Get ready to be beaten over the head with “fire and ice” metaphors, because this week on Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow finally meet! The episode begins with Jon and Davos arriving in Dragonstone, where they are greeted by Tyrion and Missandei. “This place has changed,” Davos comments, possibly remembering the good ol’ days when times were simpler and Stannis burned heretics on the beach.
Jon and Davos are presented to Daenerys in the throne room, where Missandei reels off Her Grace’s super long title--The Unburnt, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Failed Terminator Reboots--to be followed by Davos replying, “This is Jon Snow.” From her fancy throne, Daenerys asks Jon to bend the knee and join her side, but Jon refuses and tells her of the threat in the North. Dany is highly skeptical of his story of White Walkers and the Night King. “As far as I can see, you are the enemy in the North,” she says. These two are starting off by butting heads, almost as if one is represented by a combustible chemical reaction and the other its polar opposite, a stoic and craggy organic material that becomes hardened in colder climes.
Tyrion, ever the great moderator, takes Jon and Daenerys aside separately to help them sort their shit out. The thing with Jon and Daenerys is that they both have one-track minds--Daenerys is set on reclaiming what she sees as her birthright, the Iron Throne, and Jon can’t stop, won’t stop until the Night King’s Army has been defeated. They’re both incredibly stubborn; it’s almost like they’re related…….
However, Daenerys is more in need of Jon’s loyalty now that she knows that her fleet was attacked by Euron Greyjoy, and Yara, Ellaria Sand, and the Sand Snakes are either dead or taken hostage. Thanks to Tyrion’s counsel, Daenerys backs off on Jon’s unwillingness to bend the knee, and offers him all of the dragonglass he wants. A tentative alliance has been formed, not giving either of them everything they wanted, but it’s a start.
Speaking of the Greyjoys, one of Yara’s surviving ships finds Theon floating in the sea and scoops him up. The people of the Iron Islands have no understanding or patience of his PTSD, which is unsurprising since their motto is the very metal “What is dead may never die.” Theon may have one last chance for redemption if he can get it together in time to save his sister Yara, who we see being paraded on a leash through the streets of King’s Landing by a swaggering Euron. Dude’s so cocky he rides his horse right up into Cersei’s throne room, bearing her the gifts of Ellaria Sand and her daughter Tyene. Cersei is pleased enough to tell Euron “You shall have what your heart desires...when the war is won” which is full of loopholes that she can shoot a Qyburn-built crossbow bolt through.
Cersei must be a fan of the same 1993 Janet Jackson vehicle that I am, because she serves up serious Poetic Justice on Ellaria Sand by giving her daughter a poisonous kiss--the same method Ellaria used to kill Cersei’s daughter Myrcella. Ellaria, locked in chains, will be forced to watch Tyene suffer, die, and rot away.
Jaime has just taken off his golden hand to unwind for the night when Cersei swoops into his chamber, high off the buzz of enemy murdering, and proceeds to make out with him. He resists at first, but quickly gives in. This is the first time we’ve seen the Lannisters be intimate with each other in a while, and it’s been a little unclear as how Jaime feels about his twin ever since he saw her burn down the Citadel. One BJ later, it looks like Jaime is still very much on Cersei’s side. Cersei’s feeling so unstoppable after her big victories that she doesn’t even care about a servant seeing Jaime lying in her bed. Her confidence carries over into her meeting with a representative from the Iron Bank, who has come all the way from Braavos to make sure that this Lannister pays her debts. The Crown owes the Bank a large sum, as they’ve been borrowing beyond their means for years. Cersei is savvy enough to know that the bank will pick the side of whichever pretender to the throne they believe will win, so she invites the banker to stay in King’s Landing for a fortnight to prove that she’s the horse they should bet on.
Up in Winterfell, Sansa is going about the practical business of running a kingdom and overseeing the food supply for the long winter ahead. She’s good at her job, which Littlefinger notes before giving her what might be the best advice I’ve heard all series: “Don’t fight in the North, or 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 that you’ve seen before.” Sansa listens, taking these words to heart, and in the race towards the Iron Throne, Sansa’s odds of winning shoot up from longshot to 5-1.
A surprise visitor arrives at the castle, and Sansa is shocked and elated to see her long-lost brother, Bran.
They have a mini family reunion in the Godswood, where Bran reveals to her that since they’ve last seen each other, he’s become the Three-Eyed Raven. Stark reunions are weird. Bran proves his all-seeing powers to her by describing her dress on her wedding night to the sadist Ramsay Bolton, which upsets Sansa greatly. Smooth move, Bran. Couldn’t you have gone with something a little lighter?
At the Citadel, Sam has cured Jorah Mormont of his greyscale. Apparently, it took all these centuries for someone to figure out that they can just scrape it off. Jorah is now indebted to Sam, and since we’ve dedicated a substantial amount of screentime to these two opposite-of-fan-favorites, I’m foreseeing some scenario down the road where Jorah convinces Daenerys to believe Sam when he tells her that the White Walkers are real.
In the final act of the episode, we rejoin Daenerys as she surveys the map of the kingdom, focusing on Casterly Rock, where Grey Worm has just led the Unsullied to capture the Lannister stronghold. Tyrion goes into voiceover mode as he describes how difficult it would be to storm the reinforced walls of the Rock, and we see images of Daenerys’s armies slaughtered en masse. But it’s all a big fake-out, because Tyrion has a clever plan in which a Grey Worm leads a small group of men through a secret tunnel in the sewers that Tyrion had built in his youth in order to sneak women into his bedchamber (a HOE DOOR, amirite?). The scenes overlaid by voiceover show Grey Worm and his army successful in securing Casterly Rock, but confused as to why more Lannisters hadn’t shown up to fight. The camera pans out to show Euron Greyjoy’s fleet burning the Unsullied’s ships, which will make it very difficult for them to get back to Dragonstone. Daenerys and Tyrion had been outsmarted by Cersei and Jaime, who sacrificed Casterly Rock as a pawn in order to win a bigger prize: the rich kingdom of Highgarden, ruled by House Tyrell, known for roses and tea parties but not for being hot at fighting wars. These sequences of surprise battles, sprung traps, and overthrown houses is full of bloodshed, and I love it (and I say this as a pacifist and card-carrying ACLU member, I mean, we all have to get our kicks somewhere).
In the final scene, Jaime finds Olenna Tyrell sitting in her suite, accepting defeat. Jaime is feeling benevolent in victory, remaining calm even as Olenna calls Cersei a monster and recognizes that he’s in love with his sister. He tells Olenna that Cersei had wanted to give her a violet death, but he opts for pouring a painless poison into her glass of Arbor Gold. The Queen of Thorns downs her glass, accepting her fate, then drops a bomb on Jaime: “I’d hate to die like your son.” She reveals that she was behind the plot that led to Joffrey’s death, using her last breaths to say “Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me.” Jaime is shook, and abruptly leaves the room. In her final act, Olenna Tyrell perfectly sums up the price of war for the Lannisters--even when you win, you lose.
At the end of “The Queen’s Justice,” Daenerys’s supposedly easy taking of the Iron Throne is now on shaky ground. She’s lost most of her fleet as well as its general, her richest and most powerful ally of House Tyrell, and she got nothing from Jon Snow except the beginnings of a shaky trust. Next week, we’ll already be over halfway through season 7 (waahhhhh!!), and the reveals (as well as the body count) will only get bigger. I can’t wait.