Poisonous thoughts and poisonous words commanded this week’s episode of Game of Thrones. While some of those poisons worked swiftly, others will take their sweet time to offer sweet release. And while the poisoners believed they have the upper hand, old poisons proved to be effective years later.
But first, let’s talk about Ice and Fire.
This was the meeting we all know was coming, but never expected to see. As an Ice and Fire reader, I fully expect to never see it in the novels of George R. R. Martin because I no longer believe in a dream of spring. But here, it was remarkable. Two people unaware of what the other has lived through. Clever advisors trying their best to hold back what could be a painful and costly dance of dragons. All the while, no one has a handle on the correct decorum and no one quite believes in whatever title the other person holds. It was absolutely brilliant.
As a group, the actors assembled in the Dragonstone throne room deserve some sort of recognition for playing the peaks and valleys of the show’s greatest single meet cute. I don’t just mean Emilia Clarke and Kit Harrington, who definitely offered some of their best performances. Peter Dinklage and Liam Cunningham brought all of their considerable talents while trying their best to keep their chosen rulers from killing one another over an extended misunderstanding. Nathalie Emmanuel deserves praise as well just for belting out all of Daenerys’s titles. Seven hells, even the Dothraki extras deserve recognition just for their reaction to Jon’s slightest move.
And that’s before we consider the positions of either character or the fact that they’re related and likely both Azor Ahai — the Prince and Princess Who Were Promised. It’s even before the realization that Melisandre wasn’t there to see it. Instead, we are as stuck as the Mother of Dragons and the Bastard Wolf — caught in the things we know and the things that must be before the Army of the Dead break through the Wall. It’s another time where there’s nothing but sympathy for both positions. Love her as much as I do, Drunk Queen Cersei must be deposed. At the same time, the squabbling of royals means nothing as an ecological disaster comes crashing around our heads.
I’m glad Tyrion can see a way to make their aims align. I wonder if he’s already thinking of a political marriage?
He may well be thinking of it after the losses the Targaryen cause suffered this week. His Casterly Rock masterstroke was out-thought by Jamie, who also solved the Throne’s money problems by taking Highgarden. Now, Daenerys is down all of her Westerosi allies, her Unsullied and her fleet. Remember when they looked powerful at the end of last season? Yeah, not so much anymore. But I think it’s important to praise Jamie for making a sacrifice Tyrion did not expect. He assumed his brother would never give up the place his father built because, hey, Tywin built it. He assumed Lannister pride would be in play. Instead, Jamie took a page from the Stark playbook and echoed a now ancient wound dealt to him by Rob when he was King in the North.
Now there’s a title that passes quickly around. But it makes complete sense that Bran — now home at Winterfell — wouldn’t want it. Some of you may recall a brief time when he was lord of the manor and had to govern despite being a young boy. That would be a turnoff in and of itself, but Bran has the advantage and curse of being unstuck in time. At least, that seems to be the best way to explain his three-eyed raven/greenseer power at this point. His recollection of Sansa’s wedding in the Werewood proves how easily the memory of the world comes to him. He’s also armed with such an important piece of information for the joining of Ice and Fire that you have to wonder how much longer it will be until everyone involved knows.
Sadly, we must big a fond farewell to one of the greatest wits ever raised in Westeros. Olenna Tyrell fought long and hard in her quiet, sharp way. Truly, we should all pour a little of our winecups out for her this week. But even in death, she managed to wound Jamie and Cersei with the knowledge that she was the first poisoner in this parade of long farewells. All the way back in A Storm of Swords and season four of the series, many suspected hers as the hand involved in killing Joffrey. He was so awful though, that many were just glad to be rid of him. In her final scene, though, she rises victorious one last time to impart her culpability to Jamie and it was just wonderful. I know I said Diana Rigg deserved the Emmy for her scene last week, but this seals it. I know the season isn’t eligible until next year, but hand it to her now. Just do it.
If Olenna’s poison was the only one on display in the episode, it would be satisfying enough. But we also heard some of Little Finger’s most poisonous words — the very ones that would see him become the Lord of Ash except for a knife that must already be coming for him. And then there’s the harshest poison of all: the long farewell for Ellaria Sand.
For as much as I joke and kid about my love for Drunk Queen Cersei, she is capable of some truly despicable things. Her sense of justice is Rod Serling level with an extra dose of cruelty. And in giving Tyene the Long Farewell poison — the same one Ellaria used on Myrcella — so that Ellaria might watch her own daughter decompose, Cersei continued her theme of revisiting the same perceived injustices she suffered back on her foes. It’s almost admirable in a sick way, but then everything about Cersei has a sickness to it. That’s why Olenna called her a disease.
The Iron Bank of Bravos should think about disinfecting that gold before they deposit it into their vaults. And if Euron wasn’t already sick as a dog, he might think twice about trying to get her infection.
Despite all the setbacks for our presumed heroes, it still leads in the most favorable direction. The North and the Targaryens must unite if they have any hope of holding back the long nights that both Cersei and the Night King represent. Their alliance is the only hope Westeros has and as Game of Thrones seems to side with a heroic end, we may be less than an hour from seeing that pact sealed.
Also, did you all waive to Bronn like I did? He has to be standing there when the Army of the Dead arrive, right?
Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO.