Here we all are...at the edge of the world, at the same moment, heading in the same direction for the same reason.
Directed by: Matt Shakman
Written by: Dave Hill
After all the fire-breathing and Lannister-slaughtering in "The Spoils of War", season seven dials back a little in "Eastwatch", a quieter and more grounded episode that still does a lot to move everything forward. For all intent and purposes, the war between Daenerys and Cersei is over, with the focus now being almost entirely on the White Walkers and how all the living intend to combat the dead. Odd thing for me to say, as the Night King and his army appear for all of one minute in this episode: Bran sends an unkindness of ravens over the Wall to locate the Army of the Dead. If you've been slightly upset by the lack of screen time for the White Walkers so far this season, fear not: the final two episodes of the season will likely satisfy your craving.
In the meantime, we've got some other areas of business to attend to, particularly a series of reunions between some characters that haven't seen each other for a while. There have been a ton of reunions already in season seven, so why not add on a few more? Jorah Mormont, now healed of his greyscale, heads to Dragonstone and is welcomed back into Daenerys' services. Gendry Baratheon, after setting the world record for longest time rowing, gets back together with Davos Seaworth. There aren't just reunions in "Eastwatch" though: Jorah, Gendry, and Davos all meet up with other characters we've known for some time such as The Hound, Tormund, and the Brotherhood Without Banners. Game of Thrones is now starting to look like a pro sports All-Star game, and, accusations of plot armor aside, it's hard not to feel a little giddy, seeing so many beloved faces altogether in the same frame.
There's a lot that happens to lead up to these reunions and new alliances, which is to say that "Eastwatch" is an incredibly busy episode full of productive conversations and brand new revelations. The opening scene immediately resolves the "cliffhanger" that "The Spoils of War" left us with, as Bronn pulls Jaime ashore, and the two come to the conclusion that the Lannisters have no answers for Daenerys' dragons. I mean, this had to be the opening scene. Why would Dave Hill foolishly drag us along, thinking that we wouldn't get our confirmation of Jaime drowning or not drowning until near the end? Still, it's nice to see Jaime and Bronn have a quiet moment to themselves, reflecting on the destruction they just witnessed. I especially love when Jaime gets back to King's Landing and tries to tell Cersei that the war is a lost cause. He is the only one who has actually seen what the Lannisters are up against, but Cersei continues to be defiant. I go back to what I alluded to a bit in my review of "Dragonstone". Despite the intimate moments that Jaime and Cersei share throughout the season, there's no denying that the relationship between the two is weakening by the day. Jaime is a realist who now fully understands what his family is up against, while Cersei continues to be blinded by her own lust for power. Isn't it amazing that Cersei is going to find a way to drive both of her brothers away, especially the brother she seems inseparable from? Season seven won't bring total closure on Jaime and Cersei's relationship, but the eventual break-up between the two will be a significant milestone as we head into season eight.
I was lying a bit when I said this was a quieter and more grounded episode, because Daenerys is not done blasting fire at her enemies. In what is, in my opinion, the most surprising deaths of the season, Daenerys sentences Randyll and Dickon Tarly to death, burning them with Drogon's fire. No, really. I did find the deaths of Randyll and Dickon to be the most surprising deaths of the season, and you know what, I applaud the way it's done. Randyll and Dickon refuse to bend the knee and pretty much accept their sentences. If this was one of the Starks or some kind of noble hero, chances are Randyll and Dickon would be put in chains and have their fates decided on a trial sometime later. But Daenerys does not even entertain such a thought. She sees that these men continue to be defiant in her presence, and so, because they are her sworn enemies, she does what she's supposed to: destroy them. I'd have thought that Randyll and Dickon would escape like Jaime and Bronn, but hey, I guess not every character has plot armor. Tyrion sees all this play out, and he discusses later with Varys his concern about Daenerys' growing ruthlessness. Unfortunately, this little subplot is something that gets dropped almost entirely for the rest of the season, because, well, there just isn't the time to explore it. I am glad though that Game of Thrones spends at least a little bit of time on the possibility of Daenerys becoming her father, because it sheds more light on her character, as well as give us more insight of what House Targaryen truly is: people that resemble fierce, unforgiving dragons, capable of burning and destroying everything in sight. Daenerys has tried so long to avoid being this dragon, but, as Olenna tells her earlier, Daenerys is a dragon, and if she wants to take what she believes is hers, she must embrace this identity.
