Well, that was disappointing.
Not the episode, “Eastwatch,” the fifth of this truncated seventh season. No, there was much to enjoy here as well as much to chew on and criticize, as per usual. The disappointing part was how quickly it moved on from last week’s cliffhanger. I look back on the discussions I had with readers of the site in the comments section and realize we were all just wasting our time:
- Will Dany kill Jamie? Nah.
- Will Dany take Jamie prisoner? She doesn’t really do the whole prisoners thing, as it turns out.
- Will Jamie drown? Nope. You’d think they would have made more out of his armor weighing him down, but even the mere possibility of him drowning went unacknowledged.
- Will Tyrion save Jamie? With his little legs? You must be kidding.
- Will Jamie escape with Tyrion and/or Bronn’s help? Eh, kind of.
- Will Bronn die during said escape effort? Nope. Dude’s still alive and kicking, for now.
We all had such elaborate ideas, but in the end all that happened was Jamie and Bronn swam away and safely sat on wet grass and talked about how fucked they are. It’s a real “then they found it was the baby” situation (from The Simpsons’ first clip show episode) in terms of the payoff not meeting the build-up.
But that’s just how Game of Thrones rolls in season 7. Time is of the essence. That’s why the physical distances between points on the map don’t seem to matter anymore. They don’t have time to acknowledge how long these journeys from north to south and east to west should be taking. Similarly, they don’t have an episode or two to waste on Jamie being Dany’s prisoner, especially not when “Jamie as POW” is dramatic territory they’ve explored before. Moreover, they’re not going to mess with an elaborate underwater rescue sequence. That shit takes time and so many safety precautions.
Just cut to the chase and get Jamie back to Cersei as quickly as possible. The battle is over. What matters now is exploring the aftermath, i.e., how Cersei reacts (mostly, she doubles down on everything), what Dany does with the scattered survivors (executes those who refuse to bend the knee).
Still, the final shot from last episode – the one implying an unconscious Jamie was sinking to the bottom – was totally misleading, even if the visual served as a nice metaphorical summation of Jamie’s current state of mind, sinking into the complete nothingness of Cersei’s heart and struggling to find his way out.
Speaking of which…
CERSEI, THE MAD QUEEN
Because this Game of Thrones we have to wonder if Cersei’s new baby will be killed in utero, and because this is Cersei circa Mad Queen era we have to wonder if she’s even pregnant, if she just made it up as a strategic move to pull Jamie closer to her. That doesn’t seem likely because her faking the pregnancy would require a level if sitcom chicanery which has no place on Game of Thrones yet Cersei has proven herself to be her father’s daughter this season and this pregnancy is certainly a perfectly timed way to keep the leader of her army from even thinking about betraying her.
And that’s why I don’t like this new storyline. It feels so transparently like writers throwing in an extra complication to ratchet up the tension when in fact the extra complication isn’t necessary. The damn man just fought a literal dragon for her! And even after he improbably escaped that altercation alive – and not burnt to a crisp – he showed no sign of regret over having almost died for the woman he loved, even if her goals and methods no longer perfectly align with his own.
Sure, he walks in on mysterious meetings between her and Qyburn and looks suspicious just as bites his lip when she refuses to entertain any other option beyond fighting to the death, dragons be damned. He’s teetering, and it’s awesome to watch. Throwing a pregnancy storyline on top of it….well, 7 seasons is more than enough to establish why Jamie would be so reluctant to betray the woman he loves. That’s all we needed.
Speaking of incestuous love affairs…
DANY AND JON AND DROGON MAKE THREE
Drogon sniffing the Targaryen blood in Jon and letting him go all Laura Dern and the triceratops in Jurassic Park on him is the scene I’d been waiting for. I was wrong, though, to assume this scene would then lead some to question Jon’s parentage since the dragons have only ever treated one other person the same way (Dany, obviously). Of course, there was that one time where the dragons allowed Tyrion to unshackle them, which has fueled the “Tyrion is a Targaryen” theories online but raised absolute zero questions on the actual show. So, maybe they all just think the dragons only embrace those people which they sense Dany truly trusts.
Either way, Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington have been playing Dany and Jon as two people so hyperfocused on their own goals that they can’t quite admit what’s happening between them, and the showrunners have said while some of this has been on the page much of it is coming from what naturally happened when those two actors finally shared the screen together.
But you can build on that, lean into it, which is why “Eastwatch” went out of its way to frame multiple scenes in which Jon was either literally standing in-between Dany and Jorah or simply appeared to be based upon where he was in the background. It’s a familiar trick from any film or show building up a love triangle even though this isn’t really a triangle since there’s never been any sense that Dany reciprocated Jorah’s romantic affections. Instead, it’s a visual reminder of how close Dany and Jon have become in such a short amount of time as well as gut punch to Jorah, who has come back to her only to find that she has yet another male suitor at her side.
Frankly, though, it felt a tad clumsy, certainly less effective at communicating the same information as the scene where Dany accepted Jorah volunteering for the suicide mission north of the wall but briefly objected to Jon doing the same, her bated breath indicating just how much the thought of losing her new frenemy from the North caused her distress. As she said, she’s grown quite used to him. Who knows what will become of these two once they learn that they’re related. But the chances of the two of them riding dragons into battle together are that much higher now.
