I must admit, I’m torn.
Is Game of Thrones really building on its continuing momentum this season or is it more of a rush-job? Are we just being constantly asked to stretch our suspension of disbelief almost to the breaking point? Are certain events being skipped in order to bring everything together and hit major plot points by the season finale?
On a lesser show, the plot holes would be gaping right about now, and we’d be up in arms about how little care the showrunners are taking to at least provide some semblance of consistency. But this isn’t a lesser show; and even though we’ve come to expect nothing but the best when it comes to GoT, we’ve also been subjected to the excrucuatingly slow passage of time in Westeros over the past 6 seasons.
So as much as I’d love to – once again – nitpick, bitch and moan about everything David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been getting wrong this season, I’d much rather enjoy all the things they’re getting right. Besides, let’s not forget that they’re not only flying solo for the past 15 episodes, they’re doing so while having to contend with our collective, exceedingly high, expectations. And a lot of them are being met brilliantly.
Let’s take how wonderfully blunt and perfectly perceptive Arya is being with her big sister. It took all but a few interactions for our pint-sized assassin to figure out that Sansa is well on her way to be blinded by her own ambition. It also took zero time for Arya to realize that slippery, sleazy Littlefinger is up to no good at Winterfell. And as much as I want to see her use her considerable skills to take him out once and for all, I can’t help but be pleased that, while he’s not exactly front and center this season, he hasn’t let his guard down either, and is one step ahead of her and well on his way to pitching the two sisters against each other. With our main characters coming together in this penultimate season, I’m not-so-secretly hoping that, if they don’t give Petyr a spectacularly satisfying send-off, the least the writers can do is extend his life long enough to grant us one of those much-missed repartes between Littlefinger and Varys. What I won’t be happy about is the possibility of Arya allowing Littlefinger’s ploy to work. Not only is she so much better than that, I’d hate to see the two Stark sisters continue to regress to their younger selves, like the beginning scenes seemed to suggest.
And while we’re on the subject of Winterfell, the writers did a great job of handling Bran this week, too: by giving him just a few moments of screen time and a single line of dialogue. That’s really as much Bran as I can take these days – so long as he keeps sitting on big secrets and only focusing his energy on the White Walker threat, that is.
Tyrion hasn’t failed us this week, either. He may have failed Dany in previous episodes, and he certainly failed the Tarlys, but who’s really sad to see Randyll go, really? (I will miss Dickon though). This week he came up with yet another dubious plan (possibly the worst yet), and once again his sister was one step ahead of him. Those little birds Qyburn inherited from the Spider seem to be doing a splendid job, aren’t they?
Tyrion’s plan this time is much more straight-forward, if not exactly brilliant. Setting aside the sheer idiocy of capturing a Wight and bringing it south of the wall, I struggly to see how it would persuade Cersei to call a truce and fight the ice zombies alongside Dany. If anything, she’d obviously rather let her enemies fight it out and emerge as the winner.
Moreover, as convinced as Tyrion may be that Jaime would see reason even if Cersei doesn’t, once again he underestimates the hold Cersei has on their brother. Add a TBD Lannister heir to the mix, and I doubt Jaime will be able to do squat about the White Walkers when the time comes. (I’d comment on how Cersei supposedly has been well past child-bearing age for a while now, but I’m not going anywhere near that can of worms).
Luckily, Dany didn’t exactly fail us either. She finally saw reason and let Jon go – I’m guessing seeing Jorah again softened her up a little bit, but it was obviously mostly Drogon taking a shine to Jon that actually sealed the deal for her, right? However, she did very little in the way of convincing the remaining Tarly and Lannister army to join her cause. How is roasting Randyll and Dickon alive prove that she’s any different than her father? It doesn’t take a maester to figure out that the choice she gave them, while a huge dragon loomed over their heads, really wasn’t a choice at all. Still, I don’t see the Tarly BBQ as anywhere near the kind of blunder Tyrion and Varys perceived it.
