Spoiler Warning for Season 7, Episode 3 of “Game of Thrones,” as well as all episodes of previous seasons.
With the number of remaining “Game of Thrones” episodes down to almost single digits, the time has come for the story to wrap up several of its countless storylines and characters. In the past, the series has been a slow burn that builds up to major events that serve as turning points in the greater game, but in the penultimate season, this slow burn element is all but gone to allow for a faster narrative; this means that the characters no longer spend half season traveling to their destination, giving more time for actual story progression and meaningful dialogue. For the first two episodes of Season 7, I mentioned that some of the material felt rushed and heavy-handed, but this problem is absent in the latest episode, which may go down as one of the most satisfying chapters of the series to date. With a handful of first meetings between characters, a thrilling battle sequence and a bittersweet farewell to a fan favorite, “The Queen’s Justice” is also one of the stronger episodes of “Game of Thrones” and serves to really shake things up.
In order to recap and review this episode as coherently as possible, events will be discussed by location rather than in chronological order.
If you look back on the series, Jon and Daenerys have been through a lot since the very first episode, but never once have their paths crossed…that is until “The Queen’s Justice.” Following a long journey from Winterfell, Jon and Davos arrive on the shores of Dragonstone along with a few Stark soldiers to a welcome greeting by Tyrion, Missandei and a dozen or so Dothraki. This marks the first time that Jon and Tyrion have seen each other since Season 1, when the two traveled to the Wall together; there is a sense of trust between the two, which calms Jon’s nerves even as he is forced to turn over his weapons. Missandei and Tyrion lead Jon and Davos up the winding steps to the castle, allowing for a few bits of dialogue between the characters; one of the dragons fly low and show off in front of Jon, leaving him absolutely stunned as this is his first time seeing one of these mythical creatures in the flesh. From atop a cliff, Melisandre looks down on Jon and Davos, clearly hiding after her banishment and Varys arrives to call her out for this; it seems as though he knows what went down between Melisandre, Jon and Davos as he tells her to never return to Westeros. She does seem to express a bit of regret over what she did to the Princess Shireen and she states that she is headed to Volantis, but that she will come back as she must die in Westeros, as does Varys; this seems to be some eerie prophecy that may foreshadow the deaths of Varys and Melisandre before the series ends.
Excitement grows as Jon enters the Throne Room to see Dany sitting proudly with Missandei listing off the numerous different titles of the Dragon Queen; there is a bit of humor thrown in as Davos has to follow up Dany’s long name with Jon’s sole title of “King in the North.” It’s clear that the two leaders have different priorities right off the bat as Dany demands that Jon bend the knee to his Queen; however, Jon doesn’t view himself as less than Dany and contests her claim to the throne, allowing for some great discussion about the painful history between Houses Stark and Targaryen. Dany also proclaims herself to be the last living Targaryen, but viewers (and Bran) have some insider information that disputes this claim. Jon bluntly tells Dany that her mission to defeat Cersei and reclaim the Iron Throne is pointless due to the fact that the Army of the Dead will kill everyone south of the Wall if they don’t work together to stop them; obviously, the White Walkers have always been nothing more than a myth to those that haven’t seen them, but I would think that Dany would at least have some reason to believe in them considering the fact that Dragons were once thought to be extinct, but here she is with three. Dany gives an impassioned speech about everything she has been through, citing her faith in herself as what got her through it all; this prompts Davos to speak for Jon and list everything that he has faced, even going so far as to briefly mention the stabbing that led to Jon’s death and resurrection. Witnessing these two beloved leaders meeting for the first time places the viewer in the unique predicament of having to pick a side; after following these characters for many seasons, both make strong points, but I have to side with Jon as the Army of the Dead poses the most immediate threat.
As viewers, we are given the luxury of knowing what is happening all over the world, but the characters are mostly in the dark, leaving them blind to certain things; therefore, it is understandable that certain characters are hesitant to believe in what they haven’t seen. This comes into play in a discussion between Jon and Tyrion; after realizing that he didn’t travel such a long distant for nothing, Tyrion tells Jon that he does believe him about the White Walkers, but that he understands Dany’s point of view as the whole situation is quite hard to imagine. Seeing that an alliance may not happen, Jon asks about the abundant supply of dragonglass and Tyrion brings the proposition to Dany. This is another case where Tyrion shines in the role of Hand of the Queen as he makes a case to allow Jon to mine the dragonglass to keep him occupied while she deals with her other matters; it’s so fascinating to see the split with Jon viewing dragonglass as completely crucial to their survival and Dany having no use for it. Later, Jon and Dany meet to speak one on one and there seems to be a greater understanding between the two; Dany gives Jon permission to mine the dragonglass and also pledges any other resources and manpower that he requests. While I initially saw her as being unreasonable, Dany really shows herself to be the leader that we know her to be and I am overjoyed that she granted the request. Having these two epic characters on screen together for the first time in 7 seasons is truly powerful and allows for Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington to deliver some of their finest performances to date as Dany and Jon.
