In descending order, here are my power rankings for this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, “The Queen’s Justice.”
He may have had precious little screentime, but Theon still managed to draw the ire of everyone he came in contact with. (To be fair, it was only a boatload of Ironborn, and they are a hard lot to please.) Last week I defended Theon’s deep-seeded PTSD as his excuse for literally jumping ship instead of preventing Yara from being captured by Euron. While that may still be the case, Theon’s excuse felt super weak even for him. “I couldn’t save her. I tried,” he says. Fortunately someone is quick to point out, “You wouldn’t be here if you tried.” Cue Tyra Banks.
16. The New Maester in Winterfell
I don’t like this guy’s vibe. I get that he arrived late to the party and Sansa’s got most things covered (and who could fill Maester Luwin’s shoes?!), but shouldn’t he be the one thinking ahead? Shouldn’t the all-knowing, lengthily-trained maester be the one giving counsel, not being told what to do? In short: so far he just generally sucks.
Some people’s vengeance will get them everywhere. Ellaria’s vengeance has only gotten her locked in a dungeon as she watches her daughter die the same way she killed Myrcella. Oh, yeah, and let’s not forget the part where Ellaria is going to be kept alive as long as necessary to watch her daughter decompose. Poetic, tragic, and gross.
(Silver lining: if Ellaria isn’t going to die, we can’t rule out that she won’t come back!)
14. Grey Worm and the Unsullied
They may be fourth from the bottom, but I’ll freely admit it wasn’t their fault. Grey Worm and the rest of the Unsullied showed up to Casterly Rock and did precisely what they were tasked to do: kill all Lannister forces in the Lannister stronghold. It just turned out that all the Lannister forces they killed (literally all of them) were nothing more than decoys. And then Euron shows up?! It was a bad day for the Unsullied.
Some of the most fun characters flopped this episode. Varys went out of his way to heckle Melisandre for no real reason. I get it, man, no one really likes her, but was climbing that cliff just to get in a few jabs necessary? Davos, usually the skillful orator and all-around Great Convincer of Men, totally dropped the ball when parlaying with Daenerys. She’s more stubborn than most, but if he got Lyanna Mormont to join the North’s cause, he could’ve tried harder to bring Dany around. Also, quit hitting on Missandei, guy! Jesus.
Even though she’s so low because of how hard she historically sucks, Melisandre gets some points for being self-aware. She admits to Varys that the reason she’s not meeting with Jon is because she left him on “bad terms,” specifically (or unspecifically) due to “terrible mistakes” she’s made. If she’s not going to come out and say, “I burned a child alive because I thought Stannis was the Prince That Was Promised, even though literally everything pointed to the fact that he wasn’t,” that admission was a start.
I wish she would just give it a rest. Remember when Dany wanted to break the wheel? Even up until this episode I had faith that she’d chill on this whole conquering the world business and try to use her power to create a better world for the little people. But noooo! We can’t have nice things! Because not long after Jon walks through the door (and endure her ever-exhaustive list of titles) does she harp on about him bending the knee because of an ancient fealty the Starks swore to the Targaryens. Her reliance on her “destiny to rule the Seven Kingdoms” is making her immune to the real plights of the world. And what’s worse, Dany’s luck isn’t keeping up with all her posturing. She’s been soundly defeated twice in as many episodes.
Tyrion had a couple of impressive turns this week. He stretched his diplomatic muscles, convincing Dany that Jon is to be trusted and to relax on making him bend the knee for now. We also got some classic Tyrion one-liners, which will always result in a plus one. (“I’m not sure of the nomenclature” is a great line.) But his mind for strategy is weaker than his enemies’. His instinct is right but he’s not thinking a step ahead the way he should. Casterly Rock may have been the zenith of Lannisterdom while his father was alive, but at this point has no wartime value.
