We’re almost over halfway done with the penultimate season of Game of Thrones and yet the third episode of the season entitled “The Queen’s Justice” was a nonsensical variety hour of drawn-out meandering conversations, more soulless battles, and meaningless kills.
The day we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived! What do you get when you put nothing with nothing? The ship of the century….Deadpan and Cardboard! Those pseudonyms couldn’t possibly more accurately describe these two.
Jon surprisingly teleports to Dragonstone at the start of the episode rather than Weiseroff’s usual methods of keeping anything ‘important’ for the end of the episode. He, of course, brought a decent amount of men with him right? Someone heading warily into a situation that all of his advisers warned him about would certainly take necessary precautions…Not good ol’ King Snow! He arrives with Davos and just five men. Now, keep in mind, his plan was to mine for the dragon glass and transport it back to the North…did he not anticipate needing more hands to do so? Or did he just assume Dany would happily and readily supply men to do all the work for him?
Upon his landing we see Dothraki for the first time this season – yes! They exist! They did indeed cross the narrow sea, no narrow feat for a culture that fears the open water and rejects the land across the sea, insisting the world ends with Essos! One would think that would have been a meaningful moment to show the Dothraki first touching down on Westeros, but why show when you can just tell in a visual medium? That’s the D&D’s rule of thumb after all! Instead we just see them wearing some sad ponchos to cover up their chests in that frosty winter weather.
The first reunion of the episode happens immediately, between Jon and Tyrion and it just is a whole pot of nothing. These two characters may not have a long history, but they have a deep one. They genuinely bonded during their journey from Winterfell the Wall and Tyrion helped Jon (even more so on the show as he also gives Jon Donal Noye’s “check your privilege” speech) come to terms with his place in the world and his future. Back when Tyrion’s fondness for ‘cripples, bastards, and broken things’ was enough to name an episode after it, Tyrion’s relation to Jon as being an outsider in his own family was essential to Jon’s growth and understanding.
Absolutely none of that is felt. Instead they discuss Sansa and Tyrion is oh-so sweet when he tells Jon how smart his child bride is and makes more jokes about alcoholism. Tyrion wants to know how Jon went from a Night’s Watch recruit to the King in the North, quite an up-jump one might say, but Jon can’t say because this episode sets up that his resurrection is a secret for some reason….and EXCUSE THE GIANT HORRIFIC CGI DRAGON COMING THROUGH. Just as Jon reminds Tyrion he’s not a Stark, a dragon literally rides by. It’s that subtle kind of storytelling that really sets Thrones apart.
Meanwhile, Poor Mel is watching them walk up the stairs in real time just like us and seems a bit hesitant to be on the same island as the person who banished her and the other one who called for her death. However, her brooding is interrupted by sassy Varys, who makes his distaste of her and her religion quite plain. He asks her why she’s hiding up on this mountain instead of going to watch her two favs meet but Mel declares her work is done as she’s ‘brought ice and fire together.” She’s going to be heading over to Volantis for a much needed vacation but tells Varys not to worry, she’ll be back in Westeros one more time…to die. I guess this is supposed to be ominous? Or a goodbye? I really don’t know. I just know that Carice Van Houten and Conleth Hill made this scene enjoyable and are too good for this crap.
Back inside, Dany is in position on the throne to welcome Jon to Dragonstone and she asks him to bend the knee. Jon refuses and thus begins the most meandering conversation of the episode and the moment we were supposed to be waiting for. Dany read up on her Westerosi history and reminds Jon that Torrhen Stark was the last King in the North, (the King Who Kelt,) who bent the knee to Aegon the Conquerer. Jon counteracts by reminding her that her father killed both Rickard and Brandon Stark, his grandfather and uncle respectively, but gives absolutely no mention of Rhaegar and Lyanna. The general consensus is that Rhaegar raped Lyanna, as Sansa reminded Littlefinger in the crypts of Winterfell, and it’s the crime most worth mentioning here as their relationship is what needs seeding in for what will be the future reveal. It’s the only meaningful piece of exposition necessary here and it’s nowhere to be found. It’s the most direct tie-in to Jon and also the biggest tear down of Dany’s argument because the whole realm knew Aerys was mad but they all loved the crowned prince. The lack of any subtle seeding of the Lyanna and Rhaegar situation on this show has been ridiculous and it really is no wonder they needed to release a flow chart for their audience to even comprehend Jon’s parentage.