Following Jon’s departure for Dragonstone, Sansa is given full control of the North until he returns and this was absolutely the right move as she immediately shows just how skilled she is as leader. Winterfell is on the verge of a food crisis with the arrival of winter, something that could drastically harm the efforts to stop the White Walkers. Sansa is shown to be calling the shots and giving orders all the while putting up with more of Littlefinger’s creepiness; he tells her that he knows Cersei more than anyone else, but this is simply not true and Sansa calls him out on this, making it clear that she is aware of the threat she poses. In a welcome surprise, Sansa is called to the main gate, allowing for yet another beautiful Stark reunion, but it isn’t what I was expecting at all. Rather than Arya arriving at Winterfell, it is Bran who reunites with Sansa, but this isn’t like the cheery reunion that we saw last season at Castle Black; Bran is completely emotionless as Sansa tearfully hugs him. The two sit together at the Weirwood tree pond and Sansa tells Bran that he is the rightful heir of House Stark, but Bran makes it clear that he is unable to be ruler as he is the Three-Eyed Raven. This completely confuses Sansa and Bran doesn’t do much to explain it to her, but it is clear that this is a different Bran than she last saw back in Season 1. He shares that he can see what is happening anywhere in the world at anytime before awkwardly bringing up how beautiful Sansa looked on the night she married Ramsay; he even begins to speak about her being raped by Ramsay, prompting Sansa to leave…and I don’t blame her at all. Having Bran and Sansa together again is insanely rewarding after watching all of the horrors they’ve been through, but with Bran being the Three-Eyed Raven, there is a level of uncertainty present as he is the only person aware of Jon’s true parentage, something that may shake up the Stark family once it is revealed.
The story in Oldtown has really progressed far quicker than I expected with the Archmaester inspecting Jorah and ruling him cured of Grayscale. While this development does feel like an overly simple solution to what seemed like an impossible problem, I am thrilled that Jorah will live to fight another day and possibly reunite with Dany. There is a heartwarming moment as Sam shakes Jorah’s hand, the first human touch he has had since coming down with Greyscale; I’ve really enjoyed this friendship that has formed between these men, especially considering Sam fought alongside Jorah’s father Jeor (James Cosmo), plus the fact that Lady Lyanna Mormont is aligned with Sam’s best friend Jon. With the illness now cured, Sam must answer to the Archmaester who questions how he came to save Jorah’s life and in a rather surprising turn of events, Sam isn’t punished when he states that he broke the rules. Sure, he isn’t rewarded, but it’s refreshing to see that the Archmaester does appreciate Sam for taking such a large risk to save the life of someone, a sign that he completely has what it take to become a maester. I’m not sure how much more we will see of Sam this season, but hopefully he finds some more hidden secrets of Westeros in the books. This really shows how soldiers on the battlefield aren’t the only important people in the story and that characters like Sam are absolutely necessary.
The end of Season 6 made it seem as though Dany was dominating the game and that Cersei’s odds weren’t looking all that great. However, Season 7 has proved that a few moves can drastically change the game and Cersei is making it clear that she is not going down without a fight. After capturing Yara, Ellaria and Tyene, Euron proudly parades his prizes through the streets of King’s Landing as the citizens cheer for the victory, but also throw vegetables at the captives, evoking a similar feel to that of Cersei’s walk of shame in Season 5’s “Mother’s Mercy.” Euron makes his way to the Throne Room where he delivers the women to Cersei, leading her to proclaim Euron as a hero of the realm and the greatest captain of the seas. This win is enough proof to Cersei that she can rely on Euron and she accepts his proposal of marriage, but states that the priority is still defeating Daenerys and that they will not wed until they have claimed victory. Euron hilariously pokes more fun at Jaime, asking for sex advice and rubbing it in that Cersei has moved on from him. In the dungeons, there is an overwhelming sense of dread present as Cersei has Ellaria and Tyene chained up across from one another before speaking about Princess Myrcella’s murder and the punishment that will be carried out. She mentions that she was completely prepared to have the Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) crush Tyene’s head like he did to Oberyn (Pedro Pascal). Instead, she decides to make both women suffer and proceeds to kiss Tyene on the lips and the look on Ellaria makes it clear what just happened; Cersei used the same poison on Tyene that Ellaria used on Myrcella. Cersei flat out tells Ellaria that she will be forced to watch her own daughter die from the poison, as well as the decomposition of her body. I realize that what Ellaria did was wrong, but I actually feel a tremendous amount of sympathy for her and Tyene; Indira Varma and Rosabell Laurenti Sellers deliver fantastic performances in this scene, as does Lena Headey.
