by: Geoffrey Golia and Michael Shields
The War over Westeros erupts in a wholly captivating episode entitled “The Queen’s Justice”…
MCS: I have to say, I am in awe of the scope of the show at this point. We have certainly seen many an epic battle throughout the course of the series, but now we are in the midst of an all out war (and the White Walkers have yet to throw their hat in the ring!). What’s unfolding in the world of Game of Thrones is truly wild. While we must get to the long awaited meeting between Jon and Dany (and Jon and a dragon!), I feel compelled to start our deconstruction with Cersei, who finally procured justice for her daughter’s death in dramatic fashion, brutally forcing Ellaria to watch as her poisoned daughter, Tyene, dies, only to rot away before her very eyes. Furthermore, Cersei craftily went on to send the Lannister army off to lay waste to Highgarden and Lady Olenna. Cersei, it seems, is a straight up gangster! “The Queen’s Justice” was a triumphant episode for her, but where does this leave her, and House Lannister, moving forward?
G.G.: Well, like all roads in this series, this one is going to lead back to Jon and Dany. But, yes, let’s talk about Cersei. She is, in fact, very much a gangster. She rules over an ill-gotten criminal enterprise, uses murder, torture, and extortion to keep and consolidate power, employs those at the margins to do much of her dirty work, and she has an interest in ornate jewelry and a flair for the dramatic — all while promising that the Corleone, I mean Lannister Family, will be “completely legitimate in five years.”
Indeed, the parallels between Cersei and Michael Corleone are, when you think about it, actually quite striking. Both of their fathers were feared and powerful men who sought to pass powerful empires down to their children, and built said empires on the justification that they were just trying to make life better for their families. Both ultimately seized power after murdering their rivals in spectacular fashion, but ended up losing their families in the process. Only misogyny makes Michael an icon and Cersei a villain.
But, in a way, Cersei’s status as a villain (or, dare I say, an anti-hero) actually makes watching her more enjoyable. Watching The Godfather, especially Part Two, is difficult, ethically speaking, because of the popular misconception that Michael Corleone is cool. We create justifications to allow us to like Michael, or at least see him as “cool.” When you understand that he’s actually a total piece of shit under his silk suits, the only moral to the story is: Kay was right; don’t be like this guy (and definitely don’t be like Fredo). Cersei has no cool, and certainly no chill, and therefore, her actions are somehow less grotesque despite being just as gruesome (if not more so) because no one tries to justify it. She is almost cartoonishly evil at this point, but that doesn’t matter because no teenager has a Cersei poster of her wall, or quotes her soliloquies verbatim, in Italian.
I’d be remiss to mention another interesting parallel between Cersei and Michael before moving on. In this episode, Cersei avenges the murder of her daughter by “killing” Tyene Sand in the same way as Ellaria murdered Myrcella, via a poisoned kiss (which, hello, remember Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy in whatever 90s-era Batman that was?) This is not dissimilar to Michael’s poetic revenge on Fabrizio, his Sicilian bodyguard, who murdered his first wife (and, legitimately, my first crush), Apollonia, albeit accidentally with a car bomb. Later, Michael catches wind that Fabrizio has emigrated to the United States, and runs a moderately successful pizzeria in Buffalo, New York, under the pseudonym, Fred Vincent. When “Fred’s” car blows up, we can all imagine who gave the order.
But, to be honest, Cersei’s victories are, I believe, merely a device to force Jon and Dany into an alliance…and, perhaps, more. During the episode, we see the Dornish “sun and spear” figurine knocked over on Dany’s map of Westeros, indicating that, contrary to common sense, the Dornish have somehow lost all political will to fight the Lannisters. So, I guess, Dorne is out. And, of course, the end of the episode sees the surrender of Highgarden and the death of Olenna Tyrell (more on that later), indicating the end of that Great House and emergence of House Tarly as Lords of the Reach and Wardens of the South. Thus two Great Houses allied to Dany are out of the Game of Thrones. Of the remaining regions and Great Houses, only House Stark in the North in allegiance with the Knights of the Vale (and perhaps the reestablished House Tully of Riverrun, although who the eff knows what’s happening there) appear to be natural allies to Dany (and they see her as a natural ally in their cause against the armies of the dead).
So Cersei’s wins on the board are, to my mind, not intended to impress us, as much as clear the chessboard so Dany and Jon can come together martially, and sexually.
MCS: Speaking of Olenna, before her inevitable death, the Queen of Thorns revealed that she, not Tyrion, was responsible for Joffrey’s death – I am curious what Jaime does with that information.
G.G.: Foremost, this information exonerates Tyrion and, to some extent, Sansa. This, of course, will do little to change Cersei’s mind, but it may plant some seeds of doubt in Jaime’s mind regarding his sister’s narrative of grievances. There’s a strong possibility, however, that this information, along with his general sense that his sister just ain’t right, might ultimately lead to Cersei’s death at the hands of Jaime. It all starts with prophecy.
If you remember, Cersei has been haunted by a prophecy given to her when she was a child. In the show, using some seriously unsanitary blood-magic, Maggy the Frog, foretells that Cersei will one day be queen, though not Rheagar’s, and that she will have three children (while her husband will have twenty). Additionally, Maggy indicates that all three of her children will predecease her, and that she, herself, will be “cast down” by another “younger and more beautiful queen.” All of these prophecies, save being cast down, do come true, and there’s a foreboding that her time is running out.
