Wait…before we begin….cue the Lannister’s music!
In a season that looked it was inevitably going to put the L in Lannister, Cersei and Jaime decided to mess around and put on a clinic…nay, a masterclass, on political savvy and war campaign tactics. Shame on everyone, most of all myself, for not seeing it coming. While the Dragon Lady might have all the firepower in the world on paper, it’s the Lannisters, not the Dragon Queen who’ve been in this business for decades. Through a combination of imagination, cleverness, guts and raw brutality the Lions have shown what figured to be a first-round KO from Khaleesi is going to be more of a knockdown, drag-out fight. Even if you’re on Team Dany, I think as viewers we’re all winners with that result.
Before we get any further with the recap, I know I usually save this for the very end of the blog, but last night on the Postgame of Thrones show we had Frank Kaminsky join me and The Many Snacks God, Clem, to talk some Thrones. I was very happy with it so if you want to watch the show (broadcasted live from Youtube at 10:15 PM ET every Sunday, look for links from me and Clem’s Twitters!) you can do so here.
What an outstanding episode of Game of Thrones, easily the best of this young season and hopefully a sign of what’s to come. There really is no reason that every episode can’t be expected to be of about the same quality. We’ve been told from Weiss/Benioff to expect a mad dash to the end of next season, but last night felt like the second lap of a mile race where everyone starts hitting their stride. What distinguished this episode was how COMPLETE it was: Action, political maneuvering, characterization, dialogue, mystery, poignant moments, violence, weird and uncomfortable sex scenes. It was a total Game of Thrones package, an end-to-end reminder of what makes the show so great and so unique.
To start with the action in Dragonstone, we had the return of Tyrion as being a main headliner character, instead of the rhythm guitarist to the Khaleesi’s lead singer. The results were fantastic: Peter Dinklage and Kit Harrington’s on-screen chemistry hasn’t missed a beat since the first season, the dialogue was crisp and well-paced and we were given some answers but also some questions. Does Dany truly believe Jon? Is she too blinded by her single-minded pursuit of the Iron Throne to sacrifice her usual brand of humanist care for common people? Is Jon the stupidest man with Stark blood ever, which is so hard to do it’s almost an accomplishment?
Daenerys isn’t on the Iron Throne yet, but she’s acting as if she already is. She better be careful, because nowhere does “pride cometh before the fall” apply more than it does in Westeros. Making Jon a quasi-prisoner, seizing his weapons and demanding fealty was a power move, but it was a forced and somewhat clumsy one. In 99% of cases she would have alienated a potential ally, but luckily Jon is the only man in history stupid enough to accept such conditions. So perfectly naïve, so perfectly Jon Snow. Jon however is smart enough not to bend the knee, knowing that he would lose the North and probably his life by the hands of his own bannermen for the second time. Luckily for Jon, Tyrion knows who he is and has his back. Without Tyrion’s support, I think the seemingly inevitable Daenerys-Jon alliance is already dead in the water. I’d expect the dwarf to be the one to keep that marriage together.
Daenerys has Jon’s respect because she isn’t willing to kill thousands of innocent people, but it might be time for her to rethink that strategy. In fact, pretty soon she might have no choice. The shoe is on the other foot of the flipped turntables now, and it appears she is the one reeling and on the defensive instead of America’s favorite pair of incestuous twins. With Varys knocked off his balance (what was the significance of the Lady In Red scene? Does she know what he heard come from the flames when he was castrated?), Tyrion outwitted and humiliated, Yara a prisoner, Olenna poisoned and Ellaria somehow in an even worse state than that, her circle of advisors are in…well not the best shape! Jorah’s coming, but how much can you expect out of him? That’s like the Cavs signing Derrick Rose this offseason. The time for idealism might be at a crashing end for the Dragon Queen.
