So, Cersei Lannister, huh?
I know I should start off by talking about Dany and Jon’s long-awaited first meeting, and, trust me, I have thoughts about that. However, what these past two episodes have reminded me is in the titular game of thrones to determine who will ultimately lead Westeros Cersei Lannister is still very much a candidate who is not to be underestimated. I’ve long assumed we’re headed for a Gangs of New York/War for the Planet of the Apes situation where two or more warring factions build to a climactic battle only to have an unexpected event or new player on the field turn their heads and reveal the true source of their doom. Really, I’m absolutely with Jon on this one. They’re all just wasting time right now, playing at a game while the literal walking dead are bringing a real war none of them are prepared for.
Since that’s been my view of the show from pretty much the moment this happened…
…I haven’t given much thought to what role Cersei has to play in this. She’ll clearly be gone by the time Dany and Jon have to unite against the Nigh King, right? Even with Cersei’s inspired run of military and political maneuvering in recent weeks, I still struggle to believe that she is truly an end game player in this story, not with how hard the show keeps hinting that she is unhinged to a such a degree now that an eventual downfall is all but guaranteed.
And yet, damn! Respect. In just two episodes, Cersei and Jamie, her great enabler, have systematically taken out every one of Dany’s allies, preyed on Tyrion’s cleverness to sucker him into a trap (in a brilliantly filmed battle scene), secured the funds to erase the Lannister family’s massive debt and created a secret weapon theoretically capable of killing Dany’s dragons. Moreover, Cersei has now avenged the death of her only daughter, and probably already has plans to betray Euron Greyjoy before he gets the chance to betray her. At the very least she definitely won back some power in their relationship by unilaterally deciding to delay her promised marriage to him until after the war.
She’s a woman who has nothing to live for other than the thirst for power, thrill of victory and promise of revenge against all those who’ve wronged her, and she is absolutely kicking Dany’s ass in this war right now. At some point, she might allow herself to feel the pain of everything she’s done and has been done to her. That might destroy her. Jamie may yet turn on her for fear of what she’s becoming. However, season 7 is starting to feel a lot like The Deathly Hallows Part 1 or Empire Strikes Back in that this isn’t going to end in triumph but instead on a series of down notes for the heroes. Cersei isn’t so much a hero or villain. At this point, she’s simply a survivor living up to her family name. However, the classical heroes left in this story – Dany and Jon – have a more formidable foe to deal with before the Nigh King. I don’t know about you, but I needed to be reminded of that.
ICE AND FIRE FINALLY MEET
I don’t mean to undercut this momentous scene 20 years in the making, the on-screen realization of the promise George R.R. Martin first made when he called his novel series A Song of Ice and Fire. However, someone really needs to make a supercut of this scene set to the tune of “Getting to Know You” from The King and I.
Getting to know you
Missandei: “You stand in the presence of Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, rightful heir of the Iron Throne, rightful queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains.”
Getting to know all about you
Davos: “This is Jon Snow. [Pause] He’s King in the North!”
Getting to like you
Dany: “I spent my life in foreign lands. So many men have tried to kill me, I don’t remember all of their names. I’ve been sold like a brood mare. I’ve been shamed and betrayed, raped and defiled. Do you know what kept me standing through all those years in exile? Faith. Not in any gods. Not in myths and legends. In myself. In Daenerys Targaryen. The world hadn’t seen a dragon in centuries until my children were born. The Dothraki hadn’t crossed the sea, any sea, until me. I was born to rule the Seven Kingdoms — and I will.”
Getting to hope you like me
Davos: “You don’t believe him. I understand that. It sounds like nonsense. But if destiny has brought Daenerys Targaryen back to our shores, it has also made Jon Snow King in the North. You were the first to bring Dothraki to Westeros? He is the first to make allies of wildings and Northmen. He was named Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. He was named King in the North. Not because of his birthright. He has no birthright. He’s a damn bastard. All those hard sons of bitches chose him as their leader because they believe in him. All those things you don’t believe in, he faced those things. He fought those things for the good of his people. He risked his life for his people. He took a knife in the heart for his people. He gave his own li—”
There are really only two sticking points with Dany and Jon’s epic interactions in “Queen’s Justice”: Would Jon really be so stubborn as to not bend a knee? And would Dany, the self-proclaimed mother of dragons, really be so hesitant to believe stories of zombie armies and White Walkers?
On the first point, the answer is a regrettable “yes,” although the show made sure to give Tyrion dialogue pointing out that Jon’s “there’s no time to bend the knee” argument makes no real practical sense. The problem with the Starks is usually that there’s too much of the Starks in them, and even though we know Jon is only half-Stark he was raised by them and constantly struggles to shake the same traits that got Ned killed. Plus, as he fairly points out he doesn’t really know Dany, was raised with horror stories about her father and has such tunnel vision with the Nigh King that he’s not at all prepared to really deal with the politics of Dany and Cersei’s war. Still, that he would go there, and then immediately want to turn around and go home without ever even bringing up dragonglass? I don’t know. Is Jon really that stubborn?
On the last point, the answer is a bit less certain. After everything Dany’s been through, it’s a bit hard to buy her eye-rolling at tales of supernatural mischief happening beyond the Wall, but this is less about the story being told to her and more about the person telling the story. She doesn’t know Jon any more than he knows her, and talking isn’t exactly his strong suit. If not for Tyrion, these two would have been too stuck in their own stories to ever find common ground. It’s enough to make you wish Tyrion could serve as Hand to both Jon and Dany. Hey, if they marry that might still happen..
Oh, ewww. She’s his aunt!
Not that that’s stopped anyone in Game of Thrones before.
AS FOR THE REST…
-As the producers said in their after-episode “making of” featurette, they were lucky to have Dame Diana Rigg for as long as they did, and it was only fitting to send out Olenna Tyrell in a scene where she died and yet somehow still won. She not only did her best to plant a seed of doubt in Jamie about Cersei, but left him utterly speechless with the one bombshell she had left up her sleep, that she is the one who poisoned Joffrey, not Tyrion.
-Don’t worry, Sansa. That’s exactly as freaked out as we all were to see Bran in full-on Three-Eyed Raven mode and casually dropping, “Saw your wedding. Sorry you were raped. Loved your dress.” When exactly did he stop being Bran and start becoming all-knowing Neo from the end of the first Matrix?
-Totally thought it was going to be Arya at the Winterfell gate, not Bran.
-Ok, show. This business with Sam and Jorah better pay off because we’ve seen a lot of them while fan favorites like Brienne have been riding the bench this season.
-Ok, show. There are only so many hours left to give Theon the redemption we thought he’d already achieved. Now, you’re back to square one. Everyone knows about his cowardice. Where’s this going?
-Loved Varys trying to talk smack on Melisandre only to have her throw a prediction about his death back at him. That sure stopped him in his tracks.
-Sansa is already a million times better at ruling the North than Jon.
Tyrion: A wise man once said that you should never believe a thing simply because you want to believe it.
Dany: Which wise man said this?
Tyrion: I don’t remember.
Dany: Are you trying to present your own statements as ancient wisdom?
Tyrion: I would never do that. To you.
What do you think happens next week? Personally, if Cersei’s stupid crossbow works and really does take down one of Dany’s dragons I am going to be so disappointed, but that’s the way things are going this season.