Fire and Ice finally met this week, as Jon Snow and Ser Davos arrived at Dragonstone to meet with Daenerys. As expected, the long-anticipated conversation was not without its tensions, as Dany asked Jon to bend the knee and Jon refused, reminding the Mother of Dragons that her daddy had burnt his family alive. Dany graciously apologised for her father and brother, and offered to make Jon Warden of the North when she had reclaimed her rule of the Seven Kingdoms, warning him that to proclaim himself king was open rebellion.
Jon, however, had no time for all that, explaining that unless they all banded together to stop the Night King and his army of the dead, there wouldn’t be anyone left alive to rule over. Daenerys and co. were suspicious of Jon’s claims initially, and it was down to Tyrion to build bridges, drawing on his past experience of Jon’s character and offering him something he needed – Dragonglass. There were nice parallels between Jon’s White Walkers and Dany’s dragons here, both creatures having passed into lore, with the Queen perhaps realising her scepticism was on a par with those who never thought they’d see dragons again. Her speech about surviving due to her belief in herself foreshadowed her decision to let Jon mine the Dragonglass, and demonstrated the fundamental difference between Dany and Cersei. While Dany is open to leaps of faith and belief in others, Cersei is insular to the point of pathology.
Interestingly the exchanges between Jon and Tyrion were far more compelling than those between Jon and Dany, perhaps due to the brilliance of Peter Dinklage. Maybe it’s because the two characters have history, and their reunion had a certain emotional resonance which was lacking in the meeting of the King and Queen.
Speaking of reunions, two of the Stark children finally found each other as Bran arrived in Winterfell. Having seen Arya divert her course from south to north-bound last week, viewers would have been forgiven for expecting an emotional sisterly moment, but instead there was a rather odd and cold conversation between Bran and Sansa, as Bran refused his rightful title as Lord of Winterfell, explaining in a roundabout way that he was the Three-Eyed Raven now and proving this fact by helpfully recounting the things which he’d ‘seen’ happen to Sansa at the hands of Ramsay. Bran appeared preoccupied with finding Jon, and imparting the knowledge he has about the bastard’s parentage, and I suspect by the time Jon returns to Winterfell with his arsenal, his little bro will have accidentally summoned an army of trouble. While the tone of this scene was peculiar, it looked gorgeous, the setting of the snow-covered Weirwood tree giving it a suitably other-worldly feel.
Sansa must have felt like she’d dropped a whole pile of drugs for breakfast because Bran wasn’t the only one talking in riddles. Littlefinger was at it too, telling her (I think) that she must prepare for every eventuality. It felt to me like Sansa is softening towards her would be suitor/father figure, although it’s not clear whether it’s simply a case of her admiring his ability to adapt and survive. I’m interested to find out what will happen to Lord Baelish ultimately, as he seems to be sticking around for the time being.
Over in King’s Landing, Euron Greyjoy dropped in on Cersei, his promised gift of Ellaria Sands and her surviving daughter, Tyene, in tow. It’s not yet clear what’s to become of Yara, other than that he’s keeping his niece for his own despicable reasons, but Euron’s theatrics in front of the Iron Throne were an undeniable treat. The guy is quite possibly the biggest arsehole in the Seven Kingdoms, which is saying a lot, but damn if he’s not absolutely hilarious. Poor Jaime looked 110% done with Euron’s antics but Cersei’s promise to give Greyjoy what he wants after he wins the war for her means her brother has to keep his remaining hand off his love rival for now.
Cersei’s revenge on Ellaria was truly chilling. While the threat of The Mountain was ever present throughout, it seemed horribly poetic that Cersei chose to poison Ellaria’s surviving daughter herself with a kiss. I was half dreading some skull crushing or some kind of sexual assault, and the lack of violence towards Tyene was both a relief and a hideous juxtaposition to the horrific anticipation of Ellaria being forced to watch her child die and rot indefinitely. There was something awfully predatory about Cersei’s treatment of Tyene, and this was underscored by her seduction of Jaime straight afterwards.
The second victory for the Lannisters came when they accurately predicted that Dany’s forces would lead a strike against Casterly Rock (aided by Tyrion’s inside knowledge). Instead of defending that stronghold, Jaime led an army to Highgarden and took out the remaining Tyrells. Olenna (the inimitable Dame Diana Rigg) met her fate with quiet dignity, her parting shot being that Jaime should tell his sister/lover that it was her who poisoned their son, Joffrey. Jaime’s mercy in making Olenna’s death painless, his admission that he was too blinded by love for Cersei to take a stand against her was actually pretty heartbreaking. Jaime didn’t even refute Olenna’s strongly worded condemnation of his dead son, and the Tyrell matriarch went out on a C-bomb, which just about summed up what a game old bird she was. RIP, Olenna. You were the most badass TV grandma in living memory.
Elsewhere there was intrigue as Melissandre stayed out of the way of Jon and Davos, and spoke to Varys about how they were both destined to die ‘in this strange country’. Perhaps this was another prophecy, or maybe the Red Priestess was referring to the fact they would both end up on the same side, fighting in Westeros in a battle against the undead. Theon was rescued from the freezing sea by on of Yara’s ships, and learnt his sister had been taken by Euron. And Sam’s treatment of Jorah was successful, enabling Dany’s number one fan to leave the Citadel and set out to rejoin his queen.
While the previous series have been somewhat lumbering and sprawling, remaining largely faithful to their epic source material, this series is moving at quite a lick with the first three episodes shuffling the deck constantly. This episode cleared away several peripheral groups – the Sands, the Tyrells – and moved the key players – the Starks, The Targaryens, and the Lannisters – firmly centre stage. While plenty happened this week, the pace didn’t seem frantic as action was interspersed with excellent dialogue. There were laugh out loud moments as well as real pathos and horror, and this was an hour of TV that left me wanting more when the credits rolled.
Final Grade: A-
+ Lots of call-backs to the dead really tied this episode to past seasons and gave real depth and sense of scale and connectivity.
+ I was worried there would be some unnecessary sexual tension shoe-horned into Dany and Jon’s first meeting (incest is par for the course on this show, after all), but the characterisation was on point, and it was brilliantly handled.
+ Everything looked so stunning, from the dragons swooping to surprise Jon, to the cliff top brooding (Tyrion’s comment on this was perfect), to the snow-dusted Wierwood tree.
– Um…you can’t have Bronn onscreen and give him NO LINES. Have pity!
– I’m slightly confused about timelines at this point. Jon got to Dragonstone so fast. Everything is happening so fast. Eeeeeep! It’s not necessarily a terrible thing at this point, in terms of shifting the narrative along, but it is noticeable.
What did you think? Who won the battle of the swears – Glenna or Euron? Sound off in the comments or over on Twitter!