We start with Jonny Snow and Davos arriving at Dragonstone to meet Danaerys Targaryen, the first of our three queens in this episode. The big meet with Dany doesn’t go smoothly. Jon refuses to submit to her rule, Dany doesn’t believe about the White Walkers and it seems Jon will wind up a prisoner in the castle until Tyrion brokers a deal of sorts. Jon is allowed to mine Dragonstone and to leave freely, and Dany is allowed to catch a fleeting glance back at him as he leaves… looks like a Dany/Jon romance is officially in the cards, which would certainly be one way for Jon to submit to her without losing face. He’d wind up King of Westeros, not just the north!
In Greyjoy news, Theon gets taken aboard an anonymous Kraken ship. Euron parades the captive Yara, Ellaria and Tyene through the streets of King’s Landing to the delight of manifold background performers, and drops them off in the throne room, but Cersei won’t marry him until the war is over. Euron taunts Jaime some more in delightful fashion, and Cersei comes up with a suitably horrible punishment for Ellaria, who poisoned Cersei’s daughter Myrcella: she poisons Ellaria’s daughter Tyene with the same poison, leaving her to die in a cell with her mother, who will be kept alive – and so she gets to watch her child rot for the rest of her life. Lovely. So that’s Cersei’s form of justice.
Sam’s storyline advances promptly and predictably: Jorah is cured of his grayscale, and departs to rejoin his queen. Sam is neither punished nor rewarded for his efforts, but is assigned to transcribe a tableful of rotting scrolls and books. I’m guessing there are some juicy secrets up in them scrolls though to keep this plot going?
Up in Winterfell, Sansa is queening it up proper-style, preparing for a long winter. “Command suits you,” oozes Littlefinger, before he gets all metaphysical on her – “fight every battle, everywhere, always, in your mind. Everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend, every possible series of events is happening all at once.” Such a worldview would predispose one to a mistrustful nature.
But Littlefinger’s musings are interrupted by the arrival of Bran, who has gone full wizard. He has trouble explaining his powers to Sansa, but his ability to see “everything that’s ever happened, to everyone, everything that’s happening right now” sounds a lot like someone else: Littlefinger.
We get the Unsullied assault on Casterly Rock and as expected, they exploit Tyrion’s knowledge of the sewer system to sneak in and take the castle from the inside. Surprise! Most of the Lannister forces are missing, and Euron shows up conveniently and trashes their fleet.
The Lannister forces show up outside Highgarden, allied with the Tarlys and led by Jaime. The battle takes place offscreen, but goes well for Jaime. He gets a poignant scene with Oleanna, in which she unsuccessfully attempts to convince him that Cersei is “a disease”. Before she dies from poisoned wine, she tells Jaime that she’s the one who poisoned Joffrey. This is significant because Jaime and Cersei blame Tyrion for this. Cersei may not believe Oleanna, but Jaime does and this could ultimately bring him closer to Tyrion.
Overall this was an impressive episode. It hurtled forward at alarming pace when it wanted to (Casterly Rock, Highgarden), and took its time elsewhere, namely on powerful, one-on-one scenes between most of the show’s key remaining players. The character count went down by two. Cersei is definitely the success story here: she’s gone from a terrible position at the start of the season to near dominance in a mere three hours of screen time. This will drive Dany to forego her cautious approach and get her hands dirty, making her less likely to help the northerners any time soon.
Various loose plot droppings, nuggets of interest, and questions:
- Interesting scene with Varys and Melisandre, where we learn she is checking out and heading to Volantis, but will return to Westeros at some point because “I have to die in this strange country, just like you.” I’m surprised to see her go already; I thought she had a chance to convert Dany to her fire god. Dany likes fire, after all.
- Jon stops Davos from mentioning his murder and resurrection, and Dany notices. What will come of this? Surely there is some significance to Jon’s undead status, or was it just a fakeout cliffhanger for the end of a season and/or book?
- We have a super-expository scene between Cersei and a representative of the Iron Bank, in which she vows to pay her debt in full within a fortnight. Why have this scene? Perhaps if she secures fresh funds from the bank, she will seem all the more impossible to defeat.
- What exactly is Littlefinger’s plan? Waiting around for Sansa to listen to him doesn’t seem good enough. Moreover, if Bran can get his wizard shit together he could expose Littlefinger’s shenanigans fairly quickly. My guess is that LF is still in communication with Cersei. He may have betrayed her by siding with Sansa against the Boltons, but he’s the most likely to help her in the north at this point. If I were Bran, I would be worried about Littlefinger.
- things that are being telegraphed by repeated mention: dragons have weaknesses, the battle for King’s Landing will be bloody, the northerners should look out for Cersei
- I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in the next episode or two we see the White Walkers attack Eastwatch and either breach or bypass the wall. Probably the latter, by going in the water. This could leave Winterfell as the climactic battle scene of the season. By that point the Lannisters could be marching north…