Game of Thrones recap: 'The Queen's Justice'
They meet at last
The war of the two queens is now fully underway in another surprise-packed episode of Game of Thrones, which included the long-awaited meeting of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen — among many other developments. There was a major Stark reunion (but not the one you expected), the loss of a fan favorite, a totally disturbing torture scene, and more in the aptly titled “The Queen’s Justice,” an episode that showed Cersei and Daenerys dealing with threats and challenges in rather different ways. But we start with…
Dragonstone: Jon and Davos reach the beach to find Jon’s season 1 travel companion Tyrion waiting to escort him. Davos maintains his composure quite professionally for a man who lost his son when Tyrion blew up his fleet in the Battle of the Blackwater. A dragon dive-bombs Jon, and he throws himself to the ground in shock. Watching GoT characters get freaked out by dragons never gets old; if Westeros had YouTube, it would be full of prank clips showing people getting surprised by dragons (or, as Tyrion puts it, “I’d say you get used to them, but you never really do”).
Jon and Tyrion have an exchange about Sansa where he reassures he never consummated his marriage. Jon makes it sound like he doesn’t care but we suspect he secretly does. “She’s smarter than she lets on,” Tyrion says, to which Jon humorously shoots back: “She’s starting to let on.”
Nearby, Melisandre and Varys have a chat by the cliff. Melisandre doesn’t tempt fate by revealing her presence to Davos, who swore he’d kill her if he sees her again. We’re reminded that Varys really dislikes sorcerers after that mysterious wizard mutilated him as a child.
Varys threatens her not to return to Westeros, to which mind-freak Melisandre replies: “I will return dear Spider, one last time. I have to die in this strange country, just like you.”
Varys isn’t easily rattled, but this psychic foreshadowing visibly throws him. Does this mean neither of these characters will survive the final season? Not necessarily, but it certainly doesn’t bode well. I would love it if Melsandre actually had no clue how Varys was going to die and was just f—ing with him.
RELATED: Hear the latest from EW’s Game of Thrones Weekly podcast
Jon reaches the throne room, and we finally get a moment that we’ve been waiting seven seasons to witness: Daenerys meeting Jon, who momentarily openly gawks at her. Why, blind dates in Westeros never turn out this well! But they quickly get down to business. Jon says he’s not at Dragonstone to “bend the knee,” a phrase that’s not supposed to be sexual, but we can’t help but have Certain Thoughts in this context. In fact, Jon challenges the very notion that a Stark should be under a Targaryen, and the duo attempt to top each others’ lineage claims. This is like Seven Kingdoms royalty foreplay — no, my claim is dominant and yours is submissive!
Dany surprises Jon — and us too, a little — by admitting her father was an “evil man” and apologizes for his crimes against the Starks. She rather impassionately lets him know all the hell she’s gone through to get here, and that she’s survived by having faith in herself.
Jon tries to explain the whole White Walker situation. But his crazy-sounding threats about dead people are a total turn-off, and Dany has zero interest in the subject. If this were an actual date, she would suddenly have to leave because, oh, she actually forgot all about that one thing she had to do. Dany’s stance is basically: I can’t be bothered with your zombie story line; I’m trying to play Game of Thrones and you’re talking about The Walking Dead. Her reaction is admittedly a tad close-minded for somebody who can walk through fire and rides dragons — she’s way closer to living in an Anne McCaffrey paperback than he is.
Overall its a scene that is not the instant romantic chemistry fans might have expected — they’re both kind of annoyed by the other and trying to figure out how to come to some kind of productive agreement. They are highly impressive leaders who just happen to have wildly different priorities right now. In fact, there’s so much happening in this scene we could spend the whole recap on the Jon and Dany meeting alone (“I am the last Targaryen!” she declares at one point and we’re all, Umm, don’t be so sure about that).
Eventually, Dany orders Jon to go to his room like he’s a mopey teenager. He asks if he’s a prisoner and Dany suggests he might be, but one who’s being treated super nicely until she figures out what to do with him (many Jon Snow fans, I’m sure, have suggestions). NEXT: A Lannister pays her debt, with interest
Later, Jon miserably asks Tyrion if he believes him, and the Lannister does, but he also notes his belief doesn’t mean he can help him. Tyrion wisely asks for some action he can take. Jon requests the dragonglass. Tyrion goes to Dany to lay out a very reasonable argument: If they let Jon mine the dragonglass, it doesn’t really cost them anything yet potentially gains them a rather valuable ally. Tyrion’s Hand advice game is spot on this episode (though his battle strategy is incredibly lousy).
