Monday, September 4, 2017

Game of Thrones Watch 7.5: "Eastwatch"

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

7.5 “Eastwatch”
Written by Dave Hill
Directed by Matt Shakman

This episode is full of Very Bad Leadering (why are we supposed to want either Dany or Jon to rule anything again?), Very Bad Ideas, and Why Is This Even Here? So, you know, the show.

After the supply train battle (Battle of the Blackwater II: Electric Boogaloo? No?), Tyrion walks through the ashes and burnt bodies and seems to be reconsidering his allegiances, which, what did you think, Tyrion? That Dany would just threaten with the dragons but never unleash them? That’s not what you do when you have nukes weapons of mass destruction dragons. The Dothraki herd the surviving Lannister/Tarly forces before Dany and Drogon, and Dany gives her whole Destroy the Wheel speech, which I still don’t understand (what does she want? Anarchy? Communism? Occupy Wall Street?). She tells them she’s not like Cersei and she’s not here to murder their children and burn down their homes, but they can either kneel or die. A few immediately drop to their knees, and Drogon’s roar drives most of the rest of them down. Randyll and Dickon are still standing, so Dany calls them forward. There’s a whole discussion about loyalty (and how obviously fluid Randyll’s is, considering) and Randyll gets all racist and nationalist about how at least Cersei was born and raised in Westeros (I mean, if you have to choose between queens who are going to burn shit, at least pick the one who shares your Westerosi values, amirite?). Dany sees he isn’t going to budge and, despite Tyrion’s desperate attempts to talk her out of it, has Randyll and Dickon (who also won’t bend the knee) burned alive by Drogon.

So, Dany’s gone full Targaryen, and it’s somehow a shock to Tyrion. I guess because he wasn’t there for her feeding Meereenese nobles to her dragons, so all her burn kill murder talk has been just talk as far as he’s concerned, talk he’s always managed to convince her out of. Back at Dragonstone, he gets drunk and talks to Varys about how horrible it was, but his focus seems to be mostly on how he wasn’t able to talk her out of making the decision, not that she did something horrible that could be construed as a war crime. He says he’s her “hand, not her head” and that he can’t make decisions for her, and Varys says he used to say that all the time while watching Aerys murder people. Tyrion says Dany isn’t Aerys, and Varys says that with the right council, she’ll never become him. So, where did the Varys who would tell Dany to her face that she’s being awful go? And we’re just saying out loud that Tyrion and Varys are manipulating Dany? We’re not even pretending anymore?

The issue I (continue to) have is that the show’s portrayal of Daenerys is so far from the book portrayal that they’re not even the same person anymore. Book!Dany wants to be a good, kind leader. Does she occasionally make decisions that hint at the darker side of the Targaryen nature (crucifying 163 Meereenese lords, allowing the torture of young girls in front of their father to elicit a confession)? Sure. Does she constantly have to be reined back from nuking Westeros from orbit? No. She wants to be a good queen. She wants to be the ruler Rhaegar would have been if he’d survived. She has Barristan there to tell her stories about Aerys and Rhaegar to remind her who she could be and who she strives to be. Oh, right, the show killed Barristan for no good reason except to make Tyrion Dany’s sole advisor! Show!Dany is all fire and blood and is completely incapable of listening to more than one person at once, considering her options, and making her own decisions, at least past about season 4. Instead, she does whatever the last person to talk to her tells her to do, which since she left Meereen has been Tyrion. Now, don’t get me wrong, Tyrion’s been trying very hard to make her a good ruler, but then Olenna told her to “be a dragon” and that piece of advice stuck with her (probably because it goes along with her natural Targaryen inclinations anyway), so she hasn’t been listening to Tyrion as much. On the other hand, the fact that the show has made Dany into a stereotypical irrational woman who needs to be controlled by a man (and when she’s not, or refuses to listen to said man, she burns people alive) is really infuriating. For all the show’s meta-talk about “women on top” and “powerful women,” their women leaders sure are awful people (except for Sansa, but that has its own problems that we’ll get to in a minute).

Jon watches Dany fly in on Drogon and we get another Jon-Is-A-Targaryen moment where Jon pets the big scary toothy monster. Of course, they let Tyrion get close to the dragons last season, so the association of dragons with Targaryens has already been diluted (unless they’re going in that stupid Tyrion-is-a-Targaryen direction next season). Then again, I honestly don’t think the writers remember what happened from one season to the next, so whatever. Dany watches from Drogon’s back and seems surprised and interested in Jon’s and Drogon’s reactions to each other (it’s hard to tell because once again Emilia isn’t doing much with her face). She dismounts, Drogon flies off, and she and Jon discuss the battle and the necessity of being powerful in order to protect your people. She equates Jon killing lots of people in the battle for Winterfell with her burning an entire army alive and then executing two men via dragonfire, which is kind of a false equivalence. That’s when Ser Can’t Take No For An Answer shows up and is accepted back into Dany’s service as though he never betrayed her to the people who were trying to kill her.

While Dany was gone, a raven came for Jon telling him that Arya and Bran are back in Winterfell and Bran had a warg-vision of the Night King marching south (which everyone already knew was happening, so thanks, Bran the Omniscient). This is where the stupidest plan to date is hatched: a bunch of people will go North of the Wall, kidnap a wight, and bring it south to prove to everyone what they’re facing. Jorah volunteers, for some reason, and Jon declares he’s going, too. Dany has an expression and tries to order Jon not to go, which doesn’t work because she’s not the queen of him, so she’s forced to “allow” it.

