Kudos to the creators for fully delivering on the most eagerly anticipated moment in the Game of Thrones series to date (and perhaps the past five years or so of TV in general). But as riveting as that initial Daenerys Targaryen/Jon Snow meeting proved to be, "The Queen's Justice" episode belonged to Cersei Lannister, who through cunning and sheer evil managed to do what was last week unthinkable: climb to the top of our Game of Thrones Power Rankings.
1. House Lannister – Cersei's alliance with Euron Greyjoy is proving to be bountiful, and all she's had to do to receive such gifts is to keep him wanting more. Since he seems to be enjoying the hell out of all this favor-currying, there's no reason to think he won't keep fighting for her, and for the prospect of bedding her. All of which has just made Jaime more motivated than ever to show his queen/sister/lover what's he made of, and how effective he can be in defending "the sons and daughters of Westeros," which in Iron Throne governing parlance really means leaving one perfectly good realm, heading a little south with your gold and army (including strapping Dickon Tarly) in tow, and killing off everyone in the neighboring realm. And just like that, your House is in order, and your enemies look foolish, along with everyone else who underestimated you. But what really reminds us how much we undervalued House Lannister's Power Ranking is the intangible element that none of the other major players in this game have: sheer evil. And now that Cersei truly thinks of herself as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms who will do as she damn well pleases, including letting her brother-banging freak flag fly, well, now she's really looking to set that evil free.
2. House Targaryen – Dany had a rough week. She's still got a horde of Dothraki and legions of Unsullied, but many of them have been moved way to the left of the playing field, and it looks like the ships that got them there won't be around for the return trip. Not to mention, whilst being overly concerned about royal nomenclature, she let one of her best potential allies become nothing more than a Dragonglass trading partner. Of course, she's still got three full-grown dragons, even if she won't use them to seek out Euron's fleet at the moment. And Ser Jorah Mormont could prove helpful yet, thanks to Doc Sam. Another intangible: As Tyrion alluded to in that beautifully laid voiceover at episode's end, Daenerys is truly the Breaker of Chains, and her armies fight out of love for her. But is love enough to overcome evil? Not this week.
3. House Greyjoy – There can be no doubt who rules the sea after this episode, as Dany's armada was caught by surprise yet again, with even more disastrous results than last week's hijacking. Seems that Pyke knew what they were doing in putting their Kingsmoot votes towards Euron, as he's proven himself to be quite the effective leader, and has really moved the Iron Islands' standing in Westeros. And now he's got Yara on a chain, in case anyone in the hometown was questioning his claim. Why should they, though? Pyke has never been stronger, albeit perhaps more likable at times. But since he seems to be taking Joffrey and Ramsey's role as most sadistic motherf***er on the screen, I don't see how Pyke's standing is sustainable. I mean, look what happened to those two bastards. Still, there's nothing we've seen as yet to indicate Greyjoy's Power Ranking falling anytime soon.
4. House Stark – One person who didn't underestimate Cersei's sinister side is the one ruling The North. Sansa seems to be doing a heck of job, but her resources are short, and her northern neighbor is the biggest threat in the game. Plus, though she may be the one with the rightful claim up there, with Bran abdicating in favor of the title of Three-Eyed Raven, the true King is down south haggling for Dragonglass; who knows how long the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea plans on keeping him there, or whether he'll make it home at all. But Sansa seems to be getting some good Game-playing advice from Littlefinger, who's still on hand with his Knights of the Vale, and seemingly more impressed and in love with Sansa by the minute. So who knows, perhaps he won't be the smarmy punk he's always been and will prove to be an even more valuable ally in the wars to come. Or maybe not. Interesting that Littlefinger's advice to "fight every battle everywhere, always" is something Sansa will be able to do much more effectively now that Bran's back in town. And let's not forget that now-powerful Arya, as well as The Hound and Beric and the Brotherhood, all seem to be riding north with their services too.
5. House Arryn – Seems that Littlefinger is hitching his House's pony to Stark, but he and the Knights of the Vale remain the wild card in all this. What battles does Lord Baelish see being played out everywhere? He's obviously analyzing every possible scenario, and is likely the keenest of analysts of such information. So he's got to have a good reason for staying put. I can't imagine his love for Sansa would allow him to make an uncalculated play, so perhaps he thinks he's safest right where he is.
6. House Martell – Though I thought differently last week, now I don't really know if House Martell is a thing anymore or not. Technically, the bloodline will only last until the last Sand Snake bleeds out. So not long. But there's still an army down there, right? Because this week they clarified that Yara's ships were Euron-jacked on the way to Dorne, not on the way back (as I had previously thought). Still, the Dornish don't seem like the toughest folks in the realm, and even if they were, who'd lead them up into a fight with the Lannisters? Over a bloodline they don't have to care about anymore? I guess there's enough of a chance of that happening that we'll still consider them as an afterthought on the Great Houses Power Rankings … for now.
Alas, one more Great House must now be relegated to the ranks of Former Great Houses: Tyrell. Lady Olenna knew her time playing the Great Game wouldn't last, "and now the rains weep o'er" Tyrell's halls. Damn, it was great getting to know ye, Queen of Thorns, glad you went out with one last sting.
So, what do you think? Are the Rankings in order?