Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones was the most important, regulatory and simply outstanding episode of the season so far.
Not since we learned the truth behind Hodor’s past or witnessed Ned Stark find his sister, Lyanna, in the Tower of Joy have we been struck with so many crucial details as we did in ‘Eastwatch.’
The most important detail of the night came during a moment some may have missed altogether. So we’ll begin our journey this evening in the most ancient city in all of Westeros, Oldtown, in the Citadel just before Sam decides he’s fed up with listening to the Maesters once and for all.
Sam and Gilly
Gilly just discovered a huge detail and Sam didn’t even notice.
When I was playing the prediction game with this episode’s pre-release photos, I thought the one above might mean that Sam stumbles on yet another important secret. In fact, I wrote this:
I’d like it very much if Sam discovered something truly interesting, maybe even about Jon’s parentage. I don’t want all our backstory and exposition to come from New And Creepier Bran.
It turns out I was remarkably close here. I was just wrong about who would discover an important detail about Jon’s true parentage. In fact, it’s Gilly who stumbles on one of the biggest, most earth-shattering facts, and Sam doesn’t even notice.
While she reads through an old tome about all sorts of trivial details (like how many windows the Sept of Baelor had…) she mentions that Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, son of the Mad King Aerys and big brother to Daenerys, had his marriage to Princess Elia Martell annulled and was remarried in a secret ceremony. The text leaves that secret out, but we know who it had to have been.
That means that Jon Snow wouldn’t be Rhaegar’s bastard at all, he’d be his rightful, natural born heir. To the Iron Throne and the Seven Kingdoms. He’d have a far, far better claim than Daenerys, at least, though not three fully grown dragons.
Jon and Drogon get to know one another.
But even that’s a point of contention now. When Daenerys lands Drogon in front of Jon Snow, Jon reaches out and pets the dragon’s snout—much like Tyrion did with the other two dragons when they were chained up in Meereen. So far, only Jon, Tyrion and Dany have been able to accomplish this, lending credence to the notion that it will be these three who ultimately ride the dragons into the final battle against the Night King. It’s possible Tyrion is a bastard son of Aerys, though the show hasn’t really gotten into that at all.
In any case, this was a huge revelation tonight, and it’s almost hilarious that Sam just brushed it all off. He was so close to learning something important! Gilly found this monumental piece of information and they just skip past it. Gah! How frustrating!
In any case, Sam bundles them all up and takes some books and scrolls and off they go, presumably heading back north to the Wall.
Since we’ve already talked about that scene with Dany and Jon, we’ll fly from the Citadel back to where we left off in Episode 4. To a scene of fire and blood. Victory or defeat depending on how you look at it. We’ll pay a visit to…
The Mad Queen Daenerys
Queens, it turns out, aren’t any less ruthless than their male counterparts. Cersei certainly isn’t. She’s the most ruthless, wicked character still alive in this story.
But Daenerys is trying hard to give her a run for her money. She tells the defeated soldiers that they can bend the knee or die. It’s a choice! Choices are good!
Of course, it’s really no choice at all. She burns the despicable Randall Tarly and his much less despicable son, Dickon Tarly, for not bending the knee. It’s an act of such cruelty, it’s really made me sour on Daenerys once and for all. I’m not sure she’s beyond redemption, but I’ll be frank: I don’t like her anymore. I was already leaning this direction, but burning two unarmed men who had already surrendered? It’s beyond the pale.
It’s what her father did to Ned’s father and brother, and one of the reasons Robert’s rebellion was started (the other being Rhaegar “kidnapping” Lyanna.)
Tyrion is visibly shaken by this, and Varys is so troubled he practically wolfs down a goblet of wine as the two talk back in Dragonstone.
Daenerys does let Jon leave Dragonstone and head back north (along with Jorah Mormont, who returns to her side just in time to interrupt her very important conversation with Jon about his being stabbed in the heart! Gah!)
She also lets Davos smuggle Tyrion into King’s Landing to speak with Jaime. They’ve heard from Bran that the Night King marches (slowly) on Eastwatch and so they come up with a plan.
And let me just say this: It’s a terrible plan.
It’s going to lead to some very amazing television next week, and it served the story for other reasons as well, but the plan they come up with is just monstrously stupid, dangerous and almost certain to fail.
So the idea is if Daenerys leaves to go fight the army of the dead, Cersei will be able to take back Westeros and…I guess, take Dragonstone maybe? She’ll be able to win, somehow, so Daenerys can’t go help up in the north. Nevermind that she’s been away from Westeros all this time and it honestly wouldn’t matter much if she beat Cersei now or in a year.
What they want to do instead is convince Cersei that the army of the dead is real by capturing a wight and absconding with it back to King’s Landing where they’ll prove to her that the undead are, in fact, a real thing and an existential threat that can’t be ignored.
Somehow Tyrion thinks this will convince his sister to…not do whatever heinous stuff she would do if Daenerys simply took her armies north for a while. Somehow Tyrion thinks Cersei will care about an army of the dead in the north at all rather than view it as a gift from the gods sent to occupy her northern enemies. None of this makes any sense. Not even a little bit.
The Night King.
