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Cleaning up in the Aftermath

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Game of Thrones sets sights on new plans after the Battle of the Bounty Train

A useless bout of belated conscience
HBO / Vox

After last week’s explosive battle and dragon air show, it’s only natural that “Eastwatch” would feel a bit anticlimactic. Doesn’t mean good stuff didn’t happen. Let’s get to it.

Aftermath of the Battle of the Black Dragon (or whatever it winds up being called)

Fantasy, more than any other literary genre, requires us to suspend disbelief. Therefore, we won’t dwell on the sorcery or otherworldly power of greed, perhaps, that allows Bronn to drag Jaime, along with his steel armor and golden hand, downstream a mile or so before coming up for air. In the last “Fandom” I said Bronn only saved Jaime to preserve his chances of getting paid. Bronn confirms that assessment, chastising the golden-handed commander for his foolish charge at Daenerys and saying, “Until I get what I want…only I get to kill you.” Bronn will apparently abandon all hope of remuneration if all three dragons descend on King’s Landing, though. Even shameless mercenary greed only goes so far.

Tyrion walks among the ashes on the battlefield, disturbed by the destruction. The Dothraki march the surviving Lannister soldiers up a hill where Daenerys gives a sermon about her benevolence and invites them to bend the knee and join her. That... you know...or die. A few kneel immediately. Many more do after Drogon roars at them. Randyll Tarly refuses, saying he already has a queen. Even when Tyrion reminds him that Cersei only became his queen recently, after Olenna was murdered, Tarly refuses to kneel to a queen backed by “foreign savages.” Would his tune have been different if the Dothraki had done battle in armor and orderly ranks? You know, killed like civilized people do it? Or would they need to look more…Westerosi?

Dickon’s foolish sense of honor compels him to refuse as well, and Drogon roasts him along with his father. Just when we were growing a soft spot for him. Tyrion is horrified. All the remaining holdouts drop to their knees. Ah, coerced loyalty. Seems to be a lot of that in Game of Thrones.

Tyrion had not thought this through, apparently. He is more diplomat than war strategist. He wants revenge on Cersei, but the extensive collateral damage disturbs him. In a later scene, he and Varys discuss the rationalizations that are necessary when advising a leader who resorts to violence. “I’m her hand, not her head,” Tyrion says. The paradox of having to kill on such a grand scale in order to make what they hope will be a better world troubles both their consciences. They seem to hope this one show of force may be enough to convince the Lannisters that resistance is futile.

Jaime, for his part, seems convinced. He tells Cersei that the Dothraki would beat any army he’s ever seen and that killing the Lannister men wasn’t war for them; it was sport. With three dragons who are nearly impervious to Cersei’s scorpion, Dany’s forces seem invincible. Perhaps because she sits in the Red Keep with a goblet while others fight for her, Cersei remains defiant.

Brimstone in his veins, apparently.
HBO / Vox

After looking as if he may eat Jon Snow, Drogon apparently smells the Targaryen on him and allows Jon to stroke his nose, Jurassic Park style. As Jon and Daenerys parse out whether the dragons are “beasts” or “children” (and what’s the difference really, am I right?), the Dothraki bring Jorah to the windy hilltop. Dany accepts him back into her service, his previously traitorous ways forgiven. She’s never going to love him the way he wants her to. But he may yet fully redeem himself by serving her.

The War to Come

Bran sees the army of the dead while warged into a raven, and he sends messages to Jon and to the Citadel. The beige council reminds us that ivory tower intellectualism may be the path to arrogance, more than enlightenment. When the maesters belittle Bran’s message as fanciful musings of a boy obviously bored by the cold climate and poor northern companionship, Sam interjects that he knows Bran. He let him through the wall, and it should seem remarkable that while the Wildlings and Night’s Watch could not survive in the northern wilderness, a crippled boy appears to have done so for years. Sam begs the maesters to take the message of the White Walkers seriously. But he sounds like a true believer trying to convince a roomful of zoologists that he’s seen a family of Sasquatch.

“They’re real. I’ve seen them,” he insists. Archmaester Ebrose, who should not underestimate Sam since he knows he saved Jorah from greyscale, concedes only that the council will write to Winterfell for clarification. The maesters are a more arrogant equivalent of Tolkein’s indecisive Ents.

Gilly reads Sam notes from Westeros’ version of Guiness Book of World Records.
HBO / Vox

Later, while Gilly reads High Septon Maynar’s copious recording of everything, Sam melts down. While the maesters have him busy preserving the record of Septon Maynar’s “15,782 shits” (“Steps,” Gilly corrects), the knowledge of how to defeat the White Walkers’ army may be rotting in a book or scroll somewhere on a dusty shelf. He’s had enough, so he purloins a few books and seemingly random scrolls from the restricted section of the library, and he and Gilly leave the Citadel. Echoing a line his father once used to belittle him, Sam says, “I’m tired of reading about the achievements of better men.” Other than being a book thief, who is more beyond reproach than Sam?

Now that he has dropped out of school, where will he go next? Horne Hill? Dragonstone? Winterfell? The Wall? Sam has become a man of action, so he’ll go wherever he thinks he can make a difference in the coming war.

Sam’s outburst interrupts a revelation we all expected was coming. Among High Septon Maynar’s history is news that Prince Rhaegar had his marriage annulled, then married someone else (Lyanna Stark, duh!) in a secret ceremony in Dorne. We know now, as we’ve suspected all along, that Jon is neither Ned Stark’s bastard, nor Rhaegar Targaryen’s. He’s legit. If primogeniture mattered anymore, he would have the best claim to the Iron Throne. Does this mean Daenerys will join Sansa in resenting him? When and how will Jon get this news?

