Season 7, Episode 3 of Game of Thrones had plenty of plot twists and shocking moments to keep even the most casual viewer coming back for more. But after a few re-watches, even more layers of the story come to light. Here’s a spoiler-free look at all the book and show references, callbacks, and Easter eggs you might have missed from “The Queen’s Justice.”
In Defense of Ned: As hesitant as we are to contradict the Mother of Dragons (especially when she’s in full, imperious queen mode), we should probably stand up for Ned Stark here. Daenerys besmirches Ned’s honor by implying that he was complicit in any or all of the assassination attempts on her life. In fact, Ned threw down with his best friend Robert several times over the safety of both Daenerys Targaryen and her unborn child in Season 1. He even (temporarily) quit as Hand of the King over it, declaring: “You’re speaking of murdering a child.” I’m sure Lord Varys—who was in the room when that happened—would have come to Ned’s defense if he had been present when Daenerys was dragging the Stark patriarch through the mud.
In fact, Ned was so aware and frightened of Robert’s desire to murder any and all Targaryen children that he hid his nephew, Jon Snow born of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, away from the world.
Though the show hasn’t made this explicit, book readers feel fairly certain that the reason Ned didn’t tell anyone, not even his wife, Catelyn, about Jon’s parentage is because he was afraid of Robert’s wrath. So check yourself, Daenerys: Ned is the last person you should accuse of not protecting Targaryen babies. Of course, that wasn’t the only Targaryen fact Daenerys got wrong in that throne room.
She is not, of course, the last Targaryen. She doesn’t know it yet, of course, but Jon is her nephew. There was a cute nod to Jon’s dragon heritage when he declared he wasn’t a Stark, only to be immediately buzzed by Drogon. Another nod to Jon’s father and Daenerys’s late brother Rhaegar came when the two Westerosi leaders were sharing a chat on the Dragonstone cliffside.
We can assume that when Jon said he didn’t enjoy doing the thing he’s best at, he was talking about killing. Back in Season 5, Dany, thirsty for information about her brother, told former Kingsguard member Barristan Selmy: “[Viserys] told me Rhaegar was good at killing people.” The old knight replied that Rhaeger also never enjoyed the thing he was good at.
The show keeps dropping hints and teases about Jon’s Targaryen heritage, but when will the man himself find out about it?
Whenever he gets his kingly self back to Winterfell, I suppose. Remember, Bran knows who Jon’s real parents are. Here’s hoping the awkward new Three-Eyed Raven handles that news dump with more tact than he did Sansa’s wedding night.
Two Swords: For those Game of Thrones fans who didn’t spend the off-season poring over publicity photos and identifying tell-tale pommels on swords, this episode made it abundantly clear to casual viewers that Jaime is now wearing the Valyrian steel sword once worn by his dead sons: Joffrey and Tommen. Valyrian steel is, of course, a very hot commodity these days. It’s both in scarce supply in Westeros and on a very short list of things that can defeat White Walkers. So we always want to know where any of these weapons are at any given time, be they at Oldtown, or Winterfell, or anywhere in between. But Jaime carrying Widow’s Wail (maybe consider rebranding that sword, eh?) is also thematically important.
Jaime’s sword was one of two forged out of the Valyrian steel that Tywin melted down from Ned Stark’s massive sword, Ice. Jaime gave the other weapon, Oathkeeper, to Brienne, with the instructions she use it for a purpose Ned Stark would be proud of. That’s right: Jaime and Brienne are carrying two halves of the same sword. It’s like the Westerosi answer to Best Friend necklaces. The question now is whether Jaime will eventually prove himself worthy of carrying the Starkish steel.
Sansa Ascendent: Speaking of Starks and worthiness, Sansa has proved herself very much capable of the authority Jon gave her in Winterfell. This is a relief to see; of course Sansa is bright and capable, and I really hated seeing those instincts undermined by the sibling in-fighting the show insisted on shoehorning into the first two episodes this season. Tyrion’s admiration for Sansa’s intelligence isn’t anything new, by the way. He admired how well she played the impossible hand that was dealt her back when they were both trying to navigate the horror of King’s Landing in Seasons 2 and 3.
