What an amazing episode. Even without leaning too heavily on action (the narrated battle was almost like an afterthought), it packed such a tremendous punch that it actually rivaled the show’s best episodes to date. We not only got a few of the scenes we’ve been anticipating for years (Dany and Jon!), but the dialogue was so spot-on, that I doubt George RR Martin could have done it better had he written it himself.
In fact, I submit to you what might be a controversial (sacrilegious, even!) opinion: ever since the show moved past the written material it is based on last season, it has become so much more concise and well structured. Gone are the days of the one- or two-character-centric episodes of season 5 which dragged on forever; we no longer have to wonder about characters that have been absent all season long (*ahem* Bran); there’s more action, the plot has picked up the pace, there’s little (if any) filler.
True, this is in big part due to the clock counting down; there’s only 4 episodes left this season, 10 in total until the big finale, and a lot of uncharted territory to be covered. But because it’s uncharted, it’s given the writers more freedom to cut back on everything that kept it moving slowly, that was underwhelming, that frustrated viewers-only and book-readers alike.
There’s something to be said about the actual dialogue, too: it somehow feels more real this season. Less stilted. More reminiscent of normal conversations, rather than Shakesperean plays. And that, in turn, makes the characters more relatable, which is what you want when the stakes are so high. And boy, are they rising more and more each week.
So without further ado, let’s see where things stand in Westeros this week; I pretty much loved everything about this episode, so there’s no point in listing ups and downs, so let’s check in on each character instead:
Sansa & Bran
She may have openly admitted she admires Cersei, but Sansa is already proving to be a much better leader for the Northern folk. She’s closely monitoring Winterfell’s preparations for winter, she’s practical about provisions and battle armor. She definitely didn’t learn all that as Cersei’s prisoner, nor as Ramsay’s
wife rape victim. But she is Ned Stark’s daughter, and for all his faults, no one can accuse him of not looking after his people.
She’s also smart enough to keep that slimeball Littlefinger close by, as well as Yohn Royce as advisor. She’s a lot smarter than she lets on, observed Tyrion; She’s starting to let on, Jon replied, and his tone was part admiring and part slight annoyance, which was just perfection.
If Littlefinger’s advice seemed a bit puzzling to Sansa, it would soon make some sense: Bran is finally back at Winterfell, and I must say, I don’t care for Bran one bit. I don’t give a f*ck if he’s the three-eyed raven or a crippled young man, he’s already on my shitlist since last season (HODOR! Never forget.) and becoming less and less likable every time we see him. His detached attitude is obnoxious at best, and completely spoiled what was a very touching reunion. (It also made me wonder how Arya would have reacted if an emotional Sansa leapt to hug her. She’s a stone cold killer, but what seems to drive her these days isn’t vengeance, but home.)
Even more obnoxious than Bran’s expressionless face was his cryptic dialogue. Duh, the three-eyed-raven stuff is hard to explain, but could you at least make an effort? Jeez. Their entire conversation under the weirwood tree was a bit of a miss for me, and it obviously served no purpose other than to connect to Sansa’s scene with Littlefinger and his whole spiel about looking at the big picture and covering all the angles.
She may have only briefly appeared this week (apparently not to return for a while), but I loved her scenes with Varys. She’s recognized her own wrongdoings for a while now, but never fully fessed up to them until now – if only she had appeared this vulnerable and admitted her terrible mistakes when Davos confronted her last year, she might have escaped Jon’s sentence to exile.
Either way, her mission is complete, for now: she brought Fire and Ice together, and now she’s returning to Volantis, but not forever. She fully intends to return to Westeros to die there. As will Varys, apparently. And was that a not-so-veiled threat he made in their brief conversation? He should know not to mess with a woman who’s willing to burn little girls at the stake and can bring dead men back to life.
More importantly, however: she holds an important piece of the puzzle that is Jon Snow, so let’s hope she hasn’t boarded a ship across the Narrow Sea just yet. I like how the subject of his resurrection hasn’t come up in her interactions with Dany before now; the old Melisandre would have boasted about her powers without a second thought. This new, humbler incarnation of the red priestess apparently didn’t feel this was her secret to share.
God, they’re doing everything they can do make Euron as loathsome as possible, aren’t they? From his obnoxious rockstar attitude to his continuing digs at Jaime, there’s plenty to hate about the Ironborn pirate as he’s riding among the cheering commoners at Kings Landing on his way to present Cersei with her ‘gifts’.
Still, all I could think about during this scene wasn’t how much I hate Euron, or even how poignant a callback this was to Cersei’s walk of shame, as the mob was pelting Yara, Ellaria and Tyenne with garbage. It was how stupid these people were, cheering for a savage pirate who came to the aid of the queen they despised until very recently. Why, exactly, are they cheering for him? I’d be willing to bet that the majority don’t know him from Adam, and I doubt they recognize Yara and Tyenne or remember Ellaria.
