One of the great things about the slow burn towards the conclusion of Game of Thrones is that it begins to feel like revisiting old friends. ‘Eastwatch’ was a perfect example of that — gathering together several favorites and setting them on new paths. It’s particularly effective because it was overall another strong episode. No, there were no massive battles or vanquished armies, but instead the story was propelled forward by solid writing and outstanding performances.
We began right where we left off, in the ashes of Jaime’s army, as Dany faces the conquered army, demanding fealty or death. This is becoming a difficult evolution, and overall Emilia Clarke is dealing with it rather well — gone is the noble queen, saving the slaves and rescuing the weak. Now she is a conquering queen, a new and somewhat ill-fitting role for her. And as she uses her massive dragon to burn two of the last remaining Tarlys — proud, if foolish — alive, Tyrion watches in horror, wondering what she is becoming. It’s a remarkable sequence, particularly the terrific shot of the massive dragon looming over the defeated forces, and it drove home just how intimidating and terrifying she and her monsters can be.
It’s that sense of the terrifying that Varys warns Tyrion to find a solution to — Dany is in a new world, and seems on the verge of mistaking cruelty for strength. But in continuing the curveballs that she faces, she sees Jon Snow in a new light — facing down the dragon without fear (well… maybe a little bit of fear), while also finding Jorah Mormont returned to her. Jorah’s return was beautifully done, and the wealth of emotions on her face and his was a joy to see. Iain Glenn’s Mormont has long been one of the show’s strong points, even when his character suffered from excessive mopiness, and it’s good to have him back in the fray.
And in King’s Landing, we see what a cruel queen can be like, as Cersei is practically blind to anything that doesn’t give her more power. She wants to play politics with Dany, now that Jaime has (possibly) convinced her that it isn’t a war that can be won. She is once again pregnant with Jaime’s child, unashamed and unafraid of the consequences. Even when he tells her of Olenna’s treachery, she — while momentarily shocked, yes — does not back down. Much like Tywin, her hatred of Tyrion is seething and unrelenting, regardless of what he’s done or hasn’t done.
In Winterfell, things grow more chaotic and complicated, as Littlefinger’s schemes start to come to fruition. Driving a wedge between an already increasingly acrimonious relationship between Arya and Sansa (and resurrecting that letter Sansa wrote to Arya in season one), people seem to be forgetting the most important lesson of all: Littlefinger works only for Littlefinger, and nothing he says — be it direct or in secret — is to be trusted. That said, this season is one of the most nuanced and well-acted by Maisie Williams. She’s more than a tiny vengeance-seeker now, and her interactions with Sansa show a maturity and intelligence far beyond the little girl with the sharp blade.
But it’s the news from the North that drove this episode — Tyrion and Davos sneaking back to King’s Landing to warn Jaime, Sam trying to compel the Maesters to heed Bran’s warning. It drives Jon back to the Wall, to seek the army of the dead. It’s a cold, unforgiving place, and it’s there that his journey shall truly begin. For all Jon has faced, all he has done, is there anything more terrifying than leading that small band of men into the frozen wastes to seek an army of undead that no one knows how to stop? But then, the men at his side might be one of the greatest collectives of characters the show has ever assembled. Despite old grievances and emotions boiling to the surface, they come together as one to face the Night King. If you ask me? Jon Snow, Gendry Barratheon, Jorah Mormont, Tormund Giantsbane, Sandor Clegane, Thoros of Myr, and Berric Dondarion have the makings of the most incredible Magnificent Seven remake ever. Where they go and what they face will be cold and terrifying, but there are few better to face it.