Cersei really doesn’t care what anyone thinks at this point and she makes her incestuous relationship with Jaime more public than before, blatantly revealing to a servant that she slept with her own brother; she’s the Queen, what can anyone do? Jaime is clearly a bit taken aback by Cersei’s recent actions, but as the events of this episode prove, he is still on her side. Cersei meets with a Tycho Nestoris (Mark Gatiss), a representative from the Iron Bank of Braavos, to discuss the growing debt that the Crown owes due to the many different conflicts that are currently being fought. Cersei reminds Tycho of a saying that her House has, “Lannisters always pay their debts” and promises to satisfy the Iron Bank’s demands right away. This discussion is especially important because it shows where the Iron Bank stands on the current war; with Daenerys freeing the slaves over in Essos, the Bank is put at a disadvantage due to their heavy reliance on the slave trade. There is also a great callback that Tycho brings up when he states how much Cersei reminds him of her father Tywin (Charles Dance), although I have to disagree. Tywin was an incredible character and definitely one of the wisest, but he underestimated the power of his children; Cersei fully recognizes the strength of herself and Jaime, but she does seem to count Tyrion out of the game, which may come back to hurt her.
Tyrion has shown time and time again that his allegiance lies with Dany and that he has rightfully turned his back against House Lannister. This episode really puts his dedication on display as he narrates his plans for the Unsullied to attack Casterly Rock, which he describes as an impenetrable fortress. As Tyrion speaks, the siege is shown on-screen with hundreds of Unsullied soldiers attempting to scale the walls with Lannister men holding them off. All the while, Tyrion states that his father build the entire castle with the exception of the sewer system, which was delegated to Tyrion himself; being that Tywin was extremely strict, Tyrion was forced to sneak women in through a secret tunnel under the castle. Grey Worm and several Unsullied use this passage to infiltrate Casterly Rock, open the gates and gain control of the Lannister homestead. The battle doesn’t last long, which is unsettling to Grey Worm, who realizes that there should be far more soldiers defending the Rock; these worries are completely reasonable as it is revealed that the Unsullied attack was part of a greater trap set by Jaime and Cersei. Grey Worm looks at the sea to witness Dany’s ships being destroyed by Euron and the Iron Fleet (man, he gets around). Grey Worm and the Unsullied are trapped at Casterly Rock, giving Team Dany yet another loss in the great war…and things just get worse from there. Where are the rest of the Lannister forces?
War is a brutal and horrific aspect of life, both real and fictional; that being said, not all battles are fought on the battlefield with some taking place in conversations between adversaries. House Tyrell, specifically Lady Olenna, has played the long game quite well with many of their moves being made through sneaky tactics and alliances. Jaime and the remaining Lannister soldiers march on Highgarten and manage to take the castle (off-screen) without much of a fight. Lady Olenna watches the army march from a tower; the look on her face makes it clear that she knows exactly what is about to happen. There is some chillingly epic cinematography as Jaime makes his way through Highgarten with “The Rains of Castamere” playing as he searches for Lady Olenna. He eventually locates her chambers and rather than killing her right off the bat, he speaks with her for a few moments and allows her the courtesy of dying peacefully even though Cersei had far more horrific plans for her; Jaime pours poison into a glass of wine, which Olenna chugs without any hesitation. She then flat out calls Jaime’s son, King Joffrey, “a c*nt” before revealing that she was the one who poisoned him at the Purple Wedding; she tells Jaime to make Cersei aware of this and warns him that his sister will destroy him one day. Olenna has been in mourning since Cersei killed her son and grandchildren at the Sept of Baelor last season, but she hasn’t allowed for her spunky attitude to be taken away. Lady Olenna dies just as she lived, a complete savage and badass. Throughout her run on the series, Diana Rigg has always delivered in her performance as the Queen of Thorns and her presence will most definitely be missed.
“The Queen’s Justice” is a title that holds many different meanings and can refer to both Cersei and Dany. This episode signifies many major moves on the great game board, but at this moment in time, it seems as though Cersei is on the winning side of things. The first interaction between Dany and Jon is incredibly rewarding, especially for those fans that have been watching the series since its debut in 2011 (I only became a fan in 2016, but it is still extremely satisfying to see them meet). With Houses Martell and Tyrell gone, Dany is at a real disadvantage now, but hopefully the alliance with Jon will serve as a way to regain the advantage on Cersei. It remains to be seen what will happen with Yara and Theon (there was a brief scene that showed him being rescued by a surviving Greyjoy ship), but things aren’t looking all that great for them. This episode is chock full of surprises and the remaining four episodes will surely be the same.
Be sure to tune into “Game of Thrones” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.