Game of Thrones: S7 E5 “Eastwatch”
Written by Dave Hill
Directed by Matt Shakman
“Dragons are where our partnership ends.”
Last week’s episode of Game of Thrones saw the first large-scale dragon battle in the series so, of course, this week the show regroups with a series of… family reunions. Question: how do you follow up an effects-filled spectacle in which a dragon immolates an entire army? Answer: you provide even better special effects of the emotional side of dragons as they meet a heretofore unknown family member. In addition, since there clearly weren’t enough already, we are adding two more contenders for the throne of Westeros in case two Queens, a King of the North, and the King of the Dead don’t offer enough options.
GOT never plays coy when it kills off a character; the show just unceremoniously whacks someone without pretending to do otherwise. Therefore we knew that Jamie and Bronn would almost certainly survive to see another episode. They even make it back intact to King’s Landing, where Jamie tries to warn Circe that Daenerys’ Dothraki horde and dragons mean certain defeat for the House of Lannister. She, however, has succumbed to full-blown mad dictator syndrome, and sees only that she must take some alternate route to absolute power.
Her little brother Tyrion entertains no such delusions, particularly after surveying the field of ash which used to be the Lannister Army. Though Tyrion knows that Circe cannot be reasoned with, he still holds out hope that Jamie can be persuaded and can in turn use his influence with Circe. Jamie understands that Circe cannot win a war against Daenerys. Jaime Tells Circe that Tyrion did not kill Joffrey – Olenna Tyrell did. Circe refuses to believe this, so strong are her obsessions, until Jamie lays out for her how powerful Olenna’s motives were. Only when Circe realizes that Joffrey’s death would have placed the true power over the land in Olenna’s hands does she accept the truth. This is one hardheaded woman.
Speaking of hardheaded individuals, as usual there is no shortage of them any place in Westeros. Lord Tarly and little Dickie, despite the fact that they only pledged their allegiance to Circe a couple of weeks ago, refuse to change their loyalty to Daenerys even though they just proved that people must beware of dragons because humans are crunchy and good with ketchup. Their heads may be hard, but they are not fireproof. As the Tarlys burn, the few remaining ragtag soldiers bend the knee.
The dragons truly are wonderful to watch; the FX teams creating them deserve applause for the beauty and quality of the creatures. They are splendid, both in action and up close. In one of several reunions this week, one of Daenerys’ dragons advances on John Snow, as though to invite him to (be) a little barbecue. As the dragon draws closer, though, it recognizes his smell. Neither Daenerys nor John Snow knows that he is a Targaryen (in fact, he’s Daenerys’ nephew since he is her brother Rheagar’s son). But the Dragon knows.
At Winterfell, Bran goes on a shamanic journey and flies with the ravens who go over the wall. Through the eyes of one of the birds, he sees the Army of the Dead marching toward the castle Eastwatch, until with a glance, the Night King stops the birds in midair. Sansa sends warnings all over the land, including to Dragonstone. John finds out about the Army of the Dead at the same time that he finds out that Bran and Arya are alive and have returned home.
As Sansa struggles to mollify the restless lords whose cooperation and armies she must preserve at all cost, the sisterly relationship between Arya and Sansa gets a little more complex. Arya challenges Sansa that her true ambition is to be Queen – not Lady – of the North. As fearless and capable as Arya is, we wonder if she is savvy enough to go up against That Bastard Baelish. She spies on him, but he knows she is watching. He plants a message for her to find and all we can see is that it’s something about a dead brother and it’s signed by Sansa. Where this particular manipulation will lead remains a mystery at present, but no one is safe when That Bastard Baelish is making plans, and he’s always making plans.
Tyrion, John Snow, and Daenerys concoct a plan whereby they will prove to Circe that White Walkers exist. Tyrion enlists Davos to smuggle him into King’s Landing where Bronn arranges a face-to-face with Jamie. In another slightly awkward family reunion, Tyrion and Jamie seem to get along less well than John Snow and the Dragon. However, they manage to devise a momentary detente.
A kind of reunion takes place for the audience when a character we haven’t seen for some time reappears. On a side errand in King’s landing, Davos finds Gendry. Davos swears Gendry to secrecy regarding the identity of his father, so of course he reveals it immediately upon meeting John Snow. In case you’ve forgotten, Gendry is an illegitimate son of Robert Baratheon. Depending on which family survives the war with the White Walkers, we have a new potential heir to the Iron Throne.
However, just in case the body count proves to be exceedingly high, another claimant to be the leader of the land may exist. Circe’s pregnant. This child’s parentage is Lannister on both sides since his mother and father are brother and sister. Which one of these people has the strongest claim to the throne used to depend upon heritage; after a war with the Night King, the kingship may just be decided by whoever’s left, and he or she might just be Grand High Poohbah of Absolutely Nothing.
Another reunion occurs when Sir Jorah Mormont arrives at Dragonstone, fully healed from his greyscale and ready for service to Daenerys. These two have also had their awkward moments in the past, though Jorah’s return to health and to Daenerys’ side seems to have healed all wounds between them. Jorah agrees, no insists, that he accompany John Snow to capture a soldier from the Army of the Dead to prove the existence of this supernatural menace.
While all the rest of Westeros prepares for battle against one army or another, Samwell Tarly searches for a way to defeat the Night King in all the dusty old annals and chronicles in the Citadel library. He tries to convince the senior Archmaester that the threat is real, but chafes at his menial assignments and his inability to achieve anything. Though he once wished more than anything to learn, Samwell now burns with a desire to act. Samwell, though he does not realize it, is guilty of the same offense as his superior. While Samwell works, Gilly reads interesting little tidbits from the old books he’s collected for his research. Well, they are interesting to her, but he does not take her seriously, just like the maester does not take Sam seriously. She stumbles across a passage which states that Rhaegar Targaryen had his marriage annulled and immediately remarried someone else, and all of this was done in secret. While this does not reveal how to defeat the Night King, it certainly throws into doubt what we thought the rightful succession to the Iron Throne should be. Who Rhaegar divorced and remarried was not disclosed in this episode, but I suspect that we can look to the images on the rotating rings of the astrolabe which graces the opening credits to the show. In case you never noticed, the bands of steel depict scenes from the history of the Seven Kingdoms, as well as what looks like the future. Samwell totally misses the value of this information. He steals a bunch of books, packs up his family, and goes AWOL.
John Snow leads a few men to Eastwatch on this crazy scheme to capture a corpse warrior. Surprise! Just the men he didn’t know he needed happen to be languishing in the dungeon, and another reunion of sorts takes place. The Hound and Dondarrian agree to go corpse hunting with the King of the North for a get out of jail free pass. The episode closes as the Eastwatch gate opens to the howling wind and the white wilderness beyond the Wall.
This week’s reunions served a purpose beyond bringing separated characters back together. The players are now all in place for the next moves in the game of thrones. While we can all safely presume some of what is to come, I’m sure George R.R. and Co. will have a few wonderful surprises in store and just as certainly break our hearts by killing off those we love best…That Bastard Martin.