Daenerys’ war-waging is not going well. For the second week in a row on HBO’s Game of Thrones, the Mother of Dragons sustains a massive blow. Last week, it was the destruction of her Iron fleet by Euron Greyjoy, a piece of information she learned in the middle of her meeting with Jon Snow. This week, it is the loss of Highgarden and House Tyrell to Jaime Lannister. With it, Dany not only loses the wisdom and support of Olenna, but the wealth that Highgarden wielded.
The loss of Highgarden’s financial backing is perhaps less important as a blow to Dany’s coffers and more vital as a financial gain for Cersei’s, who had the Iron Bank knocking at her door, inquiring about Lannister debt. Cersei and Jaime prove themselves skilled strategists by taking Highgarden. Now, they are able to pay their debts and they have struck another blow against Dany. Two birds, one stone. #ALannisterAlwaysPaysHerDebts
The loss will no doubt be particularly devastating to Tyrion, who has always prided himself on his abilities as a strategist. And growing up as the bastard of Casterly Rock, pride was no doubt hard to come by. To be outsmarted by Cersei and Jaime at his own game has got to sting, and will likely only make him more eager to prove himself the superior strategist moving forward. Structurally, it seems more and more likely that Season 7 is giving Cersei some early triumphs in order to make Dany’s inevitable victory that much more dramatic. Let’s call it The Robb Stark, shall we?
Let’s talk more about those Cersei victories. It wasn’t just on the battlefield that Cersei enjoyed success. The episode began with Euron Greyjoy presenting his prize of Ellaria and Tyene Sand to his prospective wife. The ploy works. Cersei agrees to marry Euron after the war is won (I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one, Euron.) and Cersei enjoys her engagement present. She uses the same poison used to kill Myrcella on Tyene. “The Long Farewell” will kill Tyene slowly, and Ellaria will be forced to watch. I guess it’s too much to hope that Ellaria has slowly built her daughters’ immunity to poison up? Probably.
Olenna has the last laugh.
Cersei also has Jaime kill Olenna, following the defeat of Highgarden, though this death is infinitely “kinder.” Jaime convinces Cersei to allow a painless death-by-poison. Perhaps Cersei feels bad that she killed Olenna’s grandchildren. After all, if there’s anything this most bitter Cersei can still empathize with, it’s the pain and fury felt over the loss of a child or grandchild.
But it’s Olenna who gets the last laugh, telling Jaime only after she has drank the poison that it was she who killed Joffrey. She didn’t mean for him to die so messily, but she did mean for him to die. Olenna out!
While this isn’t much of a revelation for any viewer who has been paying attention, it is news to Jaime, whose face grows stony at the news. But he’s chosen his side, and Olenna has little sympathy for him at this point. She regrets nothing, only that she couldn’t imagine just how cruel Cersei could be.
While this was another phenomenal scene for Lady Olenna, in many ways, this moment belonged to Jaime. Olenna died the way she lived: like a badass. Meanwhile, Jaime doubles down on his commitment to Cersei. “You really do love her. You poor fool,” Olena tells him, predicting: “She’ll be the end of you.”
But Jaime seems to think that, once Cersei has secured her hold over Westeros, she will become a less harsh version of the woman he loves. He seems to think this is simply Wartime Cersei, when really this is who Cersei is now. She does terrible things not out of the necessity of war, but because the sweet rush of vengeance is the only thing she can feel anymore. It is no coincidence that Cersei is able to indulge in the pleasures of sex and sleep only after she gets her revenge on Ellaria.
I felt similarly watching Jaime’s choices here as I did watching Theon’s last week. It’s disappointing to see them both choose a redundant path, one that cuts their redemptive arcs short, but it isn’t outside of their characterization. Jaime has always loved Cersei. Heck, he pushed a small child out of a window in the very first episode to protect their affair.
