Game Of Thrones season 7 episode 3 review: The Queen’s Justice

The clash between warring sides reaches a new stage in The Queen's Justice. Our spoiler-filled review of Game Of Thrones episode three...

This review contains spoilers.

7.3 The Queen’s Justice

The seventh season of Game Of Thrones has seven episodes. The eighth season of Game Of Thrones will have six. There are ten episodes remaining to wrap up about a dozen ongoing conflicts, from the Iron Island civil war to the war against the White Walkers and their army of the dead. Cersei’s fighting a war for revenge against several fronts, the Iron Bank is itching to get its money back, and oh yeah, there are dragons flying around terrorizing innocent northerners. Fortunately, Game Of Thrones hasn’t been a show that has often had to stretch to fill time. The only exception would be the second season of Daenerys Targaryen, and that’s as much a limitation of the source material as anything else, given that she’s not present in the second book from what I’ve been told by more literate people.

This is quite literally the endgame for all the warring parties on Game Of Thrones. It was said several seasons ago that when you play the game, you win or you die, and those words are proving to be prophetic. Daenerys might have had her fleet shattered, but she’s still got formidable ground forces, which are moving to take Casterly Rock from the Lannisters. The Lannister army isn’t going to wait around to engage the Unsullied; they’re going to get a little more revenge for Cersei and bring another house to heel. Euron has captured the surviving Sand Snakes, and he’s going to deliver them to the queen. Jon Snow is trying to make an alliance with the Mother of Dragons and Sansa is trying to make sure there’s enough food to get the Northern army through the long winter to come.

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Lots of stuff happens this week, and the episode sprints by at a blur at some points. Even conversations, like the one in the throne room between Daenerys and her counsel and Jon and Davos, seem to move pretty quickly. The exchanges crackle, with Jon refusing to bow to Daenerys while Tyrion and Davos try to keep things from becoming too confrontational. Jon and Daenerys are both strong-willed; she claims the Seven Kingdoms by birthright, Jon claims the North by election of his people. Both have sacrificed and worked hard to make the lives of others better, and both lay out their many impossible accomplishments to bolster their bona fides. Dany has brought the Dothraki to Westeros and raised a clutch of dragons while conquering Slaver’s Bay. Jon united the lords of the North to his side, he’s united the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings, and he’s come back from the dead (Davos lets that slip out despite Jon’s glare).

The two have both overcome a great deal of hardship in their lives, despite being children of privilege on the surface. Money doesn’t buy happiness (just ask Cersei), and it gives them another thing to bond over. There’s clearly some sort of interest there. Jon hasn’t sparked with anyone like this since Ygritte. Brooding and pouting, the two best looking people in Westeros are finally in the same romantic, fire-lit hallways together. It’s not quite a romance yet, but it seems to be leading that way, if only because they’re both intrigued with one another. They’re clearly two different people, and the divine right of one is an unwanted burden to another, which makes their contrast works. Kit Harrington and Emilia Clarke don’t always get a lot of notice for their acting chops, but the two of them make every little moment shared between Dany and Jon work, based heavily on expressions and enunciation. Jon doesn’t want to speak up for himself, and Dany needs someone to reel her in when her temper gets the better of her. As Melisandre puts it, fire and ice together.

The episode was built around such character contrasts. Varys and Melisandre, Cersei and Euron (Pilou Asbaek is having a blast as the ultimate troll and glory-hog), and Jaime and Olenna Tyrell. The Queen of Thorns made a crucial mistake throwing her support behind Cersei; Cersei might not be as smart, but she’s cruel, and cruelty goes far in this world. Cersei’s kiss on Tyene Sand is a great mirror of Ellaria’s kiss of Myrcella, except with one major improvement. Ellaria knows exactly what’s happening—perhaps before the viewer—and Indira Varma’s panicking, pained expression sells Cersei’s revenge. Is Cersei the bad guy in this situation, or is she the good guy getting revenge for her innocent daughter’s poisoning? It’s deliberately murky.

The goal is to make the viewer as conflicted about Cersei as Jaime is. Sure, he loves her, but he’s aware that she’s evil, and that her evil might bring down the whole of Westeros. Olenna makes sure that he doesn’t forget that, while still managing to get in the last word (after ensuring a painless death for herself). Joffrey was a monster, but he was Jaime’s son. Cersei is a monster, but she’s Jaime’s love and the mother of his children. Jaime is also a monster (thanks to paralyzing a kid and quasi-raping his sister) but he’s been a friend of Brienne and Bronn, and he’s becoming a skilled general. Jaime allowed Casterly Rock to be captured as a distraction, akin to how Robb Stark split the Lannister forces once upon a time.

Shame to leave such a beautiful castle behind, though. Mark Mylod has crafted a beautiful episode here, both in terms of how the players perform and in how things look. Tyrion narrating the attack on the castle as we see the Unsullied conquering the Lannisters is a thing of beauty, as economical as storytelling can get. Grey Worm watching the Unsullied fleet burn while the Lannisters march on Highgarden is another stunning bit of television, with the Lannister army and the attack of the Unsullied both stellar blends of extras and CGI. The execution is deft and the wide shots of marching armies look great.

Even the locations seem more beautiful this week, with both the Rock and Highgarden being shown in a new light. Jaime knows what Dany doesn’t; Casterly Rock might be beautiful and it might have some meaning to the Lannisters, but it is useless in this multi-front war. Dany gets another piece of territory, but it’s the other side of the world from where she is and it’s not left in useful condition for the Unsullied. Piece by piece, she’s losing her weapons. Taking King’s Landing by force isn’t as easy as it might have when she first arrived, assuming she could even get to King’s Landing now that Euron has destroyed her fleets and claimed the seas. The Lannisters have taken Dorne and Highgarden out of the fight, leaving Dany with mostly Dothraki as her support. Leading an army of Dothraki against King’s Landing would be a death sentence.

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However, Daenerys Targaryen has the one thing that no one else in Westeros has, and that’s air superiority. It might be time for the Mother of Dragons to live up to her name. Even though it’s a terrible idea, she wouldn’t be Daenerys Targaryen if she listened to reason or did what was easy at the cost of what is right.

Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Stormborn, here.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan is very sorry he called the Night King the Winter King last week. It’s been awhile, okay? He could have used another exposition dump to catch up. Find more by Ron daily at PopFi.