GAME OF THRONES 7x03

"The Queen's Justice"

"Perhaps we should all be examining what we think we know," Daenerys Stormborn says to Jon Snow, towards the end of "The Queen's Justice."

This sentiment is a theme that recurs throughout the episode, and it's a theme that is at the heart of Game of Thrones. As we've discussed many times before, the Westeros we first encountered back in Season One was a nation of rigid structures based on ancient traditions, a place where every single person knew exactly where they belonged (and didn't), and exactly what they were supposed (and allowed) to do. Starks and Lannisters weren't supposed to ally themselves with Targaryens. Wildlings weren't supposed to cross the Wall, let alone guard it. Women weren't supposed to even fight, let alone rule. Slaves weren't supposed to rise to positions of power. The Unsullied weren't supposed to have feelings. Bastards could never expect to be kings. And everyone knew that White Walkers didn't really exist.

As this season has made very clear, things have changed in the Seven Kingdoms, and many of the previous prejudices and preconceptions have fallen away. Game of Thrones has always been, in part, an exploration of the art of daring to imagine the world differently from how it is and has always been, and this season is seeing the newly imagined world take shape. "Dragonstone" was about the need to move on from the past in order to protect the future. "Stormborn" was largely about new alliances based not on rigid structural roles but on individual qualities of character.

Now, "The Queen's Justice" proves that the need to keep questioning everything you take for granted never goes away. Even the radicals and revolutionaries need to let go of their old ideas, and failures of imagination can be fatal.

"We don't have time for any of this."

Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington in GOT 7x03 - The Queen's Justice

Last week I talked about how much of the pleasure and tension of this season comes from seeing some of our favorite characters interact with each other for the very first time, without knowing all the things we know. And, surely, no meeting in the history of Game of Thrones has been more greatly anticipated than the one between Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow.

"The Queen's Justice"—written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and directed by Mark Mylod—plays on our expectations for this encounter in interesting ways. There's even a sense in which this long-awaited meeting turns out to be something of an anti-climax. (But then, how could it not be?) It's not that they fail to instantly recognize each other as kindred spirits or fall into each other's arms. (Such a connection—if it ever comes—must be earned.) It's not even that they don't much like each other. (Dany took a much greater shine to Yara, for example.) It's more that the show plays straight with them, and with us, by acknowledging that they don't even know why this meeting is important. They both have other, seemingly more pressing matters on their minds, and neither of them really cares very much about the other.

Dany is fairly insufferable throughout this scene, but you almost have to feel sorry for her. After all, this is a big day for her. This is the first Lord of Westeros she's met since she arrived on these shores, the first representative of the great houses she has heard about and dreamed about confronting all her life. She grew up on all the family stories, she's nursed all the inherited resentments, she's made all her plans for revenge, and she has come ready to play. She's never had much of a problem speechifying about her accomplishments and agenda on a moment's notice, but we suspect the speech she gives here is one she's been rehearsing for a long time:

"I spent my life in foreign lands. So many men have tried to kill me, I don't remember all their names. I have been sold like a broodmare. I have been shamed and betrayed, raped and defiled. Do you know what kept me standing through all those years in exile? Faith. Not in any gods. Not in myths and legends. In myself. In Daenerys Targaryen. The world hadn't seen a dragon in centuries until my children were born. The Dothraki hadn't crossed the sea, any sea. They did for me. I was born to rule the Seven Kingdoms, and I will."

And Jon, honestly, could not care less. He doesn't care about her crusade, he doesn't care about her birthright, he doesn't even care who sits on the Iron Throne. "We don't have time for that!" he bellows. "We don't have time for any of this."

Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) in GAME OF THRONES 7X03 - THE QUEEN'S JUSTICE

As Tyrion points out later, Jon's had unreasonable expectations for this meeting: there was no way he was going to show up, mumble a few vague, inarticulate warnings about an Army of the Dead—without offering any evidence—and convince Dany that the one thing she's always wanted doesn't really matter at all. This was his failure of imagination: not to realize that Dany would not instantly recognize the threat of the White Walkers and agree to band together. ("It's hard for me to fathom, it really is!" he says to Tyrion later, in exasperation.) The White Walkers made such an impression on him at Hardhome, he can't believe anyone can think about anything else.

(Watching the new King in the North cluelessly attempt diplomacy, I was reminded of the scene in the recent Spider-Man: Homecomingwhen the criminal Spider-Man is trying to interrogate for information gives him a bit of free advice: "You've got to get better at this part of the job." King Jon really needs to brush up on his international relations, or else he needs to let Davos do all his negotiating for him.)

Nonetheless, Jon is right: Dany just doesn't know it yet. Dany showed up to play one game—with every intention of winning—and the very first opponent she encounters tells her that that game has been called off, and there's this other, more important game over here. ("Because right now, you and I and Cersei and everyone else, we're children playing at a game, screaming that the rules aren't fair," he tells her.)

Dany doesn't even know the rules of the new game: she doesn't know, for example, that—as we discussed last week—loyalty is based on personal trust and merit now, not on inherited titles and ancient oaths of fealty. ("And why would I do that?" he asks her, when she expects him to bend the knee. "I mean no offense, your grace, but I don't know you. As far as I can tell, your claim to the crown rests entirely on your father's name.") And—more importantly—Dany doesn't know the stakes of this new game. "You'll be ruling over a graveyard, if we don't defeat the Night King," he tells her, sadly.

Basically, everything Dany thought she knew about the way the world works—and perhaps even her place in it—turns out to be wrong. (Her faith in her own incontestable power turns out to be wrong, too, as we see elsewhere in the episode.) It is a funny moment when they first meet: Missandei rattles off Dany's 700 titles and honorifics, but Davos introduces Jon with one line: "This is Jon Snow...he's King in the North." But it also speaks to Dany's need to adjust both her preconceptions and her style: because all that shit doesn't matter anymore. 

Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) in GAME OF THRONES 7x03 - The Queen's Justice

Tyrion and Davos each play diplomat—much better than either of the principles do—smoothing the ruffled feathers and getting Jon and Dany to begin to see not only what's really important, but what they have in common. It's not Jon's style to pontificate about his qualities and accomplishments like Dany does, so Davos has to do it for him:

"You were the first to bring Dothraki to Westeros? He is the first to make allies of wildlings and Northmen. He was named Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. He was named King in the North. Not because of his birthright: he has no birthright, he's a damn bastard. All those hard sons of bitches chose him as their leader because they believe in him. All those things you don't believe in? He faced those things. He fought those things for the good of his people. He risked his life for his people. He took a knife in the heart for his people..."

Then, later, Tyrion plays exactly the same role for Jon, telling him about who Dany really is:

"Children are not their fathers, luckily for all of us. And sometimes there's more to foreign invaders and Northern fools than meets the eye. Daenerys could have sailed to Westeros long ago, but she didn't. Instead, she stayed where she was, and saved many people from horrible fates, some of whom are on this island with us right now. While you're our guest here, you might consider asking them what they think of the Mad King's daughter. She protects people from monsters, just as you do."

All of this is a continuation—for higher stakes—of what we talked about last week and the week before: the importance of recognizing that the past is the past, and it doesn't matter now. No one deserves to pay for the sins of their ancestors. But, by the same token, it's also true that no one deserves to be handed anything because of their ancestors' accomplishments. It is character and values that matter now, not ancient treaties and inherited titles. If Dany and Jon are going to become allies, it will not be because Torrhen Stark bent the knee to Aegon Targaryen three hundred years ago: it will be because they recognize each other as good people.

