We’ve been pretty spoilt the last couple of weeks on Game of Thrones. Showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss have kept up a cracking pace throughout the first four episodes.
This week, however, was a little low key by comparison.
It didn’t have heart-stopping action like last week’s Loot Train attack, but we did get a Close Encounter of a Dragon Kind.
And a whole lot of story that sets us up for the remainder of the season.
The opening sequence delivered the first cool moment: Eastwatch Castle is now part of the Seven Kingdoms diorama.
Then there’s the cast list that features one Joe Dempsey aka Gendry, the bastard son of Robert Baratheon.
Turns out he hasn’t spent the last couple of seasons rowing around in his boat. Instead, he’s been in King’s Landing.
But the episode opens by answering a question from last week: is Jaime Lannister dead? Within seconds we find out. He lives. And so does Bronn.
As they clamber out of Blackwater Rush and view the smoking ruins of the Lannister army, it dawns on Jaime just what they’re facing.
“That was only one of them. She has two more. If she decides to use them, really use them …”
While Jaime resolves to tell Cersei the threat they now face, his brother Tyrion walks the battlefield with a look of horror and revulsion on his face.
The captured Lannister soldiers are brought before Daenerys. She offers them a way out and a way to live under Targaryen rule.
“I offer you a choice. Bend the knee and join me. Together we will leave the world a better place than we found it. Or, refuse and die”.
Some of them drop to the ground and some need extra ‘encouragement’ from Drogon.
And of course, it’s Lord Randall Tarly who refuses to swear fealty to Daenerys. Tyrion tries to save Tarly by suggesting he ‘take the black’ and be sent to the Wall. But the stubborn fool refuses.
“You can not send me to the Wall. You are not my Queen”.
He’s not really giving Daenerys any options and as her Dothraki soldiers lead him away, his son, Dickon, steps forward.
“You’ll have to kill me too”.
So, she does. She utters the word “Drakaris” and dragon fire is unleashed and they’re incinerated.
And in the Citadel, Samwell is now the new Lord Tarly.
Meantime, Jaime has finally made his way to Cersei to deliver the bad news. Daenerys and her three dragons cannot be beaten.
“So what do we do? Sue for peace? I sit on her father’s throne. The father you betrayed and murdered”.
Cersei has hit the nail on the head. What can they expect when the Dragon Queen holds all the cards? Perhaps Tyrion can step in to make up for killing their father and their son?
And this is where Jaime has to reveal Lady Olenna’s confession that she had Joffrey murdered so her granddaughter could marry the more malleable Tommen.
He would have been easier to manipulate and would have made Olenna the true ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. That’s got Cersei thinking.
At Dragonstone, we get another hint of Jon Snow’s true heritage.
Legend has it that dragons recognise those of Targaryen blood. On the cliff’s ledge, Drogon lands in front of Jon, who stands his ground as the giant beast roars (great CGI).
As he would a dog, Jon holds out his hand for Drogon to sniff and he gently pats the dragon. A look of acceptance passes between them.
Daenerys is a little surprised but the significance of what’s just occurred hasn’t yet dawned on her.
There’s clearly something building between them. Daenerys might not recognise Jon as her equal, but she tries to justify her actions in a way he can accept and respect.
“We both want to help people. We can only help them from a position of strength. Sometimes strength is terrible”.
There’s already a level of trust between them, but just as Jon is about to explain Davos’ ‘knife to the heart’ comment, the moment is ruined by the arrival of Jorah Mormont.
Cured of Grey Scale, he again pledges to serve his Khaleesi. They hug. Jon is not happy.
Meantime, Bran has warged into some ravens as they fly high over the Night King’s army. He returns to his body and orders Ravens be sent out to deliver the bad news.
The message has been received but not believed in the Citadel. Samwell tells them to believe Bran’s words, but the arch-maester shuts him down.
