Sunday’s new Game of Thrones continued into the lightning round, as well it might considering this season is almost half over already. Major events are rushed through more to get from one plot point to another than to savour them and what they mean to the characters and most of the dialogue scenes were formulaic. But there were some satisfying exchanges, particularly involving Daenerys, Jon, and Tyrion.
Spoilers after the screenshot
As the show has drifted further from George R.R. Martin’s material, the dialogue has very often consisted of a familiar repeated pattern—whiny person versus cool, smug person. Characters often contort well outside their previously established personalities just so Benioff and Weiss, who wrote “The Queen’s Justice”, Sunday’s episode, can make the pattern work. Varys (Conleth Hill), who was once the figure of cool, collected, and scheming, is obliged to become Whiny to Melisandre’s (Carice van Houten) Smug so she can lay him flat with that prophetic line about how the two of them are destined to die in Westeros.
Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has been playing Whiny consistently since about the middle of last season. “The Queen’s Justice” ends with him paired with Olenna (Diana Rigg) in the Smug role who delivers her argument, about how she’s been ruthless and cruel but Cersei’s more ruthless and cruel so she’s doomed, with such confidence it almost seems like it makes sense. We have Diana Rigg to thank for that, the show will certainly be poorer for her absence.
Another departure, and this was news to me when I read it in the Wikipedia article, is Ellaria Sand, played by Indiria Varma, who’s quoted as saying, “Obviously there’s lots of trimming going on. It’s all coming to a head and you have to get rid of less important characters that the audience hasn’t had the chance to invest in as much. So I was expecting it. I wasn’t heartbroken. And I was like, ‘As long as I die on screen…’ and they were like ‘Yeah!’ But of course I don’t die on screen. I stay alive, I’m just not going to reappear. I think it’s really clever.” It feels more like a loose thread to me. Despite the fact that she’s gagged in her final scene, she basically occupies the Whiny role for Cersei (Lena Headey) to explain her wicked plan for tormenting her and her daughter, which was nowhere near as harsh as I was expecting.
Cersei was almost edged into Whiny herself when Euron (Pilou Asbaek) delivered his prisoners but Jaime valiantly stepped into the role for her. Though Jaime actually made a good point about how capricious the favour of the mob is he wasn’t even allowed this moment of wisdom as Euron was already aware of this, too, and one upped him on it. Euron is taking over from Ramsay as the ridiculous supervillain and we witnessed his fleet’s miraculous power again this week when it bamfed in among the Unsullied ships. Wasn’t the attack on Casterly Rock supposed to take place at the same time as Yara’s assault on King’s Landing? That Euron sure gets around. With a fleet.
The dialogue between Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Jon (Kit Harrington) was largely saved from falling into the pattern partly because the Authority role is too hard wired into Daenerys and partly due to Emilia Clarke’s performance. She has gotten to be a much, much better actress in the past three years. I don’t know if it’s acting coaching or greater passion for her work but it’s good to see. Jon presenting the problem of the White Walkers continues to feel like a metaphor for climate change but it being paired with a reference to events that make Jon a Christ-figure adds an interesting moral context to it. One could say that in reality the two things are in opposition—the right wing tends to maintain faith that climate change isn’t real despite the evidence, here Jon is a figure of faith asking for faith in the absence of evidence. In a way, this works since many on the right consider science a matter of faith. Which is, of course, depressing.
I had to laugh when Jon said the game of thrones was basically like a bunch of children squabbling since that’s exactly how I’ve described his arguments with Sansa (Sophie Turner) at Winterfell. My eyebrows were certainly raised when Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) described Sansa as smarter than she lets on and this week it seemed like Benioff and Weiss really were trying to make her seem smart now but only by lowering the intelligence of everyone around her. This week we see she’s somehow the only one who’s thought of storing sufficient food and, bizarrely, the only one who’s thought of padding plate armour with leather. I would think if the armour smith wasn’t doing this already it would be for a good reason, like maybe there’s not enough leather for that. There is a lot of leather on the show, though, so I’m pretty sure there’s already a suggestion of cattle being slaughtered in unrealistic quantities anyway.
We then see Sansa transfixed by Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) basically telling her to anticipate all scenarios. Since this isn’t a particularly amazing piece of advice, the fact that Sansa seems so absorbed made me think, “Wow, she’s falling in love with him.” Which I suppose I’m probably not supposed to think. But who knows? I think it would be great if they actually became a couple.
Final thought: who’s the Romulan working for Cersei?