Spoiler Warning for Season 7, Episode 5 of “Game of Thrones,” as well as all episodes of previous seasons.
As end of “Game of Thrones” nears, the show puts its foot on the accelerator and pushes the story faster than it has ever moved before. Following the insane battle between the Lannister army and the Dothraki, the story and characters receive multiple significant developments that set the stage for the final two episodes of the season. With the Army of the Dead pushing south and shadiness brewing all over the continent, its safe to say that many characters are about to meet their bitter end soon. Until then, all players on the great game board are realizing that death is a possibility for them. While death doesn’t claim any major players this episode, there is plenty of strategy, reunions and scheming that come together to create yet another strong chapter.
In order to recap and review this episode as coherently as possible, events will be discussed by location rather than in chronological order.
House Lannister was pretty much decimated last episode, but thanks to the power of plot armor, Jaime and Bronn are shown to have miraculously survived their encounter with Drogon by being swept away by the stream. This just so happened to work out in their favor as all of the surviving Lannister soldiers are rounded up by the Dothraki and brought before Daenerys, who gives a rousing speech that distances herself from the tyrannical rule of Cersei. Rather than outright slaughtering the survivors, Dany gives them the opportunity to bend the knee and accept her as Queen. She does have one rather ridiculous line about not being a killer, even though she just murdered hundreds of soldiers; to be fair, this is war and the killing soldiers on a battlefield is quite different from killing civilians in their towns, something that Cersei would do. Many of the soldiers accept the offer, but Randyll and Dickon Tarly downright refuse to bend the knee and Dany makes a difficult decision that seems to create a divide with Tyrion; she orders Drogon to burn them alive, making an example out of them to the few holdouts. The Tarlys are even given the opportunity to go to Castle Black and and join the Night’s Watch, but Dany isn’t their Queen and can’t offer this to them. It’s clear that the writers are trying to make the viewer believe that Dany is following in the footsteps of her father…but what else could she have done? I really don’t think that Tyrion is in the best state of mind as the look on his face while walking through the field of Lannister corpses shows that he holds some regret and guilt for turning against his own house. That being said, I don’t believe Tyrion will turn on Dany…unless she goes full Mad Queen.
For the most part, this season has kept the threat of the White Walkers at bay with them being shown on-screen in the premiere and only discussed in conversation after. This episode shows the threat being ramped up as Bran wargs into a raven that flies with its flock over the Wall to an area where the Army of the Dead is marching. The sheer scale of this force is jarring and unsettling, but real terror can be felt as the Night King glances at the flock and apparently forces Bran back to his body; maybe I misinterpreted what happened, but if this is actually something that the Night King is capable of, Bran may need to rethink his warging strategy. Whatever the case may be, having Bran warg more is very much welcome and it will be interesting to see if he utilizes this power more as the Army makes its way south; will Bran hold the key to stopping them from passing the Wall, possibly by warging into a White Walker/Wight? We know that he can warg into the living, but will his power work on the dead? As the Army of the Dead marches toward the Wall, Bran realizes that everyone needs to be made aware of their threat and orders the maester to send out ravens.
Elsewhere, Sansa speaks with a few of the Northern lords about Jon’s absence and my fears about his long-term rule seem to be legitimate; with Jon being out of the North for so long, the lords worry that he is incapable of leading his people and propose Sansa assuming his role permanently. While this can definitely be considered a form of treason, Sansa takes a page out of Jon’s own leadership book and hears them out; I’m glad that she didn’t flat out lambast them as Jon is more than willing to forgive someone who’s loyalty wavers, as seen in his decision to forgive Houses Karstark and Umber in “Dragonstone.” Arya, on the other hand, is unfamiliar of how Jon leads and criticizes Sansa for not taking doling out punishment for the lords that question Jon; she even goes so far as to bring up execution as a possible consequence. Arya has been through a lot and it may just be that she is afraid of losing anymore family, but it really feels as though she is becoming increasingly bloodthirsty, a fitting character trait that could possibly lead to her own downfall if she isn’t careful.
