Castles fall, Starks come together, an epic meet-up takes place, and Cersei wreaks vengeance as only she can in the newest episode of Game of Thrones, entitled “The Queen’s Justice.” Which queen reigned supreme in tonight’s episode? Let’s break it down.
Spoiler Note: This is our book reader’s recap, intended for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The post and the comments section may contain spoilers from the novels, whether or not that material has appeared on the show yet. Because no, we are not all Unsullied now. If you have not read the books yet, we encourage you to check out our non-book-reader recap, by Oz of Thrones!
Memo to HBO: first of all, thanks for replaying last week’s horrifying Jorah-flaying moment in the weekly pre-ep recap. We really needed a memory refreshing on that account.
Second, we get Pyke in the opening credits (when it doesn’t appear) but no Highgarden or Casterly Rock? Fork over the cash to make the credits on point, HBO. We’re but humble nerds: these are the little things that make us happy!
That said, let’s get down to business!
Game of Thrones has been teasing us with a momentous gathering for a while now, the loaded first meeting of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. The two lead characters have never met in the Song of Ice and Fire novels, but it’s often speculated that their fates may be ultimately entwined. Is that the case on the show? We don’t know yet but in tonight’s episode, GoT sets the stage for a cautious political connection based on earned mutual respect.
But before we get to Jon and Dany’s first face-off, we get a reunion I’ve been wanting more than any Stark one: Jon and Tyrion Lannister happily meet again for the first time since they parted ways at the Wall in season one, both bearing new scars. The men are glad to see one another on the beach at Dragonstone, but business is business. Team Dragonstone Reboot is smart enough to ask for Team Winterfell’s weapons. Things have changed since Davos was here last, that’s for certain.
As they head up to the castle, they chat, and I’m thrilled to see someone finally ask how a Night’s Watchman can become King in the North. I should’ve known it would be Tyrion who’d ask the right question. They’re interrupted by a dragon diving into their crowd, frightening Jon and Davos, just as Jon declares “I’m not a Stark.”
Well if I didn’t know better, I’d say the dragon was curious about Jon and wanted a closer look at- a smell, a taste of?- the new visitor. Given that he is half-Targaryen, it would be strange if Jon didn’t get some kind of reaction from the dragons.
Above them, Melisandre and Varys watch, detached from the proceedings. When questioned about staying away from the welcoming committee, Melisandre says that she’s done her part, bringing ice and fire together. The priestess, when pushed, is forced to admit she and Jon didn’t part on good terms, but she won’t be staying- she’s leaving for Volantis.
The magic-hating Varys warns her off from returning with an implied threat, but Melisandre gives as good as she gets without even trying. The eunuch has a bad track record when it comes to dealing with Red priestesses and this time is no exception. Melisandre matter of factly informs him she’ll return to Westeros eventually because she’ll die there…just like him. He’s speechless as she strolls away.
Now it’s time for the main event- Jon and Davos roll up to Dragonstone’s throne room, with Daenerys posed artfully on the Dragonthrone, for maximum intimidation effect.
Missandei adds to that by filling up the next ten minutes announcing Daenerys’ titles, as fans go use the restroom and refill their bowls of chips. When they get back, it’s Jon’s turn! His introduction is much quicker though, with Davos’ trademark blunt style.
The two monarchs sniff around each other warily, with each unwilling to give an inch. Daenerys is determined to have Jon bend the knee and recognize her claim as queen of ALL Seven Kingdoms, while Jon remembers very well that her father burned his grandfather alive, and they all have bigger problems than the war with Cersei. And why would Daenerys believe his claims about the army of the dead, readily? With both characters on such different pages, it’s unsurprising that they’re butting heads and unable to agree. Even with wingmen like Davos and Tyrion doing their best, these are two righteous-minded leaders who are unwilling to nudge.
Daenerys and Jon Snow have come a long way over the past six seasons and developed admirable certainty in themselves, and in their dedication to their people and their paths. Right now though, it’s making it damned difficult for them to come to terms with one another.
As Dany and Jon come to an impasse, Varys arrives with a message and the dragon queen learns of “Stormborn”‘s events.
Just then, we see a ship of Ironborn hauling Theon’s limp but living body from the sea. They question him about Yara. Theon claims he tried to do something but as Harrag points out, Theon would be dead if he’d tried to do something about Euron.
