Monday, July 31, 2017

The Queen's Justice

This week, Game of Thrones served up a big serving of "The Queen's Justice." And though it's taking things a bit out of order, that title seems a good place to start: it was a big episode for Cersei.

In another preening bit of showmanship, Euron Greyjoy returned to King's Landing to deliver Ellaria Sand and her one remaining daughter into Cersei's hands, where a coldly devised torture awaited: Cersei would kill Ellaria's daughter in the same way Ellaria killed Myrcella... only Ellaria would be made to watch the ordeal. It was another perfect demonstration of how Cersei's mind works, giving back exactly what she got, magnified several times. As they say, a Lannister pays his (or her) debts.

Staying with the Lannisters (and still taking things quite out of order), it was a big week for Jaime too. He got to be the beneficiary of his sister's new "I don't care who knows we're in a relationship, I'm the queen" policy. It's a narratively intriguing turn of events, as it arguably brings the two closer than they've ever been before, in the same episode that would later rather concretely confirm the theory that the entire saga will end in quite the opposite place.

That confirmation came when Jaime marched his army on the Tyrells (with Bronn making a brief return!). A bait-and-switch, leaving the now strategically useless Casterly Rock vulnerable, provided Jaime the forces to bring down another of Cersei's hated enemies. But Lady Olenna, aka the Queen of Thorns, stung with her barbs one last time before falling to poison. She gleefully confessed that it was her, not Tyrion, who murdered Joffrey. Moreover, she predicted that at some point, Jaime would come to see what a monster Cersei is, and would feel no choice but to do something about it.

In that prediction, I have no doubt that Olenna is right. George R.R. Martin littered book four with foreshadowing that that would come to pass. But the question is, after all that Cersei has done so far, what more could happen now that would be the "final straw" with Jaime? Will it have to do with the showboating Euron? Or perhaps it will involve Tyrion? Jaime has always had a soft spot for his younger brother. Jaime now has outside confirmation of Tyrion's innocence in Joffrey's death, though it seems quite possible that Cersei won't believe it, continuing her lifelong vendetta against the brother she hates.

Vendetta or no, Tyrion is continuing to aid Cersei's enemies. The meeting between Jon Snow and Daenerys finally happened, and would surely have been a disaster without Tyrion there to broker an agreement between them. With both leaders understandably stubborn, yet slightly open, it was left to Tyrion to carve out the middle path of Dany giving Jon the "worthless" dragonglass as a gesture of goodwill. That alliance had better be in the best condition it can be before Bran comes along with the revelation that Dany is not, in fact, the last Targaryen, and that it is Jon with the more proper blood claim to the Iron Throne. Not that his word alone is likely to mean much to anyone else.

Speaking of Bran, he reunited with his sister Sansa at long last... but it was not the reunion she (and by extension, the audience) might have been hoping for. It turns out that becoming the Three-Eyed Raven makes you profoundly creepy. Quite timely, him arriving to claim that he can see everything, just moments after Littlefinger gave exactly that strategic advice to Sansa: act as though you've seen it all, and imagine everything that ever could be. Bran can now truly do that, not that he would use such abilities in the sorts of ways Littlefinger would. (And also, not that Sansa necessarily needs the help. As demonstrated in the episode, she's quite the effective leader, hardened and practical by her many ordeals.)

The rest of the episode was fleshed out with brief appearances, teasing future developments. Melisandre predicted not only her death, but that of Varys. Theon was fished out of the sea, to (not?) fight another day. Jorah was cured of his greyscale, and Sam got an upgrade from chamberpot duty to copying out books. (Hey, time with books. It's grunt work that's right up Sam's alley.) Jorah is now back out in the world, leaving us to wonder what one man can do to help Dany.

Ahead: what will Daenerys do when she learns she's now lost both of her major allies in Westeros? Continue pursuing an alliance with Jon, sure... but she is a dragon, and one imagines some sort of fiery vengeance is in store. Now than Bran has finally reconnected with the other main characters of the story, what role will he play it it?

Come along, as next week takes us across the halfway point of the season. As for this week? The best so far of the season, I think. If for nothing else, Olenna's stoic and defiant death carries it to a grade A in my book.

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