For much of this season, Littlefinger has mostly played it cool and has seemed to be going along with the crowd, with the exception of a few creepy proposals to Sansa. However, in this episode Arya puts her sleuthing hat on and tries to find out what his real plans are…because we all know that Littlefinger’s mind is moving a million miles a second and he always has something up his sleeves. While spying on him, Arya notices the maester delivering a scroll to Littlefinger, which he apparently leaves behind in his room; in an intense scene, Arya meticulously searches Lord Baelish’s chambers and finds a scroll hidden in his bed. This letter is quite difficult to read, but is apparently the note that Sansa was forced to send to Robb, demanding that House Stark pledge allegiance to Joffrey. As Arya rushes out of the chambers, Littlefinger eerily peers behind a corner, seemingly one step ahead of his investigator. Did Arya really just fall into a trap set by Littlefinger to turn the two Stark sisters against each other? Hopefully, Arya will give Sansa the benefit of the doubt, especially considering they both know how conniving Littlefinger is. That being said, I am quite worried that the streak of House Stark being stable and lucky is about to come to an end; I just hope that no one dies…because I really can’t handle another Stark death.
Just as it seemed as though the storyline with Sam was about to take an extended hiatus, viewers are taken right back to the Citadel where the Archmaesters discuss the warning letter that Bran sent. Viewers have been aware of the White Walker threat since Season 1, but like the existence of dragons, not everyone believes the elements of magic in the world to be real; this is slightly irritating as you would think that this group of the world’s smartest men would at least consider the possibility of supernatural elements. Sam explains to his colleagues that the White Walkers are real and that the threat should be taken seriously, citing his many encounters with them; for some reason, they won’t even listen to him…even though he literally just cured greyscale, proving himself to be an intelligent person. What reason would he even have for lying? Archmaester Ebrose explains that Bran’s warning may be nothing but a trick to give Daenerys an opportunity to conquer the continent; he demands further information from Winterfell, but I’m beginning to wonder if time will be a contributing factor to the downfall of Westeros. With how fast the story is moving, the Army of the Dead has to be close to the Wall and if they make it south, the Archmaesters will probably be wishing they did something sooner.
Quite possibly the largest development comes as Sam and Gilly scan the books that he is being tasked with copying. Sam is clearly irritated and Gilly’s awkward listing off of random facts about the Citadel doesn’t help; she is reading from a collection of observations kept by a High Septon who recorded nearly everything, including one game-changing piece of information about Rhaegar Targaryen. Apparently, the High Septon had Rhaegar’s marriage to Elia Martell annulled before the Prince secretly remarried another woman; the woman he remarried was Lyanna Stark, who we know is the true mother of Jon Snow. So what exactly does this all mean? Well, because Rhaegar and Lyanna were legally married, Jon is not actually a bastard and technically speaking, has a more legitimate claim to the Iron Throne than Dany, as he is a true-born Targaryen and a male. Unfortunately, neither Gilly nor Sam fully realize what this means and ignore the information; an angered Sam storms off and enters the restricted area of the library to steal several books before leaving the city with Gilly and Little Sam. My question is…why is Gilly the one to discover this huge piece of information? Honestly, the Archmaesters kinda suck.
Dany and Drogon make their return home after a glorious victory in battle and greet their relative (wink wink) Jon on a cliff. What happens here leaves both Jon and Dany stunned; Drogon moves close to Jon and acts somewhat submissive, sniffing him and allowing Jon to touch him. The dragons have already been shown to be extremely intelligent and this just proves it further; Drogon knows that Targaryen blood flows through Jon’s veins. This moment is truly rewarding and the acting from Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke help to make this one of the best parts of the season thus far. Dany’s day just keeps getting better when the Dothraki approach her and reveal Jorah, who has traveled from Oldtown to be with her again. After being separated for so long due to Jorah’s greyscale, Dany embraces him after learning he has been cured; this proves how much faith Dany has in Jorah as she is literally risking her life to hug him. Jorah has been loyal to his Queen since the start of this series, so having him fight so hard to get back to her is incredibly rewarding and totally in line with his character.
Following Dany’s execution of the Tarlys, Tyrion is shown to be holding some guilt and regret over his inability to sway her. He speaks with Varys and there is a bit of parallelism between the two men as their discussion touches on Varys’ service to Dany’s father, who also burned people alive; Varys didn’t do enough to stop the Mad King and it almost seems as though history is repeating itself. Hearing Tyrion’s dedication falter slightly is a bit unsettling, but I don’t think there is anything to worry about; Varys on the other hand has a history of switching sides when he sees fit, so I could definitely see a shake up in the future, especially after Dany’s warning to him in “Stormborn.” Later, Dany has a strategy meeting after Jon is given Bran’s letting about the White Walkers; even though his numbers are low, Jon explains that he will travel north of the Wall to fight the Army. Dany simply can’t go back after getting a win and must keep up the fight with Cersei, but Tyrion proposes a plan that will benefit everyone; in order to prove to Cersei that the Army of the Dead is a threat, Jon will capture a wight and present it to her. Jon puts together a team of fighters to travel to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea as Tyrion and Davos head down to King’s Landing to propose this to the Lannisters.
