A whole lot to talk about as Fire and Ice finally meet, the Lannisters let loose in several different ways, and we continue to collect missing Starks in a densely packed episode that revealed a ton of things, even as it muddied several paths our heroes need to follow. Let’s talk about them all after the break (and yes… lots and lots of spoilers).
With this shortened season already nearing the halfway point, “The Queen’s Justice” wastes no time as Jon Snow and Davos Seaworth slide onto the beach of Dragonstone. And Daenerys Targaryen wastes no time pulling a power-play as Missendei and Tyrion require them to hand over their weapons and their rowboat to a retinue of surly Dothraki.
The scenes in Dragonstone were well played and well written as various factions of former enemies/not-yet allies awkwardly discuss their limited common ground. Davos and Tyrion, who fought on opposite sides of the Battle of Backwater Bay (where Davos lost a son); Tyrion asking after Sansa to an unamused Jon.
“It was a marriage of convenience,” Tyrion stammers. “Never consummated.”
“I didn’t ask,” Jon mutters.
“Sansa is smarter than she lets on,” Tyrion lectures, “What’s she doing now?”
“She’s starting to ‘let on.'” Tyrion is certainly a positive influence on the mopey bastard, who knew he had such wit?
And thankfully, Tyrion is a good influence on our Dragons’ Mama because our long awaited meeting had some serious sparks… and not the good kind that lead to romance and little incestuous Targaryen babies, but the kind where words like rebellion and broken oaths and prisoner are thrown around.
The interplay between Daeny and Jon is perfect. These are two good leaders, good people, who want to do the right thing for their people, even when that right thing puts them at odds. And so many little things that make this work. Daeny’s history lesson about the Stark’s perpetual oath to Aegon Targaryen; Jon returning the favor and reminding Daeny that her father burned his grandfather and uncle alive, and surprisingly, Daeny acknowledging that, and apologizing, like a good leader should.
Unfortunately, Daeny’s suspension of disbelief doesn’t extend to white walkers and ice zombies; and as Tyrion rightly points out – she’s got a kingdom to conquer. Still, thanks again to Tyrion, we get a compromise, and allowing Jon to mine the dragonglass sets up a small victory.
Unfortunately, it looks like small victories is all we’re going to get, as the Unsullied invasion of Casterly Rock turns out to work a little too easily. They have the Rock, but at the cost of another navy courtesy of Euron and his magical teleporting ships. Just a little bit of a writers’ misstep (in my humble opinion) to have Captain Douchbag be there too… I know I shouldn’t get caught up in the timeline, but we have every reason to believe the Unsullied boats and the Dornish boats left Dragonstone at around the same time. How could Euron crash Ellaria’s Dornish invasion of Yara, stop in King’s Landing for his little gift-giving parade, and then make it all the way around Westeros in time to blow the shit out of Grey Worm’s boats. The dude is seriously everywhere at once!
Cersei certainly seems to be everywhere at once too, accepting Euron’s gift (and continuing to string him along), evil monologuing Ellaria in the dungeons, schtupping the hell out of her brother, and holding off the Iron Bank for fortnight… she’s actually pretty good at this queen stuff.
Her revenge on the Dornish queen(?) was pure Cersei, and really showcased the depth of this villain. Sure, she’s a soulless monster with no regard for anyone but herself, but she’s also a mother who lost all of her children, and whose daughter – perhaps the only true innocent in this entire kingdom – was killed by the woman in chains before her. And while you felt for Ellaria, who would now watch her own daughter die and rot before her, Cersei gets a pass here… helped by her creative choice of revenge.
Well, another ally down as Jaime’s plan to abandon Casterly Rock and focus on conquering the last of the Tyrells worked exactly as scripted. Who’d a thunk he’d turn out to be twice the tactician Tyrion was? And who’da thunk he’d credit Rob Stark for providing the lessons learned. Dame Diana Rigg’s depiction of the Queen of Thorns was spot on, as usual, and her ability to slip those verbal daggers, especially her confession that SHE poisoned Joffrey, brought a potential key plot point to light, because she erased any doubt from Jaime’s mind that Tyrion killed Joffrey. Cersei might not care, or believe, but might that knowledge mean something when brother meets brother in some later episode? I guess we’ll find out.
Cersei is not the only one who is good at being queen, as Sansa is in charge up in the North. Not only is she running things, she seems to be successfully holding creepy Uncle Littlefinger at arms length, mocking him for his obvious advice… that is until he offers her (and us) a glimpse of that Machiavellian mind. “Everyone is an enemy, Everyone is a friend,” he says, telling Sansa that she must react to everything happening at once. She looks horrified, and I wonder if this is the first crack in the veneer she has wrapped herself in since escaping Ramsay.
If so, the second wasn’t long behind because Bran’s emotional entrance into Winterfell seemed to have a similar effect. (yes, I cried… a little). Not so much his entrance, as his embracing his role of Three-Eyed Raven, and what that might mean for him. Isaac Hempstead Wright’s performance here was a nice parallel to Masie Williams’ robotic Arya in last week’s episode. The difference being that Arya regained a little of her humanity once she learned her siblings were back in Winterfell, while Bran, perhaps because so much is on the line, did not. Either way, his distant, almost wistful recollection of Sansa’s wedding to Ramsay – a night that ended in horror for his sister – may have reopened some pretty deep scars, and Sansa’s quick retreat from the Weirwood could indicate that mistakes are going to be made, or heads may roll, real soon.
Jorah is cured! Nice, quick check in to Old City, as Arch-Maester Slughorn gives Sam some deserved praise, and then a hell of a lot of work. How much do you want to bet those scrolls and other documents Sam needs to copy contain information pertinent to his quest?
Also important is Bran being back in Winterfell, where he is surrounded by walls and has unlimited WiFi access to the Stark Weirwood. We’re going to be getting more history real soon.
Melisandre gets MVP of this episode because we learn that she learned. “I made mistakes,” she admits, and her grief at her fell deeds is palpable. And we also learn that she has a mission, to Volantis, that she must complete before she dies on Westeros. What might she bring back to help the cause?
Is Davos the worlds greatest wingman, or what? Jon Snow couldn’t ask for a better second. The man is never afraid to speak truth as he touts what Jon has accomplished and what is on the line.
And finally, it’s wonderful how seamlessly the show is working in material for earlier seasons into these final episodes. That Tyrion worked on the Casterly Rock sewers was a great character reveal a few seasons back, but nothing that seemed important until now, when he uses that knowledge to… uh, impregnate the impregnable (at least temporarily). We’ve had so many television series that lose track of their narrative and leave gnarled strings of incompatible plot hanging everywhere (I’m looking at you, X-Files… and you’re not off the hook either, Lost), it’s nice to have a series that isn’t just tying up loose strings in neat little bows, but making the stories richer, the characters fuller as they do.
So, what’s next? Looks like the trailer reveals a troubled Sansa, an enriched Cersei, a desperately sword-swinging (at who?) Brienne, and a Mother of Dragons ready to unleash her children… will anyone be left to enjoy “The Spoils of War?” I guess we’ll find out next week!