Dany and Jon in The Queen's Justice

And, deep down, Jon and Dany both know this: they each believe that a ruler has to deserve to rule, by earning the love and trust of their people. (And Jon gets hints of Dany's essential decency: "My father was an evil man," she admits, and offers an unconditional apology for the Mad King's crimes. Jon also recognizes that the only reason Dany hasn't burnt Kings Landing to the ground is that she must not be as eager as Aerys was—and Cersei is—to slaughter innocent people. These qualities—more than any birthrights or oaths—will be what make them allies.)

Fortunately, their second meeting goes far better than their first, because this time they meet as people, not as potentates. (When first they met she was high above him, looking down from her scary throne: now, she waits for him below, outside in the open air, and he comes down to meet her on her level.) They bond—albeit slightly, and still distantly—over their shared, human losses. ("You lost two brothers as well," she observes.) And they bond, subtly, over the shared burden of ruling, and the recognition that rulers often have to do things they don't want to do. ("We all enjoy what we're good at," she says jokingly, about how Tyrion likes to talk. "I don't," he says sadly, and we see her register the point and take a slightly different measure of him.)

They still disagree about who owes whom what according to those ancient treaties, but it doesn't really matter: there are things they can work together on, and Dany has indicated that she is willing to reconsider her stubborn positions and all the other beliefs she's held so fiercely. "Perhaps we should all be examining what we think we know," she says. That's as good a start as we could hope for from the two people with the best chance to usher Westeros into a reimagined new age.

"That was my prize mistake: a failure of imagination."

The Lannisters take Highgarden in GAME OF THRONES 7x03 - The Queen's Justice

It's worth noting that one of the reasons Jon and Dany's second meeting goes better than the first is that, between them, Dany receives evidence that everything is harder and more complicated than she thought it was going to be.

Varys brings her news of the first disaster, which is Euron Greyjoy's sacking of Dany's fleet on its way to King's Landing. That was the first part of Dany's two-pronged attack—to encircle the capital and cut Cersei off from her country—and it failed miserably. This week Dany executes the second part of her plan—to take Casterly Rock, the seat of Lannister power—and it turns out to be an even greater disaster.

Let us be honest about something before we proceed: though I believe the overall quality of Game of Thrones has not faltered over the last few seasons, we are definitely missing George R.R. Martin's patient plotting as Benioff and Weiss venture off his map and sail full steam towards a conclusion. (No one is as patient as Martin—to the pleasure and consternation of his readers.)

Warfare has actually never been a strong suit of anyone involved in Game of Thrones—the War of Five Kings was always vague, and happened largely off-screen—but the suddenness and awkwardness with which Benioff and Weiss have leveled the playing field between Dany and Cersei is a problem. (Particularly frustrating is the show's lack of interest in the realistic logistics of naval warfare: I understand the show doesn't necessarily have the time or budget to stage huge battles on the open sea, but do Euron's one thousand magically constructed ships all have stealth capabilities? They seem to just de-cloak right off the bows of their intended bounties, and destroy their opponents without even a warning, let alone a fight.)

Grey Worm in GAME OF THRONES 7x03 - The Queen's Justice

It's frustrating, but not ultimately that important. What is important is that Dany's seemingly insurmountable advantage has been taken away. Last week she lost the Dornish and Tyrell armies (with two of the Sand Snakes dead, and Ellaria and Tyene captured), and she lost the Greyjoy fleet (with Yara captured). This week, she loses the wealth and resources of Highgarden—which the Lannisters take in a surprise (and surprisingly easy) attack—and her Unsullied are stranded on what turns out to be worthless bit of strategically inconsequential land.

It is interesting to think about how these mistakes were made. Olenna realizes that the Lannisters could have taken Highgarden at any time, and wonders aloud why Tywin didn't do it the moment the Lannisters started running out of money. (Fighting, she admits, "was never our forte.") But the thought probably never occurred to her before, and perhaps it never occurred to Tywin: the Tyrells were an economic power, if not a military one, and until recently they had the loyalty of a lot of strong houses (like Randyll Tarly's). The Lannisters and the Tyrells were always rivals, but they were mutually-valuable allies on paper, and so Tywin's approach was one of diplomacy: forging an alliance with them to win the War of Five Kings, marrying Margaery to Joffrey (then Tommen), and planning to marry Cersei to Loras.