So for their second date, Jon and Dany take a seaside stroll where she agrees to give him the thing he desires more than anything else (which, again, is dragonglass). “A long time ago nobody believed there could be dragons,” she notes. Jon asks if this means she believes him now. It’s really bugging the guy that Team Targaryen thinks he’s nuts.
She shoots back cooly, “You better get to work, Jon Snow”…which is not even in the same league as Ygritte’s “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” If Dany ever hopes to attract Jon’s interest, she will have to work on her catchphrase.
King’s Landing: Euron has his triumph in the streets, playing the pirate rock star, soaking up the adoration. He’s made good on his promise to bring Cersei a gift. Forced to march behind him are his prisoners, Yara, Ellaria, and Tyene. Yara even wears a leash held by Euron. I suspect Twitter will have Feelings about this. At least, unlike Cersei, the degraded prisoners were allowed to keep their clothes on.
“This is making me hard,” Euron declares, but, really, what doesn’t?
Euron drags his prisoners into the throne room and puts them Cersei’s feet, taking a shot at Jaime by announcing he’s the man who got her justice for the death of Myrcella. Cersei says she will give him the reward he wants — her hand in marriage — but only after they’ve won the war. Euron looks bummed for moment but bounces back quickly to taunt Jaime some more by crudely asking about Cersei’s preferences in bed. Jaime, we suspect, is just biding his time.
Later, Ellaria and her daughter Tyene are chained in the Black Cells. They’re both gagged. This isn’t going to end well, is it?
Enter Cersei, who is not the person you want as your judge, jury, and executioner.
She proceeds with a speech illuminating her thought process about all the different ways she was tempted to deal with Ellaria, who gave innocent Myrcella the literal kiss of death last season in revenge for The Mountain killing Oberyn. At the time, the move seemed like a horribly unfair overreaction on Ellaria’s part. Now it seems like the biggest mistake she could have possibly made. “We all make our choices; you chose to murder my daughter,” Cersei says.
She surprises us by giving Tyene a smooch. But Ellaria knows exactly what this means. Cersei informs Ellaria that she’s poisoned Tyene with a replication of the same slow-acting toxin that will eventually take her life. Ellaria will be forced to watch her daughter perish, unable to touch her or even speak to her. No comfort. Cersei’s thought of everything, and she even orders to make sure the cell’s torches are regularly changed so Ellaria doesn’t miss anything. Damn Cersei. So this is what HBO’s official episode description meant by “Cersei returns a gift.” A Lannister really does pay her debts.
It’s an agonizing fate, and one of the darkest in the show’s history (with a terrific dialogue-free performance by Indira Varma). The scene challenges us to figure out whose side we’re on, if either of them. Cersei is perfectly correct — Ellaria and Tyene killed an innocent victim. Yet how can we also not feel for a woman being condemned to watch her daughter suffer in such a horrific fashion?
After this, Cersei wants post-torture incest sex. We then get a scene of Cersei and Jaime in bed the next morning. It’s a weirdly striking moment, the type of low-key intimate shot we see of couples in so many shows and movies, but have never seen of these two characters before. It makes Jaime and Cersei’s romance seem … normal. Then there’s a knock at the door and — hey, who is this handmaiden who looks like a big city executive assistant? And did Cersei order her staff to copy her haircut? She orders the sheets changed, totally not caring who knows who she’s sleeping with.
Outwitting armies, torturing enemies, openly fooling around with her brother … Cersei’s really living the life she’s always wanted in this hour. Perhaps Euron would actually make a good mate for her after all? NEXT: Bran creeps out Sansa
Winterfell: We see Sansa doing a rather excellent managerial job at Winterfell while Littlefinger purrs in her ear. “Fight every battle everywhere, always, everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend…” Baelish always comes across as wise and toxic at the same time.
There’s somebody at the gate. We know who that must be, right? Yet we’re wrong — it’s not Arya; it’s Bran! Somehow we keep forgetting about the Stark who remembers everything.
Sansa is thrilled to have her younger brother back home and hugs him. Bran just stares at her like she’s data to be computed. Last season’s Three-Eyed Raven download of all Westeros and Essos history has fried his personality circuits.
Sansa offers to let Bran take over ruling Winterfell for her (because patriarchy). But he’s totally uninterested. Bran doesn’t want power; he already has far more power than he knows what to do with.
