Last night’s episode of “Game of Thrones,” “The Queen’s Justice,” begins with a long-awaited meeting—our old friends Ice and Fire, a.k.a. Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen—and ends with revenge, served cold and clever: iced zinger, if you will. We begin, once more, on the shores of Dragonstone: waves crashing, big cliff, boat dragged onshore. Why, it’s Jon Snow! That was fast.
“The bastard of Winterfell!” Tyrion says.
“The dwarf of Casterly Rock!” How jolly, you might be thinking. How will these two hit it off? Well, steel yourself.
“You stand in the presence of Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, rightful heir to the Iron Throne, rightful queen of the Andals and the First Men, protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains,” Missandei bellows. Jesus, we’re thinking. Why not throw in Eater of Still-Beating Hearts and Pilot of Wingèd Lizard?
“This is Jon Snow,” Davos Seaworth says. A pause. “He’s King in the North.”
The big meeting of Dany and Jon—secret aunt and nephew, if only they knew—quickly devolves into a standoff about bending the knee, and whose house once pledged fealty forever, and whose family did what to whom. (“Break faith? Your father burned my grandfather alive!”) “In the time since he’s met me, he’s refused to call me Queen, he’s refused to bow, and now he’s calling me a child,” Dany says to Tyrion. I feel like the advance team of Melisandre and Tyrion did a poor job of explaining Jon Snow’s greatness to Dany, and I’m not having it. Neither is Jon. “Your grace, everyone you know will die before winter is over if we don’t defeat the enemy to the north!” he says. Then he tells her about the Army of the Dead, which flummoxes her. Once again, Davos Seaworth offers his services, Fleabottom style, in a rousing speech about how the White Walkers are real and about how destiny has made both Dany and Jon into great leaders. “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.” He rattles off accomplishments including taking a “knife in the heart for his people.” Jon looks at him in warning. That’ll do, Seaworth.
But this moment is ruined by yet more talk of knee-bending. “It takes no time to bend the knee!” Tyrion wails. Thankfully, Varys shuffles in, whispering about terrible news. Dany pretends to remember diplomacy and sends them off to dinner and a bath. This move is known as the cherry on top of a mud pie.
“Am I your prisoner?” Jon Snow says.
“Not yet,” she says. These two!
As Varys gives Dany the bad news about the Greyjoy-on-Greyjoy frigate action, we see good old Theon, Reeked out and wide-eyed, being hauled out of the sea, to the sound of grunting. Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, crowds in the streets cheer for Euron Greyjoy, on horseback, and jeer for his prisoners: Yara, glum and roughed up and walking behind him on a leash, alongside Ellaria Sand, who spits in anger. Onlookers are pelting garbage. Boy, oh boy, do the people of Westeros love pelting garbage at miserable women who trudge through the streets! Euron is grinning from ear to ear. He makes kissy faces, beams. “I have to be honest, this is making me hard,” he says. When they get to the Iron Throne zone, he is smiling still, and spreading his arms like Tevye dancing at Tzeitel’s wedding.
What was Euron’s wonderful promised gift for Cersei? If you guessed vengeance, good on you. Ellaria Sand, who, as you might recall, gave Cersei and Jaime’s daughter Myrcella the kiss of death a while back—you know, kissing a nice teen-age girl on the lips, but you have secretly poisoned lips—is brought into the throne room with one of her own daughters. Euron says, “I bring you what no other man could give: justice.” Cersei has a look on her face that seems to say, I like where this is going, but convince me. Ellaria spits again, for good measure. Cersei names Euron “a true friend of the crown” and says, “You shall have what your heart desires”—Jaime looks up—“when the war is won.” Oh, snap! Euron has a look on his face like, What? If only he could show her a replay of last week’s fighting sequence—the viper gangplank and the corpses swinging from the bowsprit. She would definitely want to sleep with him then.
Cersei says that with Euron commanding their navy and Jaime commanding their army, the Lannister forces will be terrific, and everyone claps and cheers; Army and Navy, who hate each other, quietly exchange barbs, and Navy tries to taunt Army sexually. “Does she like it gentle or rough?” Euron says. “A finger in the bum?” Jaime’s eyes widen. It’s been nothing but challenges to his dignity lately, poor thing.
The next scene is like Cersei’s version of Sansa feeding Ramsay Bolton to his dogs, or Arya feeding Frey sons to their dad. But, instead of being disgustingly delicious, it feels more like watching Ramsay flay somebody for a season or two: not fun. Cersei goes to the dungeon to reminisce to Ellaria, in front of the Mountain, a.k.a. Ser Gregor Clegane, about the time he crushed the skull of Ellaria’s lover Oberon in a duel. (Remember that awful sight and sound? How the years do go by.) Cersei says that she considered having Clegane crush Ellaria’s skull, too, or her daughter’s, cracking it open “like a duck egg.” But no! Cersei is a poet, so she kisses the daughter with poison—a move called the Long Farewell, she says. (Remind me never to start a blood feud.) As Ellaria howls in despair, Cersei, all riled up, goes upstairs, where she finds dear Jaime messing about with goblets, sits on his lap, and kisses him. Uh, watch it with those recently poisoned lips, you psycho!
