“The Queen’s Justice” gives viewers another beautifully filmed episode of Game of Thrones while moving the plot along at previously unsurpassed speeds. Director Mark Mylod, who also oversaw “Stormborn,” weaves filmed scenes, CGI, and expository dialogue together into a rich 70 minutes of television. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss wrote some fantastic dialogue that highlighted important moments between characters, but also provided a reference to the past and the future. “The Queen’s Justice” was not as emotionally rewarding as “Dragonstone,” nor as exciting as “ Stormborn,” yet it artfully showcased some highly anticipated events in Game of Thrones.
The opening scene of “The Queen’s Justice” is powerful—full of significant moments both spoken and unspoken. After being greeted by Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), Jon Snow (Kit Harington) observes the Dothraki party that takes their weapons and boat, sizing them up for battle against an army of the dead. Missandei has embraced her role as adviser, addressing Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) as an equal. When he comments on the beauty of her home, Naath, she simply smiles, having no memory of a home she was taken from in a slaving raid. We begin to realize just how little these two sets of parties really know of each other.
Though we’ve been anticipating the meeting of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen for six seasons, we really should’ve been looking forward to the reunion of Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister. Tyrion is at his best with straight-man characters such as Ser Jorah and Jon. As they walk up to the castle, Tyrion asks about Sansa Stark.
Tyrion: “She’s mush smarter than she lets on.”
Jon: “She’s startin’ to let on.”
Jon Snow, we didn’t know you could be funny! Tyrion must have that effect on people. Jon reveals his visit to Dragonstone wasn’t popular among his bannermen. Their conversation teases Jon’s possible heritage.
Tyrion: “General rule of thumb: Stark men don’t fare well when they travel South.”
Jon: “True, but I’m not a Stark.”
The conversation takes place with the breathtaking beauty of Dragonstone as a backdrop. It’s a scene you want to watch again and again. Davos tells Jon, “This place has changed,” and we couldn’t agree more. Why did Dragonstone always seem so dreary and awful when Stannis Baratheon was there? It must have been all the sacrificial bonfires that made it feel so bleak. But now it’s a feast for the eyes—the stone walk, the blue water, the majestic castle, and the dragons! After one swoops past, much to the amazement of Jon and Davos, Tyrion tells him, “I’d say you get used to them, but you never really do.” We suspect Benioff and Weiss enjoy nothing more than writing lines for Tyrion.
While Jon and Davos arrive, Melissandre (Carice van Houten) watches from the cliffs above, staying far away from the man who would like nothing more than to kill her for what she did to little Shireen Baratheon. It turns out that Melissandre is having a crisis of conscience over her actions. Varys (Conleth Hill) and Melissandre have a cryptic conversation, which we assume will mean more to us later in the story. She’s heading back to Volantis because she’s done her part bringing together fire and ice. In a vaguely threatening manner, Varys warns her not to return to Westeros because she might not be safe. We assume we’re not supposed to know the impetus for this conversation because it doesn’t seem like he knows about Shireen. Melissandre tells him, “Oh, I will return to you, dear Spider, one last time. I have to die in this strange country. Just like you.” Mysteriouser and mysteriouser.
The meeting between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) was highly anticipated because these two heroic figures are characters the audience has spent the most time with, along with Tyrion. Yet, the formality of their meeting and their lack of connection means that neither is satisfied by the outcome. Despite Missandei relaying Daenerys’ impressive titles and Davos speaking passionately about the King of the North (though perhaps revealing too much, or maybe too little), it isn’t enough. Jon is frustrated with politics, unable to convince Daenerys of his apocalyptic vision. Tyrion points out that Jon doesn’t know Daenerys, certainly not the way the audience does. To Jon, Daenerys appears a petulant child, throwing a tantrum about what she thinks is hers. To Daenerys, Jon is telling stories of Northern fairy tales. Their meeting brings to mind the Late Night with Seth Meyers sketch, “Seth brings Jon Snow to a Dinner Party.” Jon is frustrated because he can’t connect with what he perceives as other people’s mundane concerns, nor can he convince anyone of the dangers of winter.
