Game of Thrones S7 episode 3 The Queen's Justice review: A masterclass in surprise
“That was my biggest failure, a lack of imagination,” says Olenna Tyrell wistfully, as episode three winds down. It is this line that will resonate with every GoT fan, because everything we'd predicted was suddenly and brutally turned on its head in an absolute masterclass of an episode.
If the first two episodes of the season were all about setting up the dominoes, episode three – The Queen's Justice – is where the first domino falls, setting in motion a brilliant chain of cascading events that ensure season seven will be an incredible ride.
In keeping with the episode's title, the story begins by contrasting the show's two queens – Daenerys and Cersei, as they deal with markedly different situations. In Dragonstone, we finally see the long-awaited meeting between fire and ice as Daenerys attempts to form an alliance with an unyielding Jon Snow. Will Daenerys' bratty temperament, that we've seen recently, resurface and put paid to everyone's hopes for an alliance? Or will Daenerys prove herself as wise and just as she believes herself to be?
While Dany looks to forge alliances, Cersei is presented with an opportunity to do what she does best – punish her enemies. With Euron capturing Tyene, Ellaria, as well as Yara, Cersei is absolutely spoiled for choice in King's Landing. What will she do? Will another major character bite the dust at her hands? And will she pick Euron over Jaime? The Queen's Justice provides delicious resolutions to all these questions.
The episode also does a stellar job of balancing power, thereby increasing the unpredictability going forward. At the end of season six, as we see Dany's vast allied fleet flanked by dragons, we couldn't help but think the game of thrones would move towards a swift, predictable conclusion. Everything so far in season seven, however, has shattered that notion. Episode three continues this with a series of tactical moves so smart it will leave you stunned. The end result – Westeros balanced on a knife-edge.
While the season does put certain things in place, allowing us a glimpse of what is to come, it also holds back expertly. Jon and Daenerys' meeting has no easy resolution. Cersei's vengeance is not straightforward, or, indeed, definite. Jaime's allegiance to Cersei, which seemed unbreakable midway through the episode, could also turn.
Meanwhile, in the North, the return of Bran Stark to Winterfell has also thrown up a host of incredible possibilities. His presence alone could unmask all of Baelish's deceit. It could clear up the mystery over Jon's parentage. It could help them defeat the White Walkers. But, as GoT has shown us time and time again, we need to stop expecting the likely.
As if to underscore this, the trailer for the fourth episode, The Spoils of War, has dropped, and seems to indicate a descent from order into chaos. We can't wait.