In this week’s sleek, stunning episode, Game of Thrones continues to clear the board apace, with Queen Cersei and her two rooks capturing a number of pieces, and taking the wind literally right out of the Dragon fleet’s sails.
Yes, its a spectacularly successful week for the Lannisters as Euron gleefully delivers Ellaria and the sole Sand Snake still standing – it’s a measure of how poorly-executed (sorry) these characters were that, even in the final Snake’s final hours, I have no idea what her name is – to the Queen’s Justice, the Queen’s Justice being a terrible, symmetrical, almost elegantly cruel affair. And the Queen herself, not just enjoying it, but aroused by her cruelty and convinced her absolute power protects her absolutely, proving once again that Joffrey was very much his mother’s child, lest there had ever been any doubt.
His father Jaime, by contrast, takes no joy in the pain of Cersei’s enemies. But he will kill them regardless because he loves her. He really does love her. “Poor fool. She’ll be the end of you,” the Queen of Thorns notes without rancour in her own final scene, as Ser Jaime, having taken Highgarden in a sleight-of-hand as clever and unexpected as it is devastating, provides the redoubtable, magnificent Olenna Tyrell with a quiet, merciful, even more elegant exit. Only for her to deal him and his beloved Cersei one last, piercing barb on her way out. What an actress Diana Rigg is. And what an utterly majestic, glorious way to go.
One biting, brilliant Queen gone, then, but the Dragon Queen persists, spending her week trying to strong-arm Jon Snow in a series of arrestingly beautiful Dragonstone scenes remarkable for a number of things, the most significant of which being the fact that the more times Daenerys or Missandei or anyone else insists that the Mother of Dragons is the one true queen who will rule Westeros, the less I believe it. Her speech about faith in herself has the ring, once again, not of well-founded confidence but insanity fed by unshakeable ego and petulance, and her attitude to Jon is both stubborn and stupid. Thank goodness then for the other remarkable things at Dragonstone: Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion, whose intelligence and chemistry with Kit Harington’s blunt, earnest Jon makes their odd couple encounters a delight, and Liam Cunningham’s Ser Davos, perhaps not as refined as the youngest Lannister, but as fiercely intelligent and fantastic in his own right. The truce reached may be an uneasy one, but it’s a truce nonetheless, and Jon, knee resolutely unbent, gets the Dragonglass he came for; it’s a bad week for Team Fire, but it’s a pivotal one for Team Ice.
In more ways than one, too, as Sansa proves herself an astute, able winter commander – “She’s smarter than she lets on,” says Tyrion; “She’s starting to let on,” says Jon – planning for the war and the weather ahead, while doing an equally fine job dampening Littlefinger’s pretensions to any sort of special insight or intellect. I laughed out loud at “the woman who murdered my mother, father and brother is dangerous? Thank you for that wise counsel.” If she does look a little more impressed at his Schrodinger’s war speech – “every possible series of events is happening all at once” – at least Bran, possibly useful for the first time in seven seasons, turns up to break the spell, and weave a new one of his own. I find the new Three-Eyed-Raven and his Glassy-Eyed-Stare tedious, but I’m hoping the effect of his secrets on Sansa and Jon, and the story as a whole, will be worth the years of mystical meandering we’ve sat through. And even if it isn’t, at least poor Meera Reed, having put up with the most boring Stark for several seasons, will get a bit of a rest. Go on, Meera, love, put your feet up. You’ve earned it.