Thanks to the power of this season’s fast travel, Jaime and Bronn, as well as Davos and Tyrion all return to King’s Landing and their stories collide head first. Bronn hosts a meeting between Tyrion and Jaime in the cellars under the castle and the two brothers are reunited for the first time since the end of Season 4. Peter Dinklage and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau gives passionate performances as their respective characters play catch up and try to negotiate terms for a truce; Tyrion really lets out his feelings as he justifies killing Tywin, something that Jaime saw as the last straw in defending him. This is far from a cheery family reunion and with the stakes being so high, Jaime presents the information about the White Walker plan to Cersei…but she already knew that he brothers were meeting; you can’t hide anything from Cersei. With that in mind, both drop truth bombs on each other; Jaime tells Cersei that Tyrion wasn’t responsible for poisoning Joffrey and that Olenna claimed responsibility before she died, something that seriously angers her. While this shocks Cersei, her reveal is far more of a game-changer, but is it actually true? CERSEI IS PREGNANT WITH JAIME’S CHILD! Yes, there is another Lannister child on the way and I am absolutely terrified. We know that Cersei is manipulative and she could definitely be lying; the prophecy that the witch told young Cersei never mentioned a fourth child, but maybe this proves that she has broken free of the prophecy. If she is pregnant, let’s just hope that the child turns out to be more like Tommen and Mrycella than Joffrey.
This trip to King’s Landing isn’t just about forging a truce with the Lannisters as Davos has his own mission. In the marketplace, Davos locates Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and enlists him in the fight against the White Walkers; for a point of reference, this is the first time that Gendry has been shown since Davos sent him away from Dragonstone in Season 3. As the bastard of King Robert, Gendry has been begrudgingly working as a blacksmith for the Lannisters, even though they are responsible for his father’s death. Now that Davos has arrived, Gendry is more than ready to fight and he even has a weapon, a warhammer similar to that of his father. Davos, Tyrion and Gendry return to Dragonstone and link back up with Dany to move forward with their plans; Jon and Gendry meet and seem to like each other right off the bat, allowing for a great moment that parallels the friendship between their fathers. With the clock ticking, Jon leads Jorah, Davos and Gendry to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, but not before a few goodbyes. I didn’t ship Dany with Jon at all before this season, but there is some real romantic tension between the two and it is becoming more apparent to me that a future relationship may be possible.
The episode wraps up by perfectly setting up the penultimate episode and the season finale as Jon’s team arrive in a location that hasn’t been seen in the series yet, Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. This castle port serves as a stronghold for the Night’s Watch and now seems to be where the Army of the Dead will pass through the Wall. We finally get to see Tormund again and he is back at it with his usual humor, poking fun at Cersei and his crush on Brienne. The Free Folk aren’t the only ones that have made it to this castle as the Brotherhood Without Banners are also here, but there is some ill will between the members of the groups; Gendry was sold to Melisandre by the Brotherhood, and Tormund distrusts Jorah because of his father, but Jon makes it clear that they are all on the same side now…the side of the living. With that, Jon leads Tormund, Gendry, The Hound, Beric, Thoros and Jorah north of the Wall to face the Army and capture a wight. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t worried for this badass team’s survival; something tells me that we are about to lose a ton of characters with Jorah and Gendry being my predictions. Will they really be able to catch a wight? Will the Army of the Dead reach the Wall before the season is over?
“Eastwatch” is jam-packed with new developments for the characters and story, as well as major bits of information that will likely change things forever. There is a lot of fast-travel happening and first meetings between characters, which does make the story feel somewhat heavy-handed, but the rules are very different now as the end nears; there is simply no time for season-long travel. The stage is set for two huge episodes to conclude Season 7 and all sides are making moves in the name of their own survival. Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington and Maisie Williams really shine in this episode as their respective characters. The war between the three rulers seems to have been paused for a moment to deal with the real threat. The White Walkers are coming and Westeros needs to be ready, but are they?
Be sure to tune into “Game of Thrones” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.