Jaime may have touched on the subject later in this scene, after that ridiculous finger in the bum comment (that shouldn’t have hit the mark but I laughed despite myself), but to me, after all the drama, Machiavellian machinations and shifts in power we’ve witnessed in 6+ seasons of the show, this was perhaps the most accurate depiction – or, at least, the most scathing criticism – of how politics work: people are sheep and have the memory of goldfish. The future of Westeros is looking pretty bleak.
I’ve often griped about the way Cersei’s character is written in the show, probably unfairly, because she’s much more three-dimensional than her depiction in the books. This week, however, I just have to give it to the writers and to Lena Heady’s (always) excellent performance.
For one thing, her expression when she finally felt forced to accept Euron’s proposal (after the war is won) was priceless: it was the perfect combination of her trademark sneer and her ill-concealed feelings of disgust for the man, and it was amazing.
And this was followed by the most brilliant monologue she’s delivered to date as she addresses her prisoners: powerful and vengeful and at the top of her game, stating facts for the most part (if only Oberyn hadn’t taunted the Mountain – haven’t we all thought that at some point?) yet still managing to allow a rare glimpse into her human side, genuinely grieving for her dead daughter and asking her murderer why she took her from her. It was a much needed display of humanity, after the emotionless, matter-of-fact way she dealt with Tommen’s “betrayal” and consequent demise.
The only thing that was jarring about this scene was the red lipstick, which was completely out of place on the usually bare-faced queen and telegraphed the ‘big’ reveal at the end of the scene. I didn’t really mind having it spoil the surprise, because, for once, I was rooting for Cersei’s revenge.
And boy was it sweet. Sweet enough to warrant a chorus of the Rains of Castamere theme for the first time this episode (and, sadly for Olenna, not the last).
We were also reminded that murder and torture makes Cersei horny, and I really can’t blame her for that, either: over the course of three episodes, she killed most of her enemies, took revenge on her daughter’s killers and drew first blood in the war against Dany; who wouldn’t want to celebrate, especially when she received the ultimate compliment from
Mycroft Holmes that dude from the Iron Bank: she really is her father’s daughter.
I also loved how, after this scene early on in the episode, every other character went out of their way to remind us what a monster Cersei is. It was completely necessary, lest we start cheering and celebrating her triumphs along with her.
Ellaria and Tyenne
Well, those two got some Queen’s Justice, alright. Can’t say I feel sorry about either of them, really. If anything, I appreciated the gags, because no one needs to hear those awful accents again. It was almost as if the writers were trying to make amends for inflicting all the Dorne scenes on us in seasons past. We hear you hate the awful Sand Snakes storylines; here, let us take care of that for you.
Jorah and Sam
There were plenty of poignant scenes this week, but none made me squeal with joy and shed a tear more than Jorah’s miraculous cure! My favorite Sir Friendzone will live to fight another day, all thanks to Sam’s ability to follow instructions. Are the other maesters really that incompetent, that they would all fail where Sam succeeded? It doesn’t matter: Jorah has escaped his death sentence and Sam has to copy a bunch of old scrolls as punishment for his disobedience. Fair enough.
God I love the Onion Knight! The brief look he exchanged with Jon when he presented him to Dany, after Missandei’s elaborate listing of her queen’s multiple titles was pure gold, and everything he says in his fleabottom accent is spot-on.
I may have found Jon’s lines/Kit’s acting a bit bizarre these past couple of weeks, but my favorite bastard is definitely on point this time around! Not only did he totally hold his own with Dany, but his exchanges with Tyrion were utterly enjoyable, and probably the best part of the episode.
‘Stark men don’t fare well when they travel south‘. ‘True but I’m not a Stark‘. You don’t know the half of it, Jon Snow.
And then, discussing Tyrion with Dany: ‘He enjoys talking‘. ‘We all enjoy what we’re good at‘. ‘I don’t‘. His forlorn expression was excellent as he delivered that line.
What was perhapt questionable was his refusal to bend the knee; it would have definitely sped things along, but luckily he has a friend in Tyrion. He also has a point: if Dany isn’t defined by the acts of her father, why should Jon be held to the vows made by his ancestor?
He may not be much of a strategist, but the man can converse like nobody’s business, and it was about time we got our smart-mouthed dwarf back!
I loved his ‘You look a lot better brooding than I do‘ quip to Jon (true) and just about every single thing he said to Dany. I especially loved the walking dead reference and, of course, let’s not forget his ever-so-loving words about Cersei: “It’s almost a relief to confront a comfortable, familiar monster like my sister“. Again, true.
Most importantly, in true Tyrion form, he manages to diffuse a situation that could have easily escalated to a Snow barbecue courtesy of Drogon, Viseryon and Rhaegal, by making complete sense in his advice to Dany: dragonglass is useless to her, so why not let Jon mine it? Give him nothing by giving him something. Keep Jon occupied. You know nothing, Tyrion Lannister.
