Masters Of Whisperers
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Master Of Whisperers is a role shrouded in understandable secrecy. It is negligible whether their role is performed in the cesspool alleyways of King’s Landing, underneath the vaulted stone arches of Dragonstone, or amidst the Great Pyramids of Meereen. What is vital is that the Master Of Whisperers performs their role well, entrenching themselves in as many place of value for, as Varys (Conleth Hill) aptly noted ages ago, the contents of a man’s letter are often more valuable than the contents of his purse. This requires patience, cunning, and an ability to observe the frailties and strengths of human behavior in order to learn when the time is right to strike. Equally important is that the Master Of Whisperers understands the vitality of their role, for there are few things in the world more valuable than having the right whispers reach the right ears. The leadership of Westeros is not made up of people who were born in adversity and had to struggle their way up the proverbial ladder Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) is so fond of quoting. It is largely composed of, at any given point, of the nobles Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) compared to sheep last week. Sometimes a few of those nobles are shrewd but also have an understanding of the political landscapes around them, but as the fate of Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) revealed, that in and of itself does not guarantee anything. More often than not, however, the nobles are blind, arrogant, and stupid in varying fashions, with Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) arguably serving as the epitome of that. The chances for commoners to gain power in such a system are almost nonexistent. When Varys is speaking to Melisandre (Carice van Houten), he is speaking to that truth with the understanding that the two of them, in spite of the mistakes they have made, have positions of tremendous value. They may not be commoners anymore, but they have worth in the experience they bring to a game of nobles that is fatal to most, provided their whispers reach those aforementioned right ears.
Whispers are a key motif in “The Queen’s Justice,” whether they arrive in the form of subterfuge, negotiations, or competing sets of advice. The opening sequence begins with some fantastic shots of the shores of Dragonstone as Jon (Kit Harrington) and company arrive to negotiate with the Dragon Queen (Emilia Clarke). A meeting decades in the making, it succeeds at all because of the whisperers behind both Jon and Daenerys. The two of them, truth be told, are relatively negligible leaders in terms of their leadership ability. They are brash, loud, and have their moments, but they do have significant weaknesses of their own. Jon is incredibly naive in many ways, his stern belief in honor and nobility blinding him to practicality. He is critically simply unable to get past his worldview in any capacity in order to sell the problem of the Night’s King (Vladimir Furdik) with conviction. Daenerys is stubborn in her own ways, obsessed to a certain degree with Jon bending the knee and establishing her birthright over the Seven Kingdoms, which naturally clashes with Jon being established as the King in the North. Davos (Liam Cunningham) sells Jon to a better degree than Jon was able to sell himself, almost slipping with the news of Jon’s murder and resurrection. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), in spite of Daenerys’s fiery speech, does a better job of selling her to Jon than she does. While Ice and Fire, to use Melisandre’s direct metaphors, are clashing from their own perspectives, Davos and Tyrion must use their abilities to bring together some capacity of an alliance to this fledgling meeting. Tyrion in particular serves as a whisperer of Jon to Daenerys, frustrated in part with Jon’s brooding neglect and delivers at the very least a gift. Daenerys may not wholesale buy the Night’s King and the Army of the Dead, but she at least gives him permission to mine for dragonglass.
As Jon and Daenerys slowly move past their clashing directives, Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) performs his own whispers towards Cersei (Lena Headey). He arrives to a hero’s welcome in King’s Landing, towing his prisoners in Yara (Gemma Whelan), Ellaria (Indira Varma), and Tyene (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) behind him with a swaggering bravado. Cersei swiftly shuts his whispering down for now, noting that he would get his heart’s desire of marrying her when the war was won. One would be plausibly correct in assuming that even if Euron survives the war, then Cersei would unleash the Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) on him without further thought. She at last has power and for now is handily winning the war. I never presumed that Cersei, in spite of her understandable appreciation for Euron’s leather swagger, ever had the intention of buying into his whispers and tying any sort of knot. She at last has power and after decades of sharing it with whom she considers to be worthless men, the last one she’s going to share it with is going to be with a psychopath who pushed his own (admittedly unpleasant) brother off of a cliff. She does appreciate his gift, however, and it leads to one of the most deliciously acted scenes in the history of Thrones. Ellaria and Tyene are tied up in a dungeon beneath the Red Keep. In an interesting parallel, Cersei’s only has one primary whisperer compared to Daenerys’s several, Qyburn (Anton Lesser). Ever the man to bend what would be considered rules of propriety, he researches but unlike Samwell (John Bradley), he doesn’t pursue his research under the guise of healing. He finds the exact poison Ellaria used to poison Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) and Cersei implants the kiss upon Tyene. Cersei’s own mind whispered several cruel fates to implant upon the murderers of her daughter, but she opted for the quieter, crueler revenge. Cersei sentences Ellaria to a fate where she has to watch her daughter slowly die and crumble apart into bones and dust. As she imparts two more of Daenerys’s allies off of the Westerosi chess board, she receives Tycho Nestoris (Mark Gatiss), the Iron Bank representative who is once again dealing with the critical whispers of whom to back so they can receive payments for the debt the Crown owes them. Cersei manages to evade Tycho for now, citing Daenerys’s destruction of the slave trade and how that has hurt the Iron Bank’s indirect profits off of that trade. In her words, she’s the stable monarch compared to Daenerys’s “revolutionary,” at least for now.
