Fire and Ice officially meet in a tense showdown of pride and ego
For the first time, all three of our heroes are in the same place. The monumental moment of fire and ice meeting has been seven years in the making, and the payoff was worth the wait.
The episode centered on Dany and Jon’s long-awaited meeting, but before we get to that, let’s talk about the storyline that gave the episode its name. In King’s Landing, Euron returns with Yara and Ellaria and Tyene Sand. He presents the latter two to Cersei, who then imprisons them and gives Tyene the same poison Ellaria gave Myrcella. It’s been a little while since Cersei has appeared human. This intimate and unpleasant scene in the dungeon shows Cersei in rare vulnerable form. She has manifested a cold and powerful persona for so many episodes that it’s genuinely disarming how she asks Ellaria why she killed Myrcella. It is a fitting bit of justice that Cersei takes Ellaria’s daughter in the same why Myrcella died. Though it is another reminder the Cersei’s only definition of justice is “revenge.”
There’s also a very important meeting with Tycho Nestoris of the Iron Bank of Braavos. Mark Gattis plays Tycho with his usual charismatic condescension, to which Lena Headey easily goes tic for tac. It’s a callback to a simpler time; when Cersei sat back and acted as a politician with something resembling a peer group. It is a solid reminder of the nuance to Cersei’s character and Headey rises to any and every occasion with her grand portrayal of the series’s longest surviving villain.
Jaime is elsewhere. He’s taken the Lannister and Tarly armies and marched on a defenseless Highgarden. In one last scene stealing performance, we say goodbye to Diana Rigg as Olena Tyrell. There have been few, if any scenes, that Rigg has not dominated in her five-year run as a recurring guest star. After drinking poison provided by Jaime, she informs him that it was her that killed Joffrey. It’s a great sendoff for the Queen of Thorns; going out with the last word.
In the North, we see Sansa settle into her role as acting ruler (Queen Regent?) of the North. She boasts charisma and wisdom in her Sorkinesque walk-and-talk. We see Littlefinger make attempts to manipulate her, though they are mostly deflected until he takes a more rhetorical approach. The main event here though is the return of Bran to Winterfell. Sansa nobly gives power to Bran, who rejects it and confuses Sansa with his explanations regarding the Three Eyed Raven. Bran is stoic and dark now and proves himself to Sansa by citing her wedding to Ramsay, causing her to panic when faced with the memory. The reunion didn’t have the emotional punch that she and Jon had, though we’ve got next week (presumably) to look forward to when Arya comes back. Yes, we’re aware of what happened last time she was this close to a reunion and I actively reject the possibility of history repeating itself.
As a director, Mark Mylod leaves a lot to be desired with his choices. He needs to brush up on his framing. A lot of scenes, especially those in Dragonstone, seem to be set with little regard to design. On the other hand, this was one of the best-written episodes the show has put out yet. The initial interaction in Dragonstone, in particular, was excellent. The four major players – Dany, Tyrion, Jon, and Davos – trade off moments in the spotlight, each one shining brighter than the last. Emilia Clarke has her Emmy nom video right here and Liam Cunningham is always worthy of consideration as well. The episode had a well-organized balance of humor, action, and heart and it was on full display in that scene.
Mylod’s best choice this episode was how he handled the siege of Casterly Rock. Tyrion provides a voice-over to the attack, at first showing a bitter struggle eerily similar to the assault on Battle of Helm’s Deep. However, he reveals his knowledge of the sewer systems of the Rock and references a line spoken by Bronn back in Season One. It was a great way to show and summarize an assault we otherwise wouldn’t need to spend time on.
In Dragonstone, Jon meets with Dany in an attempt to convince her to move her armies to the North. She doesn’t care for that idea. There is a great deal of tension as the two stubborn leaders give no ground in their initial meeting, a scene that should go down in the pantheon of Game of Thrones scenes. Tyrion and Davos trade humor and wisdom back and forth. Dany vouches for herself while Davos explains how Jon earned the trust of his followers.
With little ground gained, Tyrion tries a different approach with Jon. Their interactions were some of the best of the episode. The warmth of Tyrion plays off Jon’s own genuineness as their respect for one another is the glue holding the negotiations together. There was a ton of good acting throughout this entire episode. Ultimately, Dany gives some ground to Jon, both figuratively and literally. Next episode, Jon remains on Dragonstone as his men begin mining for dragon-glass. With the attack on Casterly Rock now turned into a siege against her army, it’s safe to assume Dany will mobilize her army. Where will that leave Jon? It’s also been like, four years, Gendry has got to be tired of rowing by now.