Where last week’s episode was an action-packed nailbiter, “Eastwatch” counters back this week with a flurry of equally suspenseful, if slower-moving, plot reveals. Faster than ever, what has become a vital season of “Game of Thrones” hurtles towards its end, with only two episodes left.
Outside King’s Landing
“Eastwatch” opens with Bronn (Jerome Flynn) surfacing at Blackwater Rush with a waterlogged (but very alive) Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) in tow. While Jaime sincerely believed he had a shot at killing Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and thereby ending the war, Bronn snaps that Jaime has no right to die without paying him first. On the downside, Bronn’s perhaps not so far from his sellsword origins as he seemed last episode, but at least his unfinished character arc keeps him momentarily safe from a tragic death. The two slip away, with Jaime en route to deliver the bad news to Cersei (Lena Headey).
Dany, meanwhile, gives the remaining Lannister troops the option to bend the knee or die. Notably, during her speech to them, she distances herself from Cersei, calling the other queen a murderer — paralleling Cersei’s speech earlier this season in which she declared Dany a mad Targaryen. Perhaps the two are not so different in the way they deal with people as they think.
Out of the survivors of the battle, only a handful refuse to bend the knee, after most of them quail at a well-timed roar from Drogon. Among those standing are Randyll (James Faulkner) and Dickon Tarly (Tom Hopper). Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) attempts to persuade Randyll to accept Dany as his queen, citing the fact that Randyll had only recently accepted Cersei herself, but Randyll merely replies by calling Tyrion a patricidal traitor. Tyrion backpedals briefly to instead push the Dragon Queen toward imprisonment over execution, but Tyrion’s famed silver tongue seems a bit leaden this episode — Dany insists upon keeping her word, reasoning that the threat of death would earn her more converts quickly.
Drogon makes short work of House Tarly at his mother’s command.
While Jon (Kit Harington) broods on a cliff (as he is wont to do), Dany zips back to Dragonstone astride Drogon. The dragon makes a quick pit stop to greet the lost Targaryen (unbeknownst to Dany and Jon himself), who tentatively strokes him. Drogon purrs, more docile than he ever seemed even as a hatchling with Dany, before flying off to join his siblings.
Disappointingly, Jon and Dany don’t remark on the strangeness of the dragon’s actions, instead making small talk about how either hair-raising the “beasts” are (to Jon) or how beautiful the “children” are (to Dany). Their discussion is cut short when Jorah (Iain Glen) appears and, yet again, swears himself to Dany. Touched that he actually fulfilled her seemingly impossible command and found a cure for greyscale, she accepts him into her retinue once more.
Considerably less in love with the Dragon Queen is Varys (Conleth Hill), who is disconsolate about Dany’s Tarly barbecue at King’s Landing. Tyrion tries to justify her strong stance, but Varys emphasizes that, as her Hand, he needs to find a better way to get through to her, lest she become her father and inspire even more discord in Westeros.
The victory over the Lannisters in battle brings little cause to celebrate, for while Jon learns that Arya (Maisie Williams) and Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) are alive and back at Winterfell, he only receives this news in the context of Bran having a disturbing vision of the Night King’s army approaching an ill-fortified Eastwatch-by-the-sea. Finally all on the same page that they need the Southron troops on their side in order to stand a chance against the White Walkers, Dany and her council decide to bring Cersei a wight to prove their existence — a strategy that worked to unify the North. The plan requires a trip to the South — to convince Cersei to grant Dany an audience — and to the North — to actually acquire the body of a White Walker.
Cersei’s intense wariness means that even meeting with her is on par with getting backstage passes for a Rolling Stones concert. A strategy soon emerges: Davos (Liam Cunningham) will use his pirate skills of stealth to smuggle Tyrion, probably now the most recognizable man in Westeros, into King’s Landing. Here, with Bronn’s help, he will meet with Jaime, who might agree to try to convince Cersei to meet with Dany. At this point, it’s as foolproof as a plan can be.