Unfortunately, for all his talents, Tyrion didn’t exactly score much of a win this week in terms of his war-savvy: not only do they receive news of their naval disaster, but his new plan to attack Casterly Rock wasn’t the resounding success he may have expected. It makes sense, too: while he was whoring in the sewers of Casterly Rock, Jaime was learning how to play at war from the master: their father.
Jaime & Olenna
Jaime not only anticipated the attack at Casterly Rock and only sacrificed the bare minimum of Lannister soldiers, taking a page out of Robb Stark’s book, but also convinced Lord Tarly to join him against his former allies, the Tyrells, thus securing an undefeated general to lead his army.
Although I’ve been disappointed to see that the loaded look he gave Cersei in last season’s finale was largely misleading, as he’s still very much on her side and doing her bidding, unlike his book counterpart, I was partly appeased by the fact that he hasn’t reverted to full season one-monster-mode just yet: he showed mercy on Olenna, allowing her a much more humane death than Cersei had in mind, and didn’t succumb to his baser instincts even when our favorite scheming grandma confessed to the murder of his first born son. (probably because he agreed with her that Joffrey was, in fact, a cunt). Plus, he looked so hot on his white horse leading the army through Highgarden. Anyone who looks like that can’t be truly evil, can they?
As much as I was sad to see Olenna go before she could exact vengeance for her family, it was a fitting end to her story: she didn’t have much of an army to contribute to Dany’s cause and didn’t really join in out of loyalty but thirst for revenge. Are we supposed to accept her demise as symbolic, in the sense that those seeking revenge, much like Ellaria, are bound to meet an unfortunate end after all? Possibly, but as far as I’m concerned it was mostly a plot device to help Cersei score a few more points to even the playing field before the ultimate confrontation with Dany. Plus it served as a perfect bookend to not only Joffrey’s untimely (and utterly satisfactory) demise, but also in mirroring the off-screen death of Tyenne. Death-by-poison had a great comeback this week.
And, of course, Olenna’s final scene worked brilliantly as a plot device to further complicate the Lannister siblings’ relationship. Entirely convinced of her own assumption though she may be, Cersei was wrong all along: Tyrion didn’t conspire with Sansa to murder Joffrey, after all. It’s doubtful that this development will soften Cersei towards her younger brother at this point – she’s too far gone for that – but it might actually loosen her hold over Jaime: if she was wrong about this, what else was she wrong about? if Tyrion didn’t kill his son, could he possibly be justified in murdering his own father?
That’s probably wishful thinking; as Olenna observes, the ‘poor fool’ loves Cersei; it’s beyond Jaime’s control. Still, I’m holding out hope for the mostly likely Valonqar candidate to step up.
Unlike the majority of the show’s audience and book readers, I was never really on the Daenerys bandwagon, and this week really turn me into an avid fan of hers, either. Once again, she came across as arrogant for the majority of the episode; the one concession she did make – ‘Perhaps we should all be examining what we do know‘ – were Tyrion’s words, not hers. Had Tyrion not advised her otherwise, and had she not received news of the Greyjoy fleet disaster, she probably would have been more than happy to roast Jon alive.
Okay, maybe not. She did (sort of) apologize for her crazy dad’s crimes, after all. But her entire demeanor as the ‘rightful queen‘ of the Seven Kingdoms when, in reality, she isn’t ruling even one, simply comes across as delusional. And seeing how this episode keeps bringing up Joffrey, let’s remember Tywin’s words of wisdom: Any man who must say, “I am the king” is no true king. Surely this applies to queens as well.
In fact, not only is Dany queen of no one in Westeros, but she suffered two consecutive, and quite substantial, back-to-back defeats. And while we’re on the subject of her recent military failure: could the siege of Casterly Rock have looked any more similar to the battle of Helm’s Deep, complete with the Uruk-Hai shields and ladders attack and the ‘So it begins‘ narration courtesy of Tyrion? I felt bad for poor Grey Worm but was too distracted trying to locate Aragorn and Legolas skateboarding down the stairs.
With her allies all gone, all Dany has now are her armies and her three dragons;
if she’s smart if Tyrion is as smart as we know he is, he’ll help her see the truth of Jon’s words: she needs him just as much as he needs her.
Unless the producers want a riot on their hands, it won’t be long before the tide turns and Daenerys comes out on top again; hopefully her first order of business is to offer Euron as a tasty snack to her dragons, because pirate dude’s got to go.
But what I’m sure all of us are far more interested to see is how they’ll handle the whole R+L=J conundrum, now that Bran is at Winterfell and ready to spill the beans. Given that the timeline is still pretty wonky, I’m guessing Jon will have mined the dragonglass he needs and will already be on his way back north by next week, which leaves ample time for him to finally learn his true heritage and have another meeting with Dany, this time on much different terms.
The only thing missing this week was Arya and the Hound, which means they’ll probably make an appearance in next week’s episode. One thing’s for sure, GoT is on a roll and season 7 is already on its way to epic status, which makes the week-long wait all the more torturous!