It was, in short, the way things had always been done: the established (if fragile) structure of the Seven Kingdoms depended on these kinds of politically useful partnerships between people who couldn't stand each other. And this one fell apart for personal reasons, not political ones: Cersei's rivalry with Margaery has almost nothing to do with strategy—in fact, it almost destroyed House Lannister—and everything to do with her jealousy over Margaery's popularity with the people and her influence on Cersei's sons. That led to Cersei's petty (and brief) encouragement of the Faith Militant, which led to Margaery, Loras, and Cersei being put on trial, which led to Cersei's destruction of the Sept of Baelor, which led to Olenna defecting to the side of Daenerys Targaryen.

Diana Rigg in GAME OF THRONES 7x03 - The Queen's Justice

All of this is interesting, in part, because of our discussion last week about the kinds of people Dany has found herself allied with. Olenna didn't give a damn about Dany's new world order, or her desire to make a better life for the people: she just wanted revenge on Cersei. Ellaria isn't Dany's kind of person either: in fact, Ellaria killed her own brother-in-law for trying to be the kind of soft-hearted leader Dany is.

What I'm getting at is this: however awkward we find the show's improbable machinations—and we do—it is worth noting that Dany has now lost two allies who were with her for all the wrong reasons, and found a new, spiritually and morally sympathetic potential ally in Jon Snow. The final war for the Seven Kingdoms is shaping up to be—as it should be—a battle between those who have empathy and those who don't.

And we can see this in how it all comes to pass, with a sobering reminder that there's no guarantee empathy and decency will win the day. Tyrion's narration of the siege of Casterly Rock speaks to the humane themes of Game of Thrones: 

"And so it begins. They will face the bulk of the Lannister forces. They will have less armor, and fewer weapons. But my sister's armies fight for her out of fear. The Unsullied will be fighting for something greater. They will be fighting for freedom, and the person who gave it to them. They will be fighting for you. That is why they will triumph."

It's a lovely thought, and one that recurs throughout Game of Thrones. (Before "The Battle of the Bastards," Jon Snow said that fear was Ramsay's weakness too. "His men don't want to fight for him," he said. "They're forced to fight for him.") Since Season One there has been a dividing line between leaders who thought like Twyin Lannister—ruling from completely impersonal strength and power—and leaders who actually cared about the people they rule. That's the real war at the heart of the series: whether there is more strength in empathy and compassion than there is in heartless power and terror.

But it is a war, and one in which the outcome is far from guaranteed. Jon Snow didn't win the Battle of the Bastards because Ramsay's men hated and feared him: as I complained at the time, that didn't end up mattering at all. And the Unsullied don't take Casterly Rock because they love Daenerys: they take it because the Lannisters didn't want it anymore. "The truth is that Casterly Rock isn't worth much anymore," Jaime confesses to Olenna. "Well, it is to me, but my fond childhood memories won't keep Cersei on the throne." Jaime and Cersei win the day by abandoning their childhood home: they surrender sentimentality—and all other human, emotional concerns—and make a decision that is purely strategic.

"Show them how it feels to lose something they love," Catelyn Stark said, when Robb first proposed taking Casterly Rock back in "The Rains of Castamere." But the Lannisters don't make decisions out of love. That, as Tywin once said, is why they win.

Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) in GAME OF THRONES 7x03 - The Queen's Justice

And all of the rapid setbacks Team Daenerys has suffered are due, as Tyrion and Olenna both say, to failures of imagination. "I came down here to brood over my failure to predict the Greyjoy attack," Tyrion says to Jon, about last week's events. And it never occurs to him—it never would occur to him—that Jaime and Cersei would give up Casterly Rock so easily. (After all, Casterly Rock was so important to their father that it became a major point of contention between Tyrion and Tywin. "I would let myself be consumed by maggots before mocking the family name and making you heir to Casterly Rock," Tywin told him once.)