Dany asks of Jon what he demanded of his people, not judging a child for the sins of their father. It’s something Jon fought for in the North when he pardoned Alys Karstark and Ned Umber, allying with them and their houses. Yet something he also eventually forgets later in this conversation. A lot of people do some misremembering or meandering here as Dany also apparently believes that there were three centuries of peace and prosperity under the Targaryen rule. Oh, sweet summer child. To achieve that fictional peace and prosperity again she will grant him the title of the Warden of the North, he just needs to bend the knee.
They can’t reach a compromise and Jon finally brings up the Army of the Dead approaching. It might be the thing you want to start with instead of insulting her and her family, but I guess the King in the North has his own strange diplomatic tactics. Or he doesn’t, because Davos steps in to try and alleviate the tension and Tyrion quickly does the same to prevent his wild toddler from running amok and losing them an ally. Once the children have cooled off, Jon gives Dany an incredible compliment by telling her she’s better than Cersei because she doesn’t want to kill thousands of innocent people, again someone failing to recognizing that the siege on King’s Landing would mean not just starving the noble people out, but the common people that also live within those walls. I guess death by fire is still taboo, so death by starvation it is!
Dany is just epitomizing the spoiled child mentality here and Jon is the stubborn toddler. Tyrion tries to reason with Jon, who hurt Dany’s ego when he called her a child playing for the meaningless throne by saying what I shouted at my television while watching it, “If it doesn’t matter, then you might as well kneel.” Jon went there knowing he was meeting a Queen who would ask him to bend the knee. He also went there knowing he needs something from her, not the other way around. He needs that dragon glass, and if she would be willing, her power and her dragons. She does not need him…not yet. Neither of them yet know that she lost two of her biggest allies and so this pre-emptive stubbornness and bargaining before the sides were really even enough to bargain just felt like wheel spinning in conversation form.
Just as Dany is about to name Jon a traitor and rebel, Varys shuffles in to whisper the bad news and so she decides to spare Jon the cruelty and give him a nice meal and bath instead. He asks if he is a prisoner and she replies in her ever so cool deadpanned voice ‘not yet,’ and we’re left in shock that apparently coming here himself was a bad idea. Strange…it’s almost as if someone had warned us about it.
Jon and Tyrion have a heart to heart later on some rolling hills. The entire island is apparently deserted. No common folk…no Dothraki. Did Tyrion’s plan lave Dany completely undefended? They talk about brooding, (#emmyawardwinningwriting) and Tyrion lets Jon know he believes him. Jon however is just sad at being kept prisoner and wants to peace out. He recognizes he was a dumb ass for coming here himself and not sending an envoy, but we never get to have a moment this episode to recognize that this wasn’t just a failure on Jon’s part (which we know it will turn out not being) but also Sansa being right. Tyrion goes on to remind Jon of his own lesson, that children are not their fathers, because Jon is still being all prejudiced about Targaryens. (He should probably come to terms with that before he learns of his parentage).
He tells Jon that Dany is no monster. “She protects people from monsters. That’s why she came here…” Only we just heard her deadpan that speech earlier where she said the only thing keeping her going is herself and her right, not the people or her cause, so I’m not sure what ass Tyrion is pulling that praise from. He also needs to spell out the way forward for Jon and asks what feasible thing can he ask of Daenerys to start fostering that alliance.
Tyrion brings said info to Dany and she immediately starts whining and asking why they are talking about this when they just lost two of their allies, but Saint Tyrion is there to mansplain the situation for her once again. They now are in need of an ally, and they have a huge one on their shores.
Following this was a cute moment that was actually funny and the only time I’ve actually felt like these two where a pair rather than a commander (Tyrion) and a puppet queen. When she asks him what his thoughts on the White Walker threat are, Tyrion quotes, “You should never believe a thing simply because you want to believe it,” a phrase he says was said by “an old wise man”. She calls him out, asking how often he dresses his own quotes up to have been said by and old wise man and the two share a knowing smile. I hate the character choice of Tyrion constantly quoting and thus fellating himself, but the moment poking fun at it was good. Mostly just because Emilia Clarke was actually allowed to bust out a smile! One almost forgot she could.
The cute moment is quickly erased when he again mansplains that she didn’t even know about the glass, let alone need it, and that giving him something while actually giving him nothing is the best way to secure him. It’s literally just How to Make Allies 101, but Dany is actually just a child foolish in the ways of war and needs to be talked through every situation.
Dany gives Jon the good news, not before reminding him that like her, he lost two brother as well. (She’s hooked up good to that Weiseroff twitter because she apparently knows Bran is alive). She will not only let him mine for dragon glass, but will also give him resources and men (which is good because he brought none…wow, Jon is really lucking out here) and we get a music cue of emotional significance. The music cues this episode were beyond heavy handed and it’s starting to become apparent that even the production value is crumbling.
