Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 3: A Stark reminder of mad kings
A word of warning: This is our spoiler-filled recap and review of Episode 3, "The Queen's Justice".
SPOILER WARNING: Seriously, this is your last chance to turn back.
Ice and fire, together at last. Jon Snow, the brooding-est King Winterfell has ever seen, and Daenerys Targaryen, mother of flame-spewing dragons. I honestly never thought that either character would live long enough to meet one another. Now that we're finally here – and given the basic science of how unfavourably ice and fire react – this could be the shortest meeting ever.
But before we get to that, let's rewind to focus on a reunion that's been overdue since episode 3 of season 1. It's between two outcasts who've made good: Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf who somehow rose to high-standing as Hand of the Queen, and Jon Snow, the bastard who somehow became a legitimate King. The warmth of their old friendship still exists, but there are some cold hard realities that could turn relations frosty. Jon being rudely buzzed by a low-flying dragon isn't the best welcome, for one thing. And Tyrion being asked to vouch for Jon and his tall tale of ice-zombies is another.
Perfect world: Dany and Jon would just click, but any hope of this leaves the throne room quicker than Lysa Tully out a Moon Door. The new Queen on the block expects Jon, a provincial King who technically is in open rebellion, to bend the knee. Jon, the guy who has survived George A. Romero's wettest dreams realised, wants to leapfrog past the petty title disputes... but can't resist pointing out how bloody awful her father was.
Jon simply has no idea of knowing if she's Mad Monarch 2.0, even though her restraint as a conqueror suggests she isn't a full-blown tyrant. Conversely, this Targaryen may be new to Westeros, but she wasn't born of fire yesterday: this Night King fairytale Jon is peddling is worthy of snark (possibly a few grumkins, too).
The only shred of proof Jon can give her is not through his words, but by his actions. After some wise counsel from Tyrion, Jon downgrades his modest request from “all your armies, three dragons, and I get to keep my head” to “please may I play Minecraft on your island for dragonglass”. Dany has little to lose from handing over what could well be thousand-year-old petrified dragon shite, but the value Jon places on this “anti-zombie” stuff is not lost on her. Could this be the first seed of her trust and belief?
Meanwhile, in King's Landing, the self-appointed king of the Iron Islands is landing. Euron Greyjoy, aggressive suitor to Cersei Lannister and rival to her brother-lover Jamie, has made good on his engagement gift. He's treated to a ticker-tape parade that is half colourful shredded paper and half-rotten cabbage and saliva flung at his prisoners, Yara Greyjoy, Ellaria Sand and her favourite daughter Tyene Sand.
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Until recently, Yara was the head of Dany's navy, but it's Ellaria who's seen as the greater prize to the vengeful Cersei. The Lannister queen lost a daughter to Ellaria and her “Sand Snake” daughter's poisons, but now it's time for some poetic justice. Personally, I'd have gone with death by agonisingly slow quicksand (which, after the conversion, would probably just make it “sand”) and maybe throw some snakes in there for good measure. However, Tyene is simply given the same slow-acting agent administered to Myrcella Lannister. Ellaria's fate: stay chained to the wall to watch her offspring expire and rot away completely. Damn. That's White Walker levels of cold. But also a bit of Bond villain logic, too. Maybe kill them both right then and there, Cers?
Elsewhere in Westeros, there are many other cogs (sometimes on tiny little castles) turning nicely. Sansa is showing an aptitude for running Winterfell, and scoring smart-arse points off the ever-scheming Littlefinger. Also, the space vacated by Jon gets filled when Bran Stark, last full-blooded son of Eddard, returns with almost zero emotions to spare for his sister. Unsurprisingly, Bran shows no interest in taking the lordship title. His metamorphosis into The Three-Eyed Raven has turned him into something much more important, and quite a bit less human. It's imperative for Bran to scour through the past for old White Walker tactics – and to stay one step ahead of the Night King by looking ahead into any number of possible futures – but it's clear he's seen too much of everything. With a complete lack of tact, he casually mentions watching Sansa on her horrific wedding night. She recoils and retreats.
Speaking of disgust, you no longer need to feel it when thinking of Jorah Mormont. Thanks to the rebellious scholarly actions of one Samwell Tarly, Jorah's bad case of stone-skin-plus-pus has been cured. The process was no small feat, and makes Sam's archmaester boss see something special in the young apprentice (something Sam's own father never could manage). Said deadbeat dad is briefly shown to us as an oath-breaker who's allied with House Lannister and in on a successful mission to wipe out the Tyrells at High Garden. I sure am going to miss the scene-stealing Lady Olenna. Though the beloved old battle-axe does exit with some classy Queen of Thorns shit-talking to Jamie Lannister.
How did the Tyrells and High Garden fall so easily? Because the full host of Lannister forces emptied from Casterly Rock to take them. This stunning act of military genius was also to allow the Lannister ancestral home to fall into the hands of Dany's Unsullied forces. The closing of the trap: Euron Greyjoy swoops in behind the castle-takers and proceeds to destroy their landing craft and means of escape. With no rides home, emptied larders in Casterly Rock and inferior knowledge of the Westerosi countryside, this is looking like a colossal balls up for the eunuchs. On the flip side: the Lannisters still have the unenviable task of retaking their fortified home from skilled opponents. That's one can of Grey Worm I would not want to open.