Last year, during the first season of Westworld, I made an attempt at writing episode by episode reviews which was a mistake. It was a great writing exercise, however, in the sense that I had to learn how to write about nothing, to stretch incremental narrative progress into a 1000 word piece but I ended up failing to complete the season out of sheer boredom. I wanted to avoid that mistake with the most recent season of Game of Thrones and only do a halfway point observation and end of the year wrap up, but after Sunday's episode Eastwatch, I felt the need to check in again. I came down pretty hard on the show a week or so ago, and I stand by that criticism, I still don't understand the need to rush through so many plot lines so quickly, but this weeks episode Eastwatch actually had shades of earlier seasons. It got me excited as it was more about conversations and setting the stage rather than wowing the audience and was surprise, surprise, the first episode of the series not written by D.B. Weiss and David Benioff in a long while. No, aside from the termination of House Tarly, who have gotten their comeuppance for betraying longtime ally House Tyrell quicker than is usual for Thrones, there was more maneuvering than anything else and it pleased me enough to share some thoughts.
First, though, some complaints. One thing that used to be GoT's greatest strength as a narrative was the fact that it did not cheat the viewer. If a character was in a hopeless situation and the ax was about to fall….the ax fell. No one saved the day because like in real life, no one usually does. But as the seasons wore on and we moved away from George R.R. Martin's source material, the show started to feel more like conventional TV. Brienne rescues Sansa at the last second, Benjen rescues Bran at the last second, Arya gets stabbed and falls into a putrid canal….but is perfectly fine and there are no ill effects, even though Khal Drogo died from a scratch on his chest. And this week opened with a cheat. Jaime should be a roast kebab right about now, right along with Bronn, however, the ankle deep water that he had been sprinting his horse through a second earlier suddenly turned into a bottomless lake when he was tackled into it. And, fully armored, the two of them swam a half a mile underwater to escape Daenerys and Drogon and emerged unscathed. Really? I get that they are both fan favorites by now but that used to be what this show was all about: getting your heart broken/mind blown. I'm sure this is a 'careful what you wish for' situation but, come on, man. Game of Thrones used to trade in credulity but it's been nearly bankrupt in that category for some time now.
Aside from that, it's nice to finally get a glimpse of Littlefinger's gameplan: so far, creating a rift between Arya and Sansa. To what end? I have no idea but sewing chaos seems to be his weapon of choice and he's going to have the North off-balance in no time as the new Lady Stark seems to be unsure of her own intentions. In case anyone hasn't googled it or jumped on Reddit, the content of the message was Sansa's original message condemning Ned Stark and supporting King Joffrey which is going to make Arya even more wary. I don't know if everyone was nearly unsettled enough when Sansa admitted to learning a lot from Cersei in an earlier episode but that is cause for concern. Having recently rewatched much of the earlier seasons, one thing becomes perfectly clear and it's that she is a terrible human being with no sympathy or kindness in her of any kind. Other characters are more vile in overt ways but they almost always have some tenderness hidden away or understandable pathos about them, Cersei is simply coldness layered upon spite layered upon ego. She may currently be the technical winner of the game but she had to step over the bodies of every one of her children to get to the throne and if that isn't a Pyrrhic victory I don't know what is.
As has been noted in other publications, young Gilly, who couldn't read when we first met her at Craster's Keep, has uncovered the bombshell secret that can flip the tables completely in this war for Westeros. If you aren't a lore junky or tuned her out for whatever reason, it sounded like while keeping Sam company she discovered an account of a marriage annulment between Rheagar Targaryen and his wife and a secret wedding to someone new. This is a huge deal because, up until now, we have all been thinking we were clever for figuring out that Rheagar and Lyanna Stark had a secret love child who turned into the most handsomest and bravest bastard to be crowned King in the North. BUT. If they were secretly married, this changes everything. It means that Jon is not, in fact, a bastard, but rather the ranking Targaryen and rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Over Daenerys. Now, I don't think he wants the throne and I do not think he'll take it but it remains to be seen how this is ever going to be revealed. So far only Bran is fully aware of this and we don't know if Gilly took the book with her when the two of them absconded from Oldtown so it might not be revealed at all. If only we had more than two episodes left in the season to find out.
The sparks are really flying between Jon and Dany, aren't they? I kept shouting "MAKE OUT" at my television, frightening my dog. As much as a dumb reference as this is, I know that silent exchange between the two of them when she discovers Drogon making friends with him. It's that same feeling when you start dating a girl and her cat, who usually hates people, curls up on your lap and goes to sleep. As a guy, you know you've just scored major points so you just sit back and enjoy it. And you can bet when Dany and Missandei sit up at night gossiping that's coming up first thing. Well. Maybe after the whole Grey Worm situation. I mean, shit I want to hear about that. And I don't like that they are trying to make Jorah seem like he has a shot. I like Jorah. I like him just fine. But there was definitely a weird love-triangle like thing that happened twice, where they had to stop talking and look awkwardly around and I don't like it one bit. Dany was clearly a little heartbroken when Jon decided to leave, major props to Emilia Clarke for that oh so subtle break and recovery that shows on her face. She may not love Jon yet but she undoubtedly has come to respect him in a very short time, as anyone does who hangs out with the guy but his bravery and insistence on leading the way beyond the wall has clearly given her the vapors. Speaking of which…
What a stupid fucking plan Jon has come up with. This is like something out of a sitcom where the gang has really gotten themselves into a tight spot this time and only a desperate Hail Mary idea can save the day. Like capturing a wight/zambie and bringing it to court in King's Landing, instead of doing the smart thing and just kicking the ever-living shit out of Cersei Lannister and company. This whole desperate need to wear kids gloves while conquering the kingdoms of Westeros is absolutely going to bite Dany and her allies in the ass at some point. Just do the thing and then worry about the White Walkers. The major problem with that whole plot line is that those fuckers have been about to attack for six years now. There is zero sense of urgency no matter how many spectacular shots of undead hordes marching towards the wall they give us because they've been showing us that since the second season.
I am no fool, by the way. I can't also say it's not thrilling to see such a wacky line-up of characters walking off into the north together like some bizarre Medieval Magnificent Seven. It's nice to see Gendry again, even though he looks like Christian Bale's anemic little brother lately but the instant bonding between him and Jon was worth his rushed return back to the story. Over/under on who is making it back from the great white north? Beric Dondarrion? Nope. Thoros of Myr. Nope. Jon? Duh, of course. The Hound? Probably. He still has too much potential and seeing him alongside Dany and Jon against the Lannisters is too sweet of an idea to spoil. Plus CleganeBowl. Jorah Mormont? (casually averts eye contact) Gendry? Dude. You might as well have thrown on a red shirt before heading out. Who is left….Tormund? Don't you fucking dare.