WINTERFELL AND THE GIRL WITH NO NAME
One of the great joys of the past six seasons of this show has been watching the evolution of the Stark sisters, the pampered princess becoming a hardened lady and the naive, wannabe-adventurer learning the true price of adventure. One of the great disappointments of season seven, then, is watching the manufactured conflict breaking out between the sisters, with neither side trusting the other and Arya acting as if Sansa was still the same old girl who always wanted to be a lady or queen. It’s a bit like going home for the holidays and seeing everyone in the family gradually slip back into who they used to be, and in this context it feels like the show is erasing seasons of progress for each character. These women have been through so much, yet they still can’t move past the contentious relationship they had as children? Littlefinger is playing them, sure, but why are they falling for it?
SAMWELL, LAST OF HIS NAME
Oh, Sam. If only you could have waited one more minute to have your rant about the Citadel you might have listened and realized Gilly was giving you the exact clue you needed to find out that your buddy Jon is half-Targaryen.
All joking aside, Sam’s Citadel scenes were some of the most important of the episode because they established that Westeros really does have a safety net in place for an event like the war at the Wall. If the Citadel simply sent out ravens recommending action King’s Landing and the various Lords would have to respond out of respect for the opinions of the highest Meisters in the land. But because the Citadel has grown old, complacent and given to distrust of outsiders like Dany it’s has failed in its duty and become a useless entity. It’s because of their failure that the episode had to end with, well…
A PATH DIVERTED
Look. I saw the trailer for next week, and it looks amazing. I absolutely should not be complaining. However, I am still struggling with the right turn this entire season took starting in this episode. For better or worse, this season has been the War of the Mad Queens (btw, great title for a reality show). The next logical step was for Dany to advance on the areas surrounding King’s Landing, or for Cersei to make her countermove, the two sides fighting away while the Nigh King and his army march on and Jon stands to the side shitting his pants about what’s to come. For there to now be an armistice and a suicide squad of the Brotherhood, Jon, Turmond, Jorah and Gendry (!) venturing north of the Wall in pursuit of a single wight to prove the existence of the undead to the rest of Westeros feels a little sudden.
Perhaps I am so annoyed by it because it seems so clear that Cersei will use the situation to her advantage. As she said, undead, dragons, dragon queens – it makes no difference to her. In her world, there are simply enemies to be defeated and allies to be manipulated. Right now, her war is lost. She continues to serve as Queen simply because Dany allows it even though she could fly in with her dragons and depose her at a moment’s notice. The fact that Cersei is now being gifted the time to buy a mercenary army and plot her next ingenious move leads me to believe she might just survive the season and deliver Dany a surprising defeat. She’s still got the Greyjoy fleet, after all. And Dragonstone is right by the ocean. Even if that’s too big a move, I don’t trust Cersei to not immediately turn on Jon and Dany in any kind of alliance against the Nigh King.
- One can only imagine what Dany was thinking during Jon and Drogon’s meeting. “Please don’t eat my new kinda, sorta boyfriend”
- When you are someone who is obsessed with fighting an army of the undead and you are talking to a woman who just flew in on a dragon it’s probably okay to be honest and admit that, yeah, you died and came back from the dead. But I suppose it’s less about any shame or embarassment over the outlandishness of the tale and more about Jon wanting to keep that particular secret as close to the chest as possible.
- Arya’s assassin training was largely contingent upon her becoming a nameless face in the crowd. How the heck does that work when she’s in Winterfell, her family’s ancestral home? How did nobody notice her skulking around in corners? And why did she think Littlefinger seriously didn’t see her, especially with how far out she was leaning from behind those corners?
- Dany always gives those she liberates the option to join her or simply go about their lives however they wish as free people. Those Lannister soldiers, though, serve under threat of death-by-Dragon. How are they not slaves?
- Honest to God, for a split second after Gendry turned around for the first time I thought I was looking at Christian Bale in Terminator: Salvation.
- Qyburn’s up to something. I don’t like it.
- So, is the takeaway from last week that Qyburn’s crossbow can only hurt, not kill, the dragons? Because it wasn’t even mentioned this week, as if it’s now a forgotten weapon.
- Davos and Gendry. Jorah and Dany. Tyrion and Jamie. Jon meets Jorah. Jon meets Gendry. Is there such a thing as reunion and first-meeting fatigue? Because these things are coming at us fast and furious this season.
- Is there any chance Gendry has been turned? Could he be working for Cersei now?
- Who survives next week? My picks: Jon, Tormund, The Hound, maybe Gendry (they’ll need someone to make all those dragonglass weapons). Jorah and the rest are goners. Cool flaming sword, though, Eye-Patch Guy.
Either Davos’ quip about people ignoring him even though all he’s “done is live to a ripe old age” or Tormund’s annoyed “And you need to convince the one with the dragons or the one who fucks her brother?”
THING TO REMEMBER GOING FORWARD
- Samwell Tarly is Jon’s best friend and a potential ally for Dany, and she just killed his father and brother. None of them have connected those dots yet, but it’s going to be awkward when they do.
- If Gilly is right then Jon’s parents secretly married before he was born meaning he, as THR put it, “isn’t a Targaryen bastard; he’s an outright Targaryen, the son of the slain man who was in line to rule Westeros before he was killed, and therefore the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne.”
And that’s the end of that. Thanks for reading this slightly-longer-than-normal review. Let me know what you think in the comments Who do you think survives next week? Is the pregnancy storyline actually way more brilliant than I realize? Was Dany wrong to kill Sam’s dad and brother?