Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 5 Recap: Eastwatch

After last week’s awesome display of dragonfire, the show begins its slow burn toward the real war to come.

By AT&T Digital Media Productions editorial team 
 

As befits this season of Game of Thrones, “Eastwatch” was all about escalating stakes. What it lacked in battles, or even skirmishes, it made up for in family drama, reveals, and the promise of even bigger conflicts to come.

There’s no jaw-dropping dragonfire moment this week (well, unless you’re a Tarly), so we begin in the aftermath of last week’s Field of Fire. We last saw Jaime Lannister sinking to the bottom of a river, utterly defeated, after Bronn shoved him out of Drogon’s line of fire. But the weight of his failures (and armor) didn’t keep him down for long, and the Kingslayer resurfaces downriver from the battlefield.

Bronn chastises Jaime for attempting to end the war in one fell swoop. But Jaime’s mind is on the bigger picture: if one dragon can incinerate an army, what chance do they have against three?

 

Amidst the ashen ruins of the Lannister caravan, Daenerys Targaryen addresses her prisoners of war with a victor’s confidence, a queen’s poise, and a touch of her family’s ruthlessness. She delivers some anti-Cersei propaganda and commands—you guessed it—that they all bend the knee. Most of the captives are sufficiently awed, but Lord Randyll Tarly conspicuously refuses her demand. He slanders the Dothraki and chastises Tyrion Lannister for serving a foreign invader, but Daenerys barely even blinks.

 

Dickon follows Dad’s example and declares Daenerys will have to kill him, too. Randyll looks pained, and then proud, at his son’s show of solidarity. Tyrion begs both sides to de-escalate, but no one’s interested, and Daenerys calmly sentences both men to die. Father and son join hands in a very un-Tarlyish display of affection as Drogon performs the execution.

Seeing House Tarly go up in smoke is the right motivation for the holdouts, and the straggling captives kneel in surrender. Tyrion is troubled, seeing too much of her father in Daenerys. But hey, at least she gave the Tarlys a choice.

Jaime staggers back to King’s Landing and gives Cersei a firsthand account of the rout. But Cersei is curiously unbothered: with the Iron Bank’s backing, they can buy all the new soldiers they need. Cersei, if we’ve learned anything from Bronn, it’s that you can’t count on a sellsword.

Jaime also relays Olenna Tyrell’s dying confession, explaining that Tyrion didn’t poison their son Joffrey after all. But the bombshell turns out to be a dud—Cersei doesn’t buy it at first, and ultimately doesn’t care, even after Jaime (correctly) argues that Olenna was protecting her granddaughter from an uncontrollable monster.

 

Back on Dragonstone, Jon Snow needs no protection from Drogon, who sniffs out Jon’s half-Targaryen blood and nuzzles up for a friendly pat on the snout. Dany is impressed, though Jon subsequently loses points by referring to her terrifying children as “beasts.”

She gives an abbreviated account of the battle and starts to ask about Davos’ “knife in the heart” comment, but before Jon can confirm or deny his death and resurrection, they’re interrupted by a disease-free Jorah Mormont. He seems a little bummed to see his beloved queen hanging out with yet another handsome young man, but he gamely resumes his post at her side, though her warm hug confirms he’s still firmly locked in the friend zone.

While mortal kings and queens jockey for position down south, the real threat grows in the north. From his spot in the Winterfell godswood, Bran wargs into a flock of crows, turning the birds into drone cameras to scout the Night King’s position. It doesn’t look good: the huge, slow-moving army of the dead still marches inexorably south. After the Night King senses his presence, Bran snaps back to reality and instructs Winterfell’s maester to send out ravens.

Bran’s dire message gets to Oldtown, but the maesters there are skeptical, as always, of doom and gloom from the north. Specifically, the archmaester thinks the scroll is more likely “a ploy by the dragon queen” to drain the south of soldiers. A true academic, he decides to seek clarification before endorsing Bran’s message—a decision that infuriates Sam. (Also infuriating: Archmaester Ebrose hasn’t bothered to tell Sam his dad and brother were just burned alive.)

 

Tyrion, meanwhile, can’t stop thinking about the Tarlycue. He and Varys discuss the Targaryen propensity for burning people alive and the drawbacks of being the power behind the throne. Was Varys culpable for actions the Mad King took based on his information? Yeah, probably. Tyrion had better step up his advising, Varys warns, otherwise Dany risks becoming too much like her father.

In the Dragonstone war room, Jon reads Bran’s letter and processes the triple bombshell that Arya’s alive, Bran’s alive, and the army of the dead is currently marching on Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. Even though he’s not in the Night’s Watch anymore, he decides to meet the Night King head on. Daenerys doesn’t like the idea, but she’s grown to respect Jon too much to hold him any longer against his will.

Tyrion has another brilliant, but soon-to-be disastrous idea: if they bring back an undead soldier, Cersei might be convinced enough of the true danger to pause the war—provided they can convince her to parlay with them at all. Sound like a plan, everyone?

