This week Luka and I discuss “The Queen’s Justice.” We chat about that most highly anticipated of character crossovers, weigh in on the possibility that certain characters may own jet packs and try to figure out what the hell is going on with Jaime.
Luka: Want to start at the beginning?
Petra: With Ice and Fire finally meeting?
Petra: I thoroughly enjoyed watching Jon and Daenerys meet for the first time. It felt like one of those crossovers in the Arrowverse, when Supergirl teams up with The Flash or the Legends of Tomorrow meet Oliver Queen. There was this wonderful playfulness to the writing: Davos attempting polite smalltalk with Missandei; the list of Daenerys’ many, many titles being followed by “This is Jon Snow.” I got the sense that the writers were having fun.
Luka: I think that reaction was Kit Harington’s best comedy acting on the show to date, when he looks back at Davos and gives him a look like, “There has to be more than that.” So Davos adds, “He’s king in the North.”
Petra: [Laughs] And I like how the conflict between them developed. We kind of knew that they were going to clash. The assumption was that they were either going to fulfill all of the fan fiction prophesies and bang on the spot – which they didn’t – or else that they were going to disagree.
Luka: They clashed about completely reasonable things. And I very much like that in the following scene between Tyrion and Jon brooding on the cliffs Tyrion rightly pointed out that Daenerys has absolutely no reason to believe him: Jon’s an unknown quantity from the North telling her about ice zombies. It’s not a believable story without evidence. There was a reaction amongst fans, like, “Come on, believe him! Believe him!” People seem to think that just because she has dragons that she has to believe in every kind of magic and I don’t think that’s reasonable.
Petra: I also like how the tone of their first conversation shifted the moment she said, “On behalf of House Targaryen I ask your forgiveness for the crimes [my father] committed against your family and I ask you not to judge a daughter by the sins of her father.” There was some degree of give and take in that conversation. Neither of them entered into it with the intention to be pig-headed and stubborn. They were two people being brutally honest with each other with conflicting priorities. And I like how their respective personalities were brought out in who did the most talking. Davos spoke for Jon and built him up with that stirring monologue but Daenerys monologued for herself. I love that.
Luka: It’s always been Davos’ job to speak up for people who aren’t very talkative. First Stannis and now Jon.
Petra: He’s a great PR guy.
Luka: There were a lot of references to previous episodes in “The Queen’s Justice.” In no particular order:
- Jon and Tyrion addressed each other as “bastard” and “dwarf,” as they did more derisively in the pilot.
- Davos and Tyrion referred to their former enmity at the Battle of the Blackwater, though they haven’t acknowledged that Tyrion indirectly killed Davos’ son, Matthos… yet
- Tyrion checked up on Sansa because … of course he would
- Jon and Daenerys defended their decisions to each other by appealing to historical predecessors like Torrhen Stark and the Mad King
- Jon and Daenerys commiserated over losing two brothers
- Jon agreed not to hold Aerys II’s actions against Daenerys just as he refused to hold Alys Karstark and Ned Umber accountable for their fathers’ crimes.
- When Daenerys said, “We all enjoy what we’re good at” and Jon said “I don’t” – presuming that what Jon is good at is killing and being a warrior – it felt very reminiscent of that final conversation between Daenerys and Barristan in season 5 in which Barristan corrected Viserys’ old assertions about Rhaegar and stated that Rhaegar may have been great at killing but he didn’t like it at all. It was, perhaps, a “like father like son” moment.
The reason I’m pointing out all these callbacks is because we tend to take the emotional impact of these meetings and reunions for granted. But the only reason we care so much about these moments is because we’ve had six seasons of television leading up to them. I don’t think these callbacks are just reminders of past events or opportunities for exposition. I think they’re intended to demonstrate what a show with such a rich history is built upon.
Petra: That it’s all a culmination, that’s when we reach the end it’ll have meant something. There was actually one callback to a previous season that you didn’t mention that relates to the King’s Landing storyline.
Petra: I thought it was interesting that when Cersei learned that Myrcella had been killed at the beginning of season 6, what haunted her was the thought that her daughter was decaying little by little every day and that is exactly what she subjected Ellaria to. She took her own worst nightmare and imposed it on someone else. That is Aerys II territory.
Luka: That makes that scene even worse to watch.
Petra: It does, doesn’t it? I had to rewatch that scene to prepare for this dialogue and I never want to watch it again. It’s just too horrifying.
Luka: I’d watch it a thousand more times just for the acting. It was fucking amazing.
Petra: There was one line that Lena Headey delivered in particular that got me. She said, “You took her away from me. Why did you do that?” There’s this odd vulnerability, this odd child-like sincerity to the way she asked that question.
