'Game of Thrones' Book Reader Recap: The Timelines are Vague and Nonsensical
We got a lot of big moves on Game of Thrones this week and some very satisfying confrontations and revelations. I am still, overall, frustrated with the sense that travel is nothing anymore, but I suspect that’s just going to be an ongoing footnote for the rest of the season unless I want to drive all of you (and myself) mad trying to keep track of every instance of characters clearly Tessering around Westeros and the outlying areas. That said, I will be referring to Euron’s Iron Fleet as the Quantum Iron Fleet from here on out, because they are everywhere at the same time.
The title of this episode was “The Queen’s Justice” and we got a sense of the kind of justice the two reigning queens and the one honorary queen are out for. Cersei continues in her bloody quest to torture and kill all those she considers her enemies, which includes basically everyone not kissing her ass at that exact moment; Daenerys is still figuring out what justice is in Westeros when she’s not dealing with the clear evils of her previous foes in Slaver’s Bay; and Olenna knows that justice is getting the last word. Overall it was an uneven episode with some really wonderful moments and some moments that should have soared and instead plodded.
We open up on a meeting we’ve all been waiting a long time for, Jon Snow arriving to meet Daenerys Targaryen after leaving Winterfell just last episode. He’s greeted fondly by Tyrion and I’m glad to see that Tyrion’s affection for Jon and Sansa has lasted through his various travels and intrigues since he last saw both of them. Davos mostly seems disappointed that he’s unable to charm Missandei. Buddy, you’re about 20 years too old and in possession of far too much of your factory-issued genitals. My early impression is that we don’t get many hints towards Jon’s Targaryen lineage unless you count Drogon playfully dive-bombing him on his walk up to the castle.
The title-off goes to Daenerys, because Missandei is the best hype woman in the known world. But Davos learned his grammar from the best stickler in the game, so he scores points back on the matter of proper titles. We get a bit of bickering about history and whose ancestor swore what and whose father killed who, basically boiling down to Jon and Dany trying to advance their own interests without acknowledging the concerns of the other. Dany fought her way through the Red Waste, hatched three dragons, burned down evil warlocks, freed thousands of slaves, and took cities to get where she is now, and Jon knows none of that. Jon has gone to the end of the known world to find a place for himself and found monsters from legend, the evils of men, made peace with the Wildlings, and has consistently fought the threat he considers most pressing with little concern for politics and Daenerys knows none of that. It’s gotten him killed once (something we’re not talking about in front of company, apparently) but he remains steadfast in his understanding of what’s really important. Neither of them are wrong, as far as Daenerys is concerned, the conquest of Westeros is the most immediate concern. Jon knows that the Long Night is coming, but doesn’t have a lot in the way of specifics of when or how that’s happening, and even he paused in his crusade against the Night King to take back Winterfell, so he should have an inkling of what’s going on here. Basically, it’s a lot of very stiff exposition that feels clunky. Jon HAD to know that approaching someone claiming the Iron Throne with anything other than an offer of support was a big risk, but he did it anyway. Even Tyrion tells him it’s not a great plan. Daenerys has no good answer as to how being her ally will benefit Jon, because having them at odds with each other is dramatically more interesting. But all the fun of watching these two talk past each other is cut short as Varys runs in to deliver news of Euron’s attack on Yara’s fleet.
Oh, we do also hear Melisandre refer to Jon and Dany meeting as “I’ve brought ice and fire together” because there’s not enough screen time left with subtlety. This task completed, she’s on her way to Volantis, but with the sinister reveal that she will be back because she has to die in Westeros. Guess we’ll see, sometime in the next 10 hours worth of television.
The Iron Fleet is back in King’s Landing, so we get a nice long scene of women being paraded through the streets, called whores, and being pelted with produce. Great. This is exactly the sort of thing I missed and am glad they’re using their extended running time on. Euron delivers Ellaria and Tyene to Cersi as a gift, but NOT Yara. Cersei promises to marry him, later, and then we get Euron taunting Jaime obscenely some more. Still not enjoying Magical Antagonist Euron/Budget Jack Sparrow in any capacity. I won’t even enjoy seeing him die. It will be like correcting a typo. To be fair, in the books I feel the same way about FAegon who seems like a champion time-waster going into the final events, so I guess there is canon for this.
Cersei takes her time revealing how she’ll deal with Ellaria and Tyene. The suspicion that she would have Tyene killed in front of Ellaria proves correct, but Cersei taunts Ellaria first, even throwing in a few pleas for understanding why Myrcella was killed that sound genuine, before kissing Tyene full on the lips. Cersei has taken a liking to poison, and Tyene will die of the poison that killed Myrcella. Unlike Myrcella, she will not die in a parent’s arms. Ellaria and Tyene’s chains are just long enough to keep them apart. Drunk on her own power, Cersei goes to seduce Jaime and I’m hoping for his sake that she was very thorough in getting that lipstick off. He says “No” at first, but she pushes on to his eventual acceptance, perhaps in a nod to that scene at Joffrey’s wake, and they wake up with Cersei looking triumphant and Jaime looking uneasy. After letting her best handmaiden know that she and Jaime need some fresh sheets (ewwwwwwwwwwwww) she goes to meet with none other than Tycho Nestoris of the Iron Bank, who has shown up to discuss a payment plan. I have a personal theory that the Iron Bank is in league with the House of Black and White for a few reasons, first is that we know the House of Black and White does not only collect money as payment for their actions, and we know that the Iron Bank seems to always come out on top. The second is, in the books, the ability of a fucking banker to criss-cross a war torn continent rapidly descending into winter without any apparent difficulty. The guy made it up to the Wall and then back down to a besieged Winterfell in a blizzard without breaking a sweat. He is NOT what he appears to be. I suspect there’s a pipeline of information flowing between the two that allows the Iron Bank to turn bad investments into good ones, and use the Faceless Men as a way to keep the scales tipped in their favor. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, and Cersei seems to think she’ll be able to pay the Iron Bank in a fortnight, which is either hubris or alarming. We’ll find out.