Everyone’s favorite erratically written Jack Sparrow knockoff is leading Yara on a leash as well as chained up Tyene and Ellaria with their robes opened through the cheering crowds of Kings Landing. If this is not #womeontop and Empowerment™ I don’t know what is. Euron bends down to tell Yara the cheering of the crowd is making him hard, makes fun of Theon, and waves to his adoring fans like a Vegas show act. We got the information last episode that the people despised Cersei for what she did and yet here we’re greeted with cheering crowds. So, are these people in favor of a highborn with no claim to the throne blowing up their place of worship, their favorite queen, and taking the throne for herself?
Euron gives Cersei her gift on ‘behalf of fall of your loyal subjects on the Iron Islands’ because I guess we are ignoring the other half of the Greyjoy fleet, and in return Cersei promises him her hand in marriage once the war is won. So yay! We’ve got a lovely betrothal this episode! Paired with the necessary Jaime sitcom reaction shots. The common people in the throne room cheer for their new Queen and one has to really question Varys’ sources from last week because there is not one unhappy face in sight.
We get another Emmy Award worthy line from D&D that needs mentioning when Euron is talking to Jaime about his new betrothed and he asks him for some pointers, questioning “Does she like it gentle or rough? A finger in the bum?” I’m back in middle school, right? Actual professional and award winning adults couldn’t possibly write this dialogue, right?
Then in a scene that is both too long and completely empty, Cersei takes her revenge on her gifts by kissing a chained up Tyene with the same lipstick poison that killed Myrcella as Ellaria is forced to watch. Indira Varma gives way too good of a performance for this crap and what they have done with her character, as Cersei questions why she would have killed Myrcella. Good question, though the writers don’t give us an answer. I really don’t know what they expected us to feel with this scene. We don’t know anything about Tyene to have any sort of empathy or sympathy for the girl. She’s just Bad Pussy Sand Snake. Ellaria has been horrible, killing her lover’s brother and his nephew to avenge his death and also killing an innocent child in Myrcella. While we see Indira Varma’s heartbreak as a mother is forced to watch her daughter die and then decay, one really has to ask why?
Everyone knows the Sand Snakes have been an absolute fail on the television show, as has all of the Dornish plot line, but they have a habit of writing characters that their audience ends up hating (Olly, Ros, Snakes, etc) and killing them off in a really brutal way, reveling in the violence and asking us to cheer the gesture. But they’re the ones who gave us the shit in the first place? You can’t crap on our floors and then explode it away and expect us to marvel at the explosion. Our floors are still ruined. The shit is just gone and now were are left with a bad smell.
I also can’t help but look at the overall treatment of these women on this show and this being their cumulative moment. These four women of color were brought on the show, hyper sexualized, dramatized, catty to no end, and violent. Then we watched the incredibly damaging racist stereotyping punished, spending more time on their torturous or violent deaths than was ever spent on trying to actual characterize and develop these people. It just really doesn’t sit well on any level. I’m also still left puzzling at what we were supposed to ever think of these characters. They were on Dany’s side, and D&D explained just how “vicious” Cersei is on this week’s Inside the Episode, but their only storyline consisted of them killing innocent kin.
Leaving her victims behind, Cersei is mega horny from the torture and murder, so she heads right over to Jaime for a boning session. He first tells her “no” but she keep going anyway…seriously why?! They’re really not trying to seed in the actual unhealthiness of the relationship, so what is the point of this? Other than making the incest not just incest, but non-consensual incest! And of course she also give him a blow job in case we got worried they were too #feminist with the cunnilingus last episode and focusing on the female pleasure, Cersei’s immediate sexual desire is to please Jaime. Again…this could be a further characterization of their toxic relationship, but that’s not where this scene is going. Instead we get a heartwarming scene of the two of them smiling at each other in bed and Cersei letting one of her handmaidens (who is a mini-me of herself) see them together because she’s far beyond the ‘who the fuck cares’ point of her life.
Mini Cersei tells her that she’s got a visitor and it’s Tycho Nestoris from the Iron Bank of Braavos. They discuss the debt owed and her current shaky position as ‘first ruling Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.’ So Cersei pretends here that the Sept of Baelor explosion was a tragic accident, which should have been the story she spins to everyone, but apparently she doesn’t realize the truth has broken out on Westerosi twitter. So are we supposed to understand in-verse that if people know she did it, she would not be supported hence why she’s lying to Tycho? Then why is she still even on that throne?! Also, Hotpie didn’t seem to give a shit.
