Sunday, August 13, 2017

Game Night: A First Reaction To “Eastwatch”

This post contains spoilers for the Game of Thrones episode “Eastwatch”

The plot twists of the Game of Thrones episode “Eastwatch” may best be defined by the question, “Wait, what?” A pregnancy, dissension in the North, a clandestine scheme to sneak into King’s Landing, and an ultra-unlikely mission to kidnap a wight were just a few of the many surprises of the season’s fifth episode.

A week after ending an episode by teasing the possible death of Jaime Lannister, “Eastwatch” did not waste any time in bringing back one of the show’s principal characters. While he and Bronn survived the battle, they may have wished they had sunk to the bottom of the lake. The episode made one thing clear: Daenerys Targaryen does not plan to conquer Westeros through benevolence. She attempted to make the survivors of the Lannister army an offer that they couldn’t refuse: bend the knee and pledge allegiance or die. Her execution of Randyll and Dickon Tarly provided an interesting conundrum for Tyrion and Varys that may play out in future episodes. Despite the danger that they represent, Daenerys’ overwhelming love of her dragons is blinding her judgment in ways that channel her father. Ultimately, her advisers are coming to terms with the fact that they may be trying to install a crazy cat lady on the Iron Throne.

Following the opening scenes, “Eastwatch” devolved into a bit of a soap opera that muddied the progression of the season. Cersei’s pregnancy was certainly a shocking addition to Game of Thrones. The fact that her brother Jaime will be announced as the father of the child not only makes the prospective gender reveal party awkward, but indicates her intention to double-down on her depravity. This change to the show is certainly unexpected and will be interesting to monitor.

Another intra-family drama to follow is the tension amongst the Stark children that has been put into motion by Littlefinger. After six seasons of following a disbanded family that was strewn throughout Westeros, watching the lack of unity between Arya, Jon, Sansa, and Bran has been uncomfortable. The repeated inclusion of Game of Thrones’ creepiest character, Littlefinger, has become frustrating to watch. No one trusts him, yet he is still in Winterfell. Why he remains in the Starks’ home makes little sense and is part of the deviation from the previous bond between the Stark children. Is Sansa becoming Cersei or is Littlefinger’s scheme a diversion from the show’s creators?

The most surprising story came from the scheme to kidnap a member of the army of the dead to bring Cersei into the fold. By sneaking into King’s Landing, Tyrion’s meeting with Jaime was an interesting scene between the two brothers, but the evolution of the scene was unexplained. How did Tyrion sneak into the Red Keep and how did he contact Bronn?

For a show involving dragons and zombies, the banding together of Jon Snow’s crew, Wildlings, and the Brotherhood Without Banners is one of the least plausible ideas that the series has ever devised. The idea of the Dirty Dozen trekking north to confront a massive army of the dead to bring back proof of life is flat-out nonsensical. All will likely be forgiven in the next episode, because this adventure has the potential to deliver some excitement.

One small nugget in the episode came from the most unexpected source: Gilly. After learning to read she dropped the news of Rhaegar Targaryen’s annulment from his wife to Sam Tarly. While Sam did not comprehend the impact of the news, the scene sets up for future truth bombs regarding Jon Snow’s origin. A cool part of "Eastwatch" came through Gendry's use of a warhammer. That instrument was also the weapon of choice for his father, Robert Baratheon, and was a brilliant choice. 

This season has been filled with fan-pleasing moments at every turn, but this episode was by far the most confounding. For a show known for bewildering revelations, “Eastwatch” included some of the least credible plots yet. There was a lot to digest in the episode. How Game of Thrones is steered from this point will be crucial to the credibility of the writers’ room.


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