Game of Thrones Revisited: 7.05 Eastwatch
Game of Thrones, the critically acclaimed TV series by David Benioff and DB Weiss and developed from the best-selling series of novels by George RR Martin, has become a cultural icon. The tentpole of HBO's programming with a stellar cast and mix of medieval-style political drama and war with a healthy dash of fantasy, Game of Thrones has enthralled audiences worldwide. And this year, the show will come to a dramatic end in its final run of feature length episodes. In the lead up to season eight, I explore every episode leading up to the final battle for Westeros, continuing with season seven's Eastwatch...
Warning: There may be spoilers for seasons one to seven...
The seventh season of Game of Thrones was very much a game of two halves. After the arrival of Daenerys in season opener Dragonstone, the next three episodes concerned themselves with the conflict between the dragon queen and Cersei. The numerous defeats of Daenerys's allies led to the spectacular battle last episode as Drogon and the Dothraki were unleashed on the Lannister armies in terrifying fashion. While Eastwatch deals with the fallout of that battle, it sets up the rest of the season, namely the attempt to make the world aware that there is a far greater enemy in the army of the dead.
That takes place here with a startling pace; one moment Bran is warging into a bird, spying on the advancing army of the dead beyond the Wall and the very next scenes characters from locations near and far are reacting the warnings sent in his ravens. While we don't have to wait several episodes for others to learn what Bran and the audience already knows, it's a breakneck race to progress the story compared to what has come before.
Still, there is no time to waste at this stage in Game of Thrones' end game. After being rescued by Bronn at the start of the episode, Jamie returns to King's Landing and Cersei, ready to admit that they cannot win against Daenerys, her Dothraki and her three dragons. Cersei is as arrogant and dismissive as ever, more furious that Jamie allowed Olenna to die peacefully after she learns that the Queen of Thorns killed Joffrey.
Their brother Tyrion continues to struggle with the conflict against his own family; he saw Lannister soldiers slaughtered last episode and now, despite his counsel to Daenerys, he watches at Randyll and Dickon Tarly are burned alive by Drogon for refusing to take the knee. For a man there to advise his queen, there is a renounding sense that the time for diplomacy is over. It's only his long standing friendship with Varys that turns events around, the Spider convincing Tyrion that he needs to find a way to make her listen.
Bran' s news of the white walkers is that moment. After the wondrous moment where Jon comes face to face with Drogon - and cements the friendship with Daenerys - the small council at Dragonstone turns to the undead threat and the need to put current hostilities aside. For Tyrion, it is a secret homecoming, sneaking back into King's Landing with Davos for a secret reunion with Jamie, all to set up the meeting between the rulers in the finale.
That tense reunion is full of hard truths; Tyrion might have killed their father, but Tywin wanted to murder him first. The encounter is difficult enough for Jamie, but it is his confrontation with Cersei that is the most troubling. His sister is more concerned with Jamie punishing Bronn for setting up the meeting with Tyrion then the warnings of the army of the dead. She will accommodate the dragon queen only to be clever and defeat her. For Jamie, its the realisation that the woman he loved, the woman who claims to carry his child, is dead. And with her threat to never betray her again, the stage is set for the breaking relationship at the end of the season.
The King's Landing scenes also offer the surprise return of Gendry as Davos recruits him for the mission beyond the Wall. The "I thought you might till be rowing" by Davos was a terrific sly nod to the audience, who had been wandering what had happened to Robert's bastard ever since he sailed away from Dragonstone in season three finale Mhysa. Their departure from King's Landing also sees Kevin Eldon back on the show, this time playing goldcloak, dismissed by Davos and the arousing effects of his femented crab before the timely arrival of Tyrion sees him fall foul of Gendry and his deadly hand made axe. It's a great comic scene amid all the darker drama unfolding.
In the Citadel, the 'wise' maesters dismiss Bran's words of warning, despite Sam's attempts to convince them otherwise, bringing his tenure there to an abrupt end as he steals away the secret books and returns north. It feels like another storyline that never really goes anywhere, though, the discovery by Gilly of Rhaeger' s secret annulment and wedding sets up the revelations concerning Jon's parentage in the season finale well.In Winterfell dissension is high, with the knights of the vale ready to follow Sansa instead of Jon. The mystery surrounding Littlefinger, Sansa and Arya grows apace as the conflict between the two sisters continues to grow. Arya is quick to call Sansa out for wanting power all to herself, while the discovery of the note in Littlefinger's chambers only adds to the intrigue at play. With every other storyline moving at such a fast, direct pace, the schemes and machinations of Winterfell feel like a welcome throwback to earlier seasons and will continue to develop through to the shocking season finale.
And finally we have Jon's mission, heading north to find a wight and convince the rulers of Westeros that the undead threat Bran has spoken of is real. The connection between Jon and Daenerys grows, asking her to trust in a stranger. It's that trust that will save everyone in the next episode. There are also some wonderful reunions as Jorah makes it to Dragonstone - from the simple beauty of reuniting with his queen to Tyrion and Jorah remarking at how they have flowered since their days as slaves in season five. There was also a nice connection between bastards Gendry and Jon, remarking on how their fathers fought together, given the path they are about to take now.
With the arrival at Eastwatch, the rest of the gang that will follow Jon is set. Tormund, his wilding ally and the surprise but welcome trio of prisoners Beric, Thoros and the Hound. There is immediate conflict between this group of very different men. But they are also enemies united at the end of the world. And the end of the world is where we follow them in the next dramatic episode...