It’s also insanely dangerous. Tyrion sneaking into King’s Landing is dangerous, though he gets out alive. Jon and Jorah going beyond the wall is insanely dangerous, though it’s going to make for one hell of a good episode next week. And bringing a wight all the way to King’s Landing is dangerous—mostly because Cersei will almost certainly lay a trap for anyone stupid enough to go meet with her there. She even tells Jaime that they have to fight their enemies the way Tywin would have. That’s a nod to the Red Wedding, in case you didn’t notice it.
It’s a bad plan, in any case. Dany could have made like Stannis and gone north to fight the enemy. Cersei would still have the Iron Throne for a while, but she’ll have it for a while one way or another. A better plan would be to just go take out Cersei. Fly the dragons into King’s Landing and burn down the Red Keep. Problem solved.
Finally Gendry has returned. I had a nagging suspicion he would tonight for some reason. Maybe because I’ve been thinking about him quite a lot lately and wondering if he’d show up. It’s pretty cool to have Gendry back. We finally have a Baratheon—even if he’s an unacknowledged bastard—back on the show who isn’t vile like Stannis, or a drunk like Robert, or just an arrogant fool like Renley. (Renley was a reasonable, kind, good man who would have made a fine king but he should have backed his brother’s rightful claim. Oh well.)
Gendry is also good with a hammer, as two Gold Cloaks discovered much to their great misfortune. That was a great scene—all of Davos’s wily charms, bribes and lies were on full display. He’s an expert smuggler and we finally see why. Then Tyrion shows up and all is lost. So Gendry bashes their heads in with his warhammer, just like Robert would have.
Then later, Gendry ignores Davos’s instructions to not reveal who he actually is and just tells Jon straight to his face. He even calls him short, which is pretty funny.
And finally, Gendry is reunited with the Brotherhood Without Banners. Yes, we definitely need to talk about them.
The Magnificent Seven.
What a ragtag band of rangers we have going out beyond the Wall on one of the most insanely suicidal rangings in the history of the Night’s Watch.
Only, these aren’t the Night’s Watch at all. It’s Beric Dondarrion, a man who has died and come back to life many countless times; Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane; the red priest and unabashed drunk, Thoros of Myr; Jon Snow, the King in the North and rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms; the exiled Jorah Mormont, son of the Old Bear himself; and Tormund Giantsbane, the last great chieftan of the Wildlings. And Gendry, Robert Baratheon’s only living bastard.
It’s kind of marvelous. Seven of my favorite characters, all united, all on the same dark path walking out into the snow, going beyond the Wall. The credits rolling.
Gendry hasn’t forgiven the Brotherhood for sending him off to die with Melisandre, but as Jon says, they’re all on the same side “Because we’re all still breathing.”
That’s enough to convince this motley crew to work together, but I’m afraid their quest is all for naught. Cersei isn’t suddenly going to help fight the army of the dead only to face overthrow and death at Dany’s hands afterwards.
Still, I groaned when the credits rolled. I can’t wait for next week. Rarely have I been this excited for the next episode.
Meanwhile, at Winterfell.
Winterfell is now home to Littlefinger’s bizarre scheming.
Other than the Very Bad Plan and Dany’s Very Bad Impulses To Burn People, Winterfell was the only other plotline that kind of bummed me out with ‘Eastwatch.’
The northern and Vale lords are all still at Winterfell for some reason. Don’t they have their own people and castles to attend to? They’re grumbling and angry because Jon is still gone, though I’m not really sure why this upsets them so much. Lyanna Mormont is nowhere to be seen—her role as the fierce young dark-haired girl has been usurped by Arya, I guess.
In any case, they’re already talking about replacing Jon with Sansa, though once again I have no clue why. She waves it all off, but Arya is angry because Sansa doesn’t also defend Jon or, uh, chop off their heads. Not sure why chopping off heads is a good idea, though I can see why she’s mad that Sansa doesn’t more forcefully condemn their words.
Arya confronts her and accuses her of wanting to be Queen in the North and Sansa can’t really deny it. Well, she denies it but it’s plain she’s had the same thoughts. It makes no sense. Why would Sansa want to be queen? She doesn’t care. She was already given that option by Jon and she didn’t take it. The show is making no sense with Sansa whatsoever, and now that Littlefinger is still around he’s going to start working the two sisters against one another.
He does this by digging up the scroll that Sansa sent telling Robb to bend the knee, and I guess we’re meant to think that Arya will believe this is evidence that Sansa is actually a bad guy. Wouldn’t she just assume, like everyone else, that Sansa was coerced by the Lannisters? Are we supposed to think that Arya is now incredibly stupid?
Obviously Littlefinger is working to create his chaos ladder in Winterfell, and he’s always so perfectly clever that he’s tricked Arya already. I’m really getting tired of this entire ridiculous sub plot. The Starks are finally united. Why are they fighting amongst themselves? Why doesn’t Bran just tell Arya and Sansa what Littlefinger did? Why doesn’t Arya just put Needle through his eye?
Yes, yes, I know. This is a show about scheming and playing the game of thrones. But this is a stretch and not a good one. It’s neither sensible nor pleasant to see the Starks played like Littlefinger’s fiddles once again, only this time a new generation. It’s ludicrous that the northern lords would turn so quickly on their king. I just dislike everything about it except for Bran sending out ravens to spy on the Night King which was really neat.