Game of Thrones, S7 E3: “The Queen’s Justice”
Written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Directed by Mark Mylod
“Tell Circe. I want her to know it was me.”
“If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?” Why doesn’t GOT give Shakespeare a writing credit? Games, poisons and prophecy fill this week’s episode.
Even dragons cannot win a war conducted using second-rate strategy. The battle for Westeros is Daenerys’ to lose, and she is losing it. Daenerys’s decision to save thousands of civilian lives has resulted in the deaths of thousands of her soldiers. She wastes time and energy demanding that John Snow acknowledge that she is the ultimate prom queen for all eternity when she should be figuring out how to defeat Circe. Circe is an opponent like no other that Daenerys has ever faced, and if she doesn’t grow up fast, she stands no chance whatsoever of ever reclaiming the Iron Throne, let alone defeating the Night King and the Army of the Dead.
John Snow arrives at Dragonstone to a welcome that looks more like a defeat. The Dothraki take not only the entourage’s weapons, but they also pick up and walk off with their boat. As if trained to do so, the dragons buzz the King of the North as he walks up the causeway to the castle. Instead of forging an alliance with John Snow, Daenerys insists that he bend the knee and proclaim his loyalty to her. To her credit, she does ask his forgiveness for the terrible things that her father did to his family. But like Circe, she is too fixated on her obsession to rule to take the long view. While John Snow chafes at his status as a virtual captive, Tyrion acts as a go-between. Tyrion and John’s mutual respect may eventually result in some sort of alliance, despite Daenerys’s insistence on John’s recognition of her authority and John’s refusal to give her just that. On Tyrion’s advice, Daenerys agrees to let John Snow at least mine as much dragonglass as he needs, though she does not really believe in the Army of the Dead, nor does she understand the value of what she possesses in the dragonglass. Upon hearing about the defeat of Yara and the Sand Snakes, Daenerys even proposes flying alone with her three dragons and burning Euron Greyjoy’s fleet to cinders. Luckily, her advisors talk her out of that faulty plan.
In the first bit of prophesy, Varis suggests Melisandre return to whatever hole she crawled out of, but she turns on him and states that she –like him- will die in this foreign land. So far, Melisandre has proved even less accurate than the weather forecast, so we’ll have to wait and see if this time she is right.
Daenerys would do well to take That Bastard Baelish’s advice to Sansa. Up in the North at Winterfell, Sansa looks to the future with both war and winter on her doorstep, and begins making preparations to stockpile food. She prepares for the possibility that everyone in the area will end up having to take refuge at Winterfell, either because of the weather or the White Walkers. While she tries to insure the survival of her people, or even any people, That Bastard Baelish goes all existential on her. In one of those weird foreshadow-y little speeches that he makes, he advises her to plot out every possible outcome and consider every possibility. Pay attention to what seems like a throw-away bit of dialogue: That Bastard Baelish, unlike Circe and Daenerys, and even Sansa, never ever loses sight of the long game.
Speaking of the long game, Sansa’s long lost brother Bran arrives at Winterfell, eyebrows and all. In prior episodes, Bran transformed into the Three-Eyed Raven. The birds-eye view that he gained, even though it is imperfect, seems to have given him farsightedness at the expense of his humanity. Though Sansa greets him like the long lost brother that he is, he shows no emotion at their reunion. Perhaps his vision will somehow help win this game, this game for the survival of humanity; perhaps the only one who can help defeat the Night King is one who possesses the same kind of coldhearted vision.
Always full of poisonous people, King’s Landing overflows with various types of venom this week. Euron Greyjoy parades his captives Ellaria, Tyene, and Yara through the streets of the city, which gets him all hot and bothered. Then he delivers them to Circe at the Red Keep. Euron might just be the only person in this brutal world who can keep up with Circe with evil words and evil deeds. He plants a foot on Circe’s dais, taunts Jamie about playing bedroom games with Circe, and insists that Circe marry him. This guy cannot seriously believe that Circe will ever consent to such an arrangement, or that he would survive. She’s gaming him. Then again, he’s so ambitious that he might be gaming her as well. They’re very much alike: just as Euron gets his jollies from parading the captives through the streets, Circe gets the fever by poisoning Ellaria’s daughter Tyene. After throwing Ellaria and Tyene in the dungeon, gagged and unable to reach each other, Circe trash talks Ellaria and torments her for the poisoning death of Circe’s daughter Marcella. Exchanging tit-for-tat murders, Circe poisons Tyene by kissing her, having duplicated the same poison lipstick (and antidote) Ellaria used on Marcella. She orders that the torches in the dungeon remain lit at all times, so that Ellaria may not only watch her daughter die, but may also watch her body decay. This lights a torch inside Circe, and she goes off to play games with Jamie. Secure in her power, she no longer feels the need to hide their incestuous relationship. Meanwhile, the Iron Bank of Braavos sends Mycroft Holmes to negotiate payment of the huge and growing Lannister debt. Surprisingly, Circe agrees to pay the debt in full within two weeks. Watch this space: another game is afoot, and this one involves gold – lots and lots of gold. Where it comes from, and where it eventually ends up, are the subjects of this week’s end-of-episode teasers.
In the Citadel, Samwell’s gamble in removing Jorah Mormont’s top layer of skin cures the man’s grayscale disease. Mormont leaves the Citadel to rejoin Daenerys, and maybe just in time. Before their falling out, he was one of her best advisors. Though Sam and Jorah lie about how the healing came about, the Archmaester knows exactly what Sam did, even before Sam admits it. In punishment for Sam’s disobedience, the Archmaester instructs him to copy a pile of old manuscripts. Though Sam assumes this is menial make-work, methinks he may just have been granted access to the most important information the Citadel holds. Samwell already figured out the mother-load of dragonglass lies beneath Dragonstone; perhaps he may come across other valuable information in those old dusty documents.
This week’s battles are described in a voiceover by Tyrion as they are shown to the viewer. He reveals how his father put him in charge of designing the sewers at Casterly Rock because it was the lowliest job. Tyrion being Tyrion, he took the opportunity to devise ways to sneak women in and out. Otherwise impregnable, Tyrion instructs the Unsullied to infiltrate the castle using the sewers. The Unsullied sneak in and kill all the soldiers who are inside, but unfortunately there were very few soldiers inside. As Grey Worm conquers the castle, Euron’s ships arrive by sea. Grey Worm’s real battle has just begun. At the same time, the Lannister Army, led by Jamie, attack and defeat High Garden. Circe has out-strategized Daenerys at every turn. Realizing that Casterly Rock is not worth holding, Circe and Jaime allow it to be taken because they know that the key to winning the real game lies elsewhere. Daenerys has now lost her ships, Dorn, and Highgarden, and her army of Unsullied is in peril.
Words can be just as poisonous as contaminated wine. Jamie wins the battle on the field at High Garden, but Olenna Tyrell wins the battle of words. Unbowed in defeat, she tells Jamie that Circe is a disease and a monster and that she will turn on him, too, in the third prophetic-sounding speech of the night. He doesn’t really listen to that. Rather than execute her, Jamie offers her a glass of poison and she drinks it right down without hesitation. Jamie always believed that Tyrion poisoned Joffrey, as did Circe. With her last words, Olenna confesses that she was the one that killed Joffrey. It seems that her only regret is that she is going to die just like he did. Jamie hears that. Even after she has lost, Olenna still makes one last move before exiting the game. Gotta give her points for style.
The game is no longer about power. It’s about survival. The sooner all the temporary monarchs of Westeros stop trading poisons and figure that out, the better their chances of winning the only game that matters. “The poison of selfishness destroys the world” – Catherine of Siena.