The question then becomes: Is there anything Cersei can do that will make Jaime turn against her? It seems his fate both as the Kingslayer and someone who loves Cersei to do her in, but it’s hard to imagine Cersei getting much worse than she has been recently. Will Jaime be forced to kill Cersei to protect Tyrion? Or perhaps Cersei will attempt to destroy an even larger portion of King’s Landing and Jaime will be forced to step in, as he did with the Mad King? Only time will tell. For now, Jaime is Cersei’s man, through and through.
Jon and Dany finally meet.
While Tyrion may not have succeeded in his efforts to strike a blow against Cersei, he did manage to broker some kind of understanding between Dany and Jon. The best parts of this episode came in this much-anticipated meeting. Did it live up to expectations? For me, yes. Though it was much too short, it was a tense and realistic collision of these two forces.
Whenever we get the first meeting of two POV characters, it is always a fun narrative experience for the viewer. We have to reshape our understanding of one main character from the point-of-view of another main character. In other words, seeing Jon Snow through Dany’s eyes and Dany through Jon Snow’s eyes makes us see them slightly differently, too. Jon is less civilized than we usually see him. Dany is more arrogant than we usually see her. They are both single-minded. That has not changed, and it makes for a difficult first meeting. If not for Tyrion and Davos translating on either side, this might have gone much more terribly.
It is perhaps lucky in some ways that news of Euron Greyjoy’s attack reached Dany in the middle of her meeting. It gave both of them time to blow off steam and, more importantly, time for Tyrion to do some smoothing over. He asks Jon what he needs, short of Dany abandoning her war efforts to join Jon in his fight against the undead, and he gets Dany to give it to Jon.
Their second meeting, a much less formal meeting overlooking the sea, is much more friendly. They find common ground — the loss of their brothers (even though Viserys was the worst) — and Dany agrees to allow Jon to mine the dragonglass from below Dragonstone. She even volunteers her men as laborers.
Jon asks Dany if she believes his claims of the army of the undead and she dodges his question. Perhaps it is not that she doesn’t believe, but that she cannot afford to believe. Not truly. For her entire life, she has been moving towards one goal. The thought of taking her rightful place on the Iron Throne has helped her get through some terrible things. If she allows herself to truly believe Jon, then her conscience and values will require that she help him. And that would mean giving up on the goal that she had when she had nothing else. For now, her dragonglass is enough.
Jorah is cured.
Perhaps the connection between Dany’s friend Jorah and Jon’s friend Sam will eventually help bring these two even closer together. We see the after effects of Sam’s surgery on Jorah’s greyscale in this week’s decidedly less disgusting episode, and Jorah seems completely cured. It’s a miraculous (almost too easy, for Game of Thrones) recovery, and one that gets a nod of approval from Maester Marwyn. Sam is slowly gaining cred at the Citadel. But what will he use it for?
Sansa and Bran reunite.
Meanwhile, in Winterfell, Sansa is doing a great job as Queen of the North, noticing important details in her preparation for the long winter and the oncoming war(s). Her preparations are interrupted by the arrival of Bran, who is much changed from the boy he once was when they last saw one another. We don’t get many of these Stark reunions, so it’s a bit of a disappointment to see Bran so cold, so changed by his time as the Three-Eyed Raved that he can’t even given his sister a hug.
Bran’s chilly attitude towards his sister might have gone over better if we had been eased into it with a few more Bran scenes in the previous episodes. Their reunion also might have also gone better if Bran didn’t prove his all-knowing power by unfeelingly bringing up the night Sansa was raped by Ramsay Bolton.
I couldn’t tell if this was a limitation of the writing and the performance or just the writing. This would have been a hard moment to sell regardless, but a bit more emotion from Bran would have helped this scene immensely. The way it was played, Bran felt like a college kid who has returned from his time abroad only to tell everyone back home that they just wouldn’t understand his higher state of consciousness now. Hopefully, we’ll get more Bran screen time in future episodes to smooth out this confusing characterization.