Crafting a Legacy
Earlier this year a film called The Last Word was released in theaters. In the film, Shirley MacLaine played a woman near the end of her life who became concerned about her legacy. She brow beat the local obituary writer (Amanda Seyfried) into writing her obituary early and, after seeing it, decided she needed to work on crafting her legacy. She wanted to change her narrative.
But that desire to craft a legacy isn’t strictly the purview of those near the end of their runs. Lukas Graham, a group fronted by a number of 20-somethings, released a song called “7 Years.” In it, they opine about time, where they’ve been, where they are and where they might end up. It is, essentially, about legacy.
And by now you’re probably totally confused. Isn’t this a Game of Thrones recap? The thing is, while watching last night’s third episode, “The Queen’s Justice,” I couldn’t help but think about the idea of legacy. It seems all the decisions being made for the past few weeks have been about the future as much as about the present — both for the good and for the bad.
When season six ended, it seemed like Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) had all the pieces she needed to conquer the seven kingdoms. But when she arrived at Dragonstone, she listened to Tyrion (Peter Dinkledge) and crafted a plan that would enhance her reputation and legacy. Since the beginning, Daenerys has lived in the shadow of her father, a man who was cruel and went mad with power. We’ve seen brief glimpses of those impulses in her, and we’ve seen more than a few who’ve warned her to keep those impulses in check. Her decision to play it safe was about more than not wanting to be “Queen of the Ashes.” She has spent the past 63 episodes building a different kind of legacy.
That’s what her introduction is all about. Her many titles are badges of honor, but they are also accomplishments. She’s re-birthed dragons. She’s freed the slaves. She’s coming home to reclaim the throne. Daenerys is very concerned about getting what she wants, but more than that she’s driven to build a legacy that will have people talking about her greatness long after she’s gone. She doesn’t just want to be Queen, she wants to be remembered.
In some ways, that sets Daenerys apart from her hand, Tyrion (Peter Dinkledge), and her guest this week, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington). Their reunion was a reminder of just how far each has come from where they started. While Jon and Tyrion were children of great fathers and part of impressive houses (though maybe that history will be re-framed here in the final 10 episodes for both), neither fit in. Tyrion, a dwarf, was never seen as a real son or asset by his father. And Jon, a bastard, never really felt like a Stark. (Maybe for good reason).
That made the juxtaposition of Daenerys and Jon fascinating during their long-anticipated meeting. Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) went through the litany of Daenerys’ titles, each one a badge of honor. While Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham) took much less time in introducing Jon. Their approach, too, is very different, and that showed in last night’s first on-camera meeting.
Probably the top of the box thing about Jon is that he CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD! However impressive Daenerys’ list is, that is a game-changer. Yet, when Davos nearly mentioned it, Jon cut him off. Jon doesn’t like to talk about it, and it could be for many reasons. It’s the same reason you could see him tense a bit when others said he, “declared himself King in the North,” as if it was a title he sought to attain. Jon has only ever wanted to do his duty. It was duty and honor that led him to the Wall; duty and honor that saw him rise to Lord Commander; duty and honor that led him to make peace with the Wildlings; duty and honor that got him killed; and duty and honor that led him to battle the Boltons and re-take Winterfell. It was duty and honor that led him to accept the position of King of the North, and that same sense that brought him to Dragonstone despite the warnings of all his advisors.
Like Daenerys, Jon sees a bigger picture. But while she seeks to create a legacy that would have her remembered and revered, Jon simply seeks to provide a future for all those he’s charged to protect and lead. They are similar in a desire to seek justice and to help the oppressed, but seem to be driven by very different personal motives.
It’s fascinating because we’ve watched these characters grow for six years. We’ve rooted them on. For all their faults (and both have plenty of faults), Jon and Daenerys are the heroes in this story, at least in a traditional sense. (Unless you’re one of those people who roots for the villain, in which case it was a good week for you as Cersei (Lena Headey) flexed a bit). We’ve wanted them to come together for so long. We’ve imagined their union and all its possibilities. But few imagined a tense standoff, which is essentially what we got in “The Queen’s Justice.” They need each other, but right now they want different things. It will be interesting to see how, and when, they get on the same page.
Legacy is also a driving force for Tyrion. It makes sense, as his father, Tywin (Charles Dance), often stressed the importance of the family name and legacy as the only thing that survives in this world. That led to a serious miscalculation for Tyrion in his battle plan drawn up for his queen. When he thought of Casterly Rock, he thought of the symbol of the Lannister power. He focused his attention on seizing his home, dealing a symbolic blow to Cersei. But Tyrion might be the only one of Tywin’s children to have taken his lessons on legacy and symbols seriously. While Tyrion focused on the Rock, his sister and brother, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), focused elsewhere. Between that tactical gaff and the crushing defeat at sea in “Stormborn,” Daenerys’ once powerful and invincible army is no more. Tyrion has long prided himself on being the smartest one in the room, seeing his alliance with Daenerys as a chance to re-frame his own legacy. But after a disastrous series of mis-steps in Mereen and now in Westeros, his tactical ability is rightly to be called into question.