Speaking of maesters, if the writers’ intentions were to showcase those robe-clad old men at the Citadel as a group of idiots, then it was a job well done. You’d think they’d have more substantial matters to consider as they gather for their meetings, but apparently put a few robed men together in a room and they’re no different than gossiping school girls. Poor Sam didn’t have a chance, but I’m more upset over the fact that the show just decided to drop a huge bomb on us – one that’s been floating around the ASOIAF universe for years, granted, but it was still incredible to see it confirmed, even in such a throwaway manner – and just leave it unexplored. For the time being, that’s a huge piece of the puzzle that just fell off the table and it looks like no one’s there to pick it up. Was the revelation about Raeghar’s secret marriage to Lyanna just a wink to the audience? How long before someone puts two and two together? Was this precious bit of info simply intended as corroboration to the story Bran’s been sitting on all this time, assuming Sam and Gilly are headed to Winterfell next? Ugh this is so frustrating.
Also frustrating: Cersei’s throwaway line about the Golden Company last week, then again her statement about hiring mercenaries this week. If the show is gearing towards a Cersei-Dany meeting before the season is over, was the Golden Company mention just another red herring?
Even if it’s not, it’s nowhere near as exciting as the tremendous tease we got in just about every Jon and Dany scene: Jon’s defiant stance as the Drogon bared his teeth at him was chilling, and I loved the tension that’s still building between the two Targaryens. If I’m honest, I half expected Dany to offer Jon a ride on one of her dragons, but I guess that’s a bit too premature. Instead, she offered the willing services of Jorah, who was barely back on Dragonstone long enough to tell his tale, but surely he’ll have had time to tell Jon about his acquaintance with Sam at the Citadel – hopefully before a White Walker tears him to pieces, which seems to be the fate he’s heading towards.
Not frustrating at all, however, was the unlikely reunion of just about every non-Stark character this week: not only does Tyrion give a brilliant performance with Jaime as he starts to rant about their father, but we got to see Tormund, The Hound, Thoros of Myrr, Beric Dondarionn AND Gendry, and we even got the whole ‘stll rowing’ joke thrown in for good measure. And really, how badass did the little group of warriors look as they headed north of the wall?
Still, both reunions felt terribly rushed. We get the first Jaime and Tyrion scene since season 4, and hardly any dialogue to adequately explain how we went from Tyrion lamenting his father’s mistreatment and Jaime indulging his silly plan. The entire Kings Landing scene does get a thumbs up, however, mostly due to Davos’ excellent handling of the Gold Cloaks, and Gendry’s expert swinging of his warhammer, in true Baratheon style, rivaling the Mountain is his skull-crashing abilities.
Which brings me to my biggest gripe about the episode, which spoiled most of the Jaime and Bronn scenes for me. Someone needs to explain the logistics of this scene in a way that doesn’t make it seem completely ludicrous. Last week, Bronn jumps off his horse, knocks Jaime into that shallow pond that miraculously turns into a bottomless pit as he’s “drowning”; Dany is standing right next to the pond, as is Drogon. End credits.
And then, this week, Bronn somehow drags Jaime out to shore and they’re basically alone across the battlefield while Dany, Drogon, the Dothraki and the Lannister & Tarly army are gathered far enough from Jaime and Bronn to be oblivious to them? How does that happen? How does Dany not send every Dothraki screamer at her disposal to fish Jaime out of that pond and keep him as prisoner? How do they move so far apart in the few dozen it took for Bronn to drag Jaime out of the water and emerge on shore? If someone can offer a plausible explanation other than plot convenience, I’d love to hear it, but until then I’m just bummed they took the cheap way out.
Perhaps even more confusing were the Eastwatch scenes, not least because, when that’s the title of the episode, you expect SOME kind of phrenetic sequence at the far east end of the Wall. Even putting that aside, this felt like yet another rush-job to get the piece to not just fall, but actually get slammed into place this season. Not only is this a case of more jet-packing (both Jaime and Jon seem to be traveling at the speed of light this week), we get zero explanation for the Brotherhood. Add to that the (very) rushed Jon-Gendry meeting, who apparently bonded over being bastards and are well on their way to having their fathers’ bromance rub off on them, and we have just glossed over a plotline that would have normally taken ages to unfold, and gained back a character who conveniently went from zero to hero overnight and is apparently poised to play a pivotal role in the wars to come.
Still, I can’t complain too much about Eastwatch: the pieces are not just falling, they’re being slammed into place this season, and despite approaching the end of the line, the show still manages to find ways to surprise (and delight!) us. With only two episodes left, I’m very curious to see how the show will leave things this year, but I’m even more excited to see what next week brings; if, in true GoT fashion, the penultimate episode of the season is to be the spectacular hour of television we’ve come to expect, then I’m guessing we’re in for a thrilling ride next week!