Now then, we get to the parts of the episode that play right into the hands of the, "time-travelling at the speed of light" criticism that many people have about season seven. I love how many people say, "season seven was garbage", and yet, most of the criticisms come from things that happen in the final three episodes. Perhaps the better way to say it is: "the second half of season seven was garbage". I digress, though. Remember when it took Stannis Baratheon almost a full season to sail from Dragonstone to King's Landing? Well, he should have had Davos manning his fleet, because Davos is able to take himself and Tyrion from Dragonstone to King's Landing, then back to Dragonstone, all in one single episode. To be fair, if you look on the map of Westeros, Dragonstone is not very far from King's Landing, so I think the lightning-speed travel criticism breaks down a little here. I forgot one key reunion earlier, one that is bittersweet to the tenth degree: the reunion between Tyrion and Jaime. It's not a formal reunion by any means, but this is something that has been a long time coming: how Jaime (and Cersei) would react upon seeing Tyrion again, following the death of their father. The Lannister siblings will never be able to go back to living in harmony together (not that they ever did, but you know what I mean), and even in these dark times where winter has returned and an Army of the Dead is soon to be on everyone's doorstep, Jaime and Cersei will never be able to put aside the resentment they feel for their younger brother. I do hope Jaime and Tyrion do have a more formal discussion later on. It was such a joy watching the two exchange dialogue back in earlier seasons.
So while Tyrion is busy with his brother, Davos finds Gendry, who has been making weapons in Flea Bottom for who knows how long. Let's be clear on one thing: D&D never had any intent on writing Gendry off the show, and they even join in on all the jokes and fun that people had about Gendry's seemingly endless rowing. Davis has the absolute perfect line upon finding Gendry: "I thought you'd still be rowing." Not only is Gendry back, but he pretty much jumps altogether into the center of the ring, as he agrees to accompany Jon, Davos, and Jorah on their mission to Eastwatch. I suppose I have to talk about the reasoning for why Jon is taking a party North, and why so many people think it's a stupid mission. On paper, it's quite simple: go retrieve one of the dead men, bring it back to show to Cersei and Daenerys, and prove once and for all that the Army of the Dead exists. Now why were there so many people barking that this mission is stupid? Cersei still won't help them? The wight could die on the way back? Honestly, I have never been able to pin down an exact reason as to why people hate this mission so much. My only rebuttal is this: WHAT OTHER CHOICE DO THEY HAVE?
But I'll get more into the Eastwatch mission next episode, when it's actually happening. The last thing I will mention is the clever and somewhat hilarious way that Dave Hill drops one of the biggest reveals in all of Game of Thrones. In Oldtown, Gilly reads through a High Septon's journal, where she reads about an annulment and a Prince "Ragger". If you've never taken the time to research the events that happened before the beginning of the series, this may not seem like much of anything to you. However, if you know who Prince "Ragger" is, then this basically is confirmation of the long-standing R+L=J theory, and of all the characters who would confirm the theory for us, of course it would be Gilly. Once again, Game of Thrones surprises us by having a seemingly overlooked character make a game-changing discovery. The reason this scene is kind of funny is not because Gilly mispronounces the name; it's because the reveal is treated like it's an off-hand comment. Sam doesn't even so much as question Gilly about what she's reading, and Gilly, with little to no knowledge of who has ruled on the Iron Throne, has no idea of the magnitude of what she just read. The one little bit of information that could shake up all of Westeros is revealed in a small room in far-off Oldtown. Like Fargo said, a lot can happen in the middle of nowhere.
With tons of reunions and several shocking new reveals, "Eastwatch" puts season seven right where it needs to be, coming down to its final two episodes. There isn't a whole lot of action and mayhem, but hey, that's a good thing when we're at the point where the action can take over all the story telling at a moment's notice. "Eastwatch" doesn't skimp at all on the important conversations nor the memorable character moments that the series has been so rich with since "Winter is Coming". Maybe the episode does abuse the ultra-fast pacing in some spots, but I think we would all prefer to cut to the chase as opposed to dragging out travel time over the course of a full season. Our time with these characters is soon coming to an end. It's best to enjoy every new moment we can still get with them.
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