The new Three Eyed Raven is delightfully opaque, in that befuddling old guy kind of a way that makes everyone confused whenever they speak. (Think Maester Pycelle, but better because it’s not Maester Pycelle.) I kind of love Bran’s new demeanor, even if it’s clear that the weight of the world rests wholly on his shoulders. He’s so important that he can’t even be bothered to smile. Bran’s stone-faced meeting with Sansa was this show in a nutshell: just when you think things are going well, they’re not really. (In my note taking during that scene, I literally wrote, “NOTHING ON THIS SHOW CAN BE PERFECT.”)
Speaking of stone-faced! Jorah Mormont is alive and well and so free of greyscale that he’s given leave from the Citadel. He gets 500 points for living through the greyscale removal treatment that looked super gross and painful. Good for you, buddy!
The unlikely King in the North’s responsibility fatigue may be growing episode to episode, but it’s only making him more resolute. He stood his ground with Daenerys, even as she was pummeling him with unrealistic commands and historical precedents and assertions of power. He was even daring enough to retort Dany’s “I will rule” declaration with a stern, “You’ll be ruling over a graveyard.” One could be tempted to say he’s just as stubborn as she is, but their intentions are different, and that’s making all the difference. Jon’s goal is to help the world, when Daenerys is still interested in helping the world by way of helping herself. He got what he wanted out of this episode, which is more than most people on this list can say.
For all of us who assumed Sansa would crumble under the pressure of being Acting Queen of the North, she proved us wrong and then some. She displayed the kind of forward-thinking leadership that Tyrion is guilty of neglecting, outsmarting the Maester and the accomplished war veterans in provision planning. Sansa loses a handful of points for even momentarily allowing Littlefinger to get under her skin. She knows better than that.
It’s super hard to give this guy any credit at all, but you can’t deny his persistence pays off. And while he may have shown his hand a bit by admitting to being a paranoid crazy person, his “fight every battle in your mind” speech may have worked. It was like the logical inverse of “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music. Way weirder, but potentially just as effective.
Oh, Sam. Adorable, honorable, foolhardy Sam. That gamble paid the fuck off, I’d say! And then he shakes Jorah’s hand at the end? He’s too much. (Or too confident in his greyscale removal abilities…) I’m looking forward to how that improbable friendship comes back around.
We’re not entirely sure who came up with the idea to take Highgarden and leave decoy troops behind in Casterly Rock, but Jaime did it and that’s impressive. Highgarden is the breadbasket of Westeros and home to the wealthiest family. Really, it’s a no-brainer. It’s hard to compete with Euron for Cersei’s affections, considering how many things he’s already done for her this season. But for love and blowjobs, Jaime came through and it’s a big win. Also major points for willingly going easy on Olenna. He’ll become a good guy yet.
But for all Jaime tries, Euron is unstoppable. This guy captures Yara and Ellaria, and moves right onto Casterly Rock to take over the Unsullied forces. (Not sure how he knew to go there, but let’s just say it’s luck for now.) That’s half of Daenerys’ strategy, just obliterated by Euron! Dare I say he gets more enjoyment out of killing and raiding and pillaging than Ramsay did at torturing? Or than Joffrey did at being an all-around little bitch? It’s hard to hate him when with his swift takeover of Daenerys’ forces is just so damn impressive. But to watch him steal power from others with such glee is most remarkable.
Her father’s daughter, indeed. Cersei sweet talks the Iron Bank, knowing full well Jaime will take Highgarden and all their gold. She also secures food for King’s Landing in taking Highgarden, should that Dothraki siege ever take place. And the people seem to love her. What! Seriously, did you hear them cheering and clapping? What Bizzaro Westeros are we in right now?!
And then she succeeds in carrying out the cruelest, most spiteful death possibly in the whole of Game of Thrones. (Remember her treatment of Septa Unella last season? It’s even more spiteful than that!) It’s not enough for Cersei’s enemies to die, she needs and wants for them to suffer. And suffer Ellaria will.
“Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me.”
I mean, do we need more explanation than that? I gasped. I had goosebumps. That line, and the admission leading up to it, was the thrilling climax to an already strong episode. She wins the episode. She may very well win the season with that line. Cersei’s power is impressive in its scale and savagery, but Olenna’s last barbed, loaded mic drop beats all. And so passes the Queen of Thorns! She couldn’t have asked for a better exit.