Do you speed through the opening credits of Game of Thrones? With that swelling orchestral score and educational bird’s eye view, I almost always linger. The places featured in the opening are almost always a sign of where the action is going to be. Eastwatch shows up for the first time, so you know something’s going down out on the East Coast tonight.
As Ser Bronn and Jamie slink away from the river, having miraculously managed not to drown under the weight of all that armour, Tyrion walks through the aftermath of Dany’s revenge. It’s a pitiful sight – burnt bodies cowering behind useless shields, corpses that are nothing more than ash, smoking wagons and debris. The Lannister army is truly decimated, their strength cut off at the knees, and he’s heartbroken. Poor kind-hearted Tyrion. For all his cunning, he has never been the most bloodthirsty of the Lannisters, Battle of Blackwater Bay bedamned.
On a rise overlooking the battlefield, Dany is disparaging the most bloodthirsty Lannister, saying her intent is to break the wheel that benefits only the Cerseis of the world. She gives the survivors a choice: kneel, or die. With Drogon curled behind her, taking up most of the rise (Dany always knows how to position her dragons for maximum visual impact) they all kneel. Everyone, except the Tarlys.
Lord Randyll is too set in his ways, too old to change – his bigotry just as unbending as Dany and her sense of justice. But only one of them has a dragon. Refusing to kneel, he prepares to die. So does Dickon Tarly, who refuses to kneel, willing to follow his father to the very end. It’s a moment. We’re used to hating on Lord Tarly for being a bigoted jackhole, and for treating Sam like shit, but seeing his face as he realizes that the house he has taken such pride in is about to be extinguished because he raised his son to be exactly like him warmed the cockles of my heart. It doesn’t warm Dany’s. Kneel, or die.
Tyrion, shaken, but practical, tries to reason with both Tarly and Targaryen, but neither bends. House Tarly ends in flame as Tyrion turns away, overcome with a sense of loss, not knowing that in the bowels of Oldtown lies the last hope of the Tarlys. Samwell Tarly, your time has come!
In King’s Landing, Jamie has stumbled home to his twin, just as shaken as Tyrion. The scorpion didn’t work, she didn’t even use all of her dragons, we’re going to lose… the defeat bubbles out of him, but Cersei is resolute. “We fight and die, or we submit and die. I know my choice.” She’s just as stubborn as her general, who just died screaming. Even when Cersei is at her most despicable, it’s hard not to respect the strength of her willpower. She isn’t going to go out with a whimper, not even when everything seems hopeless. Not as long as she can throw money at the problem.
Triumphant, Dany arrives back on Dragonstone, where Jon Snow is being his brooding self on a cliff overlooking the sea, which also happens to be Drogon’s landing pad. As Drogon lands and Dany dismounts, Jon removes his glove and gets all Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III with the beast:
That Jon is a Targaryen is an open secret by now, which makes me wonder which dragon he’ll eventually get to ride. Drogon is Dany’s mount and if we’re to go by GRRM canon, she’s unlikely to share. The Targaryens only ride one specific dragon at any given time. Wouldn’t it be fitting if Jon got to ride Rhaegal, given that Dany named him after her brother, who also happens to be Jon’s daddy? And maybe Tyrion, the only other character who’s gotten to touch a dragon and live, could ride Viserion, and they could all be one happy dragon-riding family?
The arrival of Ser Jorah Mormont, Survivor of Greyscale and Lord of the Friendzone interrupts my reverie, and that of Dany’s, who isn’t privy to Jon’s real bloodline. Overjoyed at her friend’s recovery, she quickly welcomes him back to the fold, in a scene so windblown I wouldn’t be surprised if Emilia Clarke had weights in her shoes.
They do love their little birds on this show. Bran has put his warging powers to good use and sent his own flock of ravens to see what’s going on past the Wall. As his birds fly northeast, the Eastwatch of the credits comes into view and Bran soars over it, into the distance and finds the humongous Army of the Dead, slowly marching south. The birds scatter at the Night King’s stinkeye, Bran snaps out of it and says they need to send a message down south.
