You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Game of Thrones’ Recap: Queens, Murders, and a Backsliding Dude or Two

Cersei gives a kiss of death, Jon and Dany finally meet, and Oleanna Tyrell bows out with a flourish

SPOILER ALERTDo not read if you have not watched “The Queen’s Justice,” the July 30 episode of “Game of Thrones.” 

As swashbuckling as the last few episodes of “Game of Thrones” has been — and I mean literally swashbuckling, with Greyjoy buccaneers swinging from the rigging in seemingly every other scene — “The Queen’s Justice” reveals some of the challenges and frustrations of the later seasons of this show. As the plot has tightened towards an inevitable conclusion, the weird grace notes of complexity that defined the early brilliance of “Game of Thrones” have been lost in favor of a smoother, simpler narrative. I have discussed this before at length, so I don’t want to belabor the point. But there’s a bit of lifelessness in “Game of Thrones” climaxes this season: As fewer and fewer characters survive the wars, and the central ones are weighed down with plot expedience and destiny, it’s only occasionally that flashes of weird and wonderful energy captivate the audience.

(Case in point: Euron Greyjoy, played by series newcomer Pilou Asbæk, who is having more fun than apparently all the other characters combined and can’t wait to get in their faces about it. Euron, as a character, is not a particularly appealing fellow; Asbæk, perhaps because he knows that Euron is not long for this world, leans into the character’s gross debauchery, with an unrestrained glee that cuts through the otherwise rather gloomy King’s Landing.)

“The Queen’s Justice,” like the two episodes before it, has a place-setting quality to it — with a truncated Season 7 paving the way for the final eighth season, it seems likely that this whole season will feel a little bit preliminary. Sequences like the invasion of Casterly Rock, Varys’ terse tete-a-tete with Melisandre, and the detailed breakdown of Cersei’s arrangement with the Iron Bank of Braavos (as personified by Mark Gatiss as Tycho Nestoris) are designed to impart as much logistical information as possible; they succeed, with varying degrees of brilliance. (Sweeping battle sequences led by Grey Worm are fantastic, especially when they drum up to a twist ending; dull, two-shot conversations set against grey landscapes are a bit less so.) After a period of turmoil, the pieces are clicking together like so many mah-jongg tiles, as the characters become who they’re going to be for eternity. I miss the dynamism of earlier seasons, but “The Queen’s Justice” showcases after a long time in the shadows the typically fantastic work of Peter Dinklage, who as Tyrion manages to keep that character so consistent and entertaining that the show kind of settles into place around him. Watching Dinklage opposite Kit Harington is especially rewarding; the two have a nice on-screen dynamic.

The episode fans out several different queens and their individual notions of justice, which makes for some interesting comparisons: Cersei kills Ellaria’s daughter Tyene in an even more brutal way than the way Ellaria killed Myrcella, following a monologue that is both unhinged and eerily calm; Oleanna takes her poison and then nastily informs Jaime that she killed his (evil, awful) son; Sansa governs, for the first time in her life, with surprising effectiveness; and Dany, despite her skepticism, offers her new ally Jon Snow all the dragonglass he can mine. Elsewhere, Jorah is cured of his terrible greyscale, Theon is pulled from the sea, and Jaime is sucked — pun intended — back into his sexual relationship with his sister. There’s a pattern here: The leading ladies are quietly building a character arc that will propel them to the finale; the men, several of whom are outright second-fiddles to the women in their lives, are relapsing into old habits one last time.

