In “Eastwatch,” Game of Thrones reveals the aftermath of the latest battle between Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and Queen Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), while Jon Snow (Kit Harington) steps up preparations for the coming battle between the living and the dead. Season 7 of Game of Thrones continues to bring together all the characters we’ve come to know, each with their own agendas. Strategies small and large are being played throughout the Seven Kingdoms, and “Eastwatch” introduces some new maneuvers into the game.
The Lessons of Battle
The Battle of the Goldroad may have left little but ash and bone along Blackwater Rush, but Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) have managed to survive. Bronn has risked life and limb saving Jaime Lannister to ensure he gets what he’s owed. It’s true that Cersei Lannister won’t be giving Bronn his due, but evading dragon fire is a lot of extra work to get that castle. Let’s hope that Bronn gets paid soon, since he tells Jaime, “Dragons is where our partnership ends. I’m not going to be around when those things start spitting fire on King’s Landing.” When Jaime realizes he will have to tell Cersei how deadly their enemy is, Bronn tells him, “Might as well jump back in that river.” Thank the old gods and the new for Bronn and the humor he brings to Game of Thrones.
Though many were critical of “The Spoils of War” leaving Jaime and Bronn sinking to the bottom of Blackwater Rush, it made for a striking end to some of the best cinematography ever seen on television. We’d much rather conclude this stunning episode with an image of orange dragon fire above the surface while a dazed Jaime falls through the peaceful blue water than watch Bronn struggle underwater with Jaime. If we can accept how quickly characters travel throughout Westeros, we can accept that Bronn and Jaime managed to make it to the other side of the river. Besides, we were never in doubt Jaime and Bronn would live.
It was the survival of Randyll (James Faulkner) and Dickon Tarly (Tom Hopper) that seemed more uncertain. Who knew that we’d become invested in any Tarlys besides Samwell? There was a time when we couldn’t care less about half the characters on the series, but somehow they’ve all become interesting this season. As Randyll and then Dickon refuse to bend the knee to Daenerys we can’t help but feel some begrudging respect for these characters. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) tries to intercede with Daenerys, but she has Drogon burn them to death. Seeing the two piles of burning ash, the other soldiers quickly bend the knee.
In the Shadow of the Past
Though the Tarlys may be toast, the good news is that Drogon appears to have fully recovered from his injury. He’s well enough to fly Daenerys back to Dragonstone, where Jon Snow broods near the cliffs. Drogo charges up to Jon and sniffs him. Daenerys seems remarkably unconcerned. Eventually, Jon takes off his glove and touches Drogon while the big dragon gazes at him. Jon Snow may think he’s the son of Ned Stark, but Drogon knows better.
Later in the episode, we get another possible allusion to Jon’s heritage. Samwell Tarly (John Bradley-West) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) are researching, and Gilly keeps reading out facts to Sam. She tells him about High Septon Maynard, who kept an account of everything he did: “Maynard says here that he issued an annulment for Prince Rhaegar and remarried him to someone else at the same time in a secret ceremony in Dorne.” Sam barely pays attention to what Gilly reads to him, but even if he had been listening intently he’d have no reason to think it was significant. Of course, if Jon is the legitimate son of Prince Rhaegar, the revelation of such a secret could create a lot of chaos in the South and the North. He also might start to feel icky about having a crush on his aunt.
The possibility of being related might not be the only barrier between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glenn) has returned, cured of greyscale, and Dany is very happy to see him. She gives Jorah a warm greeting while Jon Snow stands nearby watching them embrace. Awkward.
Tyrion talks to Varys (Conleth Hill) about the aftermath of the Battle of the Goldroad. He tries to justify his actions, or inaction, pointing out that he is only the Hand to Daenerys. Varys responds:
“That’s what I used to tell myself about her father. I found the traitors, but I’m not the one burning them alive. I was only a purveyor of information. That’s what I told myself when I watched them beg for mercy—I’m not the one doing it. As the pitch of the screams grew higher—I’m not the one doing it. When their hair grew fire and the smell of burning flesh filled the throne room—I’m not the one doing it.”