Down south, where a bunch of old men debate the legitimacy of magic birds and cripples, and Samwell Tarly tries in vain to persuade a bunch of doddering old men that magic is real, the zombies are coming and everyone is going to die. Although the Archmaester is sympathetic, the general feeling is that this may be a ploy from Daenerys Targaryen (it’s from Winterfell, you great idiots) to open the south and sashay her way to the Iron Throne. It’s a nice example of what happens when an enclave of old men hold the key to knowledge. Age and infirmity sometimes makes one hesitant to act, and resistant to change. There’s a nice little snippet about the Drowned God destroying Aegon the Conqueror. Could it be a hint at Euron’s role in Dany’s war? But it’s all relative as Sam storms out, still blissfully ignorant of his status as Lord of Horn Hill.
Also ignorant of Sam’s role in removing Ser Jorah’s greyscale, Jon has read Bran’s raven telegram, with emphasis on Z Nation getting ever closer to Eastwatch. He’s too focused on the growing threat to appreciate the news that Arya and Bran are still alive, something that doesn’t escape Dany, who to her knowledge, is the last living Targaryen. The council decides the best course of action is to capture a wight, present it to Cersei as proof, and hopefully form a united front against the northern threat. With a delicious exchange of wordless glances, Tyrion is to sneak into King’s Landing for a parley with Jamie, Ser Davos is to smuggle him into the keep, Ser Jorah is to go north with Jon, and Dany gives her assent, albeit reluctantly when it comes to Jon, which doesn’t escape Ser Jorah’s notice.
He’s not the only one noticing things. Arya is observing the goings on in Winterfell’s Great Hall, and, in private calls Sansa out on her lack of support for Jon. “They were insulting him, and you did nothing,” she says. Very sensibly, Sansa says it’s her role to listen to the complaints of the northern lords, and that it takes more than death and dismemberment to get people to work together. Eh, maybe they should get Sansa to talk to Daenerys about that, because sometimes talk is cheap, as Arya reminds her sister. The tensions of the past rise again, as Arya, always the one who shoots first and asks questions later clashes with Sansa, whom she suspects of wanting Jon’s position for herself, on the basis of taking over their parent’s room. It’s petty, but sisters are petty to each other, and here’s hoping Littlefinger isn’t around to observe this little family feud.
Another family feud is playing itself out in the bowels of the Red Keep as Tyrion and Jamie meet again for the first time since Season 4. Expecting a sparring session with Bronn, Jamie is furious when he realizes his sparring partner is his brother. Unlike the Stark sisters, the Lannister brothers were always close, which made Tyrion’s patricide unbearable for Jamie, who was responsible for setting him free. Things get emotional. “He hated me because of what I am,” says Tyrion. “Did he think I wanted to be born this way?” asks the Imp, but Jamie, although visibly touched, wants to get straight down to business.
“What do you want?” he snarls, knowing their sister is never going to bend the knee. Tyrion swiftly disabuses him of the notion, saying more important matters are at hand, if Cersei is willing to listen. I’ve always loved the dynamic between Jamie and Tyrion, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Peter Dinklage know their characters so well by now, they’re seemingly able to translate love, antagonism and acceptance almost without words.
Ser Davos, having earlier abandoned the getaway boat for a mission in Flea Bottom, is slowly making his way through the Street of Steel, and slowly raising our hopes. Could it be? The camera is painfully slow, honing in on a sword being hammered into shape. If Samwell Tarly is now the last hope of House Tarly… could we finally be meeting Gendry, Robert Baratheon’s only surviving son, and possible hope of the stag party?
They take their time with the great reveal but a diehard Thronie would know who it’s going to be before he turns around. And turn around he does, and praise baby Jesus it’s Gendry!