Oh, There Is a Cure? Speaking of King’s Landing in Season 2, Olenna gave a nice little callback here when she used the c-word to describe Joffrey. I suppose we can credit her for finding the cure Bronn insisted didn’t exist; turns out it’s poison. Bronn’s salty language was also quoted earlier in the episode, when Tyrion was narrating his plans to invade Casterly Rock.
Way back in Season 1, Bronn was talking about the Eyrie—but it applies well enough to the Lannister seat. I like hearing Tyrion call Bronn his friend here. The two parted on relatively O.K. terms back in Season 4. when Bronn allowed Cersei to buy his loyalties and refused to fight on Tyrion’s behalf during the trial by combat. Bronn emphasized to Tyrion that he was a mercenary and not a friend, but it’s nice to remember that before Bronn was Jaime’s constant sidekick, he was Tyrion’s.
And of course Tyrion’s Bronn-inspired plan at Casterly Rock might have worked out better if he had been watching Season 7, Episode 1 along with the rest of us, as Jaime helpfully reminded audiences of Euron’s history of burning boats outside the Lannister family home. And speaking of Euron, the last time we saw someone ride into the King’s Landing throne room it was Tywin Lannister.
That is a massive shadow you’re stepping into, buddy.
Old Blackwater Keep on Rolling: Tyrion did get a chance to revisit one of his old victories this week when he and Davos dropped some brief reminders to the audience that they fought on opposite sides of the Battle of Blackwater Bay. But Tyrion might want to watch his tone a bit when talking about that night. The “WTF, dude?” look Davos gave to Tyrion might have something to do with the fact that Tyrion’s wildfire plot engulfed the Onion Knight’s only son, Matthos, in flames. Not a good track record with kids and fire, our man Davos.
The Luckiest Schemer in Westeros: Back in Season 5, Olenna promised Littlefinger that if she were to go down, she was going to take him with her. And then, in this week’s episode, she . . . didn’t. Oh sure, she had time to bitterly quote the “Rains of Castamere”—“and now the rains weep o’er our halls”—but no time to finger Baelish? What a lucky, slippery bastard. And speaking of his schemes, I hope you noticed this look of interest he gave when he found out there are copies of every raven scroll ever sent to Winterfell somewhere on the premises.
We’ll have to tune in to find out what he plans to do with all those receipts Luwin was saving. Will it be enough to save him, now that Bran—who knows everything that has ever happened in Westeros—is under the same roof as Littlefinger? We’ll see.
Take Me Back to the Black Cells: When Cersei paid homage to Aerys Targaryen with her elaborate torture of Ellaria and Tyene Sand, I expected her to go full Mad Queen and destroy the mother and daughter in the middle of the throne room. Instead, Cersei chose the Black Cells, a far more suitable place for the long-term torture she has in mind. And it’s a fitting place, too, given that this is where, back in Season 4, Oberyn declared himself willing to fight for Tyrion and kicked off a three-season-long Martell bloodbath.
Sins of the Father: As the secret of Jon Snow’s parentage hangs over Season 7, the most apparent theme has to do with inherited sin. Daenerys asks Jon not to judge her for her father, Aerys Targaryen, and Jon—who just gave a showy speech up North about second chances—had no choice but to oblige. Ned Stark has been looming large this season—larger than ever. It seems he is referenced or quoted in almost every scene. But Jon will soon have to grapple with the idea that he shares Daenerys’s more controversial heritage—even if Rhaegar did prefer singing to murdering—and learn to forgive everyone who played a part in his unhappy birth. That includes the honorable Ned Stark, who lied to Jon every single day of his life.
Photo: By Helen Sloan/Courtesy of HBO.