Game of Thrones, S07E05: “Eastwatch”

Game of Thrones, S07E05: “Eastwatch”

Even When It’s Erratic and Unmoored, Game of Thrones Still Delivers Quiet Thrills


Out of respect for the fact that this episode involves characters whizzing back and forwards between locations with the speed of a coked-up roadrunner, we’re ditching the sectional review system this week. Who knows, it might be more applicable in the final two episodes, but for now it’s something of a clusterfuck determining which characters belong in which area.


Also, if you’re reading this and get upset at the spoilers within, then I would advise you to stand directly in front of this dragon. Hold still.


Though the timeframe makes absolutely no sense, “Eastwatch” moves at an admirable pace in pushing Game of Thrones’ seventh season towards its endgame. It’s not as thrilling as last week, but still a general improvement over most of what’s preceded it this year.

Rating: 8/11


Game of Thrones, since its inception, has been a battle between honour and ambition. Any character who shows too much of one but not the other inevitably dies. Ned Stark was defined by his upstanding principles, and look where it got him. Robb, his son, was cunning but far too cocky to see how great an impact breaking an oath to the Freys would have. Across the whole Stark line, encompassing Jon, Sansa, Arya and (fuck, I suppose) Bran, each has demonstrated an equal capacity for integrity and arrogance. And, of course, each has almost perished when one overtakes the other.

There was smug Arya, almost getting stabbed to death by The Waif on that bridge in Bravos; Sansa, suffering an immediate fall from grace after her blinded affection for Joffrey and desire to rule; Jon, literally dying so that the Wildlings could live, an admirable choice that left him on the outs with his Night’s Watch brothers whom he’d sworn an oath to; and, of course, there was Bran’s… shit, I dunno, I can’t be arsed to think of an example. Honestly, that kid has always pissed me off something shocking.

Many other characters – like the Hound and Jaime – have traced a similar path, but arguably no one’s arc has been of equal significance to the Starks children’s as Daenarys’. Every step of her journey has been, in some manner, a formulation of the ruler she will become. This includes her time as a Dothraki bride and the trials she suffered in the city of Qarth, all the way through to her acquisition and subsequent liberation of the Unsullied. Most important, however, was her prolonged stay in Meereen: having to chain her dragons for the safety of others and manage the internecine squabbles of a city built on slavery provided Dany with a new grey tint through which to view the world. It taught her compromise and the ambiguous duty of making the “right” choice. The question is, did it work? Will she, finally, be the ruler the people of Westeros deserve?


So, here we find ourselves on the Roseroad, now a dessicated field strewn with slaughtered and burnt men. The survivors of last week’s battle are brought before Daenerys Stormborn, the Mother of Dragons, who advises them that she is not here to murder them or orphan their children. Well, you coulda fuckin’ fooled me, but let’s hear her out… Oh, so the choice is join her or be burned alive, which she promptly demonstrates on the unyielding Randyll and Dickon Tarly. Not my favourite characters in the show but still, their deaths are significant, maybe not in and of themselves but for what they say about where Dany’s head is currently at.

Even with Tyrion besieging her to employ mercy, the Khaleesi does not falter. It’s an honest and necessary scene, especially in a show that has long maintained that it is impossible to rule without the dispensation of some cruelty. Even the great Eddard Stark began the series by beheading a deserter, an image the show has returned to time and again as the most upstanding deliverance of justice, for causes good and ill. So it would feel like a cop out if Dany didn’t have to reckon with these decisions. Still, there is definitely something unsettling about her ruthlessness here, about her lack of self-awareness in distancing herself from Cersei one moment and then setting people on fire in the next, which certainly sounds familiar.

“Sometimes, strength is terrible” Dany tells Jon when she returns to Dragonstone. This is as she asks him how many men needed to die so that he could reclaim Winterfell, and he grudgingly concedes the point. As always, GoT is driven by the extent that people are willing to go in order to rule, the sacrifices they will make for the greater good. And yeah, that can sound pretty trite when played at the same pitch over and over again, but it is more intriguing when we arrive at the point where people make the distinction between what is necessary and what’s just evil.

Is death by dragonfire really so gruesome as opposed to being stabbed, speared or shot by an archer on the field of battle? Was Olenna’s use of poison on Joffrey more vile than an assassin with a blade sent to kill Bran in Season 1? These are the sort of questions that drive men to drink, as we see that Tyrion’s back to his favourite pastime once again after bearing witness to Dany’s merciless destruction. That’s great news for us, because he is a wildly entertaining drunk, but I don’t see it going well in the long run. Meanwhile, Varys takes what appears to be his first ever sip of wine and delivers a chilling speech about how empty the distance between yourself and the evil acts of your King (or Queen) can be.