Mace’s musical trek to Braavos apparently amounted to nothing as the crown’s debt to the bank still stands and Tycho explains that she is on the losing side and there’s no investment to be had there, hinting the bank would throw their bets behind Daenerys. Cersei convinces him that her side is the better side to fall back on as they will pay the debt, and Dany is simply a revolutionary who broke down the slave market that the bank apparently dipped their toes into? She gives him a fortnight for her to get this done, and thus the confusing timeline of teleportation begins!
Back at Winterfell, Sansa is given Jon’s A Dance With Dragons arc in one scene, going through the ins and outs and smaller tasks of command. It’s actually one of the first, if not only, times we’ve ever seen someone in charge really do any of this, the nuance and duties of command as well as the hardships, and she’s doing a bang up job. From discussing their food supplies, suggesting building up their grain stores, to covering breast plates with leather, she’s got it going on, clearly thriving without Jon. She’s also being super sassy to Littlefinger who does not leave her side and delivers the most convoluted line designed for a trailer that I’ve ever heard. “Fight every battle everywhere, always, in your mind…” I think he’s supposed to be giving her advice, but it’s absolutely meaningless dribble.
Luckily it’s interrupted by Bran’s arrival! Yes! A moment we’ve also been waiting for – well ,actually. Stark reunion! Except only Sansa cares. Uh oh! Bran has been infected with Dany’s deadpan disease and has lost the ability to emote. Sansa practically bursts into tears hugging him and he just looks on, unfazed. Now I’m fine with trauma effecting people but you have to fucking seed it in! It’s the same thing they did with Arya last episode. When it comes out of nowhere it’s not development or character complexities. It’s just out of left field and lazy.
The two have a chat by the weirwood tree and Sansa is on a roll, being the first person to actually remember the line of succession this season and remembering that Bran is the rightful lord of Winterfell. However Bran can’t accept his birthright because he’s the three-eyed raven now. Sansa says she doesn’t know what it means and Bran can’t really explain, showing that the show has no idea what the actual purpose of his character was supposed to be, other than handy-dandy exposition central. He then proceeds to grossly remind Sansa of her wedding night to Ramsay, reminding her how beautiful she looked in her ‘white wedding dress’ (the picture of purity) the night she was raped. Clearly and understandably affronted, she excuses herself, running away from this new deadpan, mean, and creepy brother that has appeared out of nowhere.
Jorah is officially cured! No really. Already. All it took was some flaying and ointment and he’s good to go. Even his skin doesn’t look so bad. It must be real surface level stuff…not an internal disease or anything. Jorah tells Sam now that he’s cured he’s got to go back to Dany as he owes her his life, as well as Sam. They handshake goodbye and the music cue of emotional significance is back to remind us that we should be feeling things, even thought he writing doesn’t show us why.
Slughorn scolds Sam for going against his word and breaking the rules, but then congratulates him for saving Jorah’s life. It feels incredibly similar to the trio in Potter getting in trouble only to get let off the hook and awarded house points. Sam somehow managed to succeed where other trained Maesters with forged links have failed, simply because he read the super easy to understand illustrated wikihow of how to cure this deadly disease, and Slughorn is pleased. But not pleased enough to move him up from his menial tasks, which Sam is sadened by because #collegesuckz. On the bright side, he’s lived to see another day at Hogwarts and he’s not expelled, so we’ll wait to see what rule breaking causes Sam to leave Oldtown.
Now for the ‘battle’ scenes this episode. During a meeting happening on Dragonstone, Dany talks of taking her dragons to fly and destroy Euros’s fleet but everyone advises against it as she could get killed. So they put their focus on Casterly Rock, which is for some reason strategically important in this plan but I cannot see why.
Here’s the good part though; (and by good, I mean REAL BAD,) Tyrion narrates this whole attack. (As if he didn’t mansplain to Dany enough…now he has to mansplain to us!). First he narrates over the expected results. He notes Casterly Rock is impregnable at the gates and we watch this imaginary version of the events where the Unsullied stormed the Rock by way of gates and were decimated. However, Tywin apparently built Casterly Rock as we know it, and assigned one part of the building to his beloved son Tyrion; the sewers. When he was building the sewers (yes, they imply that this generation of Lannister were paramount in building the Rock) he built in a secret passage way to sneak in women.
