Cersei proves she is still a major player in this double-crossing game of deceit.
Bigger in budget, and grander in scope, the longer episodes and shorter season format of Game of Thrones is giving this seventh season a distinctly cinematic quality. The beautifully shot battle scenes of the last episode pave the way for an episode which is more subdued in tone but no less revelatory, with multiple things brewing beneath the surface and just waiting for boiling point. Proving that the planning of battles is just as important as the execution, the major players are starting to make their moves, and the game is far from won.
Warning: spoilers throughout this review.
Consistently the most interesting part of this current series, the episode opens on Dragonstone, with the much-anticipated first meeting between Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). Having previously met atop the Wall way back in season one, it is great to see Jon and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) interacting once again, and even though they acknowledge how far they have both come since they last met, it is almost as if no time has passed. Presenting wonderful opportunities for some wry exchanges about being sort-of brothers-in-law, and Tyrion commenting on Jon’s superior ability to “brood”, this is the reunion we never knew we needed, but is easily one of the best things about this season so far.
The first meeting between Daenerys and Jon is rather more subdued than expected, and kudos to the writers of this episode for not making it into some unnecessarily overblown thing. Rather, it is a matter of business, each has their agenda and is sticking to it; Dany insists Jon bow the knee and join her in taking down Cersei, and Jon states his case for why the Army of the Dead is the most pressing need at the moment.
Speaking of this Army and the Night King, their presence has been somewhat limited in this season so far, but there is that constant underlying sense of fear and dread, made only more prevalent by the fact many in Westeros (Dany included), are still very much in denial of their existence. The constant talk of Winter, and the Long Night are never far away though, and the way this threat is gradually weaving its way further across Westeros is undeniably effective.
The Narrow Sea
Where the Narrow Sea was the setting of a bloody and brutal battle last week, this week only a minute or so is spent there, as Theon (Alfie Allen) is dragged from the water by some of the remaining fleet of Yara Greyjoy’s ships. If there is to be one criticism of Game of Thrones, it is that it sometimes has an annoying habit of feeling obligated to check in on a particular area or person, despite it having no real purpose in that episode. This scene is one such example, and whilst it might put a temporary stop to the internet’s jokes about Theon jumping ship, it would have perhaps being better to have left this for another week; even if just to keep some of the suspense about Theon’s fate.
Considerably more time is spent in King’s Landing this week, and as promised, things are really starting to heat up. Cersei (Lena Headey) cuts an imposing figure, and any doubts about her power, and indeed malice, are immediately quashed. Manipulative and controlling of all those around her, Cersei awards Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) by making him Master of the city’s naval fleet, in return for him presenting her with the captive Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) and her daughter Tyene (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers).
Proceeding to dish out her revenge, Cersei takes the Sands down to the dungeons and taunts Ellaria about the death of her husband Oberyn at the hands of the monstrous ‘The Mountain’. Revenge, as it turns out, is a dish best served cold-hearted, as Cersei kisses Tyene, administering the fateful poison which Ellaria had used to murder Cersei’s daughter Myrcella, leaving the dungeons with the insistence that Ellaria be forced to watch her daughter die.
After last week’s wince-inducing surgery scene, Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) and Archmaester Ebrose (Jim Broadbent) examine the seemingly Greyscale-free Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen). Impressed at the deftness used to remove the infection, he suspects Sam may have had a hand in this but dismisses Jorah and allows him to leave.
Expecting to be punished, as his actions were strictly forbidden by the Archmaester, Sam is pardoned and allowed to continue his training. These scenes at the Citadel are a refreshing change of pace, and Jim Broadbent in particular is a delight to watch. With battles brewing on all sides, these scenes are a reminder of the history and mythology surrounding Game of Thrones, the significance of which will still have a large part to play.
Wave the Stark flags, as another Stark has returned to Winterfell, with Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) being reunited. There is a genuinely touching moment between the two, but as they converse later, it is evident how much has changed. Bran tells Sansa he is the three-eyed-raven, which understandably she is confused by. Remarking about how she looked on her wedding day, the scars of Sansa’s past are still evident, and perhaps the Stark reunion is a little more troubled than we might have imagined.
Upon the orders of Khaleesi, the Unsullied army march on the Lannister stronghold of Casterly Rock. Whilst suffering losses, they are able to siege the Castle and win the battle relatively easily. However, all is not as it seems with Greyworm (Jacob Anderson), noticing that the Lannister armies are fewer in number than perhaps anticipated. Upon peering over the turrets he sees Euron Greyjoy’s fleet, so whilst they may have succeeded in taking Casterly Rock, they’re now surrounded with no way of escaping.
Meanwhile at Highgarden, the familiar strains of the infamous ‘Rains of Castermere’ play out as the Lannister armies lead by Jaime, siege the seat of House Tyrell as retribution for Daenarys attack on Casterly Rock. Jaime meets with Olena Tyrell (Diana Rigg) after the defeat, offering her poisoned wine as opposed to the humiliating offers of death that Cersei had proposed. Choosing the quiet death, Olena drinks the wine. Remarking on the poison used to kill Jaime and Cersei’s son Joffrey, Olena reveals that she was the one who had poisoned the wine. After all this time, it is great to still be surprised with these revelations, and the strength of Rigg’s acting will undoubtedly be missed, but what a way to go!