So it is an over-simplification—one I'm sometimes guilty of—to frame the final conflict in Game of Thrones as a battle between the Old Order and the New Order. Politically and strategically, both sides represent something new. (I do not believe Tywin would have ever surrendered Casterly Rock; he never did attack Highgarden; and he certainly would never have agreed to the kinds of personal atrocities Cersei has committed.) Team Cersei is trying to preserve the old hierarchies and power structures, but they are willing to do unprecedented things in order to achieve that goal.

Olenna is one of the last great representatives of the Old World Order, and she ultimately has no place in this newly reimagined world. She could handle Tywin as an equal—they understood each other—but, as she tells Jaime now, she grossly underestimated what Cersei was capable of doing:

"I did unspeakable things to protect my family, or watched them being done on my orders. I never lost a night's sleep over them. They were necessary, and whatever I imagined necessary for the safety of House Tyrell, I did. But your sister has done things I was incapable of imagining. That was my prize mistake: a failure of imagination. She's a monster, you do know that?"

As I said last week, Olenna was something of a monster too, but she was a monster like Tywin was a monster, willing to do what she needed to do to protect the family name. That is a very different breed of monstrosity from what Cersei represents, which is evident in the fact that she waits until now to confess that she murdered Joffrey Baratheon.

Olenna has been a fantastic, formidable character—a grand old dame—and she goes out like one. She's already been killed, and she still gets the last word in her final argument with the Lannisters. It is a final, devastating twist of the knife, on her way out the door.

But consider the fact that the Queen of Thorns almost takes this secret to the grave with her. Poisoning Joffrey was a necessary evil to protect her house (and her granddaughter), but Olenna wasn't proud of it, she didn't enjoy it—she admits she found it quite horrifying, in fact—and she might otherwise never have taunted Cersei with it. If the roles were reversed, Cersei would have wanted Olenna to know what she had done: petty and vindictive, she would have wanted to throw it in Olenna's face, regardless of the consequences. But Olenna confesses it only when she has no house left to protect, when tactics and strategy are completely moot. She was the last great player in the old game, and she never imagined how recklessly cruel and personally vicious this new generation of players could become.

"She was mine, and you took her from me. Why did you do that?"

Cersei (Lena Headey) and Tyene (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) in GAME OF THRONES 7X03 - THE QUEEN'S JUSTICE

I began this season talking about how monstrosity breeds monstrosity, and we see this in the Lannisters' revenge on the two women who killed two of their children. There is a terrible symmetry in each of these punishments. (Obviously, in Olenna's case, they don't know beforehand how appropriate it was to poison The Queen of Thorns. Had they known, of course, it is unlikely that Olenna's death would have been quite so peaceful.)

Ellaria's fate will not be so kind. Her crime was deeply personal, and personally vindictive: there was no strategy or tactics involved, just a heartless desire for vengeance. (It is rare to say that any blow struck against Cersei is undeserved, but this one really was: Myrcella was an innocent, and Oberyn Martell volunteered to enter the ring with the Mountain, seeking payback for yet another monstrosity committed years earlier. And, as Cersei cruelly points out here, his death was his own fault.) But Cersei understands the need for personal vengeance. "I want you to know I understand," she says. "Even though we're enemies, you and I, I understand the fury that drives you."

Cersei's own fury is released now, and she doesn't even pretend it's political. As she did when she taunted Septa Unella last season, she keeps everything very personal. "I never got to have a mother, but Myrcella did," Cersei says now. "She was mine, and you took her from me. Why did you do that?" It seems like an honest question, and it's one of Cersei's most human moments. But then she says it "doesn't matter now." As we've seen time and again on Game of Thrones, the reasons for atrocities don't matter: all they do is lead to further atrocities. In this case, Cersei's plan is to do exactly what Ellaria did, except that Cersei will make Ellaria watch her daughter die.