In the books, however, there is a twist. First, the number of Robert’s bastards is sixteen, which I only point out as it is a completely unnecessary departure from the books. More importantly, Maggy indicates that Cersei will ultimately be killed by the valonqar, which is High Valyrian for “little brother.” Notwithstanding our recent linguistics lesson from Missadei that High Valyrian titles don’t have a gender, the obvious interpretation, given recent events on the show, is that Dany is the “younger and more beautiful queen” and Tyrion, being in fact her actual younger brother who is actively working with her enemy to overthrow her, is the valonqar. Of course, Jaime, is also, technically, a younger brother, having been born minutes after Cersei, holding her foot. (I’ve wondered about the significance of that for some time, and the only literary reference I’ve come up with is Achilles’ heel, which is not irrelevant.)
Could Jaime, in the context of Lady Olenna’s admission, become the material agent of Cersei’s death? I haven’t ruled it out.
MCS: Can you tell me your thoughts on that brief, but potentially poignant, meeting between Varys and Melisandre. I am not sure what to make of that? Melisandre mentioned one last return to Westeros and I honestly can’t make heads or tails of what she meant…
G.G.: I believe to understand her statement that she will return to Westeros and be buried there, you have to know a little bit more about the mythology behind Mel’s religion…and, luckily, I wrote about this in my Season 6, Episode 1 Deconstruction! Here’s an excerpt:
Followers of R’hllor believe in the story of Azor Ahai – the legendary hero who, wielding a fiery sword, Lightbringer, saved the world from darkness and evil (aka: the Long Night)…Lightbringer’s most symbolic attribute was that it glowed like fire, or was a blade made of fire, or some such insanity. The sword could only be imbued with the magic through a grave sacrifice: Azor Ahai had to plunge the sword into his life-partner, Nissa Nissa, in order for it to become a sword capable of defeating the darkness. Will Mel be Jon’s Nissa Nissa?
My initial take is that Mel’s statement may corroborate my hypothesis that she thinks she may be Nissa Nissa, though maybe for Jon or maybe for another reincarnation of Azor Ahai (Dany? Dolorous Edd? LOL.), and that through some form of atonement and/or sacrifice, Mel may absolve herself of her “mistakes” while actively aiding the savior of the world. A lot of maybes here and, after all, she could just be anticipating that most humans will die in the Battle for the Dawn, and the odds are very much that she, too, will die, but what fun would that be?
MCS: Game of Thrones, I feel, never gets enough credit for how funny it can be, and this week that was highlighted in Davos’ terse introduction of Jon to Dany. But in that meeting, Dany flexed her muscle in a variety of ways. What did you make of the meeting, and what impact do you feel it has on the fate of Westeros moving forward, besides Jon getting his hands on some much needed dragonglass?
G.G.: I think it’s going to be a long courtship. But I fully expect Davos to officiate the wedding.
MCS: I have always admired the comparison between the White Walkers and the lack of belief in them by many in Westeros, and its parallels to Climate Change and the deniers of proven science in the real world. Both ideas seem to be looming above all else, casting a shadow on all that is unfolding, in that the tedious squabbles between all parties involved matter little with the very real threat of both the Army of the Dead and Climate Change fast approaching. We heard in this episode Jon passionately plead that “The Army of the Dead is real. The White Walkers are real. The Night King is real.” Do you think he got through to Dany?
G.G.: I think he got through to her to the best of his abilities, and certainly with the help of Davos and Tyrion. Listen, she accepts his claims to the fullest extent that anyone who hasn’t seen the Armies of the Dead can accept them, which is encouraging. Additionally, given that she has seen, and indeed facilitated, some metaphysically improbable phenomena in her own right (she has gosh-darn dragons!) is it that much of a stretch?
It’s time for some game theory: Tyrion’s suggestion to “give him something that he wants” is helpful. So Jon wants dragonglass. If giving Jon all the dragonglass means he is more likely to bend the knee and ally with Dany, there’s little risk there. If in fact there is a real Army of the Dead that can only be stopped with dragonglass, well thank goodness those Northmen mined it for us. If not, let’s kill some Lannisters! Like I said, Game Theory!
In terms of Climate Change, I picked up on the parallels between climate denial and White Walker denial as well. While clearly not allegory, there’s a Tolkienian “applicability” to a reading of A Song of Ice and Fire, where paradigms are challenged and defended, and people are faced with tackling a difficult but ultimately familiar foe versus a huge, existential threat that is too big to fully comprehend. In fact, that discussion of the White Walkers, which occurred in the episode, is a reality that makes it hard for environmentalists, conservationists, and others to persuade everyday people that, barring some revolutionary invention or an overnight change in our use of natural resources, we’re facing an irreversible catastrophe.
This is what is so compelling about the series, both on the page and screen — it touches on the major issues with which modern people wrestle, whether they be who wields political power, the role of the military and the use of force, class/caste divisions, social and religious differences, racial and ethnic tensions, and environmental concerns.
MCS: Jorah is cured! I don’t have a question here, but fuck…and…yeah! While Game of Thrones features many an enthralling bromance (Jon and Tyrion in this episode!), Sam and Jorah’s is up there as one of my current favorites.
G.G.: Call me a contrarian, but I think I’m more excited that Samwell is becoming such an effective, if somewhat insubordinate, Maester. It’s like the biggest makeover since Tony Danza’s daughter in that movie, She’s Out of Control.
Join us next week for ATM’s Deconstruction of Episode 4, “The Spoils of War.”