 

To that end, Davos smuggles Tyrion into the catacombs of the Red Keep for a Bronn-arranged chat with Jaime and a long-awaited reunion. Tyrion compliments Jaime’s military prowess, but their small talk quickly devolves into threats and near-tears as the two struggle to keep their emotions in check. Conflicted as he is about Tyrion, Jaime knows that he’s on the losing side of the war, and he reluctantly agrees to hear why Daenerys wants to meet with Cersai.

It’s a terrific scene for Peter Dinklage and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and in an episode devoid of battles, this standoff between the wounded Lannister brothers is the big moment.

 

Davos, of course, has his own mission in King’s Landing. He heads for the Street of Steel, where he finds our old pal Gendry (!!!), who has apparently been hiding under Cersei’s nose for three seasons. Sick of making swords for the family that killed his father, he needs no convincing to quit the smithy, and jumps at the chance to join Davos. He’s even got his own Baratheon warhammer, which comes in handy when it’s time to take out a couple of suspicious gold cloaks who don’t buy Davos’ “humble smuggler” routine.

On Dragonstone, Gendry and Jon hit it off right away, bastard to bastard. Gendry’s all in on Jon’s mission to Eastwatch, claiming that he’s prepared his whole life to participate in a meaningful battle against the forces of evil.

 

In the Red Keep, Jaime interrupts a visit from Qyburn to relay Tyrion’s proposition to the Queen. To his surprise, Cersei already knew of Jaime’s meeting with Tyrion. “Do you think anything of importance happens in this city without me knowing,” she asks. Well, Cersei, you did miss one of your ex-husband’s fugitive bastards living a few blocks away. At any rate, she’ll meet with Daenerys, so long as she gets to betray the dragon queen in some transparently obvious way down the line.

Cersei then springs a second surprise on Jaime: she’s pregnant! And this time, their latest product of incest won’t be kept secret from the public. Cersei has gotten more megalomaniacal than ever this season, even as she becomes more isolated from everyone but her twin brother. From Aerys to Joffrey, Thrones history tells us that petulant blonde rulers who are detached from citizens, advisors, and reality don’t have happy endings.

 

Back at the Oldtown Boys’ Club, Gilly has nothing to do but sit in her chamber and read the diary of a former septon who kept meticulous records of everything from steps to bowel movements, not to mention the extremely important detail that he annulled Rhaegar Targaryen’s marriage to Elia Martell. (In case this season’s dozen other insinuations weren’t clear enough, this almost certainly means that Jon is the the Prince that was Promised.)

But this fact sails clear over Sam’s head; he’s getting tired of dusty old books, no matter how many juicy, plot-critical revelations they contain. Tired of “reading about the achievements of better men,” as Dad put it, Sam steals a bunch of scrolls from the Citadel’s restricted section and declares that School’s Out Forever.

Up at Winterfell, the Northern lords are growing restless, and Sansa struggles to maintain the status quo while they await Jon’s return. In fact, they seem happier with Sansa in charge and appear ready to bend the knee to a new queen. In their parents’ old chambers, Arya suggests that letting heads roll would improve morale—well, her morale, anyway—but Sansa doesn’t share her sister’s enthusiasm for executions.

Rebuffed by big sis, Arya trails Petyr Baelish on the usually-correct suspicion that Littlefinger is up to no good. She spies on him while he stashes a mysterious document in his chambers, then breaks in and finds yet another artifact Littlefinger saved from Season 1. This time, it’s the letter Sansa wrote under duress, exhorting Robb to surrender and renouncing her family as traitors to the Crown. Out in the hallway, Littlefinger smirks, his trap sprung. Be careful, Baelish. There’s only so many times you can stir the pot before you fall in yourself.

 

After an unspecified amount of travel time—everyone sure moves fast in season 7!—Jon and his crack team of volunteers arrive at Eastwatch. Tormund Giantsbane has been holding down the fort, and he’s got a present for the King in the North in the form of the Brotherhood Without Banners, who were captured on their way to fight White Walkers.

Well, that sure is convenient! What’s more, they all have history together. Jon met the Hound at Winterfell and Jorah fought alongside Thoros of Myr during the Greyjoy Rebellion. Meanwhile, Gendry is still mad that the Brotherhood sold him to Melisandre, and Jorah’s father was Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, which makes Tormund none too happy to see him. Tensions escalate until Beric Dondarrion reminds them that they’re all at Eastwatch for the same reason. Jon agrees: the real fight is still the living against the dead.

With that, the crew sets aside their differences and head out into the Great Wight North. Seven motley warriors uniting for a common purpose against incredible odds. If the last 60 years of cinema (or the previews for next week’s episode) are any indication, we’re guessing they find more than they came for.

Should they have brought horses? Will Sam ever find out what happened to his father and brother? And will Jaime finally stand up to his increasingly deranged twin sister? Be careful not to poke any holes in your chainmail, and find out on Game of Thrones, exclusively on HBO.

 

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