Luka: It’s strangely innocent for Cersei.
Petra: I expected that Ellaria, Tyene and Yara would suffer this episode but I thought that their torture would have a different impact on Jaime. I thought it would mark the beginning of Jaime finally breaking away from Cersei, that she would have too much fun killing them and Jaime would finally start valonqar-ing up. Then he let her suck him off instead. And I was like, “Ok.”
Luka: I think it’s implied that Jaime doesn’t know what she’s doing in the dungeons.
Petra: How can he not figure it out? Considering he talked her out of torturing Olenna to death, he has to know those women didn’t die peacefully.
Luka: But that’s not the same thing as knowing what actually happened. What Cersei did is worse than anything Jaime could ever imagine.
Petra: Maybe. I guess I just expected Jaime to have more of a moral compass at this point than he seems to. I think a lot of people, myself included, had started to think of him as a fully redeemed hero who only had a tangential connection to his sister left. We were very much wrong. Regardless of whether he knows the full extent of what Cersei did to Ellaria and Tyene, he’s still … I don’t know the right way to put it.
Luka: He’s under her spell.
Petra: Exactly! That’s how he sounded when he was speaking to Olenna and she told him “[Cersei]’s a monster. You do know that?” And he more or less answered, “To you, I’m sure. To others as well. But after we’ve won and there’s no one left to fight and she’s killed all of our enemies and we’re living in peace everything will be fine!” That’s more or less what Daenerys said to Olenna last episode and Olenna was like, “No, sweetheart. That’s never going to happen.” So, I thought it was interesting to hear this much older man expressing the same naïve outlook as Daenerys to the very same person. He still has this bizarre, idealistic image of Cersei in spite of everything he’s learned to the contrary.
Luka: I don’t see it as an idealistic image of Cersei. I see it as Jaime trying to convince himself that Cersei is worth saving. Because the alternative is to kill her, the woman he loves.
Petra: I like the parallel between Cersei and Jaime poisoning people who killed their children. Cersei did it in the most horrendous way imaginable while Jaime – who didn’t know that Olenna killed Joffrey at the time, but still – went out of his way to make sure it was as painless as possible. So, whatever Jaime may think, he’s still fundamentally different from Cersei.
Luka: I want to address the criticism that Jaime’s character development has been frozen for three seasons. I see this mostly from book readers and I think I know why. The last time we saw Jaime in the books, he burned Cersei’s letter calling for aid but we’re way beyond that point in the show, now. Assuming that Jaime survives whatever happens between him and Lady Stoneheart and assuming that he’s the one who ends Cersei’s reign of terror, he’ll have to meet with Cersei again. I wonder if people seriously think he’ll just arrive back at King’s Landing and dispatch Cersei immediately, that there won’t be any more relational development between them before their inevitable end. If that is, indeed, what ends up happening in ASOIAF, then I’ll probably prefer the show’s version. Moreover, just because Jaime’s intermittently with Cersei doesn’t mean he isn’t a character in his own right. He’s still under her spell but he’s also the protagonist of his own subplots. He had a storyline exploring fatherhood with Myrcella, of living up to the family name in Tywin’s shadow, and this season, of course, of trying to make the best out of the shitty situation that is Cersei’s mad reign.
Petra: I just want to say that I am really enjoying King’s Landing, now. It is batshit crazy and I love it. Cersei’s servants have styled themselves after her Vulcan haircut. She’s painting on the floor. She’s got Euron Greyjoy riding into the Great Hall on a horse. She’s openly fucking her brother. She’s having so much fun and I am feeding off of her joy. Between her and Euron … they’re such happy bad people!
Luka: I never thought I’d hear Euron say, “What a twat” or “a finger in the bum,” but I’m delightfully surprised.
Petra: Yeah, he’s one of those bad guys who has fun doing what he does. He’s just so free. And the juxtaposition of his joy with Yara’s despair adds to the madness.
Luka: Do you want to move up North and talk about the Winterfell scene?
Petra: Watching Sansa rule gives me life. She finally has power and she’s utilizing it to make good decisions. I feel such palpable relief hearing her give an order and watching people obey her.
Luka: She balanced making decisions with acknowledging that she doesn’t know everything and heeding others people’s counsel.
Petra: It’s what Tywin told Tommen in season 4, “Wisdom is knowing what you know and what you don’t know.” That’s Sansa. She knows what she doesn’t know and she defers to those around her.
Luka: And the Citadel?
Petra: Maester Ebrose got this close to awarding 100 points to Gryffindor
Petra: And you got more Jorah.
Luka: I got my Jorah. That handshake …
Petra: That was precious.
Luka: One of the most understated emotional moments in the history of the show, for me. Iain Glen really sold what it means to Jorah to be touched again. And Sam didn’t even hesitate. He’s the best guy in Westeros.