On one level, we can admire Cersei's restraint—and the show's restraint—in not making this scene worse than it was. (I had every fear that Cersei's plans for Tyene and Ellaria would involve rape, and I was relieved to see they would not.) But it is monstrous enough. "You can't imagine how that feels unless you've lost a child," Cersei says, and she will make Ellaria know exactly how it feels.

Tycho (Mark Gatiss) in GAME OF THRONES 7X03 - THE QUEEN'S JUSTICE

As I've already suggested, Cersei represents an interesting spiritual marriage of something old with something new. She is not Tywin Lannister: she is the inheritor and perpetuator of the entrenched privilege of the old power structure, but not of its traditions and standards. She represents the status quo, but she has her own way of doing things, and her own reasons for doing them. Where Tywin plotted against threats to his house, Cersei plots against people who have pissed her off. Where Tywin cared about protecting the family's name, and ensuring its strength for generations, Cersei cares only about herself and (possibly) her brother. ("I'm Queen of the Seven Kingdoms," she says to Jaime, as she refuses to hide their relationship. "I'll do as I please.")

Cersei's peculiar combination of conservatism and radicalism becomes a theme during her discussion with Tycho, the banker from the Bravos. He congratulates Cersei on helping to free Kings Landing from the "yoke of superstition" imposed by the Faith Militant—those guys could not have been good for business—and he doesn't mind in the slightest how she did it. (Cersei says the destruction of the Sept of Baelor was a tragic accident. "Indeed," says Tycho, smiling. "But sometimes tragedies are necessary to restore order and rational leadership.") As we learned the last time we met them, the Iron Bank cares only about their investments, and that means preserving a stable environment. Back then, Davos convinced Tycho that stability meant Stannis, but Stannis is no more.

And Cersei convinces him—for now—that she's the best bet in this new generation of would-be rulers. She points out how Dany must have hurt the markets in the area formerly known as Slaver's Bay. ("The slave trade has entered a downturn, it's true," Tycho concedes.) Dany, Cersei says, considers herself more of a revolutionary than a monarch. "In your experience," she asks him, "how do bankers usually fare with revolutionaries?" She wins him over, that is to say, not just by promising to pay back her loans—which the annexation of Highgarden should now enable her to do—but by appealing to his desire for continuity.

"This place has changed," Davos says early in "The Queen's Justice." He's speaking of Dragonstone, but he might as well be speaking about all of Westeros. Everyone is attached to the things they have always known, and terrified at the prospect of even trying to imagine the possibilities of the unknown. ("People's minds aren't made for problems that large," as Tyrion says to Jon, about the White Walkers. "It's almost a relief to confront a comfortable, familiar monster like my sister.")

It's a theme we've seen recurring lately on Game of Thrones. Sansa has been subtly undermining Jon's quest to defeat the Night King, by obsessing instead about the old, familiar battle against the Lannisters. Arya is still fighting old wars too, working her way through her worn and tattered list of personal grievances. The Hound has struggled to see the world as anything more than the cold and indifferent universe he has always believed it to be, let alone to imagine a new role for himself within it. Euron and Ellaria won their respective kingdoms by overthrowing reformers and promising a return to traditional (violent) values. Cersei has united much of the Seven Kingdoms against Dany by raising fears of "foreign invaders" come to destroy the Westerosi way of life. Olenna lost everything—including, eventually, her life—due to a failure of the imagination, an assumption that the game would be played the way it has always been played. Even Dany and Tyrion—the great visionaries—are caught napping this week, stuck in old ideas and relying on old tactics.

Westeros used to be a place governed and defined by traditions. Now, change has come, and change is both hard to adapt to and scary as hell. But everyone needs to start wrapping their heads around it, and letting go of the things they think they know, or Jon is right: they really are all in trouble.