The attack on Casterly Rock was a fantastic bait-and-switch. It begins with a voiceover narration from Tyrion, which has the immediate effect of putting the audience on edge. Thrones has done quick battle cutaways before, which makes sense in part because this series has a television budget and they have to pick battles to spend money on, but the narration was different. As the battle unfolds rapidly, there is an instant understanding that something has gone horribly wrong, for there were far less Lannisters at their stronghold than Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) had anticipated. Suddenly the reasoning behind the narration trick becomes evident and Grey Worm watches with horror as Euron’s ships arrive to destroy the ships they had arrived on. As the Unsullied are boxed in, the Lannisters and Tarlys arrive to besiege Highgarden. Lady Olenna watches wistfully as the troops come into take the wealthiest castle in the Seven Kingdoms. She retreats, knowing that all is lost. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), arrives in her chambers, pouring her a glass of wine with poison, assuring her that her death would be painless. Lady Olenna appreciates the gesture and as someone who is more than happy to dish every barb, she takes about three seconds before noting to Jaime’s face what she really thought of Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). Jaime smiles briefly, recognizing the truth in that his deceased eldest child was indeed a psychopathic misery. His smile is brief. Olenna truly despises Cersei and it is thoroughly understandable why that is the case. She understands that Jaime loves her, that he is ensnared in some ways by her whispers that seem to be inescapable. Jaime’s discomfort with Cersei is becoming abundantly clear, but he is still irritatingly in love with her. He may not completely believe that she would bring peace to Westeros, but the part of him that believes him is stubbornly intact. Lady Olenna chips away at that belief bit by bit, her sharp barbs pointedly piercing all of Jaime’s mirages about Cersei that he is trying to ignore. Yet she waits until after she has chugged the poisoned wine to drop the real news. Quietly she spells out to Jaime that she, not Tyrion and Sansa, was the one who poisoned Joffrey to protect House Tyrell. Jaime’s eyes grow wide as Olenna spells out her confession but there is nothing more to do. Lady Olenna arches back in her chair, waiting for her death that she utterly owned with whispers just as lethal as the poison she consumed. She waits, content in having bested the man who delivered her death in her final, powerful moments.
+The dialogue in this episode was exquisite.
+This is an episode to showcase if one wants to see top-notch acting from every player involved. Special shoutout to Diana Rigg, Indira Varma, and Lena Headey
+“She’s starting to let on.”
+“I’ve brought ice and fire together.”
+“I have to die in this strange country. Just like you.”
+“You must allow them their flights of fancy. It’s dreary up in the North.”
+Poor Sansa. Now she has two emo brothers instead of just one. Also, maybe someone should explain the concept of trigger words and PTSD to Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright)
+“Are you trying to present your own statements as ancient wisdom?”
+Sansa taking to leadership like a boss
+“Thank you for your wise council.”
+“He really was a cunt, wasn’t he?”
+“She’ll be the end of you.”
+“Not at all what I intended.”
+“Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me.”
-I am a huge fan of House Tyrell, but while the Casterly Rock sequence was a sharp bait-and-switch, not seeing any of the fighting at Highgarden did give the episode an unfortunate feeling of being anti-climactic before Lady Olenna saved the ending.
Episode Title: The Queen’s Justice
Written by: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
Directed by: Mark Mylod
Image Courtesy: Yahoo! Finance
Every review from now on will have links to organizations who are in need of resources. Please contribute if you are able:
Syrian Refugee/Refugee Crises
Women’s Reproductive Rights