In “Stormborn,” Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) urged Daenerys not to forget who she is. She counseled, “You’re a dragon, be a dragon.” After seeing her plans ruined and her army broken, how will Daenerys embrace that call?
Legacy, or rather the loss of a legacy, has been a driving factor for Lady Olenna in recent days. She played an active role in the death of King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), hoping that it would pave the way for her granddaughter, Margery (Natalie Dormer), to live a better life and exert more influence. Along the way, she misjudged Cersei and the lengths to which she would go. That led to the loss of Margery and the rest of her family, leaving the legacy of House Tyrell in shambles. With nothing left to fight for but vengeance, she aligned with Daenerys army and set out to battle Cersei. But, like the Sands and Greyjoys last week, she became collateral damage in the war. Her house completely destroyed, and left to drink a glass of poison and fade away.
But not before living up to who she has always been throughout the show. Prior to her farewell, Lady Olenna challenged Jamie — exhorting him to consider his own legacy and the legacy Cersei is building for him. And, finally, she was sure to proudly admit her role in Joffrey’s death, to be sure that Jamie — and by extension Cersei — knew that she was pulling the strings and played a big part in setting the current events in motion.
Which brings me to Cersei. When we first saw her this season, Cersei was looking at a map, talking about securing a dynasty. Jamie rightly asked who the dynasty would be for, as their children are dead and their family is in shambles. It’s interesting, but the events of the season six finale changed the game for Cersei, too. She spent her life in fear of the prophecy of her youth, and what it would mean for her children. She spent her life driven to live up to the picture of the family name crafted by her father. But with her children gone, and her family destroyed, those tethers were snapped. Cersei is finally free to be who she wants to be, and to not care what anyone else thinks. She’s the queen, and she will rule her way because she has nothing left to lose but her life.
That freedom has enabled her to play the game at a different level. Foreign invaders want to take your family home? Who cares, the gold’s gone anyway. Let them take it then we’ll trap them there. The Iron Bank is calling in your debts? No problem, either I’ll win the war and take all the gold or I’ll be dead and it won’t matter. Fiesty foreigner wants to trade an armada for a marriage alliance? Sounds good. Who knows if he’ll even survive the war. We’ve seen this gusto in all aspects of her life. She’s made a point to settle debts with her enemies and she’s shown total disregard for who might see that she and her brother have more than a traditional familial relationship. She’s queen. She has nothing left to lose. It could all end at any time. But until then, she’s going to do it her way.
The question is, does Jamie feel the same? Lady Olenna challenged Jamie to consider if that was something he was comfortable with. To this point he’s remained loyal, but could that have been the seed of doubt planted that will cause a split with Cersei? Only time will tell.
Advancing The Plot:
All the talk of legacy is interesting, and it’s a thread that pulls the episode together. But before we go, there were other things that happened in the episode. Here’s a quick hitting guide to the rest of “The Queen’s Justice.”
- Sam (John Bradley) did manage to cure Jorah (Iain Glen). This sets up something interesting for both. Sam, though not given a parade, may have earned some esteem at the Citadel. And you have to wonder what treasures will be contained in those old scrolls. Jorah, meanwhile, is now headed to Dragonstone. This is another reunion fans have clamored for, and it couldn’t be coming at a better time for Daeneys.
- All he does is win, win, win. Euron Greyjoy ( Pilou Asbæk) is on quite a hot streak. His marriage proposal was accepted. He fired some great shots across Jamie’s bow. He has his niece, Yara (Gemma Whelan), to do with as he likes. And he destroyed yet another one of Daenerys fleets. The guy is simply on fire.
- Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) has returned home. This is certainly increasing the drama. Plus, the line of the night was when Bran said he really needed to talk to Jon. Buddy, we’re all waiting for that conversation.
- Beware of Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen). With Bran back and Arya (Maisie Williams) on her way. Plus, you know, Jon coming back at some point, Littlefinger seems poised to make his move. His speech to Sansa (Sophie Turner) about seeing every possible outcome so as to never be surprised was a chilling insight into his own process. He hasn’t been chilling at Winterfell for fun, so you have to suspect a plot is coming.
The Wars To Come:
We can’t end without looking into the future. So here’s a couple predictions for the next four weeks.
- Cersei sees season eight. I came into this season thinking that season seven would be the war for Westeros, and season eight would be the survivors banding together to beat the Night King. I’ve since changed me position based on the flow of the season. I think the ultimate resolution with Cersei will take place to begin the final season.
- Arya makes it to Winterfell. Bran made it this week, I think Arya makes it next week and, for good measure, I think all four remaining Starks will be together this season.
- Littlefinger doesn’t see season eight. I don’t feel great about this prediction, but I feel like things with him are coming to a head.
- A dragon dies. Files this under it’s gonna get worse before it gets better. I have this suspicion that a dragon will go down some time this season, one of the reasons I think the War of the Two Queens will rage on a bit longer.
That’s it for this week. Have thoughts, a favorite scene or predictions? Hit me up in the comments.