In the sea battle, Yara, Ellaria and Tyene fell into Euron’s hands. They’re lucky to be alive, but how lucky are they? As we see, they’ve been dragged back to King’s Landing as his prisoners, with cityfolk throwing garbage at them and Euron taunting Yara about Theon’s actions as they walk. (Anyone else get flashbacks to the Walk of Shame here?)
Euron leads the women into the throne room, and presents Ellaria and Tyene to Cersei as his gift to her. Ellaria spots the shape of the Mountain, her own personal boogeyman, and looks horrified, but she’s defiant and spitting when placed before the queen.
Having delivered, Euron wants his prize- marriage with Cersei- but she puts him off slyly. He’ll get his prize when the war is won. Sure, Cersei- because you’ll make sure he’s dead by then.
For now, Jaime will have to play nicely with Euron and his necessary navy.
It’s all over for Ellaria and Tyene, however.
Cersei has murdered plenty of innocent people but we can’t count the Sand Snakes among them. Their murder of Myrcella was particularly awful, and as revenge for the death of her daughter at their hands, Cersei has planned a symmetrical punishment. After a proper amount of villain monologuing with her fittingly spiky dress, as Ellaria begins to understand what’s coming without Cersei spelling it out, the queen lays a long kiss on Tyene’s lips.
Qyburn is at Cersei’s side at once with the antidote for The Long Farewell. But there won’t be an antidote for Tyene, and her mother will witness her death and decomposition until the end of her days. An inglorious end for the once-powerful daughters of Dorne who grabbed for power and lost badly.
Afterward, Cersei is feeling very sexually aggressive and pays Jaime a visit. The next morning, she’s completely without shame regarding the naked Kingslayer in her bed when her servant comes knocking to let her know that the Iron Bank is visiting.
In a world full of honor, blood feuds and oaths, it’s refreshing to know that there still exists a group of people who care about nothing but coin. There’s an ice zombie apocalypse on the way, but no, the Iron Bank of Braavos doesn’t care: they will keep on coming like the Two Dollars kid in Better Off Dead.
Which is a real problem for Cersei and the Iron Throne who are in serious debt to the bank. The Lannisters’ vaults aren’t what they used to be, and Tycho Nestoris (Mark Gatiss, reappearing in a wonderfully reptilian performance) personally visits Cersei to inform her: the Iron Bank wants their money, soonish.
Lucky for them, Cersei has a plan.
On Dragonstone, Tyrion’s trying to have a quality brood (over his strategic failures of late) when he’s interrupted by excessively good-looking fellow brooder Jon Snow.
Jon’s troubled by the issue of convincing people about the growing threat of the Night King and the White Walkers, while he’s also a semi-prisoner on Dragonstone. Tyrion sings the song of Dany’s greatness and defend her unwillingness to buy into Jon’s crusade. But he does want to help Jon, and finds a way to do so, handily.
Dragonglass– it’s why Jon came, after all. Tyrion explains its use to Daenerys and the fact of its presence underground on the island. He’s still not sure that the icy snarks and grumpkins are for real, but doesn’t see the harm in giving him the dragonglass. He leans toward believing him though, since Jon’s very presence points that way. Dany seems open to the idea, but notes Davos’ mistake earlier during their first meet-and-greet, when he oddly mentioned Jon “taking a knife in the heart.”
Speaking to Jon herself, Daenerys feels him out and decides to grant him the dragonglass…though she’s still unwilling to admit to believing in the army of the dead. Which is a normal way of thinking, but when you have three dragons, you think a woman would be more open-minded.
Sansa was raised to be the lady of a Great House, and it shows as she handles the winterization of Winterfell in Jon’s absence. Littlefinger takes the opportunity to join Sansa and chat her up about…honestly it’s all stupid shit from the trailer. This guy speaks like a fortune cookie. Literally nothing he says matters. Remember when Littlefinger mattered? Thankfully an interruption!
She hurries to the gate to find…Bran! A distant-eyed, much older version of her baby brother but still, it’s him. She throws her arms around him, and weeps.