Additional Thoughts and Favorite Bits

  • I apologize for the late posting this week. I could summon excuses—some of them would even be valid—but the truth is that I struggled a bit with this one, and still don't feel like it quite came together. (It's like that sometimes.)
  • Also, running late, I skipped over a few minor subplots. The most important of these, I suppose, is Bran's reunion with Sansa, and I wish I could say it had any emotional impact on me at all. (It didn't.) I've never cared about Bran, and his new, detached, on-a-higher-plane-than-thou manner does not endear him to me any more. (His cold and insensitive description of Sansa's wedding night was way creepy.) I also echo Sansa's response to all of his metaphysical mumbo jumbo about being the Three-Eyed Raven, which made me laugh out loud: "I don't know what that means."
  • Also, Littlefinger amplifies the theme of failures of imagination, though he does it in his typical creepy way: "Don't fight in the North, or in the South. Fight every battle, everywhere, always, in your mind. Everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend, every possible series of events is happening, all at once. Live that way and nothing will surprise you. Everything that happens will be something you have seen before." He's not wrong: he's just an asshole. (This little speech also, obviously, echoes Bran's speech, a little later, about being able to see everything that has ever happened, or is happening. Sansa should be one well-informed Warden of the North with these guys on her shoulder.)
  • Melisandre has the good sense not to be part of the welcome wagon greeting Jon and Davos: that really would have gotten things off on a sour note. And she lets slip a little bit of prophecy to Varys: "Oh, I will return, dear Spider, one last time. I have to die in this strange country, just like you." Given the Red Woman's track record with prophecies, I'll take this one with a grain of salt.
  • Tyrion dismisses the comment Davos lets slip about Jon's apparent resurrection: "You must allow them their flights of fancy. It's dreary in the North."
  • "You look a lot better brooding than I do," Tyrion says to Jon. I suppose so, but you're in the South now, son: maybe lose the furs already.
  • Tyrion quotes Bronn's comment about the Eyrie, which he made way back in Season One: "Give me ten good men, and I'll impregnate the bitch." I miss the Tyrion & Bronn Comedy Duo.
  • "She's much smarter than she lets on," Tyrion says of Sansa. "She's starting to let on," Jon grumbles.
  • "I am the last Targaryen, Jon Snow," Dany says. Heh: irony. 
  • I can appreciate that the show always needs a true, rabid dog of a villain—and we lost our last one recently—but I'm not finding Euron Greyjoy remotely interesting. I kind of hope Dany sets him and all his little boats on fire next week.
  • Jaime offers an explanation for his support of Cersei, when Olenna calls her a monster. "To you, I'm sure. To others as well. But after we've won, and there's no one left to oppose us, when people are living peacefully in the world she built, do you really think they'll wring their hands over the way she built it?" This is old school thinking—Tywin-type thinking—and it won't wash. He loves Cersei—that's the real reason he still supports her—but there will come a day when he realizes Olenna is right about Cersei: "She's a disease." I still haven't forgotten Jaime was once the savior of Kings Landing, and I still haven't given up hope for a final, last-minute redemption. (If he ends up killing Cersei—as he killed the Mad King—I won't be entirely surprised.)
  • Olenna—the most direct woman in Westeros—on Joffrey: "He really was a cunt, wasn't he?"

NEXT: Episode 7x04 - "The Spoils of War"
PREVIOUS: Episode 7x02 - "Stormborn"
Read all my Game of Thrones posts here.

The Unaffiliated Critic

Michael G. McDunnah is a freelance writer, a recovering lit major, a pop-culture junkie, and an unaffiliated critic. He lives in Chicago.

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8 thoughts on “GAME OF THRONES 7x03

  1. Thanks again for the good read.
    Regarding "maybe lose the furs already", I thought the furs were a symbol of the King In the North (like a crown), so I don't think he'll be taking them off anytime soon?? Also, like the black cloak was a crown for the Lord Commander.

