‘The Queen’s Justice’ took us back to the best of vintage Game of Thrones. It proved that it’s not just the prolonged CGI battles or talked-about sex scenes that have given the show the following it has today. Instead, what has kept audiences enthralled is the rich depth and quality of the acting, writing, and character development. Don’t get me wrong, we were still given death, war and disaster, but we were given this through paired back, character-focused scenes. The action in this episode had a subtle, almost gentle, and thus even more chilling, delivery: Cersei’s revenge on Dorne; Dany’s strategic failure; Olenna’s death.
The episode started with one of the most highly anticipated meetings of characters in the Thrones universe: Queen meets King, known Targaryen meets unknown Targaryen, Dany meets Jon. This whole first sequence was thoroughly enjoyable, as two very separate worlds collided with some unexpectedly humorous writing. Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, Rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm, The Unburnt, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, etc. meets, as Davos (Liam Cunningham) so concisely put it, ‘Jon Snow….he’s King in the North’.
Dany, I think it’s time to release the dragons.
Predictably, Jon refuses to bend the knee to Dany, and instead tries to convince a disbelieving audience of the existence of the army of the dead. With Tyrion’s help, Dany agrees to let Jon mine the dragonglass under Dragonstone for weapons, but keeps him as an almost prisoner. Speaking of Tyrion, whilst much of the buzz about this meeting has been on the possible romantic relationship between Jon and Dany, the (platonic) relationship that I am most looking forward to seeing is between Jon and Tyrion. The ‘Bastard of Winterfell’ and the ‘Dwarf of Casterly Rock’ were last seen together in season one, where they struck up a mutual respect for one another. Jon, the military man, and Tyrion, the political manipulator. This could be a friendship that goes places.
Meanwhile, Theon is pulled up onto one of the last remaining Dany-loyal Greyjoy ships, sadly not by Gendry. In the North, Sansa proves her leadership skills, building up grain stores and adding leather to armour. In the Citadel, Sam has saved Jorah’s life by removing his Grayscale, and as a reward is piled high with manuscripts needing copying. Elsewhere in King’s Landing, we see Euron making his triumphant return after last week’s bloodbath, dragging Yara by the neck, and presenting Ellaria and Tyene Sand as gifts to Cersei. Cersei exacts her ‘Queen’s Justice’ on the murderer of her daughter, Ellaria, by killing Tyene in the exact same way her own daughter was killed, with a poisoned kiss. (Those of you who thought Cersei was just mixing up her lipstick colours, shame on you). Ellaria is bound and chained to be positioned only a few inches away from her daughter when she slowly dies in front of her. The masterful, restrained acting of Lena Headey as the vengeful but calm Cersei, and that of Indira Varma as the increasingly desperate Ellaria, made this scene truly horrifying.
Cersei then celebrates this victory in the best way she knows how, a cheeky bit of incest with her twin brother, Jamie. Next, she faces the wrath of the Iron Bank, whose loans to the Crown have never been repaid. Handling diplomacy in a way that is eerily like that of her father, Tywin, Cersei promises the repayment of the loans in full, within a fortnight. How? The audience asks. Like this, the series responds. Tyrion narrates a sequence showing the Unsullied triumphantly taking Casterly Rock, a feat that becomes less triumphant when they realise they only accomplished this because Cersei let them. Cut to Jamie leading the bulk of the Lannister forces on Highgarden, the seat of the Tyrells, the richest House in the Seven Kingdoms. Never famous for their fighting, the Tyrells quickly lose, and we understand now where Cersei will get her gold to repay the Iron Bank and win their support. This is another strategic win for the Lannisters, as Dany’s forces are further depleted.
With the Tyrell’s eliminated, we then learn that an integral part of Dany’s army, the Unsullied, have been left stranded on Casterly Rock; without supplies (Jamie emptied the Rock before leaving), and without ships to travel (Cersei’s fleet burns them). Victory in the War for the Seven Kingdoms certainly seems to be leaning towards Cersei and her forces. Dany, I think it’s time to release the dragons.
‘She’s much smarter than she lets on.’ ‘She’s starting to let on.’ – Tyrion and Jon discuss Sansa, the sort of ex-wife-never-consummated of Tyrion, and half-sister-come-cousin of Jon.
‘I am the last Targaryen, Jon Snow. – I can’t wait for Dany to be knocked off her slightly broken-record high horse when she realises that, actually, she’s not.
‘You look a lot better brooding than I do. You make me feel like I’m failing at brooding over failure.’ – Tyrion to Jon, who, to be fair, would win best brood, hands down.
‘Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me.’ Olenna out-sasses everyone, even on her deathbed.
Most random plot line/character appearance:
Not entirely unexpected, but Bran pops up back home at Winterfell. Only this isn’t the care-free, climbing-loving Bran that Winterfell has seen before, no, as he points out to Sansa, he is the burdened Three-Eyed Raven now. The Three-Eyed Raven who has seen everything, including Jon’s real parentage; a fact that Bran can’t tell him, because this is Game of Thrones and no one is ever where they need to be.
Easiest moment to overlook:
Davos, who I’m loving as Jon’s personal wingman and Number One Jon Snow Enthusiast, lets slip that Jon ‘took a knife in the heart for his people’. Dany later wonders what this means to Tyrion, being unaware that Jon has died and been brought back to life by Melisandre. Question is: why is Jon hiding this from them, and when will they find out?
Has to be the very end of the episode, when the fabulously bad-ass Olenna Tyrell, Queen of Thornes, is poisoned by Jamie. This is a scene that should have been Jamie’s moment, his triumph over his enemy, his time to shine. But even as she is dying, Olenna (Diana Rigg) still wins the episode. After establishing that the poison will be painless and then drinking it, she reveals to a speechless Jamie that she masterminded the painful poisoning of his and Cersei’s first son, Joffrey. Another Queen exacts her Justice.
P.S. Olenna Tyrell, Diana Rigg, you will be sorely missed.
Based on Next Week’s Trailer:
Cersei lays out her plans for control; Dany moans to Jon that she is losing; the Iron Bank needs the gold; a very particular dagger (think season one: attempted murder of Bran, a dagger held to Ned’s throat) is unsheathed; Dany unleashes the dragons. Where. Is. Gendry.