Afterward, Jon will journey North to Eastwatch to go zombie-hunting with his old friend Tormund (Kristofer Hivju). When Dany appears hesitant to let go of her important prisoner, Jon whips out his best direwolf-pup eyes and asks her to trust him. Jon soon departs with a small band and bids adieu to the Dragon Queen, who seems very dewy-eyed over her heavily-implied love interest being written out of her reach.
Jaime, meanwhile, is returning to his queenly love interest; he fearfully approaches Cersei’s quarters to inform her of the defeat, looking more like a sacrificial lamb than the lion of his sigil. Cersei immediately lays into him when he suggests seeking a compromise with Dany, accusing him of going soft — he did, after all, murder Aerys in cold blood. At this point, perhaps ill-advised, Jaime tells her that Olenna (Diana Rigg) killed Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). After a brief period of denial, Jaime’s mention of both their dead sons brings tears into her eyes, threatening to crack her perfectly composed facade for the first time this season.
Nearby, Davos and Tyrion arrive at the shore of King’s Landing, ready to put their riskily complicated gambit for an armistice into motion. Davos slips away, telling Tyrion that he has business to attend to in Flea Bottom and wishing the nervous Lannister luck.
Tyrion soon meets with Jaime, who was led underground by Bronn and quite unaware that he would be meeting his little brother. Jaime is still angry at Tyrion for betraying his trust and killing Tywin (Charles Dance) during the escape Jaime facilitated, while Tyrion counters that Tywin hated him unfairly for his very existence. The two brothers, perhaps prompted by the ubiquitous dragon skulls that decorate their covert meeting place, put aside the pains of their past and get to business. Jaime, also eager for an excuse to regroup before having to fight dragons again, agrees to speak to Cersei and arrange a meeting between the queens.
Jaime now finds Cersei deep in discussion with Qyburn (Anton Lesser), who is probably introducing a newfangled anti-dragon device. He leaves as Jaime enters to inform Cersei that Dany wants to meet her for a truce. Cersei ignores the proposal, instead encouraging Jaime to punish Bronn for betraying him by setting up a meeting with Tyrion.
Her insistence upon cracking down on anything that remotely resembles betrayal comes from the presence of someone new for Jaime and Cersei to protect — Cersei is pregnant with the next Lannister heir. She confidently declares that she won’t lie about the baby’s paternity, and the two embrace, united once more after a season of distance.
It turns out that Davos’s “urgent business” in Flea Bottom was actually quite urgent, and one of the most highly-anticipated moments of the series — he finally finds Gendry (Joe Dempsie) back at the smithy, almost as though the last seven seasons never happened.
“I thought you might still be rowing,” Davos remarks slyly. Once more, the Onion Knight serves as an audience insert; we were all wondering when Gendry would finally get off that tiny rowboat.
Gendry’s reappearance brings House Baratheon back into the running for the Iron Throne (and finally makes the stag sigil in the opening sequence relevant again). He even specializes in the warhammer, just in case anyone was doubting that he’s actually Robert’s heir. Gendry seems just as eager to be back in the plot as we are to have him return, and he accepts Davos’ invitation to join him before Davos even finishes his sentence.
The pair is soon intercepted by Gold Cloaks, but Davos gets rid of them in what looks like the tensest sitcom routine of all time — paying them off, and showing his age when he starts off with an archaically tiny amount of gold, and eventually feeding them aphrodisiacs and urging them to leave quickly before they puncture their armor (really). It’s all for nothing when the retreating Gold Cloaks happen to run into Tyrion; doubtlessly, Cersei has promised enough gold to drown the paltry bag Davos offers them for their silence, with change left over to repair the armor damage Davos tried to scare them off with. Gendry eventually has to kill the soldiers with his hammer, aptly proving his usefulness (and Baratheon-ness) to them both.