They agree that Daenerys is not her father, but it’s clear that her methods create some moral quandaries. Varys believes Tyrion can moderate her darker Targaryen impulses. He has been successful at keeping her from burning down King’s Landing, but Daenerys is a dragon and not easily restrained.
Back in King’s Landing, Jaime tells Cersei that it wasn’t Tyrion who killed Joffrey, but Olenna. This new knowledge doesn’t really change much in terms of her view of Tyrion because Cersei has always hated her youngest brother. Jaime tells Cersei that they cannot win this war. Cersei points out, “So we fight and die or we submit and die. I know my choice. A soldier should know his.” Though it’s not clear what other options he has, Jaime is loyal to Cersei, even if it means the end of him.
At Winterfell, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) sees what her sister, Sansa (Sophie Turner), is up to with the Lords of the North and confronts her on it: “They were insulting Jon and you sat there and listened.” Sansa claims she’s building political goodwill in order to keep the North strong, but Arya knows her sister well.
Arya: “And if Jon doesn’t come back, you’ll need their support so you can work together to give you what you really want.”
Sansa: “How can you even think such a horrible thing?”
Arya: “You’re thinking it right now. You don’t want to be, but the thought just won’t go away.”
Later, when Arya sees that Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) is up to something, she follows him until she uncovers a scroll he’s hiding. It’s the message from Sansa, telling their brother Robb to come to King’s Landing to bend the knee to Joffrey. Of course Sansa wrote the scroll under duress, but that may not matter to Arya. It appears that Arya isn’t used to a clever adversary like Littlefinger and doesn’t realize that he planted the scroll for her to find. Or else she’s playing the player, but that’s probably wishful thinking. Littlefinger sees that there is some discord between the sisters and wants to build on it.
Remember what we said before about being interested in every character? Well, that’s not actually true, because we’ve never been all that interested in Littlefinger’s storyline and we still aren’t. Many viewers love him and others love to hate him, but we’re more “meh” when it comes to Petyr Baelish. Perhaps it’s because the series keeps his plans and motivations hidden from the audience. Or else it’s just ‘cause he’s always creeping around.
Tyrion and Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) are doing some creeping of their own, sneaking into King’s Landing. While Tyrion heads to the Red Keep, Davos goes to Fleabottom to find Gendry (Joe Dempsie). Davos got close to Gendry when they were both imprisoned by Stannis at Dragonstone. Then, Davos freed the Baratheon bastard before Melissandre could sacrifice him. We’ve been waiting for Gendry’s return for several seasons. Davos provides some fan service by saying what we were all thinking: “Thought you might still be rowing.”
We get some fun moments from Davos in “Eastwatch,” particularly when he relies on his old smuggler skills to deal with the King’s Guard and when he introduces Gendry to Jon Snow. Liam Cunningham plays Davos as warm, brave, loyal, funny, and down to earth. Who wouldn’t like that guy? As they ignore his advice, Davos tells Gendry and Jon: “Nobody mind me. All I’ve ever done is live to a ripe old age.”
Tyrion gets Bronn to set up a meeting to discuss a possible armistice with Jaime. It’s not the warmest of meetings because Jaime is still upset about Tyrion’s patricide. Jaime’s anger and Tyrion’s defensiveness are played exceptionally well by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Peter Dinklage, creating one of the most emotional moments in the episode. Tyrion tries to explain to Jaime:
“He was going to execute me. He knew I was innocent. He didn’t hate me because of anything I did. He hated me because of what I am. A little monster sent to punish him. Do you think I wanted to be born this way? Do you think I chose—”
But Jaime is too hurt and angry to listen anymore. Tyrion switches to the real reason he’s there—to talk about the war.