It’s a bit heartbreaking because (as actor Isaac Hempstead Wright pointed out in our interview this week; link at end of recap) Sansa already lost Bran once. Now she’s realizing that even though he has physically returned, the brother she knew is gone forever.
Then, in an apparent attempt at demonstrating human compassion, Bran says something that deeply upsets her: “I’m sorry for all that happened to you…You were so beautiful in that white wedding dress.”
The idea that her little brother witnessed her Ramsay marriage horrors causes her to jump up and get out of there. Nobody likes a know-it-all, especially one who can watch you when you’re naked. Oddly enough, it was Bran trying to secretly spy on another couple in a bedroom (Jaime and Cersei) that arguably got the Stark family into this whole mess.
The Citadel: Ser Jorah is cured! And at least the arch-maester is dutifully impressed by Samwell’s efforts. “You should be proud,” he says, and our hearts swell for Sam. The Citadel’s leader is not such a bad fellow after all, though he still has to punish Sam a little for going against his verdict. This actually seems rather fair. But I was most alarmed by his casual mention of flesh-eating “paper mites,” as if Westeros needs more creeping terrors to be avoided — even the old books here can eat you alive (no, they’re not real, I checked). Finally: Olenna gets the last word
Casterly Rock: Daenerys’ forces flood the much-discussed and never-seen Lannister homeland. But Grey Worm is all dressed up with hardly anybody to kill. They discover the Lannister armies have already moved out and have gone to Highgarden.
But look: ships! Euron’s fleet sails into the harbor and lay siege to Dany’s forces, who find themselves trapped in a dead city without provisions. We see all this unfold to Tyrion’s smug narration about how things were supposed to go down. The Lannister forces instead went to…
Highgarden: Jaime Lannister and his forces seize Highgarden (along with their considerable wealth, which will come in handy paying off the Iron Bank). There he finds Lady Olenna Tyrell (yes, Olenna was in Dragonstone last week; she teleported home between episodes 2 and 3 — keep up!).
Jaime has a job to do and isn’t hugely thrilled about it. He finally gets to kill off a major Game of Thrones character and she’s a beloved and helpless grandmother.
Wait, did we actually call Olenna helpless? She’s still armed with her famously barbed tongue. Jaime boasts about how there are always lessons in failures, and she shoots back, “You must be very wise by now.”
Olenna then marvels at Cersei’s cruelty. “She’s a monster, you know that,” she says. “You poor fool. She’ll be the end of you.” She’s trying to plant some seeds of doubt in Jaime’s mind. It’s yet another way of trying to eventually defeat Cersei while only pretending in this scene that’s she’s given up.
Jaime puts poison in front of Olenna that he says is painless. She gulps it almost immediately. That’s both brave of her and a bit of a diss — like, I’d rather die quickly than listen to you for any longer than I have to.
Her fate sealed, Olenna reveals that she’s the one who orchestrated Joffrey’s death. This stuns Jaime. He considered Olenna a necessary casualty of Cersei’s personal grudge attacks on House Tyrell, not somebody who secretly drew first blood against his family by killing their son. “Tell Cersei,” she says. “I want her to know it was me.” And with that, we say goodbye to fan favorite Olenna Tyrell, who died yet still found a way to feel like she won. Will Jaime listen to her warnings, we wonder? Just because she’s trying to undermine Cersei doesn’t mean it wasn’t good advice.
Her reveal could also impact our major characters down the road. Jaime was never convinced Tyrion killed Joffrey, but now he knows for certain that his brother was framed. (Tyrion really did murder their dad, however, so there’s still that to get over).
So where does this all leave us? Daenerys showed up in Westeros holding a seemingly unbeatable hand, and so far she’s gotten her booty kicked left and right by Cersei. But we’ve seen Dany put in a corner before. And we know what she does to her enemies when she gets there.
Check out our exclusive interviews:
— Showrunners on losing that fan favorite: Only character to ‘win her own death scene’
— Game of Thrones actress on that brutal ‘worst nightmare’ Cersei scene
— Bran Stark actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright on his Winterfell reunion
— Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington discuss their first on-screen meeting
Last but not least, this week’s giveaway from the HBO Store! Here is this week’s trivia question: There’s been a lot of poisoning on this season of Game of Thrones, from the death of House Frey in the season premiere, to Cerise’s poisonous Sand Snake kiss, to the final (oddly triumphant) end of the Queen of Thorns. Who was the first victim of poisoning to appear on Game of Thrones?