It’s never a good idea to get too attached to a character on Game of Thrones, but we can also hope that our favorites are given a good death. And Game of Thrones gave a certain someone a very good death last night.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 7, episode 3.]
The show also had to work pretty hard to get us there, but the payoff was worth it.
Why this was so good
It all boils down to how little information most characters on the show have about the world at any given time. We may get to jump from location to location and character to character — Game of Thrones’ now-famous opening credits provide context for how much of the world we’ll visit in each episode — but the individuals in the story don’t enjoy the same raven’s-eye view of what’s going on.
That can lead to funny scenes like Bran trying to explain to Sansa that he can see through time and has just about zero patience for hugs. But it can also bring us moments like Lady Olenna Tyrell telling Jaime that she was responsible for Joffrey’s death right before she dies. And oh yeah, make sure Cersei knows.
Poor Jaime. Everyone’s been mean to him this season: His sister won’t let him put his golden hand back on before they have sex; Highgarden didn’t even put up an enjoyable fight; and Olenna delivered some truly punishing information right after he tried to give her a dignified death.
Olenna’s hand in Joffrey’s death wasn’t widely known — I snuck another hand joke in there — and now Jaime gets to either live with that information by himself, or tell Cersei and turn a tactical victory into a piece of emotionally devastating news.
Think about it: Margaery was one of the few people who knew that Olenna was behind Joffrey’s death, although she was pretty slow about figuring out what had happened and why. Sansa knew Littlefinger’s part in it, but it’s not like either of them had a chance, or a reason, to tell the Lannisters.
That final scene was a clever way of using existing information to remind us that we take for granted a lot of information that’s still a relative secret for most characters. It was also another good reminder that violence designed to create order has a bad habit of sowing more chaos instead.
Remember, Olenna didn’t really care about the throne. Killing Joffrey was more about protecting Margaery from his brutality, after learning how monstrous he was from Sansa. Tommen would be next in line, Margaery would have a husband she could control, Tyrion would be framed, and that was that.
Littlefinger took part because a chaotic, petulant ruler makes planning anything hard — shout-out to American politics in 2017 — but Tywin’s murder at the hands of Tyrion during Tyrion’s escape inadvertently set off a chain of events that led to a dead Margaery and the destruction of the Sept of Baelor.
House Tyrell never benefited from the throne. Littlefinger’s machinations didn’t pan out as he expected. And Olenna’s alliance with Dany made Highgarden even more of a tempting target for Cersei. Olenna might not have played a very good long game, and Cersei technically got revenge on two people who killed her children in this episode, but Jaime’s face did a pretty good job of showing the audience how a success can start to seem like a failure.