“It’s possible this message is a ploy by the dragon Queen to lead to lure the southern armies away from lands they’re currently defending to open those lands to easy conquest”.
Later, a frustrated Samwell is reading parchments with Gilly, who stumbles across something interesting (to us). The passage refers to Prince Rhaegar’s annulment and remarriage on the same day.
Another tantalising piece of information that points to Jon’s Targaryen lineage. Neither realises the significance of this document.
Instead, Samwell throws in the towel and leaves the Citadel with Gilly and Young Sam. They’re wearing furs, so they must be heading north.
In Dragonstone, Tyrion and Varys are having a heart to heart. Both recognise Daenerys needs to be reigned in. They need to find someone who can make her ‘listen’. And who should that be, hmmm?
Varys eventually delivers Bran’s message to Jon that the Night King’s army is on the march.
Jon is desperate to return, but Daenerys can’t turn her back on Cersei to help him. Tyrion, though, has another idea: convince Cersei of the danger posed by the Night King and agree to an armistice.
It would mean bringing her ‘proof’ that the ice zombies are real and not just a story to scare children.
Of course, Jorah Mormont volunteers to go on the mission with Jon. But getting hold of one of the dead soldiers is only part of the problem.
They have to present it Cersei and that means Tyrion returning to King’s Landing to see the one person she will listen to: Jaime.
In the dragon dungeons under the Red Keep, Bronn leads Jaime to Tyrion, who tells him:
“Daenerys is wiling to suspend hostilities if Cersei agrees to certain terms”.
“You want Cersei to bend the knee? You can ask her”.
“I don’t. Daenerys doesn’t. Not right now anyway. She has a more important request”.
Jaime delivers the news and Cersei has her own news to deliver. She’s pregnant! Another twincestuous child!
“Who will you say is the father”?
“People won’t like that”.
“Do you remember what father used to say about people”?
“The Lion does not concern itself about the opinions of the sheep”.
While that’s all happening in the Red Keep, Ser Davos has searched Flea Bottom high and low for a certain bastard son of the late King Robert Baratheon.
And where does he find him? In a blacksmith’s shop making weapons for the Lannisters. Hiding in plain site of the Queen who had ordered the murder of all of Robert’s bastards.
Gendry joins the fight, bringing along a war hammer very much like the one Robert used on the battlefield. And he knows how to use it as he quickly deals with two nosey soldiers.
On their arrival in Dragonstone, he readily introduces himself to Jon as Robert’s son.
“Our fathers trusted each other, why shouldn’t we”.
“I grew up on stories about them”.
“All I ever knew is that they fought together and won”.
So, that’s one more joining Jon on his quest. They set forth and arrive at Eastwatch Castle where Tormund is in charge. And he tells them others have already arrived with a similar mission.
He leads them down to the dungeons, where they find the Hound, Thoros and Dondarrion. They’ve followed the Hound’s vision in the flames. After a bit of argy-bargy between Gendry and Thoros and Tormund and Jorah, they agree to join forces.
And out into the snow they go, hunting ice zombie soldiers. Just eight of them plus some wildlings. And the odds of success are???
While all the action seems to have followed Jon, Daenerys, Tyrion and the Lannisters, bad things are brewing at Winterfell.
The Lords are grumbling about their absent King, suggesting they should have pledged fealty to Sansa instead.
She dismisses the suggestion, but not forceful enough for Arya, who calls out Sansa and her ‘ambitions’.
And she wears her ‘dead-eye’ look learned during her time with the Faceless Men. It’s her ‘dangerous as a snake look’ and Sansa gets the message.
And all the while, Littlefinger is up to his old tricks; lurking and plotting and potentially stirring up trouble between the sisters for his own personal gain. Typical Littlefinger.
We’ve just a few episodes left in the penultimate season of Game of Thrones and ‘Eastwatch’ has effectively reset the narrative.
We’ve jettisoned characters who have served their purposed and have set the scene for some pretty intense story telling.