her.  The Arch-Maester is proving himself nothing if not a thoughtful man – his reaction to what he knows Sam has done is not ill-considered or rash, but he’s still a creature of the system he represents – one that moves much too slowly to keep up with the pace of events in the world outside the Citadel.

There’s big news up in Winterfell, too, where Sansa seems to be taking well to the minutiae of rule (as indeed one would expect).  For the first time in a while I really enjoyed a scene with Petyr Baelish – he seemed to genuinely be giving Sansa the best advice he knew here, and it was sound.  One suspects “fight every battle” is the reason he’s still alive when so many around him are dead (and many at his hand).  But one suspects that even had Sansa been preparing for any reasonable contingency, she would not have expected what was to happen next.

This was a good feint – it was easy to assume that it would be Arya at the gates of Winterfell.  And while any reunion between the Stark children should be an emotional peak, this one was as flat as Bran’s voice.  It seems whatever is left of the boy he was is buried beneath too many layers of Raven-vision to shed tears at the sight of his sister, and even in a story full of death and depravity I still find that incredibly sad.  I hope Bran is still in there, somewhere.  The moment when he reveals that he’s seen what happened to Sansa on that terrible night is a strange, unsettling one, both for us and for Sansa.  But how does it change things for Sansa, knowing that there’s someone in the world who understands what she went through?  Is it a violation of her privacy, or a realization that she’s less alone than she thought?

We leave things with yet another important character leaving the scene, this time Olenna Tyrell.  The incomparable Diana Rigg will certainly be missed, but she goes out with style and grace (could it really have been any other way?).  Her mistake was indeed a failure of imagination – as hard and clever a crone as she was, Olenna couldn’t wrap her mind around the depths of Cersei’s depravity.  One senses a bit of pity from Olenna for Jaime, and indeed he for her – he does grant her a painless death after all – and she’s almost certainly right that Cersei’s evil will be the destruction of Jaime too before the end of all things.  But she can’t resist a final twist of the dagger – revealing that it was she that had the “cunt” Joffrey poisoned.  It’s Cersei Olenna wants to know this, not Jaime – he’s just the messenger – but I wonder if he’ll ever tell her.

 

 

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10 comments

  1. Y

    In spite of how distastefully they’ve been written all series long, I found myself feeling genuinely horrible for Ellaria and Tyene. Yes, what they did to Myrcella was revolting and unfair, to say the least, and acting out of spite and hate seemed to be their modus operandi, which is never a good way to make you sympathize with a character. But I hated Cersei so much in that moment and felt a lot of pity for them, perhaps more than I should have. I suppose their performances helped — they may not have been well-written, but given the scripts they had to work with, I found their characters to always be well-acted by their respective actresses. I do think Cersei made a mistake by leaving Ellaria alive, though.

  2. G

    Many internet fans all are complaining about the passage of time in this series. Jon travels to meet Danerys like its right down the street yet the White Walkers have been coming for 7 years now and still have not reached the wall.

  3. I’ve given up on the whole time issue – it’s a lost cause. Martin at least tried (not always successfully, mind) to make that somewhat feasible, and the show reflected that – once the show has left him behind they really haven’t even bothered to make the attempt.

  4. The events of this episode leave Dany in an interesting dilemma. With Dorne and Yara’s fleet mostly out of the picture, the Reach joining Cersei, and the Unsullied isolated, Jon Snow is really Dany’s only viable ally. With some political maneuvering by Tyrion we could be getting that fan supported coupling very soon. Assuming Jon didn’t go straight back to the North after getting those mining rights.

  5. K

    I never expected things to fall apart so fast for Team Dany. Tyrion and Varys may be masters of political intrigue but they are completely incompetent when it comes to military strategy. Speaking of Varys, where are Cersei and Jaime getting their incredibly accurate intelligence about Daenerys’ plans?

    Now the only two effective forces that Dany has left are the dragons and the Dothraki. Except that neither one is currently useful! The dragons cannot be used without dragonriders, and the only dragonrider is Daenerys herself who is too valuable to risk in combat. Who else in Westeros can speak Dothraki except Daenerys, Missandei, and Jorah?

  6. That’s a good point about the difference between military and political strategy, though to be fair Tyrion did manage to fight off Stannis’ invasion when he was in charge of King’s Landing’s defense.

    At some point – maybe soon – things are going to get desperate enough that they’ll have no choice but to risk Dany riding the dragons into battle. But Dany’s forces could definitely use a straight-up, experienced and brilliant military commander.

  7. K

    Tyrion is definitely capable of coming up with ingenious military tactical moves – the wildfire ship at Blackwater Bay and the sewer attack at Casterly Rock. Strategy seems to be his weak point – we just landed in Westeros with an overwhelming force plus two kingdoms as allies, let’s split everyone up into separate forces that can be easily defeated by Euron and Jaime.

    I expect that Jorah will take a red eye flight from Old Town to Dragonstone, but it would be cool if Daario would show up out of the blue.

  8. K

    Nice review Enzo. While I loved most everything about this episode the one of two things that bothers me is that Dany still thinks her dragons are unstoppable even though she ‘knows’ that spears can hurt them. As it relates to travel I take every episode or travel moment as a ‘new chapter’ in a book. How would you guys like to see the travel represented? Do you want to see ‘a week later’ or see him going on the boat? I am not getting the issue here really as what’s the alternatives? The second thing that bothers me is how Bran has become – lifeless comes to mind. I am hoping he isn’t gonna remain like this but odds are he is with such limited time. Looking forward to him telling Jon and Sansa about Jon’s heritage.

  9. As to Bran, what I’m hoping is that there’s some sort of storyline regarding him maintaining an element of his personality. If this is the Bran we get for the rest of the series and it just “is what it is”, I would find that disappointing.

    Look at it this way – in the same amount of time it took for Sam and Tyrion’s ravens to reach Jon and for Jon to sail all the way to Dragonstone, Sam read a page in a book, cured Jorah with it, and got scolded for it. Does that add up?

  10. I

    I have one major complaint or potential plot hole. Varys is supposedly a master of spies and yet couldnt tell that an entire army and their grain were moved out of Casterly Rock. Its harder to track Euron’s movement as we are assuming that he is much faster than any ship based spy Varys can send and that his subjects are too loyal to him to send out ravens informing Varys of Euron’s movement.

    But emptying out a city’s army?? Sounds like BS to me. And Tyrion, the first thing anyway does in war is get constant and reliable information on their enemies movements. Who just sends armies out without knowing exactly what is there, not whats supposed to be there but what is there. If he had any brain he’d have casterly rock at least burnt to the ground as a symbolic victory.

    Either there is double crossing going on or these are plot conveniences to make the war seem cool and give Cersei an advantage, because fantasy 101 writing is to have your protagonists at a disadvantage… sorry for the rant

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