After teasing Jon about his brooding nature, Tyrion helps him to remember that the North may want something from Daenerys besides an army. Jon’s singular focus on getting Daenerys to help with this fight and simply forgetting about his original goal of getting dragonglass isn’t the most believable of storytelling, but it allows Tyrion to play negotiator. It also doesn’t seem likely Daenerys would so quickly dismiss the idea of the Night King and his army of the dead when unexplained forces have played such an important role in her own life. Regardless, Daenerys agrees to his request to mine dragonglass when she learns that her allies Ellaria Sand and Yara Greyjoy have been captured. Tyrion points out it will cost her nothing and may gain her a potential ally.
Though Daenerys doesn’t know that Theon Greyjoy survived, he’s of little use to her without Yara’s fleet or the respect of the surviving members of Yara’s crew.
Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) continues to win the award for the villain you love to hate. He marches Ellaria Sand and Yara Greyjoy through the streets of King’s Landing while the people applaud him and pummel the prisoners with vegetables. You wouldn’t think they had the vegetables to spare in this time of war. At the Red Keep, he presents Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) with Ellaria and her daughter Tyene, making a display of being the only man who could give her the gift of justice. He reminds her that she is the only reward he seeks in return and she tells him only after he has won the war. Euron taunts Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), asking for tips for when he beds Cersei. Euron Greyjoy may not be great husband material, but he as entertaining as all get-out.
Cersei chains the two women in the dungeon. She tells Ellaria that she understands what drives her, even if they are enemies. After all, Cersei has nothing left but vengeance and anger. Cersei poisons Ellaria’s daughter Tyene with a kiss, the same way Ellaria poisoned Cersei’s daughter Myrcella. Ellaria will be forced to watch Tyene die and decay. Cersei clearly spends a lot of time plotting her revenge. Left alone in the cell, the two Dornish women stretch out towards each other, with their hands and feet in chains, resembling snakes more than ever.
All this revenge gets Cersei in the mood. Jaime tries to resist his sister for about 30 seconds, but he just can’t quit her. They wake to a servant knocking. When Jaime reminds her that no one can see them like this, she tells him, “I am the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. I’ll do as I please.” It’s hard to tell if Jaime is into having their not-so-secret liaison revealed or annoyed at his sister.
A representative from the Iron Bank of Braavos pays Cersei a visit. She’s still drunk with power and basically tells him f*** you and that he can hang out and get paid in a couple weeks. He tells Cersei she is his father’s daughter. Even if she couldn’t get her father’s approval in life, at least she has the satisfaction of being compared to him now that he’s dead. We have to admit the financing part of Game of Thrones is always pretty boring for us, but we’re guessing it will “pay off” (get it?) in some way down the line.
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) is killing it as the Lady of Winterfell. Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), who is constantly creeping on her, couldn’t be more proud of his little protégé. He warns her not to turn her back on Cersei, and she responds in the dismissively sarcastic way she saves just for Petyr. He ignores her barb, maybe assuming she just teases because she cares, and offers some nebulous advice:
“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.”
His sage advice is interrupted by the arrival of Bran Stark (Issac Hempstead-Wright) in Winterfell. Oh, and Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) is there too. Sansa stares at her brother for a second too long, then she begins to cry and hugs Bran. Somehow it’s not as moving as when she and Jon reunited, but she’d been having a pretty terrible time before escaping to the Wall. The reunion we are really curious about is Sansa and Arya because it’s possible Arya blames her sister for having a role in father’s death. We don’t see Arya in this episode so we have yet to learn if Arya has continued to Winterfell, or if seeing Nymeria stirred her feral side and she turned back to King’s Landing.
Sansa and Bran sit by the Weirwood tree. Bran mentions he wants to talk to Jon, perhaps it’s about his parentage. Being all power obsessed, Sansa reminds Bran that he’s the Lord of Winterfell. He can’t be Lord of anything because he’s busy being the three-eyed raven. He claims it’s all too difficult to explain, but it’s probably only a 3-minute conversation. Maybe she can get the scoops from Meera later. Bran tells Sansa, “I’m sorry for all that’s happened to you. I’m sorry it had to happen to you here in our home.” When he begins to talk about her wedding, Sansa’s kind of weirded out, both because he’s reminding her of her past trauma and because he ‘s got creepy new powers.
