Jon Snow made it quite clear in his memorable meeting with Daenerys Targaryen that they are all just children playing a game while the real danger was in the north. But that's why we're watching this show. It is called “Game of Thrones” after all. We came for the gamesmanship. But who was the best player this week?
The King in the North made a good play for that title, standing toe to toe with the Mother of Dragons, refusing to bend the knee and entreating her to abandon her quest for the Iron Throne and join him in facing the real threat: The Night King and his army of the dead.
Quite rightfully, Dany decided he sounded quite mad. But Tyrion knows Jon Snow and knows him to be a man of honor, who has earned the loyalty of his bannermen, the Night's Watch and even the wildlings north of the wall. A bastard with no title or holdings, Jon Snow has achieved everything on merit, just as Dany had to do in Essos.
While she remains somewhat blinded by her quest for power in Westeros, Dany did make a huge concession to Jon. She accepted his lack of fealty (for now) and agreed to let him mine the dragonglass beneath her keep and forge his weapons. She even agreed to provide the forces to make this happen. This is a huge win for the real war to come, but it wasn't the best game play.
Tyrion made a bold move himself, with his brilliant move to take Casterly Rock by utilizing a secret tunnel he'd built when his father dishonored him by putting him in charge of sewer design. What could allow his hookers to come and go could also allow Unsullied to get in undetected and open the gates. What he failed to realize, though, was that Casterly Rock has become little more than a symbol, and that he was outplayed.
Having learned from prior mistakes, Jaime Lannister easily made the biggest move this week. He outsmarted Tyrion by allowing his Unsullied to take the Rock. He sent Euron's fleet to destroy the Unsullied ships, and then took most of the Lannister Army on the march. So now the Unsullied have taken a place that has no real meaning to the Lannisters anymore -- as they are happily in King's Landing -- and they have no quick escape. Their only move now is to take the long march across Westeros. This is a huge blow for Tyrion's plans, and a second major loss for Daenerys. Perhaps Tyrion isn't as strong a military strategist as he thinks. The Lannisters are not going to be so easy to dispatch, though the Dothraki and those dragons are still a pretty big factor in Dany's army.
Cinching his title as the player of the week, Jaime didn't just march the majority of his armies out of Casterly Rock and camp out in the wild somewhere. No, he headed straight for the deepest pockets in Westeros and easily wiped out House Tyrell until it was just him and the Lady Olenn sitting together. Out of respect, her death was to be by poison. But after swallowing it, Olenn revealed that it was her that poisoned Joffrey, and could he please pass the message onto Cersei.
Jaime left her there to die, and had to sit with the anguish of this revelation. Even in winning, there is loss on “Game of Thrones.” Let's face it, no one really wins on this show. They just delay their deaths. As Davos said, if they don't deal with the real threat to the north, it won't matter which skeleton sits on the Iron Throne to rule over a kingdom of the dead.
Olenn described Cersei as a monster, and she proved it in this episode. After Euron presented Ellaria to her as a gift, along with her last remaining daughter, Cersei shackled the two of them together in the same cell. She then kissed Ellaria's daughter with the same poison Ellaria used to kill Cersei's daughter, and left Ellaria there to watch her child die. Now, as brutal as this is, Ellaria is also a monster driven by rage and hatred who killed an innocent child, so this punishment almost seems just.
He sees it, and yet Jaime doesn't care that she's a monster, and he's confident the people won't care when she squashes these rebellions and brings peace to the land. That's confidence, folks! There's no way Cersei comes out of this alive, and it's not looking good for her brother-lover , either. But for now, he's our player of the week.
And so the game continues. Who will emerge as the player of the week next on “Game of Thrones,” Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.