Quoting Bronn, he narrates “Give me ten good men and I’ll impregnate the bitch,” as we watch, in a rather emotionless and disconnected way, the Unsullied take Casterly Rock. Greyworm looks around worried, asking a soldier where are the rest of the Lannister men, that there should have been more, but the viewer doesn’t get to ever experience this feeling. Nothing hits us because the wedge the narration drives through everything.
In the Inside the Episode, Benioff states that, “In order for us to understand that it doesn’t play out the way Tyrion expects it to, you really need to hear Tyrion’s expectations.” That’s not even remotely true, a seriously offensive low blow to the intelligence of the audience, and also a weird perception of what made this scene important. There were no audience expectations because the show never laid any groundwork for Caterly Rock’s defenses. So throwing in this weird expectations vs. reality skit and method of filmmaking was not just lazy, but so off the mark as to why this scene mattered, and how to properly evoke emotion out of the destruction of expectation.
With the voiceover, we had no time to really process the feeling of the Unsullied moving through an eerily lightly guarded Lannister ancestral home. To have that be the focus and then show us Euron’s magically appearing fleet that circumnavigated the continent surprise attack, trapping them there, would have been much more evocative of emotion or tension.
Then comes bait and switch that is supposed to parallel Robb’s tactics to capture Jaime at Whispering Wood, but fail to be even remotely as effective. First of all, we see Robb making these plans and the surprise is on the Lannisters, not the other way around. Here, we had no notion of Jaime’s plan to split up his forces, make the powerful choice to abandon his ancestral home of Casterly Rock, and take the bulk of his men to instead take Highgarden, taking out a massive ally of the opposition rather than defend said home.
Now, I read about this moment in a spoiler leak and, while a lot of the context just will never make sense, the actual execution I thought could be incredibly effecting. Instead we were overloaded with unnecessary voice over, removing us from the actual moments to where we felt as far away from it all as Dany was on Dragonstone. (Not in a good way, as we’re the ones who the bait switch shock is for to sucker punch.) Instead two raging battles were boring, quick, and flat.
We actually never get to see the second battle as we make our way to Highgarden as Benioff and Weiss think of the Tyrells “Fighting isn’t really their forte. They’re not really known for being the most fearsome warriors.” Where they got this misinformation from I have no idea, but I bet it has something to do with Olenna’s line insisting that “golden roses” were never warriors. It’s that toxic masculinity bullshit, but this time based solely on flowery house words and sigils. Now I really feel like I’m in middle school. Maybe this is part of why Loras wasn’t allowed to ever be a knight again. There are no flowery knights…that’s unheard of!
Due to the fact that D&D are of the impression that Highgarden’s forces are weak fighters, we skip ahead to Jaime meeting with Olenna to explain the masterplan..because it still needs explaining. Also, apparently Jaime’s diplomatic streak he exemplified at Riverrun is also gone because the Tyrells were just completely slaughtered. However, Jaime’s kind so he tells Olenna that for her, there will be no pain. She can just drink the poison he has for her to end it rather than a sword through her belly, or worse, if Cersei got her way.
Olenna, after drinking the poison, confesses to Jaime that it was she who murdered Joffrey, much to his shock, and delights in his reaction, telling him to be sure to tell Cersei she was the one who did it. Diana Rigg and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau are brilliant in this scene, but it lost all it’s substance because of how much it needed to tell rather than show. It needed to exposit for the scene before it and background dealings the whole episode. But alas, we get to say goodbye to another talented actor and support her as she no longer has to waste her talents on this ‘tits and dragons’ nonsense.
(*Sidenote apparently the Lannisters went to Casterly Rock first to empty out their larders? So Jaime went from bone zone in King’s Landing to Casterly Rock to Highgarden in a fortnight? And never crossed paths with anyone?!)
That’s the big finale of the episode, “evening out the playing field” for Dany and Cersei, as Benioff and Weiss put it, in the most convoluted nonsensical way possible. It feels like we had to wheel spin for three episodes just to evenly match these two up when they come face to face. I truly think they reached the pinnacle of bad and lazy storytelling with the finale sequence, and am truly mystified as to why they thought the voice over would elevate the tension and shock rather than completely deflate it. And why they also thought we’d rather be shocked by seeing the Lannister forces just show up at Highgarden, rather then obeying the classic rule of suspense and giving the audience the information of the Lannister movements is just bad. And the director of these last two episodes really just isn’t doing it for me. There was no hint of that build up with the camera either.
Help…I kind of miss Cogman.
Next episode is another Benioff and Weiss beauty, but a new director, so we’ll see what the aftermath of this pure shock factory entails!