Samwell Tarly (John Bradley-West) has managed to cure Ser Jorah Mormont of his greyscale. Jorah passes a physical by Archmaester Ebrose (Jim Broadbent), claiming it was the climate that cured him, but the Archmaester knows what’s up. After saying his thanks to Sam, Jorah heads out to find his girl Daenerys. Let’s hope he really is cured.
Later, the Archmaester scolds Sam for risking the infection of the entire Citadel, but kindly point outs, “That man is alive because of you. You should be proud.” Before Sam can get too cocky, the Archmaester assigns him a bunch of grunt work. Let’s hope Sam stumbles upon something useful in those mite-infested books.
We hear Tyrion’s voiceover while watching scenes of the battle for Casterly Rock. Tyrion narrates the strategy while the audience watches scenes of events being carried out perfectly. Unlike “Battle of the Bastards” in which the fighting was filmed from the perspective of soldiers on the battlefield, the audience watches the attack on Casterly Rock from an observer perspective.
Jaime and Cersei turn out to be more of a match for their brother Tyrion than expected. Jaime gave up Casterly Rock as a diversion in order to gain Highgarden, where most of the food and resources supporting King’s Landing come from. Grey Worm and the Unsullied are left in Casterly Rock with empty larders. Most of their fleet is destroyed by Euron, who seems to be everywhere in the Narrow Seas. This will leave the Unsullied with no escape except over land. Team Daenerys has quickly gone from hero to zero.
Jaimee rides on Highgarden alongside Bronn and Ser Randyll Tarly. After watching an abbreviated battle at Casterly Rock, we don’t see any of the battle at Highgarden. Apparently, it was pretty easy to take. Maybe the Game of Thrones budget only had so much room for battles, but let’s not worry about it because finance talk is boring.
Jaime confronts Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg), who tells him, “Your brother and your new queen thought you’d be defending Casterly Rock.” Jaime admits he took a page from Rob Stark’s attack in the Whispering Woods, adding, “There’s always lessons in failures.” Lady Olenna tells Jaime that Cersei is a monster and she’ll be the end of him. In her revenge daydreams, Cersei has imagined some terrible ways for Lady Olenna to die, but Jaime insisted on poison. He assures her it won’t be painful and she quickly drinks it down. Lady Olenna takes her last moments to get her own revenge on the Lannisters. Even in death, she wins.
“I’d hate to die like your son, clawing at my neck, foam and bile spilling from my mouth, eyes blood red, skin purple. Must’ve been horrible for you as a King’s Guard, as a father. It was horrible enough for me. Not at all what I intended. I’ve never seen the poison work before. Tell Cersei I want her to know that it was me.”
The Queen’s Justice Review
In “The Queen’s Justice” Game of Thrones speeds through a lot of plot, while managing to tell some finely detailed stories. Sam has cured greyscale, Jon is mining dragonglass, Bran has returned to Winterfell where Sansa has taken charge, and when Euron Greyjoy isn’t gifting human captives he’s out smashing more ships in the Narrow Sea. Though Grey Worm succeeded in taking Casterly Rock, Jaimee won Highgarden and killed the last of Daenerys’ allies. It’s a lot.
Tyrion may be helping forge a connection between Jon Snow and Daenerys, but so far all his clever plans for the conquest of Westeros have failed. Daenerys started this season looking invincible. Now she seems to have few options that don’t involve riding around on Drogo and lighting up King’s Landing, a plan not favored by her advisers. At this point, if she burns up Euron’s fleet, she’d just be doing Cersei’s dirty work for her because there’s no way Cersei actually wants to marry that dude. He’d be a worse husband that Robert Baratheon.
Some of the new cast have been terrific additions. Revamped Euron Greyjoy, played by Pilou Asbæk, does not disappoint. Jim Broadbent plays Archmaester Ebrose with a subtle humor. He has a way of challenging Sam without being particularly cold or warm.
Game of Thrones brings the stories of several of Cersei’s enemies to a close. Cersei has her revenge by having Lady Olenna killed and forcing Ellaria Sand to watch her daughter Tyene die. Sansa’s warning about Cersei’s ability to take vengeance out on her enemies is certainly ringing true. “The Queen’s Justice” brings us to a vastly different place than we anticipated at the start of the season, but we’re not worried yet because you can’t keep a good queen down.