This post contains major spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 3, "The Queen's Justice," and every episode before it. Visit our "Beyond the Wall" hub for more GoT recaps, theories, and spoilers.
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If you thought Episode 3 of Game of Thrones' Season 7 -- provocatively titled "The Queen's Justice" -- failed to fully define "queen" or "justice" or "the" in any satisfactory way, you have to admit it ups the ante between Queen Cersei and Queen Daenerys, who each have wildly different conceptions of justice. That could mean a range of possibilities when it comes to predicting the end of the series, but as far as this episode is concerned, the chasm between the two is especially apparent when it comes to treatment of prisoners, which Cersei interprets with typical vengeance.
That is to say: Cersei Lannister poisoned the shit out of Tyene Sand, the only surviving Sand Snake and loyal daughter of Ellaria Sand, both of whom were captured by Euron Greyjoy and presented to Cersei as the priceless gift that will steal Cersei's heart for Euron. Instead of appreciating the lengths to which Euron went to acquire such a thoughtful present, Cersei proceeds past her potential suitor to take action. Mid-episode, we see the queen poison Tyene with a tainted kiss full of the "Long Farewell" poison that killed Cersei's daughter, Myrcella, as she was en route home with Jaime. Cersei doesn't tend to allow opportunities for revenge pass her by.
But who was Tyene Sand -- she's technically still alive, maybe she'll make it! -- and what does Cersei have to live for these days if she's just going to be as torturous and malevolent as the (gasp!) Mad King?
Tyene is played by Rosabell Laurenti Sellers, a 21-year-old Italian-American actress who's appeared mostly in Italian film and television, continuing GoT's tradition of mining foreign talent for breakout roles on American television. Tyene's mother, Ellaria Sand, fumes and conspires to exact revenge for the brutal murder of Ellaria's lover Oberyn, whose head exploded in memorably horrific fashion way back in Season 4, roping in the daughters she had with Oberyn -- Ellaria was super pissed that Dorne didn't avenge him, so she tried to hatch a mini-rebellion with her Sand Snakes that kind-of-sort-of wound up working, in a roundabout way that allied Ellaria with Daenerys.
Sadly, Tyene is the only Sand Snake who survives Euron Greyjoy's surprise naval assault on the breakaway Greyjoy fleet led by Yara and The Prince Formerly Known as Reek (Theon Greyjoy). Once in Cersei's hands, you know things aren't going to go well for Tyene; after all, Ellaria killed Cersei's daughter, Myrcella, and has always hated the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
Why does Cersei have to go full Bond villain on Tyene and Ellaria?
Look, Cersei cares deeply for her children, who are all... dead. So. Yeah. Now she just wants to watch the world burn, preferably while she's lighting the matches and dropping them into strategically placed reserves of wildfire. Ellaria killed Cersei's daughter Myrcella -- in Dorne because she was supposed to marry Trystane Martell in the old family swap between the Martells and Lannisters that really hasn't worked out well for anyone -- by dosing her with slow-acting poison delivered via goodbye kiss.
Cersei, never one to miss symbolic opportunities, has her creepy right-hand, ex-maester Qyburn cook up some of the stuff. Once Cersei kisses Tyene, the poison starts working. The effects could happen instantaneously, take hours, days, or even weeks. Ellaria will have to watch every second of the grueling slow death. But is there a hope for escape beforehand? Like Goldfinger and his 007-slicing laser beam, Cersei can't resist a weapon of intimate destruction that leaves just a little wiggle room for escape. Remember: Yara is still out there, waiting to slip through the Lannister faction's grasp and save the day. Or maybe Dany swoops in with those dragons after all. Hell, Jon Snow could wind up leading the charge into King's Landing. Point is: don't count the Sand Snakes out completely.
Actually, here's the one character who could save Tyene
Here's a theory for you: Is there a possibility that Bronn, whose life Tyene saved, will return from battle to save the woman who forced him to call her the most beautiful woman on earth? The woman who told him he needed a good girl and a bad pussy?
Bronn is Tyene's only hope, which doesn't bode well for the future of Cersei's relationship with Jaime, who likes and trusts Bronn. Still, it would be great to see the show end with Bronn and Tyene riding off into the sunset together, both having survived the Long Farewell, the White Walkers, the various wars between kingdoms, and all the other wild twists, turns, and conflicts that make Game of Thrones such a fun world.
But the key here is: Cersei is TRULY unhinged
The Queen of the Seven Kingdoms doesn't know what kinds of White Walkers or dragons are coming her way, and she doesn't really care. No kids, no solid grip on power -- what is Cersei without her two defining reasons for existence? A maniac. Cersei reveals that she can remember the sound of Oberyn's skull breaking, that she believed strongly in breastfeeding Myrcella. Not exactly a Shakespearean soliloquy, but you can't say Cersei lacks motivation.
Cersei doesn't get much sleep because she spends most of the night imagining the best ways to get revenge on her enemies, so she's planned this for a while. Rather than going the skull crushing route, Cersei has Qyburn reverse engineer the Long Farewell so that Ellaria can watch Tyene die a slow, painful death. If that's not justice, well, then you don't watch Game of Thrones.
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Anthony Schneck is an Entertainment Editor at Thrillist. Follow him @AnthonySchneck.