“Thought you might still be rowing,” deadpans the Onion Knight, causing us all to cheer at this oblique reference to an enduring internet meme. I don’t know why I’m all excited, but Starks and Baratheons have always formed a united front, so I’m hoping this is a good omen for the house of the direwolf.
Turns out Gendry’s been biding his time hiding in plain sight, just waiting for the day a fairy godmother would appear and ask him to fight against the Lannisters. Gendry hammers home his preference of weapon (ha! I’m so punny) by grabbing a hammer not-so-subtly decorated with a stag, the sigil of House Baratheon, proving he’s a chip off the old block. Aww. His daddy would be so proud. Especially when Gold Cloaks intercept Tyrion coming down cliffs to the shore and Gendry proves his handiness, going all hammer time on the unfortunate guardsmen.
In even more secret heirs to the family house, Cersei tells Jamie she is with child, which explains why she isn’t as angry about his secret meeting with Tyrion as she normally would have been. Jamie is thrilled, especially when she says she won’t hide the child’s paternity, like she did with Joffrey, Tommen and Myrcella. Cersei isn’t above using deceit to get her way and decides to agree to the summit, having come to the conclusion that the long, slow game is the correct strategy to use at this point in time.
As the northmen push off from Dragonstone to head up north, Tyrion doesn’t miss the look on Dany’s face as Jon takes his leave. Neither, it seems, does Ser Jorah. Both men are in love with Daenerys, but it’s Tyrion’s sad look that’s giving me all the feels. Can we get the littlest Lannister some love please? Or maybe even a hug? At least Ser Jorah got a hug. Tyrion’s spirits seem to be low, likely because Daenerys is still mad at him for the failure of all his clever plans. He hasn’t been the same since the Lannister army got their just deserts. Not sure why he seems so uncomfortable with Dany’s display of strength now, when he was happy enough to witness her sack of Slaver’s Bay last season.
I’m still confused about Gilly staying with Sam in the Citadel, considering the vow of chastity maesters are supposed to undertake and Gilly has a child, but Sam isn’t a maester yet, so we’ll let this slide, I guess. As Sam sits stewing over the inaction of old men, Gilly slowly teases out more details to Jon’s ancestry and his connection to the Targaryens. Something juicy about an annulment and a Dorne marriage, but the last male Tarly interrupts her with a rant about how he’s supposed to keep counting bowel movements while people are dying in the north or something. Godamnit, Tarly, let Gilly finish!
But he doesn’t. Instead he heads for the great library of the maesters, snitches a few interesting looking tomes, grabs Gilly and child and together they all leave the Citadel and head straight to Winterfell and Jon. Samwell Tarly is going back North, y’all! He is the worst houseguest, though. He stayed at his father’s, and snuck off with his dad’s Valyrian steel sword. He stayed at the Citadel and snuck off with some of their books. Not even a thank you note, Tarly? Rude.
Arya is better than sneaking around than Sam will ever be, and she puts this skill to good use, shadowing Littlefinger everywhere he goes. When did she establish Lord Baelish of the Balustrade as a shady queen? But it doesn’t matter, as we quickly see that Littlefinger, as slippery as ever, has found a way to penetrate the Stark defense, and drive an even bigger wedge between Sansa and her sister. He plants Sansa’s missive of Season 2 for Arya to find, and like always, settles down to wait for the inevitable chaos to start.
Jon and Co are now at Eastwatch, which is remarkably fast, but eh we’re five episodes down with two more to go and we need to find out what happens at Eastwatch anyway. They find the Brotherhood Without Banners sitting in the cell Tormund left them in (Tormund heads Eastwatch now?) and there’s some back and forth about the sins of their fathers and shared goals and the Lord of Light and it all gets annoying long-winded until The Hound cuts through the bullshit with an exquisite “for fuck’s sake, will you shut your hole?” and they all put away their differences, band together and leave Eastwatch to catch a wight to convince the south to fight for the living. Will they succeed? Only the next episode can tell.
Featured image by HBO by way of WinterisComing.net