Better to be like Qyburn, a man who has come to terms with the nature of the woman he serves and has adjusted his approach accordingly. We hardly see him this episode, but it’s clear he and Cersei have something nasty planned that will be unveiled before the season’s out. What makes it doubly interesting are the circumstances under which Cersei’s mysterious plot will unfold: after attending a brief meeting with Tyrion, a nearly-drowned Jaime conveys to her that Dany and Jon have proposed an armistice. All they ask in return is that she join forces with them to fight the White Walkers.

I’m intrigued by this development, because it suggests a way forward for the show that I hadn’t anticipated. Considering the incessant hubris she’s been showing as of late, it seemed sadly inevitable that we’d soon be bidding farewell to dear Cersei. However, it now appears that the show’s upcoming final season will not be split between two separate battles, one for the Iron Throne (which Cersei would certainly lose) and then one for mankind. There will simply be one giant war in the truest sense, an epic, widespread conflict amassing uneasy allies. I fully expect Cersei to throw in with Dany and Jon (especially now with other extenuating circumstances, like a baby on the way!), but I can’t imagine that would stop her scheming to come out of the fray as the ultimate victor.

Of course, none of this can happen while so many still doubt the existence of the undead threat to the North. When the question of moral obligation versus headstrong surety is raised in this context, people tend to side with the latter. They require proof of something so existentially terrifying; Cersei won’t ally with Jon and Dany without it, and the maesters of Old Town will discredit it with their last breath because the idea of such a destructive force is inconvenient to them. They’re hitting the global warming analogy pretty hard this week, is what I’m saying.

And so, Jon travels North with his merry band of men to retrieve an undead specimen with which he might engender support for his quest. The plot thickens, as they say.


As the title suggests, bloody warfare or not, this is all still seen by most of its participants as a great game, and every would-be winner is starting to get antsy. They call it a game because ruling is a contest, an internal bout to see if you’re worthy, if you can strike that precise balance between honour and ambition. And the fun of the show, at this point, is in trying to determine who is being framed as the most likely to succeed and how GoT will possibly subvert that notion this late in the day. Because, inevitably, whichever way the show seems to be trending, there’s not a chance it’ll align with what the characters are planning.



Quotes, Random Thoughts & Housemate Contributions


  • Yeah, I realise I left out all of the big reunions ’cause I kinda got on a thematic kick with this recap so, in case you missed it: Jorah and Gendry are back, both of whom have accompanied Jon to Eastwatch, where they are teaming up with Tormund, Beric, Thoros and the Hound for their expedition. EXCELSIOR!


  • While I appreciate the speed at which things are coming together, it’s unavoidably silly – not to mention disorienting – how quickly the characters seem to move from one place to another this episode. Tyrion alone starts off at the Roseroad, sails to Dragonstone and manages to fit in a round trip to King’s Landing for good measure. Economic? Absolutely, but it does lend everything a strangely weightless sensation.


  • After watching Jon’s scene with Drogon, here’s where I submit my (admittedly already reasonably common) theory that Tyrion is also a Targaryen. I mean, besides Dany and now Jon, he’s the only other character to touch a dragon and live. Also, remember Tywin’s last words: “You’re no son of mine.” Like, literally?


  • Housemate Contribution # 1 – [When Jon approached Drogon] “Yeeees, he’s gonna finger Dany on the dragon. LOOK, HE TOOK HIS GLOVE OFF!”


  • “Wasn’t the word I was thinkin’ of, but…” The stone cold look Dany gives Jon is hilarious.


  • “He is my friend.” The show is really blowing its load on bringing characters back together this season, but somehow that moment with Dany and Jorah is still very moving.


  • Though minor and, most likely, basically finished at this point, Jim Broadbent’s performance as Old Town’s archmaester has been… I can’t think of a more appropriate word than “swell”. He has been reasonable, though not too easily swayed, warm yet not soppy and made lines like “I sense a more refined proposal…?” sing. If this is indeed it for the character, then I’ll miss him.


  • Housemate Contribution #2 – [After Jon has read his scroll] “What was in that telegram? ‘Hi Jon. Bran’s alive, Arya’s alive, NIGHT KING! Also, we need milk, and bring a dragon.'”


  • Oh yeah, some things happened at Winterfell – mostly involving Littlefinger skulking about and Arya sleuthing after him – but it was a pretty big letdown after last week’s touching reunions. But yes, there’s a decent chance that Sansa is gonna try seize the North for herself while Littlefinger tries to drive a wedge between the sisters. Also, WHAT DO THE NORTHERN BANNERMEN DO WITH THE REST OF THEIR TIME?!


  • I didn’t really have time to touch on Sam’s portentous choice to leave Old Town, but him fully ignoring Gilly’s quasi-discovery of Rhaegar’s secret marriage (presumably to Lyanna Stark) was pretty frustrating, if a little funny in a meta sort of way. I’m also aware that – as the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna – Jon potentially having a stronger claim to the Iron Throne should be more intensely scrutinised in this review. Still, I imagine there’ll be ample opportunity for that in later episodes.


  • “For fuck’s sake, will you shut your hole?!” Thank you, Clegane. Much needed.

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