Back on Dragonstone Tyrion comes to brood and instead encounters the King of Brooding and ends up helping Jon Snow learn about politics. A good lesson is: don’t ask for help defeating a supernatural army no one else has ever seen right out of the gate. “It’s not a reasonable thing to ask.” It’s really not. But Tyrion does negotiate Jon asking to mine the dragonglass in Dragonstone, and negotiates Daenerys letting him do so in order to build a relationship where they can genuinely trust and understand each other. Dany, though, proves that fresh eyes can be an advantage sometimes, as she’s fixated on Davos’s statement that “Jon took a dagger in the heart” while Tyrion dismisses it as a flight of fancy. But she agrees to Jon mining the dragonglass, which leads to their first unsupervised conversation, as they dragon watch while we dragon watch. Daenerys mentions Jon losing two brother, which seems an odd statement since Bran has been assumed dead for a while now and that would be three brothers. I know that Bran’s come close to Jon a couple times, but news of his survival is far from general knowledge. Dany stops short of saying she believes Jon about the White Walkers, but looks after him curiously when he walks away.
SPEAKING OF BRAN, we’re at Winterfell watching Sansa take control of the collection of food and creation of armor very capably and Littlefinger trying to impart weird wisdom about constant vigilance and Schrodinger’s war or some other such nonsense that is interrupted with news that someone is at the gate. Thank god. It’s Bran and Meera, down from Castle Black. Bran, given that he’s a magic tree person now, looks bizarrely sanguine at this meeting. Sansa’s face crumples and she embraces her brother. Bran’s demeanor doesn’t change even as Sansa insists he should be Lord of Winterfell, and his attempt to explain what’s happened to him is infuriatingly vague and he deflects further explanation by letting Sansa know he witnessed her rape by Ramsay. There was probably a better way to go about this, Bran-flakes. One where you didn’t turn your first meeting with your sister into some weird confrontation about her brutal sexual assault to let her know that you’re a supernatural being now. Since the previous Three Eyed Raven seemed capable of a level of human compassion and understanding, do we think this new flat affect is an attempt to cover up some deficiencies in acting abilities or a way to make Bran tree-like without actually having him be a tree? Also “I told you, it’s difficult to explain”? Just say “there was a Three Eyed Raven who was teaching me, and he died and I inherited the title.” Sansa is intimately familiar with the concept of inherited titles!
Jorah Mormont is officially cured thanks to Samwell Tarly. He’s off to find Daenerys so he can whisper sweet Khaleesis at her from afar. Sam is alternatively complimented and punished by Maester Embrose for his healing abilities and saving Jorah’s life. As a reward, he gets to copy a bunch of old rotted scrolls instead of being kicked out of the Citadel. I see his point, but after that bedpan sequence I feel like the Citadel is not as great as it’s cracked up to be and if Sam can cure Grayscale he could probably make a mint over in Essos.
We get a final sequence that’s a bit of a mixed bag. The discussion of the taking of Casterly Rock, I enjoyed because it mixed in some valuable canonical information about Tyrion being in charge of the sewers and plays with our expectations of how that battle would play out. But it doesn’t happen that way. Casterly Rock is taken. However, the Quantum Fleet is magically now on the entire other SIDE of Westeros to burn the ships the Unsullied sailed to Casterly Rock in, cutting off their escape. And the rest of the Lannister army? They’re down at High Garden. As is Olenna who, again, was at Dragonstone just last week. I said I wouldn’t harp on this, but you guys have to let me harp a little. The timelines on this show are becoming so vague as to when these events are taking place relative to each other that it’s almost meaningless to try and anticipate what this means strategically. If the whole Lannister army is at High Garden and the Iron Fleet is at Casterly Rock, then shouldn’t Daenerys be able to roll straight into King’s Landing practically unopposed? No, because next week they could be right back there as though it takes as long to get across and around all of Westeros as it does to get from Dragonstone on the edge of Blackwater Bay to King’s Landing at the mouth of it. ANYWAY, High Garden falls to the strains of “The Rains of Castamere” and Jaime goes to confront the Queen of Thrones in an exchange that makes most of the episode worth it. Diana Rigg goes out sassing Jaime and getting in a few more digs at Joffrey before dropping her biggest bomb. Just after Jaime grants her some mercy by allowing her to drink a painless poison as her execution method, she lets him know that she killed Joffrey. Not Tyrion, as has been the operating assumption for both Cersei and Jaime for a long time now. It was all her. “Tell Cersei, I want her to know.” Jaime appears to refuse to absorb this news and storms out of the room as Olenna settles in to her death. Will Jaime tell Cersei? Tyrion is the hand of a rebel Queen, so it’s unlikely that Cersei will change her view of him, but it could change Jaime’s view of Tyrion and his view of Cersei depending on how she reacts. Or rather, will be one of many things that starts to change his view of Cersei. “If she’s driven you this far, it’s gone beyond your control.” Jaime changed the Game once before, he can do it again.
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