In an earlier season, the build-up to the meeting of “ice and fire” as the red priestess Melisandre describes the meeting of Daenerys Targaryen, exiled Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, and Jon Snow, the bastard King in the North. But I wonder if, in the eagerness to unspool the endgame, “The Queen’s Justice” is shorting itself a little.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the lean pacing and muscular scenes that cut right to the chase. Jon is in the North and then he’s at Dragonstone. We not only see the assault on Casterly Rock, but it is intercut with Jaime’s surprise sack of Highgarden (clearly, Bronn took the fortress single-handedly), events that definitely could have filled an episode each earlier in the show’s run. Couple things with this: wasn’t is a big fucking deal in season 2 when Theon sacked Winterfell? Just because Casterly Rock’s infamous gold mines are dry (which we’ve known since season 4) doesn’t mean it’s nothing to give up your home base, especially one with a untarnished history that no doubt props up Lannister dominance? Forgetting that, why didn’t Olenna Tyrell (RIP) tell Tyrion about the Lannister bankruptcy last episode, thus avoiding taking a now-worthless target?
Jon and Dany both spend much of their meeting talking past each other, displaying some extraordinarily bad communication skills. Both also inexplicably make shitty arguments dependent on fallacious logic that falls apart for both. Dany insists on the oaths Jon’s Stark ancestors swore, even though they crumbled long ago during the Mad King’s reign and more recently during the War of the Five Kings. Jon meanwhile, insists Dany ally with him against the Night King and his army of the dead because he’s not a lunatic or dishonest.
The scene might have been improved by some setup, as little as a couple scenes to see how these characters perceive each other prior to their meeting. At the very least, a conversation with their advisers, Tyrion and Davos respectively, might set up the various things that needed discussed at the meeting, instead of “Let’s wing it!” (especially egregious in Jon’s case, where he’s arguing for a supernatural threat most, dragons aside, are inclined to dismiss). Instead, both parties come off as bumbling newbies who haven’t had six seasons of character development. The ice and fire meeting had the rush of immediate gratification but not much emotional investment in the feelings of the two characters who most resemble traditional, boring fantasy heroes.
Dany’s best moment in a while came with her badass monologue to Jon Snow, laying out the obstacles she overcame to claim her birthright. It’s the first moment that carries the weight of her character this season. The first three episodes of season 7 were very much a humbling the Dragon Queen, her expense feeding the show’s need to make Cersei’s regime a threat to the other monarchs in Westeros. Two weeks ago, Cersei lacked resources and faced threats on every front. Now, with Dany’s Westerosi allies wiped out, Cersei can not only wage war (thanks to Jaime and her begrudging engagement to the politically-incorrect populist pirate Euron Greyjoy aka Pilou Asbaek), but pay back the Iron Bank (represented by Tycho Nestoris, played by Sherlock‘s Mark Gatiss), kill her enemies (goodbye, House Tyrell & Martell, your stories are over) and flaunt her twincest. Got to make it competitive somehow.
While Jon does the fantasy stuff, meeting dragons and beautiful queens, Sansa is working to store food for winter. The minutiae of leadership and politics remains a core source of conflict and drama for the series and notably, not even the latest Littlefinger meaningful monologue gobbledygook feels out of place in this moment. It’s followed by the emotional return of Bran Stark to Winterfell, with Meera Reed in tow.
It’s set up to the viewer thinks its Arya, perhaps to heighten the surprise at the now stoned-philosophy major Bran is as he struggles with his timey-wimey role he remains only partially trained for. Bran’s lost any remaining social skills in the time since undead Uncle Benjen dropped him and Meera off at the Wall in last year’s finale and seems unable to even perceive emotion or time on a human level.
Elsewhere in this packed episode, Theon got fished from the sea for a single scene, once again an outcast among his Ironborn compatriots. His mission must be to rescue his sister, last seen being marched through King’s Landing on a leash by their gleeful uncle Euron. Hopefully, redemption once again reaches Theon, but after so many failures, it can be hard to see a good death for the perpetual loser. At the Citadel in Oldtown, Jorah is deemed cured of his greyscale by Archmaester Ebrose, thanks to Sam’s secret efforts, the secretive nature of which goes exactly nowhere with Ebrose. The Archmaester is nonetheless impressed enough to allow Sam to remain a maester-in-training at the Citadel.