Game of Thrones Revisited: 7.03 The Queen's Justice
Game of Thrones, the critically acclaimed TV series by David Benioff and DB Weiss and developed from the best-selling series of novels by George RR Martin, has become a cultural icon. The tentpole of HBO's programming with a stellar cast and mix of medieval-style political drama and war with a healthy dash of fantasy, Game of Thrones has enthralled audiences worldwide. And this year, the show will come to a dramatic end in its final run of feature length episodes. In the lead up to season eight, I explore every episode leading up to the final battle for Westeros, continuing with season seven's The Queen's Justice as Daenerys and Jon finally meet...
Warning: There may be spoilers for seasons one to seven...
In the racing pace of season seven, the third episode The Queen's Justice is a slower and well-paced affair, focusing primarily on the reigns of Daenerys and Cersei. It's not a dramatic or terribly exciting episode for the most part but it is rich in characterisation, with new meetings and reunions as the story pushes forward, ending with the icing on the cake as the new war for Westeros takes many unexpected turns.
"You stand in the presence on Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryan, rightful heir to the Iron Throne, the rightful Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains."
"This is Jon Snow... he's King in the North."
The opening twenty minutes of the episode is devoted solely to the meeting of the show's two most powerful figures - Daenerys Stormborn and Jon Snow, the fire and ice Melisandre claimed them to be. It never feels rushed or contrived, building up to their first meeting with a reunion with Tyrion on the beach and Jon's first awestruck sight of the dragons flying over their namesake Dragonstone.
It is also a clash of worlds, with Missandei reeling off Daenerys's many titles and Davos announcing Jon so very gruffly and simply. That humour breaks the tense situation, Jon refusing to bend to the knee while Daenerys arrogantly call him out for his open rebellion against her. But it is also the first time she learns, through Jon of the white walkers and the Night King, Jon so very adeptly calling everyone children while the real threat to the world marches south. The irony of Game of Thrones is that Jon is absolutely right - all the wars and schemes and betrayals for land and titles is nothing to the zombie apocalypse that has been slowly but surely encroaching on the world since the start of season one. And of course, by the end of the season, all that talk of the dead will be revealed to all as far more than myths and legends.
The focus on Dragonstone for the first act and much of the episode, allows some deep and insightful character moments. Carice Van Houten makes her final onscreen appearance for now as Melisandre, hiding in the cliffs out of sight of Jon and Davos and she mournfully reflects on her fallen grip of power to Varys. Since her actions in season five, she has become a much more mournful character and this is reflected here as she tells Varys that she will return one last time to die in this strange land. Her proclamation that he will too is a deeply unsettling moment for the spider.
Peter Dinklage and Kit Harrington play off each other as well as they did here as they did way back in season one. The early episodes forged a strong, respectful bond between Tyrion and Jon and that pays off here, with Tyrion using that bond to convince Daenerys that Jon might be right about the dead and allow him to mine the dragon glass beneath the island for weapons in the fight to come. There is also a spark between Daenerys and Jon too, the first perhaps for him since the death of Ygritte in season four; amid the hostility are two young rulers facing insurmountable odds and they actions here will grow that relationship over the episodes to come.
King's Landing also offer s more insight into the cold and ruthless reign of Queen Cersei. Her alliance with Euron pays off, with Yara marched through the streets of King's Landing, while Ellaria Sand and her daughter are brought before the throne. The scene in the jail cell was deeply unsettling, even if there was a bit of justice for Cersei too, poisoning Tyene with a fatal kiss and then leaving a screaming Ellaria in chains to watch her daughter slowly die and rot away. We haven't seen Ellaria since this episode, so you can only imagine the torment she faces in the days to come.
Cersei's cruelty and arrogance in unleashed - she boasts to Iron Banker Tycho Nestoris that she will pay her debts in the days to come, brushing off Daenerys's actions as bad for the finance of all involved. But it is the manner in which she sleeps with Jamie and walks openly from his bed chamber, unafraid of who might see her. What was for many years a secret she treats with brazen openness, so unafraid is she now that anyone will stand against her.
And then we have Sansa, the third 'queen of the episode'. She is clearly in her element in Winterfell, commanding the troops as they prepare weapons and food stocks for the defence of the North. Littlefinger continues to worm his way into his counsel, telling her to fight every battle everywhere - paranoia and ruthlessness is the means by which he would have her rule.
But there is also tender joy in her reunion with Bran who makes his way home with Meera after their long and terrible journey north. In Bran, she sees a potential Lord of Winterfell, but he is much more now, the Three-Eyed Raven, preparing for the long night to come. His remembrance of her wedding in Winterfell, seen through his visions, is an uncomfortable reminder for Sansa and shows just how changed they all are.
In the Citadel, a scarred Jorah finds himself cured, keeping Sam's cure secret from Archmaester Ebrose. Free of disease, he finds himself ready to reunite with his queen, while Sam faces the interrogation of Ebrose for his actions. Jim Broadbent brings a warmth and wisdom to the role, acting both authoritative and supportive of Sam's actions, playing a very different parental figure compared to the Randyll Tarly we met last season.
And finally, Casterly Rock makes it long awaited debut as Grey Worm and the Unsullied launch their assault on the Lannister home. Like last episode's sea battle with Euron's fleet, the fight is quick and brutal, narrated by Tyrion who reveals that the sewer passage he built to bring his whores is the means by which Daenerys's forces will be victorious. It's not as visceral as the sea battle, but it is quick and thrilling, a snapshot of the conflict that tears Westeros apart in the seventh season.
And in that dazzling climax, we discover not only that Euron's sneak attack, destroying the Unsullied ships and leaving them stranded on the other side of Westeros, but the eradication of another major power in the fall of the Tyrells. In truth, they were doomed the moment that Cersei destroyed the sept of Baelor in season six's The Winds of Winter, but the true seat of power has been Diana Rigg's masterful Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns.
Rigg is afforded one final, perfect scene as Jamie Lannister marches his armies to Highgarden and takes the council. Clothed in black, Olenna awaits her fate as she speaks her final words with Jamie. She is as commanding and soft spoken as ever, luring Jamie into given her the poison in the wine that will allow her to die peacefully, only revealing the truth that she had Joffrey poisoned when the poison has been drunk. "Tell Cersei, I want her to know it was me." she exclaims, having the upper hand even in death. It's a superb final performance by Rigg, who really is one of the greatest performers in Game of Thrones.
The Queen's Justice is a superb character-driven episode, exploring Daenerys' arrogance, Cersei's cruelty, Sansa's manipulation and Olenna's revenge. But it also serves to soften Daenerys too; her counsel from Tyrion continues to change her for the better and her meeting with Jon will change the course of her journey moving forward. By season seven, every world collides and nothing will be the same. It speaks volumes that the battle of Casterly Rock and the fall of the Highgarden are treated almost as afterthoughts and yet delivered masterfully and with such pace. But it is Diana Rigg's Olenna that rules the episode to the very end, delivering another perfect performance to close out the strongest episode of season seven yet.