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Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 5: "Eastwatch"

Warning: This review contains spoilers for this episode and previous episodes of Game of Thrones.

After the action packed of last week’s episode, “Eastwatch” has huge shoes to fill.

The episode begins with the Lannister and Tarly armies being taken hostage by Daenerys, with the exception of Bronn and Jamie who escape back to King’s Landing. Daenerys tells the captured army to bend the knee and convert to her cause, or alternatively be executed on the spot. Randyll and Dickon Tarly refuse, and despite Tyrion’s pleas to spare the nobles, Daenerys’ commands Drogon to burn them alive. With constant comparisons to Daenerys’ father, the Mad King, this scene serves as a reminder that Daenerys can easily stray from the compassionate breaker of chains to the Mad Queen. This possibility is discussed later in the episode as Tyrion relays the events to Varys. Varys warns Tyrion to keep Daenerys in check, as her tendencies to burn people alive are a bit troublesome.

Despite this exchange, there doesn’t seem to be much to fear yet in regards to Dany; Daenerys at the very least listens to Tyrion’s advice and attempts to negotiate rather than brutally executing her enemies without a thought. This is a bit of a problem in the show. The audience is constantly reminded that Dany is the Mad King’s daughter, the show often paints her decisions as questionable, and features other characters discussing her morality, but typically she always comes out as a “hero figure” with little thought amongst her followers regarding the counterproductive feats she has accomplished, until now. It seems strange that Varys is suddenly so skeptical of Dany when, at this time, she is acting rather rationally and calculating her moves carefully, whereas in the past her worldview has been very black and white, resulting in more sporadic killings and drastic actions. It just seems like the show is a bit confused in how it wants to present Dany; is she a flawed hero, sympathetic villain or somewhere in-between?

“Eastwatch” features another scene demonstrating the impressiveness of Drogon. When Dany and Drogon return to Dragonstone from the battlefield, Drogon approaches Jon Snow and allows Jon to touch him. This is a great scene, as it is the first time Jon’s Targaryen lineage begins to shine through. More importantly, seeing Drogon up close on screen is fantastic. The animators did a great job showcasing the sheer scope of the beast. CGI characters are difficult to incorporate into digital media without feeling out of place and breaking immersion, and in some cases make the content nearly unwatchable, but Drogon’s animation is very well done and relatively believable. When Jon reaches out to touch Drogon, it doesn’t look like he’s touching air and the animators threw in a model in post; it is easy to believe there is a dragon in front of Jon. This is accomplished not only by impressive animation and rendering, but also by Kit Harington’s reaction.

Notably, this scene further insinuates a romantic relationship between Jon and Dany. The joining of Ice and Fire seems to be taking a very literal meaning, and a joined partnership would certainly ease the dispute over who is truly the rightful ruler of Westeros. This could be done without a romantic affiliation, but Targaryens have been marrying in the family to maintain bloodlines and alliances for ages, making a romantic relationship between the two more than possible. Sadly, Jon and Daenerys’ interactions come off a bit like fanfiction; it’s romanticized, convenient, and what the fan base has been wanting for seasons. While this does not ruin the show or this particular episode, everything seems to be happening in a happy, convenient fashion that does not typically occur in Game of Thrones. This season reads like HBO is desperately trying to appeal to fans with happy reunions and alliances or the show writers wrote their own desired outcomes to stray from George R.R. Martin’s intended finale for the book series. Nevertheless, it feels odd to have a relationship develop so naturally in a setting where seemingly no one gets to be happy for more than a week before tragedy strikes.

Gendry, the bastard son of Robert Baratheon, has finally rowed home to King’s Landing. Having developed a delightful personality highly resembling his father, Gendry is a delight to have back on the show and offers a much needed contrast between the often somber Jon Snow. Wielding an impressive war hammer, Gendry agrees to help Jon Snow with his cause.

In other developments, Jorah returns to Dragonstone, and Dany, Jon, and Tyrion converse on how to convince Cersei Lannister to temporarily halt battle to deal with the White Walkers. Davos helps Tyrion sneak into King’s Landing to convince Jamie to make Cersei parlay her battle against Dany so focus can be placed on the White Walkers. After the brief confrontation between Jamie and Tyrion, it is decided by Dany’s war council that Jon and Davos will return to the North with Jorah in an attempt to capture a White Walker and bring it to Cersei as proof of their existence.

What I consider to be “Eastwatch”’s best moments are those featuring Sansa, Arya, and Petyr Baelish. Arya firmly believes that Sansa wants power and is a bit too comfortable taking over for Jon. When Sansa fails to defend Jon, Arya confronts her sister and in a rather threatening way, accusing Sansa of betraying Jon. Later on Arya follows Baelish as he suspiciously talks to various people in Winterfell. She eventually sneaks into Baelish’s room and finds a note hidden which details Sansa wanting to betray Jon. As Arya quickly leaves with the evidence, a shot of Baelish smirking from around the corner is briefly shown, his face covered in shadow as he relishes in his sneaky victory. It is highly likely that Baelish has planted the seeds for Sansa's (and maybe even his own) demise at the hands of Arya. Either way, Baelish is a fun villain to watch as he allows Arya to believe her own sister is the enemy.

“Eastwatch” is crammed full of other content as well: Cersei is now pregnant, The Hound has returned, Sam almost learned the truth about Jon’s Targaryen ties, and Brann has sent ravens requesting help against the White Walkers. While not as action packed as “The Spoils of War”, there is a large amount of character development and entertainment value to be found. On the downside, with so much being packed into each episode, there are some blatant inconsistencies. Characters are teleporting around Westeros and time seems to play little role anymore (exactly how long is it taking the White Walkers to reach The Wall?) These definitely break the meticulous worldbuilding set up in past seasons, but it’s not enough to ruin the show. Some fans may actually revel in the non-existent travel times and the immediate action. In the end, “Eastwatch” is a lot of fun, though a bit convenient in some areas. Hopefully there are some twists and turns ahead that will make the world of Westeros more realistically imperfect for those living in it.

All images from Giant Bomb

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