Cersei has more cards to play than anyone gave her credit for. Euron is a shot in the arm to the Westeros universe, a jolting late addition to the cast that doesn’t feel like a deus ex machina or cop out. Just like how Han Solo was the cowboy character archtype in a science fiction context, Euron is a rockstar in a fantasy context. He’s sort of like an R-rated Jack Sparrow. Is he burning too bright to burn for very long and get himself killed, either by a situation of his own making or his favorite target of torment Jaime? Probably. But I’m going to enjoy every step of the ride along the way.
Best of all, he does seem to draw out the ruthless from Cersei even more. I can’t help but confess I enjoyed watching her slowly and meticulously dissect Ellaria. It sort of reminded me of a villain in a Quentin Tarantino movie where you’re ashamed to find yourself rooting for her, but the theatrical and penetrating way she breaks people is just SO COOL to watch you can’t help but love it. Cersei is crazy in a way her dear dead son and even Ramsay weren’t, as she is calculated in way they were impulsive. She knows exactly what she’s doing. And she loves it.
Turns out she knows a lesson or two about this whole “war” thing too. Having the Iron Bank on her side can’t be stressed enough. For those unfamiliar with the backstory of the Westeros universe, the Iron Bank of Braavos is like the Federal Reserve, Goldman Sachs and Illuminati rolled into one. They are, in this case literally, the kingmakers of Westeros. Having their support means absolutely everything. With Highgarden captured, Cersei now controls the breadbasket of Westeros and thus the food supply as well. Her troops will be considerably more provisioned and prepared than any other. With her willingly able to sacrifice her ancestral home and openly bang Jaime with no remorse, turned on sexually from the excitement of watching her torture and destroy her daughter’s murderer (definitely one of those WTF is this show that I watch moments of we fans), Cersei has redefined the rule book. More than that, she’s tossed it out. Olenna was right, she is a monster capable of doing things that no one else would consider even thinkable. And that’s the biggest advantage the Lannisters may have, especially over the still relatively inexperienced Daenerys.
(Also a quick note of appreciation for Olenna Tyrell, one of the most underrated characters of the show. The old bird stole every scene she was in and gave better comic relief than anyone except Tyrion. Her going out with a quick tongue lashing taunting a man who just showed her mercy about murdering his son, I can think of no better way for her to go out. And when she tells Jaime that Cersei will be the end of him and he just shrugs and agrees? I mean one of the Lannisters is still inevitably murdering the other, she might as well have been showing us a leaked script).
And finally in the North, Sansa has taken full command of Winterfell and surprise, surprise, is kicking ass at this whole leadership thing. She is mostly unimpressed with Petyr Baelish at this point, but he does have a certain hold over her. And he can without a doubt prove useful to her. But can he really be trusted, his Sansa really his Achilles heel or does he just want us to think so? I still lean towards the latter, Baelish is the type to hand you a dollar with one hand while putting a knife in your back with the other. I still don’t trust him as far as I could throw him.
And in what might end up being a pivotal scene of the show, Bran returns in another STARK FAMILY REUNION scene, this one by far the least emotionally meaningful. Maybe it’s because Bran now talks like a kid from Wesleyan who just got back from being abroad (this Northern wine is fine but it’s so much better in Florence…), the fact he thought the best way to reintroduce himself was by casually bringing up his sister’s rape in the creepiest terms possible or that he said “Hello Sansa” with all the emotions of a sociopathic 8 year-old telling his parents that the family cat had an unfortunate accident and got it’s head crushed by a rock…but yeah I wasn’t getting too many warm family feelings from this one. The importance of the Jon Snow heritage reveal will be extraordinary however, and I predict he will end up being the North’s best weapon against the Night King. But I wished he could do it talking a little bit less like a Liberal Arts major at Wesleyan.
That’s it from me. You know the usual drill: The Game of Thrones mailbag will be published Sunday AM so DM me your questions on Twitter @CharlieWisco. Follow me if you like but if you don’t want to I regretfully understand. I’m also going to plug my show one more time at the bottom here in case you didn’t watch it up top because I am shameless. Have a great week everybody, winter is coming.