This does not seem quite so egregious when considering Theon’s ongoing trauma or Jorah’s single-minded romantic devotion, but Jaime’s arc in this episode was especially frustrating to me. We’ve spent seasons and seasons examining his conscience, and how it developed and sharpened into something that could save Brienne, pledge an oath to Catelyn, and spare Tyrion. Jaime has struggled with his sister’s rapacious nature and his own wrongdoing for years now, and Cersei’s actions in the Season 6 finale gutted King’s Landing, drove Tommen to suicide, and entrenched Westeros in another war. Internet speculation guesses that Jaime will likely reprise his role as Kingslayer to be the one to take out his increasingly insane sister by the end of this season, and that sounds like a great hypothesis to me. But I wonder if Jaime’s arc is going to make sense when it is binge-watched from Season 1 to Season 8, or if viewers will instead wonder if the handsome and deadly knight learned nothing from his friend Brienne or from the trial of losing his sword hand in pointless cruelty.

At least “The Queen’s Justice” offered up what is an increasingly rare flavor of “Game of Thrones” — comedy. Tyrion and Davos earnestly pushing Jon and Dany’s heads together was gold, as was pretty much every line delivery that came out of Dinklage’s mouth. There’s still a bit of sizzle left in this show.

More TV

  • American dollars bills and coinsAmerican cash,

    Entertainment Biz Comes Under Fire for Assistants' Low Wages, Working Conditions

    It’s no secret that many assistants in Hollywood bear heavy workloads for low pay. But the entertainment industry’s labor practices when it comes to those workers have now become the subject of intense social-media scrutiny. TV writer and WGA board member Liz Alper shone a light on the issue Monday with the creation of the [...]

  • Megyn Kelly

    Tucker Carlson Plans Megyn Kelly Interview on Fox News Channel

    Megyn Kelly is returning to Fox News Channel – briefly. Tucker Carlson has scheduled an interview Wednesday with the former Fox News and NBC News anchor, who will make her first appearance on her former employer’s programming since leaving in early 2017. The “Tucker Carlson Tonight” segment would also mark Kelly’s first appearance on a [...]

  • Picture shows: Gemma Foster (SURANNE JONES)

    India's Hotstar to Remake BBC Thriller 'Doctor Foster'

    Hit BBC thriller “Doctor Foster” is to be remade in India following the sale of the scripted format to streaming platform Hotstar Specials. Disney-owned Hotstar has collaborated with BBC Studios to adapt the series for Indian audiences. Indian filmmakers Tigmanshu Dhulia and Aijza Khan are directing the show, which is yet to be titled and [...]

  • Facebook Logo

    Facebook Watch Signs Content Pact With France's M6, Unveils European Short-Form Slate

    Facebook Watch has inked a content pact with French channel M6 and unveiled a slate of short-form content from European digital publishers for the platform. The deal with M6 will see the French broadcaster place spinoff programming from some of its hit shows on Facebook Watch. M6 will run pre- and after-show clips, interviews, and [...]

  • TV News Roundup: Amazon Drops ‘Marvelous

    TV News Roundup: Amazon Releases ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Season 3 Trailer

    In today TV’s news roundup, Amazon Prime Video releases the Season 3 trailer for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and Showtime announces Celeste Barber’s standup special premiere date.  DATES Showtime’s forthcoming comedy special “Celeste Barber: Challenge Accepted” will air Nov. 1.  This marks Barber’s televised standup debut. She is best-known for her viral Instagram hashtag #celestechallengedaccepted. [...]

  • Tom Succession

    'Succession': Matthew Macfadyen on the Status of 'Tomelette' After Season 2 Finale

    Matthew Macfadyen hasn’t even seen the second season finale of “Succession” yet, but says he wasn’t surprised by how it ended when he read the script. Over the course of the series, Macfadyen’s character Tom has suffered at the expense of the Roy family on personal and professional levels. Will he turn a new leaf [...]

  • Jason Sudeikis Apple

    Jason Sudeikis Sets Ted Lasso Comedy Series at Apple

    Jason Sudeikis is bringing his Ted Lasso character to Apple’s upcoming streaming service. Variety has learned that Apple TV Plus has given a series order to “Ted Lasso,” on which Sudeikis will star in addition to writing and executive producing. In the series, Sudeikis plays Lasso, an idealistic all-American football coach hired to manage an [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content