    1. Oh yeah, he definitely looks the part. I'm just sayin', you'd think the guy would welcome the opportunity to air it out a little after six years in black leathers and furs. ("It was always my color," as he said, way back in the pilot.) Maybe some nice pastel-colored linens and silks? (And maybe some sunscreen: the dude is NOT used to direct light.)

  2. I realize I'm in a minority really, really distrusting Daenerys and seeing her less positively and and a bit more likely to tell, than show, that she's all about protecting the little guy. (I think she's all about securing the throne. That's the end game. It'll be good for the people because, something something IT'S MY BIRTHRIGHT. She was completely down with giving birth, after all, to "The Stallion That Mounts the World" and putting into immediate self-gratifying service a necromancing witch whose village was just razed, raped and pillaged by her new husband).

    I think this is the first scene where you more people are beginning to wonder just where her priorities are. We've been getting hints, but they are subtle. Remember earlier this season seemed really kinda sorta okay with being the "queen of ash" – until Tyrion shamed her with that phrase.

    I am not on Team Dany, as you can see. I predict she and Snow will unite and duke it out against the white walkers when they have to, but she's not gonna share. Still hoping Arya shapeshifts into Jamie and sticks it to Cersei in the guise of her beloved – would be right in keeping with recent acts of malice.

    In other news, a poison that kills through the lips but can sit on the poisoner's lips for at least 20 minutes with no harmful effect due to a magical antidote makes me unhappy. Arya's seemingly unlimited ability to just kinda slap on the features AND height AND weight of anyone at all is even dirtier pool and falls into the same "invincibility" trap that makes Superman so boring (and frustrating). Anyway! Great analysis, as ever.

    1. Necia, I actually think I'm in the minority liking Dany as much as I do. (Part of that is that people are VERY hard on Clarke's performance, which I think is weirdly just right: it's a little artificial, but she IS always posturing, pretending to be larger and more confident than she is, even to herself.) I think it's a little unfair to judge Season Seven Dany on Season One Dany—it kind of overlooks her evolution as a character and leader—but I do agree that her evolution is far from complete: there's still an immaturity there that will be tested in these final seasons. (Either she'll step up, let go of her selfish agenda and self-important airs—or she won't.)

      The poison thing doesn't actually bother me—at least they established earlier that's how it works—and the Arya thing bothers me only a little more. (It does require us to believe that it's magic, not artifice, which means Arya is now basically a witch.) I think stuff like this doesn't annoy me because it's just a fun means of doing something the show could easily do another way. (Arya could have killed all those people without impersonating Walder Frey, if she had to.) What DOES bother me is when the show solves major plot problems with dumb contrivances and mumbo jumbo because it can't think of anything else, like Euron's stealth-bomber ships and whatever the hell unsatisfying endgame we're moving towards with Jedi-Master Bran.

  3. I'm going to draw a parallel to our world, using the majority of your words but changing some subjects: Democrats lost everything—including, eventually, the presidential election—due to a failure of the imagination, an assumption that the game would be played the way it has always been played. Even Clinton and Obama—the great visionaries—are caught napping this time, stuck in old ideas and relying on old tactics.
    The United States used to be a place governed and defined by traditions. Now, change has come, and change is both hard to adapt to and scary as hell. But everyone needs to start wrapping their heads around it, and letting go of the things they think they know, or the GOP is right: we really are all in trouble. (The only thing I don't like is calling Clinton a 'visionary'. The rest of it seems to work.)

    1. Ha! I literally deleted an entire paragraph from this review comparing Cersei to Trump. (The phony appeal to "traditional values," combined with fundamentally selfish motives and a reckless and dangerous disregard for the way things have always been done.) I had Dany down more as Bernie, however. ("How do bankers usually fare with revolutionaries?" is an argument I feel was probably made to defeat him in 2016.) And Jon would be...I don't know: Al Gore? ("But the real problem is over HERE, and we're all doomed if we don't pay attention to it!") But yes, I think your analogy works all too well, and I'm not sure a lot of it isn't intended.

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