Luka: I also want to mention Casterly Rock, which you might appreciate because I’m comparing that sequence to something involving the Greyjoys.
Luka: I’m not so fond of narrated battle montages and I think that’s partially because of Yara’s failed attempt to rescue Theon in season 4 which, to me, only had one problem: editing. I would have loved to see Yara read Ramsay’s letter to her men and give her motivational speech and then head into her rescue attempt. But instead, we’ve got Yara’s angry speech intermixed with the ironborn stealthily approaching the Dreadfort and Ramsay having sex with Myranda, none of which make tonal sense with each other. So when Tyrion began narrating the siege of Casterly Rock I was worried. But the editing won me over because the narration actually complimented what it was playing over. First we got the fakeout with the Unsullied failing to climb the walls as Tyrion recalls Tywin’s assurances that the castle would always stand. And then there’s Grey Worm’s reveal just as Tyrion mentions that his degrading job with the sewers is finally paying off after so many years, which, by the way makes Tywin indirectly responsible for the fall of Casterly Rock.
Petra: I fully expected Grey Worm to die this episode. When he took off his helmet, I was 100% prepared for an arrow to stick him in the neck. I genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen in that scene. Minute-by-minute that sequence had me guessing and it’s a testament to the writing that, seven seasons in, Game of Thrones can still be so unpredictable.
Luka: Speaking of unpredictability and Casterly Rock and Highgarden, we should probably address the passage of time this season.
Petra: It does not bother me. There’s my two-cents right there.
Luka: I don’t understand why people have a problem with it. It would be one thing if it were something new to the show but months pass between scenes and chapters – often out of linear order – in the very first season and book. Do you remember when, in season one, in the fraction of a second, we cut from the news that Robert was heading North to the actual day of his arrival? Or when Tyrion traveled from the Wall to the Riverlands in a single episode off-screen, just as Catelyn did from Winterfell to King’s Landing. This isn’t new. It has nothing to do with jet packs. Time just passes, as it does in any work of fiction.
Petra: It just doesn’t hurt my suspension of disbelief to see Jaime in King’s Landing and then have him show up at Highgarden in the same episode. It just doesn’t. Bryan Cogman addressed this on Twitter, pretty good-heartedly, I think.
You know… days, weeks even, can pass between scenes in your fave movies and TV shows!
— Bryan Cogman (@b_cogman) August 1, 2017
Luka: I suspect the reason book readers specifically (though not exclusively) have an issue with the time jumps is because of the way ASOIAF’s narration used to fill in the gaps, back when the show and the books paralleled each other more closely. I think in the earlier seasons, book readers were sort of supplementing the time jumps with the description in the books.
Petra: Well, we never actually “see” Jaime lose his hand in ASOIAF. Jaime only thinks about it afterwards. Similarly, Catelyn, Arya and Sansa only ever reflect on those earth-shattering moments they learned about their loved ones deaths. We don’t notice those time jumps because we reorganize the events into a linear timeline in our heads. But that’s not how the books are actually written.
Luka: This week the criticism was especially strange to me. Sometimes I understand how a time jump can feel abrupt but in “The Queen’s Justice” they were all absolutely necessary. Jaime and Euron’s actions were intended to surprise us.
Petra: I wouldn’t want anything to replace that extraordinary shot of Jaime and the Lannister army outside of Highgarden. If you had to build up to that moment for two episodes it would have lost impact.
Luka: There was a Forbes article published recently that suggested that we should have seen Euron and Jaime departing for Casterly Rock and Highgarden to make their arrivals less abrupt … which would have ruined the surprise … which was the entire point!
Petra: Yeah, that really doesn’t make sense.
Luka: Any thoughts for next episode?
Petra: I’m really excited for “The Spoils of War,” though it’s probably going to be brutal. Like I said, I fully expected Grey Worm to die this episode so however many scenes he has left feels like borrowed time to me. Though I am curious to watch Euron battle an entire army of eunuchs. Given his previous strategy, I wonder if he’ll just spew dick jokes the whole time, if he’ll be incapable of doing much more than listing all the body parts he has that they don’t.
Luka: Did you ever play Monkey Island as a kid? It’s a computer game from the Stone Age about a boy who wants to be a pirate. There’s sword fighting involved but instead of actually fighting with swords you exchange insults. Maybe that’s what we’ll get next week, in which case Euron will probably win since the Unsullied don’t really have a sense of humor … though maybe Grey Worm may have learnt something from Tyrion. Maybe that drinking scene in season 6 wasn’t useless after all!
Petra: Just a duel of words between Euron and Grey Worm next episode? I’m alright with that.