Between the dragon battles and the speechifying that sometimes take up large parts of Game of Thrones, â€œEastwatchâ€ set out to remind us that this show is actually about connections. Especially between siblings, sometimes between strangers, and in a world obsessed with heirs, even between fathers and sons. And so itâ€™s connections like this that drives the narrative in â€œEastwatch.â€ This episode was anything but a battle-episode; instead it focused heavily on developing relationships, and reminding us how characters from all over the expansive plot that is Game of Thrones are connected. It was a welcome effort, though it did fall prey to the same pacing issues that have plagued this season, and I would argue pacing has been difficult throughout much of this series (though in the opposite direction of what weâ€™re experiencing in season seven). Still, the focus on characters was refreshing and itâ€™s heartening to see the pieces that have been building for years finally falling together.
Letâ€™s get into the sibling drama. As always, action at Kingâ€™s Landing stays in the family, and in â€œEastwatchâ€ the tangled loyalties between brothers and sisters (and lovers) is at a peak we havenâ€™t seen since Tyrionâ€™s trial. There isnâ€™t much to say about Tyrion and Jaimeâ€™s rather anticlimactic meeting, except that it did succeed in pushing the plot. However, the push and pull happening between Cersei and Jaime is something else. Iâ€™ve complained about how poorly executed Cerseiâ€™s transformation into a wholly unsympathetic villain has been, however, Jaimeâ€™s development in reaction to Cersei has been fascinating. Heâ€™s been just a step away from rejecting Cersei for sometime now, growing tired of her arrogance, and her refusal to listen to his pleas when he says they cannot win this war. And Cersei knows. Him meeting with Tyrion adds fuel to her fire. And so, naturally, she uses manipulation to keep him under her thumb. In this case, the manipulation is in the form of a not-entirely-believable pregnancy. The look on Jaimeâ€™s face when Cersei whispers in his ear â€œNever betray me againâ€ makes it clear that he still understands Cerseiâ€™s madness, but that he is essentially backed into a corner. The question is whether her continued antagonism toward him (suggesting that he kill Bronn, for example), will end up canceling out the headway sheâ€™s made with the baby announcement.
In Winterfell, the Stark sisters are falling into old patterns, and Littlefinger is quick to take advantage of their weakness. It is hard to remember, but Sansa and Arya did butt heads a lot in the early days of Game of Thrones, and their time apart has in some ways forced them even further apart. Whereas Sansa has learned how to, if I may, play the game, Arya has shirked the system in favor of violence, and her suspicious nature proves too easy to manipulate for Baelish. Littlefinger has been hanging around without much to do for sometime, so to see him pull off a trick like this one was more satisfying than I expected. Arya is also incredibly frustrating, driving home the point that she doesnâ€™t fit in with the â€œregularâ€ world anymore. And consequently I am ashamed to admit, I actually cheered for Littlefinger. At least he got his groove back. But most importantly, heâ€™s using the tense relationship between Arya and Sansa to break them.
Moving to a more complicated familial connection, and just to address the elephant in the room:Â It has been all but confirmed that Jon Snow is actually a bonafide Targaryen– the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. We were moments from getting explicit confirmation from Gilly, but Samwell had to interrupt her to complain about how he doesn’t like his job (at least we can hope they took that book with with them when they left the citadel).Â Â There have been lots of little and not-so-little references to Jonâ€™s lineage throughout the season, and â€œEastwatchâ€ had a major one in Jon Snow meeting Drogon. In the scene, Jon slowly removes his glove and reaches out to have Drogon sniff his hand, and then gently places it on the dragons face when Drogon doesnâ€™t lash out. The most notable part of this scene was Daenerys, at first nervous for Jon, and then watching the exchange with surprise and curiosity. It even seems like there are moments when slivers of recognition cross her face. Thereâ€™s an obvious, albeit stilted, connection that has formed between Jon and Dany. To them itâ€™s somewhere between a political alliance and a friendship, but itâ€™s only a matter of time before the actual nature of it comes out. Above all else, itâ€™s the connection between Jon and Daenerys that is integral to the new mission to send a team north of The Wall to capture a wight. Their alliance is the driving force of the overall shift in the series from the war for the throne to the danger to the north.
I do want to mention how disappointingly fast our ragtag Fellowship of the Ring-esque crew got to Eastwatch in this episode. We got a quick reunion between Davos and Gendry (insert rowing forever joke here), and a even quicker reunion between Dany and Jorah. I had friend mention how this episode was boring. And episode where Gendry is reintroduced, we find out Jon isnâ€™t a bastard, and Dany and Jorah are reunited (OK, maybe not the last one) shouldnâ€™t be boring. But we just didnâ€™t have the time with them for it to feel worthwhile. I kind of feel robbed that we didnâ€™t get a single scene with the crew traveling to Eastwatch. Many of the best character moments in Game of Thrones happen during travel. The only bit of this that I did enjoy was Gendry and Jon meeting and bonding over their connectionâ€”their fathers. It was brief, but funny, and also proved that maybe it isnâ€™t the amount time, but itâ€™s whatâ€™s done with thatâ€™s causing a lack of gravity in these major reunion or reintroduction scenes.
But regardless of underwhelming moments that came from trying to cover too much ground, â€œEastwatchâ€ succeeded in demonstrating just how critical connections are to where this story is leading us. And where itâ€™s leading us is north. The very last thing I ever expected out of this episode was Tyrion suggesting that they capture a wight and bring it back to Kingâ€™s Landing. Itâ€™s possibly the dumbest idea Iâ€™ve ever heard. But itâ€™s also guaranteed to be the kind of traveling expedition weâ€™ve been sorely lacking, even if not all who travel north of The Wall make it back.
- Bronn and Jaime surviving was with no excitement at all, a lot like when there was a cliffhanger when Arya got stabbed a few seasons back and was just totally fine the next episode.
- The Hound and the Brotherhood Without Banners meeting up with Jonâ€™s team was like a whoâ€™s who of Game of Thrones. Itâ€™s weird to think of all of these characters being connected, but here we are (For example, Tormund hates Jorahâ€™s dad! And Thoros of Myr and Jorah fought together in the Greyjoy rebellion. Who knew!)Â
- We saw almost everyone this episode, with the exception of Greyworm/Missandei, and Brienne/Podrick. Remember when we didnâ€™t see Bran for an entire season?
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.
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