A Further Step Toward Littlefinger’s Demise?

Arya spies on Littlefinger at Winterfell. Guess what he’s doing? Scheming. No kidding. Arya and Sansa are back on the uneasy terms of their youth. Sansa did not adequately defend Jon when the northern lords complained, and Arya accuses her of selfishness and angling to rule. Littlefinger is trying to further widen the gulf between them by planting the message Cersei forced Sansa to send after Robert Baratheon was killed. Though Arya may not think Sansa’s excuse for sending the demand that Robb declare fealty to Joffrey is adequate, surely they will be smart enough to see through the scheme. Suspicion of Littlefinger and his sneaky little mustache has to outdistance their sibling enmity. Although Arya should not hope to match Littlefinger as a schemer, if he miscalculates in the slightest way, she will end him.

Another Epic Quest!

Daenerys and her retinue decide to capture a wight to prove to Cersei that the army of the dead is real. Since Cersei has an undead in her service, you might think she shouldn’t doubt their existence. Through Bronn, Tyrion sets up a meeting with Jaime to suggest an armistice. Tyrion is about to embark on a moving speech about killing Tywin in self-defense, but Jaime cuts Peter Dinklage’s speech off before he can win another Emmy. Too much work to do for speech-making this season.

Cersei is unimpressed with Tyrion’s news and tells Jaime he must punish Bronn for the betrayal of setting up a meeting without his knowledge or consent. Man. She is a tough boss. She also tells Jaime she is pregnant. Earlier this season Jaime pointed out that they could not build a dynasty because they had no heirs. Don’t expect that to change. If you credit Maggy the Frog’s prophesy, Cersei will have no more children. That means either 1) she is lying to manipulate Jaime (gasp! Betrayal!); 2) the baby will not survive to be born; or 3) Cersei will not survive to bear the child. Please, not a gruesome callback to the Red Wedding. Please.

Meanwhile, Davos finds our long-lost pal and rowing champion, Gendry, on the Street of Steel. He drops everything, grabs his war hammer and comes along. Destiny doesn’t wait for steel to cool. To demonstrate his skill with his father’s weapon of choice, he caves in the faces of a couple of disheveled Gold Cloaks on the beach.

Jorah, Jon, Gendry and Davos meet with Tormund at Eastwatch and lay out their plan. He reveals that three other maniacs also want to go beyond the wall. Thoros of Myr, Beric Dondarion and the Hound are all in a cell. Gendry hates them, of course. Tormund hates Jorah, because he is the son of Lord Commander Mormont, who hunted his people like animals. The Hound reminds us there is no time for speech-making, and shuts Beric up mid-soliloquy to ask, “Are we going, or not?” Jon declares they are all on the same side, despite their differences. How can they be? “We’re all breathing,” he says. The last scene shows the seven of them (Davos stays behind) passing through the portcullis and into the icy wilderness. They need stocking caps.

Hey, that flaming sword may be more than a parlor trick, after all.
HBO / Vox

Though the plan seems hopelessly far-fetched, it will allow another fantastic battle to play out. Previews of “Death is the Enemy” suggest things may not go so swimmingly for our heroes. Should they succeed, a good guess at the captured wildling is Karsi, who was played by Birgitte Hjort Sorensen of Pitch Perfect fame in the Hardhome episode. It could be a random undead, of course, but shouldn’t there be a reason for the trouble the showrunners took to personalize a particular wildling-turned-wight?

Any chance Dany will relent and send a dragon to help them? She’s got two she’s not using, anyway. A preview photo shows Dany and Tyrion talking, with two dragons standing over them. Hopes: raised.

After “Spoils of War” two weeks ago was the shortest episode in the show’s run, “Death is the Enemy,” at 70 minutes run-time, is supposed to be the longest in the history of the series so far.

Best Lines of “Eastwatch”

  • Davos, to Tormund’s suggestion that it was his job to talk Jon out of stupid ideas: “I’ve been failing at that job, of late.”

  • Tormund, in his characteristically direct manner, trying to understand which queen needs proof of the army of dead: “The one with the dragons, or the one that f***s her brother?”

  • Tormund, after Davos says he will be staying behind because, as they all know, he is useless in the field: “You are.”

  • Tormund, in asking how many men Jon brought for the quest: “The big woman?”

  • Tyrion, with a little gallows humor when Jaime says he had told Bronn he would cut his brother in half the next time he saw him: “It’s going to take a while with a sparring sword.”

  • Davos, after Tyrion’s reminiscence that the last time he was in King’s landing, he killed his father with a crossbow: “Last time I was here, you killed my son with wildfire.”

  • Davos, after giving the Gold Cloaks fermented crab, a supposed aphrodisiac: “I’d hurry to your favorite establishment. Or you’ll put a hole in that chain mail.”

  • Davos to Gendry, with a nod to a three-year joke among fans: “Thought you might still be rowing.”

  • Davos, on his advice being ignored: “Nobody mind me. All I’ve ever done is live to a ripe, old age.”

Winner: Davos, of course. Honorable mention to Tormund.

Poll

The character most likely to perish in Operation Catch-a-Wight is:

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Gendry
    (19 votes)
  • 28%
    Beric Dondarrion
    (63 votes)
  • 40%
    Thoros of Myr
    (89 votes)
  • 4%
    The Hound
    (9 votes)
  • 18%
    Nobody will die.
    (40 votes)
220 votes total Vote Now