After last week’s episode, it’s hard not to feel a bit underwhelmed by ‘Eastwatch’.
“Where were the explosions?” you might be tempted to shout, petulantly, “more fire!”.
This is understandable; last week we were given lots of pay-offs. Arya reunited with Sansa and then Bran; Jon and Dany went spelunking; Brienne and Arya had a thrilling sparring match in the grounds of Winterfell; and all before one of the best battle scenes in the show’s history. But after all that excitement, an episode like ‘Eastwatch’ – one which is designed to reset proceedings and put all the components in place for the next big development – is not only necessary, but can be just as rewarding, so long as you’re paying attention.
First we learn of Jaime and Bronn’s fate, which should definitely have been “unfortunately roasted alive during a valiant effort to bring down Drogon and Cersei” but is instead revealed to be something along the lines of “inexplicably evaded Drogon’s flames, fell into the lake, somehow swam several hundred yards to safety, presumably underwater to avoid being seen, while wearing heavy plater armour (and with a solid metal hand, in Jaime’s case)” which seems kind of implausible but this is a show about dragons and magic ice zombies, so what does plausibility matter, ey?
Just down the way, Tyrion wanders through the now-charred battleground as the Dothraki loot the corpses of the Lannister dead all around him. The Lannister living though, are being subjected to a Dany monologue which sounds nice enough until she ends with ‘a kneel or die’ ultimatum. Most seem pretty content to opt for the former, especially after Drogon flexes his muscles. Randyl Tarly is in no mood to kneel though, especially to a foreigner, and opts instead for death – his son valiantly steps up too, for no discernible reason. There’s an almost touching moment where the seemingly hard and cruel Randyl Tarley reaches out and touches his son’s arm, just before they are both reduced to ash. But honestly, we’ve seen far too little of Randyl and Dickon to really care about their admittedly awful demise.
Over now to Dragonstone, where Dany fails to mention to Jon her barbecuing of the Tarlys, as he gets up close and personal with Drogon. Does the Targaryen blood in Jon’s veins allow him the ability to bond with dragons? Will he – as many have speculated – ride one of the other dragons into battle against the White Walkers? We can but hope. A brief debate about the morality of violence in the pursuit of good is interrupted by the return of Jorah Mormont. His reunion with Dany is a warm and fairly brief one, with the now-cured Mormont showing off a shiny new cloak and attracting a few brooding stares from the King in the North. Jealousy, perhaps?
In King’s Landing, Jaime returns from the battle to tell Cersei in no uncertain terms that they have no chance in an all-out war with Danaerys; the Dothraki are too skilled and even if they weren’t: she has 3 dragons. Cersei doesn’t like this fact, but seems to at least understand it, before conversation comes around to Tyrion. Jaime must bear the bad news again, as he tells Cersei that it was the Queen of Thorns who had Joffrey killed, not their younger brother. Lena Headey is brilliant here, as ever, at quietly fizzing with rage, allowing her anger to bubble away just beneath the surface. She tells Jaime she would rather fight and die than surrender, before dismissing him as nothing more than a soldier who should do as instructed.
Back on Dragonstone, Varys and Tyrion exchange pithy one-liners and worry over how they can reign Danaerys in a little, before she follows in her father’s footsteps and people start calling her the mad queen. At Dany’s small-council meeting, Jon learns from a raven scroll that two of his siblings (Bran and Arya) are still alive, but has no time to celebrate the news, as the scroll also mentions that the armies of the dead are on the march south. Somehow the Dragonstone contingent decide that the only reasonable course of action is to go north, capture a Wight, bring it all the way back down to King’s Landing and show it to Cersei, in the hopes that this convinces her to stop being such a maniacal jerk, at least until the whole army of the dead thing gets resolved. Jorah, who apparently hasn’t had quite enough time away from Danaerys, volunteers as tribute. Jon also puts himself forward as Dany swoons in her chair.
