At this stage, it’s fair to say that Game of Thrones has given up conforming to trifling matters such as the established laws of physics, but this series has been so pacy and compelling, I’m prepared to overlook it. That said, I’m not sure how Bronn dragged an unconscious and heavily armoured Jaime all that way under water without, y’know, drowning, but their bromance lived to see another day, so huzzah!
Less fortunate were the captive Lannister ally soldiers, specifically the Tarlys. Curmudgeonly old Randyll refused to bend the knee – Dany’s new mantra – and son Dickon (Hot Pie’s biggest rival for best name in GoT history) stubbornly followed his father to a fiery fate, much to the chagrin of Tom Hopper fans everywhere. When they said he was hot, they had no idea just how hot he was about to become! Of course, this means Sam is now Lord Tarly, only he doesn’t know it yet. Indeed, the maesters are not only keeping his bereavement from him, they seem hellbent on sabotaging all his efforts to get word of the undead threat out. And it was poor, hapless Gilly who took the brunt of Sam’s frustration just as she was unwittingly discovering that Jon might just have more of a claim to the Iron Throne than Daenerys. Come on Sam! We all have bad days at work, but no need to be a dickon…
Speaking of which, Littlefinger was using Jon’s absence to drive a wedge between the Stark sisters. While Bran was busy trying to warn everyone about the White Walkers making their way to Winterfell, Arya and Sansa were telling each other a few home truths, and Baelish seized the opportunity to plant what is bound to be the letter Sansa was forced to write by Cersei for Arya to find. The tragedy of these two young women is that neither knows the other’s journey since their separation, so Arya still thinks of Sansa as a spoiled brat, and Sansa doesn’t realise how weaponised her little sister has become not only physically, but mentally. Arya is primed to expect betrayal, even from her own sister, so Littlefinger’s plan can’t fail to exacerbate the mistrust brewing in her.
Back in Dragonstone, Jon finally received the news that Bran and Arya were alive and in Winterfell, courtesy of a raven, but it was tinged with foreboding on hearing that the Night King’s army were advancing. Jon had a lot to deal with this episode, bless him. Drogon’s acceptance of him seemed to reinforce Gilly’s tidbit, suggesting he’s a legitimate Targaryen. Jorah’s return to his Queen’s service, and his obvious displeasure at Jon’s presence hinted at a potential romantic attachment between The King in the North and the Mother of Dragons. Dany seemed to have taken quite a shine to her willful house guest, although she’s almost certainly his aunt. Well, we’d expect nothing less from this show. And speaking of chemistry, Gendry’s return provided us with potentially the greatest bromance since Jaime and Bronn, as the bastard sons of besties Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark (or so they think) indulged in some good-natured needling.
Once again, Tyrion showed himself to be one of the most fascinating and sympathetic characters in this series, pleading for clemency for the Tarlys and citing their standing as the last of a noble house as a reason to keep them alive. His belief in family loyalty and blood ties is surprising coming from a man who has largely been treated like crap by his own kin, but it was Tyrion’s faith in his brother which led to Jon assembling a ragtag crack squad with a mission to kidnap a White Walker. Tyrion’s assertion that Cersei would fall into line if confronted with the truth of something she thought to be an old wives’ tale, and his confidence in his ability to win Jaime’s ear might prove to be a catastrophic misstep, but at least he’s on the same page as Jon, looking for a way to unite disparate peoples other than ruling by fear. Jon knows from experience that ‘sometimes strength is terrible’, but unlike him, Dany has always had agents to carry out violence on her behalf. This was underlined in a beautifully played scene between Varys and Tyrion, and Dany’s growing taste for power makes me worry for Jon should he turn out to be the rightful heir to the throne.
In King’s Landing, Cersei was weighing her options in the aftermath of her army’s defeat, and while she was defiant at first, by the end of “Eastwatch”, she’d decided to accept Daenerys’ offer of a truce to fight the common enemy. She wound Jaime around her little finger, telling him she knew all about his meeting with Tyrion (apparently Bran doesn’t have the monopoly on being creepy and all-seeing), Bronn’s hand in tricking him into it, and then dropping the bombshell that she was pregnant and intended to announce publicly that it was Jaime’s baby. She then threatened him in a sinister fashion, but poor Jaime is so messed up when it comes to his twin that it didn’t seem to dampen his enthusiasm for impending fatherhood. Cersei’s pregnancy is interesting in light of the prophecy she was handed by the witch in Season 5, that she would have three children. Perhaps this means Cersei will not carry to term, or will not live long enough to give birth. Or perhaps she is lying to keep Jaime in thrall to her…
After the high-octane battle of last week, “Eastwatch” could have seemed like a slow-burn, but a plethora of revelations, stunning visuals, lovely performances from the stellar cast, and a fantastic script made this one of the strongest episodes in a standout season. While there wasn’t as much in the way of action, some impressive interaction between humans and dragons, sweeping vistas, game-changing conversations, and moments of real tenderness and emotional complexity made this another epic hour of television.
Final Grade: A
+ Randyll’s tenderness towards Dickon managed to ignite a tiny spark of pity, even as his rant about Daenery’s being a foreigner marked him as a pretty loathsome character, and I like that the show doesn’t shy away from reflecting reality in that way. Randyll’s hateful comments contrasted with Jon’s later statement about the various men in his group being on the same side despite their different allegiances and politics because they ‘were all breathing’ and dammit if that isn’t on the nose this week!
+ The interaction between Jon and a CGI dragon was terrifying, beautiful, and utterly believable.
+ Some brilliant, pithy dialogue in this episode, but special props to the exchange between Tyrion and Varys. Tyrion’s assumption that Varys would have read the sealed scroll meant for Jon was perfect.
– I was surprised that the Greyjoys didn’t make an appearance this week, especially with Yara’s fate hanging in the balance. But maybe I’m just missing Euron.
– Shame on Sam for disparaging Gilly’s newfound love of learning.
– I promised to let the geo-temporal ridiculousness go, but how the flip did Tyrion swan about King’s Landing largely unnoticed? He’s pretty distinctive. And while we’re at it, don’t think we didn’t notice Kevin Eldon has played two different characters in two separate seasons!
Extra Thought: Jon’s ability to pet Drogon without getting toasted mirrored the scene in which Tyrion did the same last season. Does that mean Tyrion might not be a Lannister after all? Could he actually be a Targaryen bastard?
What did you think? Are all these theories fanning the flames of your ardour, or wrecking your head worse than a blow from Gendry’s hammer? Sound off in the comments, or over on Twitter!