Back at Winterfell, Jon’s absence is felt as keenly as ever by the Northern bannermen, who express their displeasure at his perceived abandonment to Sansa (Sophie Turner). She thanks them when they praise her for staying behind to rule but gently rebukes them for insulting their king. All this happens with her sitting at the front of the meeting hall, in the position of honor. Looking very much a leader, she locks eyes with her younger sister, who glowers at her from the corner with the same contempt she held for Sansa five years earlier; it looks like time couldn’t heal these wounds.
Later, in what used to be Ned and Catelyn’s chambers — as an accusing Arya points out — the younger Stark girl confronts her sister about her new position of power. She still suspects that Sansa is the same girl from season one, naively wooed by grand things and willing to risk family to have them. Arya chastises her sister for not taking a stronger stance in defense of Jon, to which Sansa patronizingly responds that she’s “sure cutting off heads is very satisfying, but that’s not how you get people to work together.” Arya smarts at Sansa’s belittlement of her career as a Faceless Man but proves that she’s just as deft at condescension, sarcastically spitting out a farewell to “Lady Stark” as she exits the room.
Outside, Arya decides to spy on Petyr (Aidan Gillen) for a bit, with thinly-veiled suspicion. Soon, Maester Wolkan (Richard Rycroft) gives Littlefinger one of Maester Luwin’s documents. After being assured it’s the only copy, Petyr thanks him on behalf of Sansa. Arya breaks into his room and finds the mysterious scroll, which is a letter that Sansa, with Cersei at her back, penned back when she was still a sheltered 13-year-old in love with Joffrey. In it, she begs Robb to swear fealty to the Lannisters, while calling Ned a traitor. Arya steals it to keep away from Littlefinger, but it turns out that he was watching her the whole time; he engineered the entire sequence of events, perhaps in an attempt to foster the growing discord between the sisters.
Listening in on a snippy gossip session between the Citadel’s maesters, Sam (John Bradley-West) picks up on the news of Bran’s vision of the Night King. The maesters express open doubt at the prospect of an all-seeing Three-Eyed Raven, but Sam, also having seen and killed a White Walker, practically begs them to spread the news. He reasons that the Southerners will heed their authority and finally deem the Northern dilemma urgent enough to provide troops for. The maesters denigrate him and command him to leave to continue with his work, but this probably won’t be the last they hear of it — we already know that Archmaester Ebrose (Jim Broadbent) respects Sam’s intellect.
Back at his room, Gilly (Hannah Murray) has her nose in a book again, which means that an important reveal is coming. Her golden track record continues — while rattling off an older maester’s meticulous notes, she mentions that he also recorded annulments, including one in Dorne, followed by a remarriage, of a “Prince Ragger.” Sam, probably still in a huff about the maesters ignoring him, cuts her off and tells her the information is useless. His frustration spurs him into action, though. Tired of being useless, he smuggles the important forbidden books, takes his family and leaves the stuffy Citadel.
If Sam had been paying any attention to Gilly’s reading, he would probably have figured out, like we did, that the annulment is hugely vital. “Ragger” is almost definitely Rhaegar Targaryen, and the only marriage he could have had annulled was with the Dornish princess Elia Martell. His subsequent remarriage was almost certainly to Lyanna Stark. Unknown to Sam, though, this makes the famously sulky Targaryen prince’s equally sulky son legitimate (and a major threat to Dany’s claim).
Jon is at least safely out of reach of the now-displaced Targaryen queen, up at Eastwatch with Gendry, Jorah and Davos. After they meet with Tormund and get him up to speed on the situation, Tormund leads the others to a prison cell, where he’s keeping Beric (Richard Dormer), Thoros (Paul Kaye) and Sandor (Rory McCann). All enormously strong fighters (but unfortunately also all fan-favorites who are entering a world of danger), they all band together and set off to hunt some wights together in an “Oceans”-esque V formation, as the episode closes.
Sahana Rangarajan covers “Game of Thrones.” Contact her at [email protected].