Does She Miss Me Terribly?
Pity the nation, pity the kingdom, pity the smallfolk, pity the poor camerapeople who have to crabwalk down the tiny causeways of County Derry that stand in for Dragonstone, where Tyrion (Peter Dinklange) leads Jon Snow (Kit Harington) in the opening scenes of "The Queen's Justice." During this latest installment in the characters-learn-the-plot-of-Game-of-Thrones season of Game of Thrones, our lead characters meet each other, war is declared, the battle comes down, and piss and poop jokes are no longer the order of the day.
But we're still treated to the spectacle of vacationing Onion Knight Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) recalling "palm trees and butterflies" as his new liege is received before the court of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). Tyrion's reunion with Jon is awfully nice, as he even spares a thought for his one-time bride, Sansa, asking, "Does she miss me terribly?" and goes on to answer the question for himself. "A long and bloody tale," he says. "To be honest, I was drunk for most of it." But we were not. We've waited lo these many seasons to see the top-billed stars and destined lords of the realm regard one another in the balmy environs of the Khaleesi's throne room. And what do we get?
We get Melisandre (Carice van Housten), of all people, saying the name of the saga of which we are all so beholden. "I have brought ice and fire together," she says, and then for more postmodern points, spoils the ending opposite Lord Varys (Conleth Hill): "I have to die in this strange country. Same as you." Jon Snow then comes into the presence of Daenerys, whose litany of titles—mother of dragons, the unburnt, breaker of chains, and so on—feel slightly embarrassing opposite the other star of the show, who has much less to his name (at least on paper). But Jon Snow and Daenerys do have a certain something between them—the thud of inevitability, the clang of denouement, the click of a thousand slash-fiction sites shutting down at once.
And so it goes, as Jon Snow brings Daenerys up to date regarding the White Walkers at the gates. Daenerys beseeches the King in the North to join her in defiance of Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), and Tyrion and Jon take the air and discuss better times, back when much of the cast was dead instead of most. All this cloak flapping! "You look a lot better at brooding than I do," remarks Tyrion. "You make me feel like I'm failing at brooding over failing," and goes on to add, basically, "I am the son and heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar. I am the son and heir of nothing in particular." This battle between sulks (or "grumkins and snarks," Jon has it) briefly concluded, the two agree to join forces, more or less, though Jon is right about one thing. "Don't go south," he says, knowing better than the show's creators that the lines between Mason and Dixon are real. "And here I am, a Northern fool."
But even fools need something to show for their fancy educations upstate. For Jon Snow, it's the dragonglass beneath Daenerys's fortress he wants. In a nice scene advising Daenerys, Tyrion's all for it, saying, "Give him something by giving him nothing," which works nicely as a tagline for this season, where immense satisfaction comes from watching on-screen what any Northern fool would have seen coming a mile away.
Every Possible Series of Events
At Winterfell, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) notices something that she doesn't like: The new suits of armor being outfitted for the men of the North aren't accessorized with leather. Her increasingly deadlocked Svengali, Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), also notices something he doesn't like: Sansa's ongoing independence. His counsel is, if you've been paying attention, a bit of a recap. "Every possible series of events is happening all at once… Everything that happens will be something you've seen before."
But surely even Littlefinger didn't see Bran's (Isaac Hempstead Wright) arrival back at Winterfell coming—or the fact that the dude looks (yikes) way older than last we saw the young seer, or that his tutelage under the Three-Eyed Raven has left him less than impressed with more earthly concerns. He's a bit of a jerk, really, and he proves his psychic powers by intimating knowledge of his sister's brutal rape at the hands of the pretender Ramsay Bolton. Surely there's a better family memory to invoke at this critical juncture. A weird silence or an awkward fart on a road trip?
Bone and Dust
At King's Landing, lusty Joker-looking pirate Euron leads his prisoners down the streets to the cheers of Cersei's constituents. But who are these people? It wasn't so long ago that they warmed to the charity of her rival, Margaery Tyrell, or that they joined the Sparrows in applauding the humiliation of their queen during her march of shame, and now they are doing what so many Oaklanders have lamented and cheering the raiders at their gates? Cersei taunts her captives, Tyene (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) and Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), before murdering the former via girl on girl. I'm not kidding. This show is known for its sexposition, but this may be the first full-on sexecution, as Cersei plants a poisonous kiss on Tyene, just like the one with which the Sand Snake poisoned princess Myrcella. "To bone and dust," Cersei says, and, like all of those who meet this fate, I never thought it would end this way. But I always really hoped.
Game of Thrones' female fanbase have long lobbied for a peen-count to match our many breasts, but we at least get some Kingslayer buttocks in our face as Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) beds his sister. Cersei, now that she's queen, refuses to disguise her incest even before such a menace as her student loan collector from the Iron Bank of Braavos (Mark Gatiss). Good to see him again. Cersei begs off, promising to finance her excesses through pillage, which is not a column that usually exists on late rent notices. But in times of great upheaval, we are all borrowers living on unstable tenancy.
Give Me Ten Good Men
There's more ingratitude in Oldtown, where Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), miraculously cured of his nasty Greyscale infection, spares a certain, reserved thanks for Samwell Tarly (John Bradley-West), while extolling his absent Khaleesi: "I owe her my life. Her, and you." Yeah, no sweat, you poor dear slave-trader, it's not like I literally picked off your infectious scabs one by one. Fair dinkum to you, and your dragon army. Not that curing an incurable disease means more to Sam than the proper construction of IKEA furniture. How did he do it? "I read the book and followed the instruction." As a reward, he is not expelled for his extracurricular interests.
The episode's remaining minutes are given up to a pair of pyrrhic conquests. First, Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) conquers Casterly Rock through its sewers, only to fall victim to one of the classic blunders. The first is not to get involved in a land war in Asia, but the second and only slightly less well-known is this: never to lay siege to a suspiciously undefended island with no natural resources when death is on the line (and if you are not one of the five top-billed stars of the series you are on). And finally, alas, we say a fond farewell to Lady Olenna Tyrell, last of her name, played by Diana Rigg, who sadly is in no position to take back her job as hostess of Mystery now that she has run her course on Game of Thrones. There is no actress I could possibly miss more.
"And now the rains weep o'er our halls," she says, just before Jaime offers her the fatal glass of wine (and before she saucily confesses to the murder of his inbred son Joffrey). "A failure of imagination," she says, but it's nothing of the kind. The avenger of her family, the murderess of a regent, the best line delivery in the Seven Kingdoms, the Queen of Thorns. Cheers, Dame Diana. "There are always lessons in failures," Jaime mutters, humble in his hollow victory over the Reach. Her rejoinder is classic: "Yes. You must be very wise by now."