Before they can go, though, they have to make sure they won’t be murdered as soon as they approach King’s Landing. Tyrion and Davos plan to make a run to King’s Landing to talk to Jaime so he can talk to Cersei. At some point off screen, Tyrion makes contact with Bronn (who hauled Jaime out of the incredibly deep water like it was nothing, so they're both fine), who brings Jaime down into the dragon skull dungeon to meet with Tyrion. They yell at each other a bit, with Tyrion still pathologically incapable of taking responsibility for his actions, but manages to convince Jaime. Meanwhile, Davos goes to Flea Bottom and finds Gendry right back where he started, making weapons and armor in the Street of Steel. Davos makes a joke about Gendry still rowing, and no, I’m sorry, Dave Hill/Benioff & Weiss, you don’t get to borrow fan-made memes and frustration about a character just disappearing for several seasons and joke about it in-universe. Gendry’s totally ready to blow this popsicle stand and go anywhere with Davos, and he even made a warhammer with the Baratheon sigil on it because that’s not going to get you discovered and murdered in Cersei Lannister’s Westeros.

Davos and Gendry head back to the boat and Davos manages to pay off a couple of Gold Cloaks (hi again, Kevin Eldon!) for thirty gold dragons (do the writers have any idea how much money that actually is? Or that Westeros has more currency than gold?) and a bite of fermented crab (eeeew). But when Tyrion shows up, no amount of bribe is going to work and Gendry’s forced to cave their heads in with the hammer. Back at Dragonstone, Gendry volunteers for wight duty and Davos is exasperated that nobody’s listening to him about how dangerous and stupid this is.

Jaime takes Tyrion’s proposal to Cersei, who of course already knew about it because Qyburn’s got Varys’ little birds (we see Qyburn muttering at her a couple of times this episode but I wish we saw more kids just lurking in the background of places). Cersei asks if he’s going to punish Bronn for setting up the meeting, then tells Jaime they have to be smart and protect their family because she’s pregnant and . . . um. . . .

You’ll be queen, for a time. Until comes another, younger and more beautiful to cast you down and take all you hold dear. [. . .] The king will have twenty children. You will have three. Gold will be their crowns, gold their shrouds. (Maggy, 5.1 “The Wars to Come”)

I mean, the show left out the whole valonquar part of the prophecy, but this was the prophecy. So either Cersei’s lying, or the showrunners decided the prophecy doesn’t matter anymore because Cersei blew up the Sept and rid herself of the “younger and more beautiful” queen (assuming you believe the queen of the prophecy is Margaery and not Daenerys).

Over in Oldtown, Sam’s having a massive crisis of conscience over the efficacy and priorities of the Citadel. Bran sent the warning about the Night King to them, too, and they of course don’t believe it. (They also haven’t told him that his father and brother were killed, which would make him the heir to Horn Hill if he hadn’t taken the black, but since they had him steal the family sword, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up being lord of Horn Hill by the end of the series.) That evening (ish, again, the timing is all weird), Sam’s doing his homework while Gilly (who continues to be an adorable ray of sunshine in this dark show) flips through the journal of a long-dead High Septon and discovers that he issued an annulment and immediate remarriage to someone named “Prince Ragger.” Sam skips right over this bit of super important information (which you can’t really blame him for; he doesn’t know any of the drama surrounding Jon’s parentage) and yells at Gilly about how useless the maesters are. She gives him a verbal pat on the head, and then he goes and raids the restricted section of the library and they leave Oldtown entirely.

So, what exactly did Sam going down there accomplish? He healed Jorah—okay. He discovered the mountain of dragonglass under Dragonstone, oh wait no, he already knew about that. He completely ignored a massive piece of the Jon Snow puzzle. And then he left, having apparently failed to learn anything about the Long Night or how to completely destroy the Night King or recruit the maesters to help. It feels like Benioff & Weiss sent him down there because Martin sent him down there, then didn’t know what to do with him once he was there (we didn’t even get the reveal from the end of A Feast for Crows that the maesters are the ones who destroyed the dragons the first time around and they work to keep magic out of the world), so they had him take care of a couple of other people’s storylines and then come back.

Speaking of not knowing what to do with characters who aren’t Jon Snow or Daenerys, there’s a stupid amount of intrigue and cattiness going on at Winterfell because nobody knows what to do with Sansa and Arya. Arya has, for some reason, decided that Sansa’s working to overthrow Jon and set herself up as Queen in the North, despite Sansa smacking down even the rumble of that idea when the northern lords bring it up. She’s also mad at Sansa for taking Ned and Cat’s chamber, claiming that Sansa always liked nice things because they made her feel better than everyone else. She claims Sansa’s thinking about the possibility that Jon won’t come back and she’ll get to be Queen, which considering that Sansa apparently hasn’t heard from Jon since he left is a reasonable thing to be thinking about, not as evil as Arya’s making it out to be.

Arya then spends some time stalking Petyr, who leads her to Sansa’s season-one letter to Robb asking him to swear fealty to Joffrey. Dun dun duuuuuuun.

The end of the episode finally explains why it has the title it does as Jon, Davos, Jorah, and Gendry get to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. Tormund is deeply unhappy with the whole plan (and that Brienne didn’t come along), but tells them they’re not the only stupid ones and takes them to the cells, where he’s got Beric, Thoros, and Sandor locked up. Gendry doesn’t want to trust them, but Jon says they’re all on the side of the living. So seven named characters and a handful of wildling redshirts head north on the stupidest mission to date. This is a worse idea than Craster’s Keep and Hardhome combined. Let’s see how it plays out.

Next week: I told you this idea was stupid. Arya gets incredibly creepy. Dragons and ravens can fly at supersonic speeds.

Randyll Tarly
Rickon Tarly
Unnamed Gold Cloaks

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