Sitting in the godswood later, we can see that Bran’s coolness hasn’t changed. It’s who he is now, with the Three-Eyed Raven settling into him. He denies the possibility of ever being Lord of Winterfell. His powers seem omnipotent, and yet Bran says, “I need to learn to see better.” He apologizes for all the awful things that have happened to Sansa, as he recounts her wedding. She flees, unnerved by his powers and what he’s seen of her experiences. Bran may be powerful, but he does have a long way to go in understanding how to handle the flow of information running through him.
In Oldtown, Archmaester Ebrose is scrutinizing Jorah, who has had a miraculous recovery from greyscale. He’s terribly scarred, but healthy and alive. The archmaester is rightly suspicious of the story that he simply got better. He discharges Jorah from the Citadel, since he’s not infectious anymore, and has Sam come to him later.
Sam confesses immediately under questioning and suffers a nasty tongue-lashing from Ebrose, and that’s about it. As punishment for the risks he took, he has to copy some old moldy books, but he gets to stay in the Citadel.
On Dragonstone, with the threat of Euron’s fleet looming large, Daenerys proposes attacking them with the dragons- with herself piloting the mission. Her advisers don’t like the plan though, since she can be killed easily. They’re hoping the taking of Casterly Rock will go better, especially with Tyrion’s well-narrated plan.
To take down the seat of House Lannister, Tyrion uses his extensive knowledge of the Casterly Rock sewers and a secret passageway that allows a handful of Unsullied soldiers to access the impregnable castle. Because as Bronn once said of the Eyrie in season one, “Give me ten good men, and I’ll impregnate the bitch.”
The Unsullied cut through the Lannisters easily, in a skillful but unmoving sequence. When they’re done with the butchery, Grey Worm notices the low number of Lannister men- because they’re mostly somewhere else. Not the Greyjoys though- Euron’s fleet arrives at Casterly Rock to burn the Unsullied’s ships at sea and strand them there.
So where are the Lannisters?
Paying Olenna and Highgarden back for joining up with Daenerys, that’s where they are.
The Lannisters, with the support of the Tarlys (and Bronn, hey girl I just saw Bronn!), take the House Tyrell seat swiftly. As the Queen of Thorns notes, fighting isn’t their forte. He finds Olenna Tyrell waiting for him, and he pours the woman a drink.
As they speak, he confesses to leaving Casterly Rock wide open for the taking- it’s not worth much these days. There’s confessions galore: Olenna also points out his love for Cersei that will likely be his end. She knows she’s done for, and is just waiting to find out how she’ll be ended. She’s cool as a cucumber to the very end, our Queen of Thorns. Jaime grants her a graceful end- a painless poison in her glass of wine. She knocks it back in a long swallow without hesitation.
As a final, beautiful middle finger, Olenna Tyrell confesses one more thing- to Joffrey’s murder. She didn’t know his poison death would be so gruesome, having never seen that poison do its work. She asks Jaime to make sure to tell Cersei- she wants her to know it was her. Shaken, Jaime leaves while Olenna’s head is still held high.
The Big Meeting: I was worried it would turn into a googly-eyed sexy-tension fest between Jon and Dany, but I was pleased with how layered their interactions were. These are two characters with strong motivations and they’re not going to lose them at the drop of a hat.
Tyrion & Dany, on the Case: Everyone’s pretending for a year that Jon wasn’t dead and in the Night’s Watch and making him king and stuff, and NOW people are asking questions. ’bout damned time!
The Queen of Thorns: Live like a boss, die like a boss. That’s her way. Diana Rigg, always and forever a queen.
Callback Central: I’m loving all the callbacks in this episode and the season in general. It doesn’t feel lazy, it feels like continuity in a lived world. Even the musical motifs with the recurring touches of “Rains” feel right.
The Rock and the Garden: I get that the fall of the two castles weren’t necessarily intended to be major battle pieces, but considering how much we saw of the Unsullied and Lannisters fighting in the montage, it still felt weirdly sterile. It felt as though we were watching a recap video, which affords a lot of detachment, and feeling uninvolved is not where I want to be with any TV show. They’re well done on a technical level, but they’re not hitting me in the heart. If it wasn’t for the Queen of Thorns, I would’ve felt pretty unsatisfied with the last couple scenes.
MVP: Davos, the ultimate wingman and best improvisational announcer guy!
Stark & Stark: Another Stark reunion! But a bittersweet one. They’re not kids anymore, and a lot has happened.