Jaime tells Cersei that she met with Tyrion, but she already knows. Cersei is surprisingly willing to consider the temporary ceasefire, but who knows what her real agenda is. Cersei tells Jaime that she is pregnant. She plans to reveal that Jaime is the father. Wonder how Euron Greyjoy will feel about that? When Jaime points out people won’t like it, she reminds him of what their father always said: “The lion does not concern himself with the opinions of the sheep.” Hmmm … Jaime may be a Lannister (probably), but it seems like he’s more of the sheep in this scenario. We can’t say enough about Lena Headey and what a fantastic job she is doing playing Cersei. Headey and Coster-Waldau spark on screen together.
Don’t Forget Who the Real Enemy is
It’s already the fifth episode of Season 7 and we’ve only had visions of the dead. We’re ready for a battle with the White Walkers. It’s not just all of Westeros that needs to understand what’s at stake—the audience could use a reminder as well. Otherwise, Jon Snow just sounds like a whiny teenager who keeps reminding us that he’s the only one who really knows the enemy.
An impending attack on Eastwatch-by-the-Sea had been signaled by Sandor Clegane’s vision in the flames during the season premiere, “Dragonstone.” Yet it’s a vision by Bran Stark that sounds the call warning of the dead’s slow and silent march toward the Wall. The urgency created by the approaching army of the dead leads to hastily made contingency plans.
Sam realizes that things can’t continue as they have been. He overhears Archmaester Ebrose (Jim Broadbent) and the other Maesters discussing a raven sent from Winterfell about the army of the dead. Sam tries to convince the Archmaester to take action, but the Maesters are too isolated in their ivory tower to believe there is a real threat. Sam decides to take action himself, taking as many restricted books as he can carry and heading back North with Gilly and Little Sam.
Tyrion, Jon, and Daenerys hatch a plan to catch one of the dead and bring it down South in hopes of convincing Cersei that the dangers beyond the Wall are real. This contrived plan is the weakest aspect of “Eastwatch.” Surprisingly, even Tyrion seems to believe that once Cersei knows that the dead are a real threat, she will step back and play nice while they defeat the supernatural enemy. This assumes that Cersei retains some sense of morality, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Once the plan is set, John, Davos, Jorah, and Gentry prepare to leave. Daenerys has a fond farewell with Jorah, followed by a more formal sendoff with Jon.
Jon: “If I don’t return you won’t have to deal with the King in the North anymore.”
Daenerys: “I’ve grown used to him.”
Jon: “I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.”
The Hound (Rory McCann) and his Brothers without Banners companions, Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) and Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye), have already made their way to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju), naturally suspicious of anyone who wants to go beyond the Wall, has locked them in a cell. When Gendry sees the men who sold him to Melissandre he tells Jon not to trust them. Mistrust arises between Tormund and Jorah, when the wildling learns that Jorah is the son of former Lord Commander Jeor Mormont. Beric tries to intercede with a speech about them being on the same side, but the Hound interrupts, asking Jon if they’re going or not.
Jon: “He’s right. We’re all on the same side.”
Gentry: “How can we be?”
Jon: “We’re all breathing.”
Have we been so spoiled by Season 7 of Game of Thrones that we expect a big battle every episode? Kind of. Even without a massive battle, “Eastwatch” was a very satisfying episode of Game of Thrones, full of great character moments. Though there was a fair amount of place-setting, the stories being told remained engaging despite the hatching of an overly complicated clever plan to find common ground with Cersei.
“Eastwatch” didn’t have as many dragon scenes as “The Spoils of War,” but we got some amazing images of Drogon burning the Tarlys and getting up close and personal with Jon. The dragon CGI just keeps getting better on Game of Thrones. But it was the performances of Headey, Coster-Waldau, Dinklage, and Cunningham that made “Eastwatch” shine. We’re not so sure how believable the armistice storyline is, but we’ll see how it plays out. What we love about the narrative in “Eastwatch” is the moral complexity created by the escalating war between Cersei and Daenerys, while also bringing together characters who have previously been at odds. “Eastwatch” points Game of Thrones northward, and there’s nowhere we’d rather be.