Jaime and Tyrion’s clandestine meetup via Bronn is the Game of Thrones equivalent of that classic sitcom storyline, where one intermediary character arranges to meet two feuding characters separately, at the same location, in an effort to prompt reconciliation. This does feel slightly more fraught though, probably due to the whole ‘murdering their dad with a crossbow’ thing, though Tyrion does seem to eventually win his brother round to an extent by reasoning that their father was going to execute him, despite his innocence. Jaime hears out his younger brother’s offer of a truce, but when he later speaks to Cersei about it, we are robbed of a definitive answer and instead given the news that Cersei is totes preggers, which shatters any lingering hope we might have that Jaime will realise his sister/queen/lover has lost the plot and switch sides. Though if Cersei is revealed to be lying and Jaime finds out, could that be the final straw?
Gendry’s long-awaited return, after being sought out in Fleabottom by Sir Davos, is very much appreciated. The Baratheon bastard seems to have inherited his father’s lust for adventure and battle, as well as his taste in weapons. Gendry accepts the Onion Knight’s offer, to journey north and fight the Wights, before he’s even finished giving it, then picks up his impressive warhammer and a small bag of belongings before the two set off on their way. It’s not long before we see Gendry in action. This is a scene which first teases the viewer with the promise of gratuitous hammer-related violence and delivers magnificently, with Gendry demonstrating his abilities in combat by swiftly dispatching two Gold Cloaks. When they return to Dragonstone, Jon and Gendry meet and immediately spark up a friendship, like their fathers before them, and Gendry insists in accompanying Jon beyond the wall on his quest.
We’re briefly taken to the Citadel, where thanks to Sam’s moaning about the work set for him by the Maesters, we almost entirely miss Gilly’s revelation that Rhaegar Targaeryen had a marriage annulled and was then married again in secret. She’s cut off before she can tell us who to, but we’ve got to assume that this throwaway comment by one of the show’s least significant characters, is perhaps the single most important revelation in all of Game of Thrones to date; Rhaegar (Targaeryen) and Lyanna (Stark) were married when Jon was born. Jon is NOT a bastard, but in fact the rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms as his claim is even stronger than Dany’s(!!!).
It hasn’t taken much time at all for the long-separated Stark sisters to get back to their bickering ways. Arya is suspicious of Sansa’s intentions, imagining that in her quest to be important and better than everyone else, Sansa is allowing the Northern Lords to become frustrated with Jon so that they’ll want her for their leader instead. In her defence, Sansa rightly states that without the support of the Northern Lords, there is no Northern Army – she sees Arya still as a hot-headed tomboy who has no understanding of the politics that must be played to remain on top in the Game of Thrones.
To confirm her suspicions, Arya takes to spying on Littlefinger and eventually overhears him receiving a scroll from a guard, saying “The Lady of Winterfell thanks you for your service”. What appears to be Arya catching Baelish out, is actually revealed to be a ploy by Littlefinger, probably designed to encourage division between the Stark girls. Arya breaks into his chambers and finds the scroll, which was written by her sister’s hand under duress from Cersei, back in season 1. It reads…
“Robb, I write to you with a heavy heart. Our good king Robert is dead, killed from wounds he took in a boar hunt. Father has been charged with treason. He conspired with Robert’s brothers against my beloved Joffrey and tried to steal his throne. The Lannisters are treating me very well and provide me with every comfort. I beg you: come to King’s Landing, swear fealty to King Joffrey and prevent any strife between the great houses of Lannister and Star”
The last portion of the episode brings together characters who, at the end of last season, it would’ve seemed inconceivable to even have in the same room, and sets them off together on a quest north of the wall. Our rag-tag team of misfits include fan favourites like Davos, Tormund, The Hound and Jorah; considering the near-impossible challenge awaiting them – and the fact no main characters have been killed off so far this season – you’d have to expect at least a couple of them not to make the return journey. Davos, Jorah, Thoros of Myr and Tormund feel like the most likely to bite the dust, but the only one we can safely assume will make it back is probably Jon.
Though light on action, ‘Eastwatch’ fills an unappreciated and vitally important role by putting all the pieces in the right places, revealing key bits of information and setting the scene for what must be a hell of a lot of action to come in the next (and last) two instalments of the series.
Words by Ethan Stone.