Valar Dohaeris my friends. Welcome back to a new season of Game of Thrones! Send all questions to @FawkesCulture, @Matwellsays, FawkesDotCom@gmail.com, or post them in the comments section below and Fawkes’ Resident Maester will answer them in throughout the week in a mailbag. You could also catch up with all of Fawkes’ GAME OF THRONES coverage here.
With the title “The Queen’s Justice,” it was pretty clear Sunday’s episode would revolve around Cersei and Daenerys. The episode certainly spent most of its time with both of Westeros’ current Queens, though the former seemed to be dispensing far more justice in the third episode of Game of Thrones’ seventh season.
The episode began with one of the most anticipated meetings in Game of Thrones history. While Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen have not been involved in the same worlds up to this point – Jon has been consumed with the micro politics of the Night’s Watch and the North while Dany has been a macro-level player, first as a revolutionary ruler in Essos and now vying for the Iron Throne – when two characters of great importance meet, it is always a pivotal moment.
What makes it more significant is the situation each leader finds their selves in.
Jon’s grasp on the North is tenuous at best, with most of his strength coming from the Army of the Vale. The Northerners who remain all thought him a fool for even traveling South. If the King in the North were to make any concessions to the “foreign” Targaryen Queen – especially bending the knee – he would risk the North turning on him, a proposition that is made all the more likely with Littlefinger lurking in the Northern picture, maneuvering as always. What’s more, as Jon and Davos rightly point out, asking for help against an enemy unseen for thousands years not only sounds crazy, but is also impractical, as the Lannister’s sit right across Blackwater Bay from Dany.
On the other hand, Dany is not in a position to make concessions. As one who wishes to be seen as a conqueror in the vein of Aegon, she must bring all of the Seven Kingdoms to heel, including the North. Allowing Jon to remain as a King, albeit a regional one, would send signals that Daenerys is no true conqueror, and perhaps a weak ruler, even with her three dragons. Yet, she cannot very well execute Jon for his refusal to bend the knee. This would remove any possibility of a future alliance with the North, a proposition made untenable due to the loss her Navy and allies in Dorne.
So, the scene was set for a tense meeting between the two fledgling Westerosi rulers. After some back-and-forth on the role the oaths, acts, and allegiances of their ancestors play today, Dany and Jon appeared to be at an impasse until some shadow politicking by Tyrion was able to find a compromise: Dany would allow the King in the North to mine the Dragonglass below Dragonstone to create weapons to use against the Army of the Dead.
What will remain to be seen is what Dany will get in return for this. Jon certainly did not agree to anything, nor did Daenerys make a specific request, other than for him to bend the knee. Yet, people are not really in the business of granting favors in the interest of just being nice in this day and age. It is hard for me to imagine that Dany will just allow Jon to return North with his newly-mined Dragonglass without some sort of agreement or concession from the King in the North.
Then, there is the added wrinkle brought about by recent losses of Targaryen forces and allies in the field, and the trickery of the Lannister forces. Last week, we watched the Targaryen-Greyjoy fleet be routed by Euron, with the sand snakes being either killed or captured. This week, we got to watch a Euron victory parade, followed by Cersei conditionally accepting his marriage proposal after the war is won. He was also sure to sneak in some additional jabs at Jaime.
Cersei then waisted no time dispensing justice on Ellaria Sand and her daughter Tyene. In this circumstance, the Queen’s Justice involves chaining the arms of both Ellaria and Tyene, then poisoning Tyene and forcing Ellaria to watch as Tyene slowly dies and decomposes. For book readers and those familiar with the death of Rickard and Brandon Stark at the hand of Aerys II, the Mad King. Aerys had Brandon placed in a Tyroshi strangle device with a great sword just out of reach. He was then forced to watch Aerys burn his father Rickard alive. As he struggled to free himself, he eventually choked himself to death. These events were the very same that Jon Snow referenced this episode during his initial discussion with Daenerys.
The news of her navy’s defeat was not the only bad news Dany received Sunday. In the West, while Tyrion’s intimate knowledge of the Casterly Rock sewers proved useful, and the Unsullied were able to take the nigh-impregnable castle (shouts to Bronn) with ease, Jaime wisely moved the majority of the Lannister forces to the sparcely guarded Highgarden. There he was successful in taking the Tyrell forces unprepared and dispensing Cersei’s justice to Olenna Tyrell (again in the form of poison) but not before she warned Jaime of Cersei’s madness and admitted to her role in killing Joffrey. My guess is this will only serve to drive a further wedge between the sibling lovers, as the prophecy of the Valonqhar moves ever closer and they argue over Tyrion’s role in the destruction of House Lannister – as well as Cersei’s betrothed.
One thought after watching Cersei dispatch of Olenna and Tyene using poison: has poison – or perhaps the dark magic of Qyburn – become the champion of House Lannister akin to Aerys II claiming fire was the champion of House Targyen? The parallels between the Mad King and Cersei just continue to grow. It was also known that burning people was one of Aerys’ turn ons, and immediately after poisoning Tyene, Cersei certainly appeared in the mood.
How all this will play out next week with Dany losing allies by the minute will be interesting. The Unsullied face a difficult predicament. After Euron’s forces destroyed the Unsullied ships in the port of Casterly Rock, Grey Worm and his troops are stuck between holding the Rock with little to no food or a forced march back to King’s Landing across The Gold Road in which they would almost certainly meet the brunt of the Lannister forces. My guess is that this predicament will eventually lead into the second Field of Fire, with nearly the full might of Dany’s forces (dragons included) meeting the Lannister’s near the Gold Road in open battle. This would diminish part of the Lannister advantage, as it would take Euron’s naval might out of play.
What this means for Jon Snow, only time will tell. I would guess he’ll be anxious to return to Winterfell, especially now that…
BRAN BACK BABY! In the midst of Sansa demonstrating that not only has she learned a great deal about politics, but she is also a more-than-capable leader, the young would-be heir to Winterfell returned home after years (and seasons) of wondering North of the Wall, albeit in a considerably more somber mood. His emotional reunion with Sansa immediately turned creepy upon him promptly reminding her that she was raped in Winterfell. The reunion did not end, however, before Bran ominously mentioned that he needed to speak with Jon. As this season moves into its final four episode, I would guess Bran’s vision – and Northern action in general – will pick up quickly.
As for question on the true Lord of Winterfell, Bran dispense with any notion that he would be claiming his birthright, simply stating that he is the three-eyed raven now.
What did you think of the episode? Can you below were down to four episodes remaining? Are you confused about anything that happened or what’s to come? Send all your comments my way in the comment section below or via Twitter @matwellsays & @fawkesculture.