Later, a visitor from the Iron Bank tells Cersei that the Lannisters have no money, and she reminds him that Lannisters always pay their debts—and reminds us that the Lannisters are the only people in Westeros who are constantly mentioning their debts. Tyrion, meanwhile, is brooding on an oceanside bluff as Jon Snow—a man in constant brood—appears. Tyrion points out that Jon outbroods him, hands down; Jon keeps brooding. “I’m a prisoner on this island,” he says, mopily. Next thing you know, he’s glummed his way into getting Tyrion to ask Dany if he can have Dragonstone’s dragonglass. In the Cave Situation Room, Tyrion explains to Dany that dragonglass can be used to kill or stop White Walkers—look, he admits, who really knows what any of that means? He looks embarrassed, like he’s asking for imaginary food for his friend Snuffleupagus. Dany scoffs. “And what do you think about this Army of the Dead and White Walkers and Night Kings?” the Mother of Dragons says, sarcastically, walking past a giant carving of a fanged dragon head.
“A wise man once said you should never believe a thing just because you want to believe it,” Tyrion says.
“Are you trying to present your own statements as ancient wisdom?” Dany says. This may be the first joke she has ever made in her life. At least, I think it’s a joke.
In Winterfell, Sansa is thriving—marching around barking out orders about shoring up the grain reserves and putting leather on breastplates. (You know, to make them cozy, for winter.) “Leadership suits you,” Littlefinger purrs, trailing along behind her. He gives her some advice—the kind of thing I really should start saying to young people, to freak them out. “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.” Suddenly, there’s a visitor in the courtyard, arriving by cart. It’s Bran! Sansa weeps; Bran doesn’t. I guess the magical don’t feel. “Hello, Sansa,” he says, impassive. Being the Three-Eyed Raven hasn’t improved his personality. They catch up under a weirwood tree, whose agonized face seems to express much about the pain of life in Westeros.
“I wish Jon were here,” Sansa says.
“I need to speak to him,” Bran says. You do indeed, kid. Sansa generously tells Bran that he, Bran, as “father’s last living true-born son,” is now Lord of Winterfell, and she doesn’t seem crabby about it. (Other regal types could learn something about succession-related politeness from this family.)
“I can never be lord of anything—I’m the Three-Eyed Raven,” Bran says. Sansa looks about as wary and confused as Dany trying to understand the Army of the Dead. They are like me in Season 2. “I can see everything,” Bran says. “Everything that’s ever happened to anyone, everything that’s happening right now.” She should ask him if he knows how to fight every battle, everywhere, always, in your mind.
At the Citadel, we get an uncharacteristically unrepulsive scene: Jorah Mormont, shorn of his greyscale, is being examined by Archmaester Jim Broadbent. Sam Tarly’s D.I.Y. medical experiments have proved successful. “One could almost be forgiven for thinking that the entire upper layer of diseased skin was debrided, and the underlying region treated with some sort of ungulant,” the maester says. No, no!, Jorah tells him, wanting to protect Sam—I’m just getting enough rest and enjoying the climate. (This is basically what Jenna Maroney said to Liz Lemon after getting a chemical peel and “something with shark DNA.”) Jorah is allowed to leave the Citadel; Sam is punished mildly, with a pile of bug-infested old scrolls to preserve. For Sam Tarly at the Citadel, that’s a cakewalk.
Dany, at the Dragonstone map table, wants to take her dragons to burn up Euron’s ships. Too dangerous, Tyrion says. They discuss Casterly Rock, the Lannisters’ place, and he describes how impregnable it is—“No one has ever taken the Rock,” he says, as we see images of the Unsullied on the attack—and then proudly reveals how to impregnate it. Tyrion oversaw its sewer construction, he reveals, and, he says, “I threw in something for myself”: a secret passage “for low pursuits,” which they can now use to easily infiltrate the Rock. Call it a sewer ex machina.
However! A twist. When our hero Grey Worm walks atop the Casterly Rock ramparts, stepping over legions of dead bodies, he’s suspicious. Sure, they’ve taken the castle and killed a ton of people. But why was it so easy? Because, dear fellow, your enemies Army Lannister and Navy Greyjoy have won this round. Down in the harbor, Euron’s navy is burning the Unsullied’s ships; Jaime, letting them have their way with Casterly Rock after emptying its larders, has gone off to take Highgarden, the Tyrells’ place, and Jaime, as head plunderer, has to kill its ruler, the wonderful Lady Olenna.
“Did we fight well?” she says to him. He’s respectful to her. These days, when Jaime isn’t wearing an expression of wounded dignity, he’s wearing an expression of noble duty or dutiful resignation. They exchange a few jokes. I suspect that Jaime finds it refreshing to be in the presence of a sane person, and might regret having to kill her. “How will you do it?” she asks. His sword looks like Joffrey’s sword, she says—not that he ever used it. “I did unspeakable things to protect my family,” she tells him, and never lost a night’s sleep. “But your sister has done things I was incapable of imagining,” she says. “She’s a monster.” When Jaime preposterously responds that no one will care about Cersei’s monstrosity “when people are living peacefully in the world she built,” Olenna knows he’s a goner. “You poor fool,” she says. “She’ll be the end of you.”
Jaime describes some disgusting ways he could have killed Lady Olenna—Cersei’s ideas, of course—but pours her a gentlemanly vial of poison, into her wine.
“Will there be pain?” she says. No, Jaime says. “I made sure of that.” What a mensch.
She drinks it. “I’d hate to die like your son, clawing at my neck, foam billowing from my mouth, eyes blood-red,” Lady Olenna says. “Must’ve been horrible for you.” It was horrible enough for her, she goes on—“a shocking scene, not at all what I intended.” She’d never seen the poison work before, she explains, all gentility. “Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me.” Of all the generous helpings of revenge served in the Seven Kingdoms, this one, by a true gourmet, might be the most delicious.