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Game of Thrones – Eastwatch episode review

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As Game of Thrones continues its race against the clock to wrap up its narrative, it’s becoming increasingly clear what kind of show it has morphed into. Last week was a brilliant showcase of what it can do better than any other TV show has before.

But Eastwatch is an inelegant instalment that purely serves as a bridge between last week’s fireworks and next week’s wight hunt. There’s a good deal of fun and humour to be found (unsurprising considering director Matt Shakman is a veteran of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) in what is essentially a heist planning episode, but little of real substance.

The show long abandoned any pretence of trying to keep a consistent sense of distance between locations, but now it appears they’ve completely forsaken any notion whatsoever that the audience cares about physical coherency. 

Two characters were placed within earshot of each other in the previous episode, yet now when they need to meet the most obvious path is ignored and the strangest roundabout route concocted.

The supposed cliffhanger from last week was Jaime’s deep descent into the river after being pushed in from the shore. Just as expected, he emerges unscathed – not captured but washed up a kilometre down the static river.

Tyrion is probably the most wanted man in the Seven Kingdoms, and perhaps the most instantly recognisable, yet he single-handily manages to infiltrate the Red Keep by somehow contacting Bronn and with the explicit knowledge of the sister who has vowed revenge against him.

It’s this kind of nonsensical plotting which makes you realise the writers are more concerned with the show making sense emotionally, rather than intellectually. The best summation of this disregard is Davos’ reunion with Gendry (slightly spoiled by Joe Dempsie’s appearance in the opening credits). There’s no need for subtlety, subterfuge or delicate exposition, just pick up the warhammer and let’s go!

The tidbit of information that Gilly finds hidden amongst the Maesters reports on stair counts and bowel movements reveals another key clue to Jon’s parentage. It was already confirmed he is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, but the throwaway reference to the latter’s annulment and secret remarriage confirms that Jon has a legal claim to being a Targaryen.

This, coupled with Jon’s petting of Drogon, is another big hint that he soon will have a dragon of his very own to ride around. Given the Targaryen fondness for incest, it adds even more credence to the Jon-Daenerys budding romance that would also handily side-step the need for him to bend the knee.

Technically, since he would be a legitimate son of the crown prince, he would have the strongest legal claim to the Iron Throne – even more so than Daenerys. However, the show has always clearly shown that the rules of succession in Westeros can be flexible – Robert’s was based on his military might, Joffrey and Tommen because their family manipulated enough support for them and Cersei doesn’t really have any particular blood claim at all.

The relationship between Sansa and Arya has deteriorated exceptionally quickly, with little real cause. It appears that Sansa’s moves and words to maintain the attendant lords’ support seem wholly appropriate and rational. Arya is accusing her of “always liking nice things” and ensuring the family has support in the event Jon doesn’t return; neither of which strike as obvious disloyalty. 

The cat and mouse spy game between Littlefinger and Arya was a little silly, though the planting of Sansa’s message to her brother Robb from all the way back in season one was a nice little throwback moment.

The execution of Randyll and Dickon Tarly makes little strategic sense. Daenerys burns away important hostages who are useful bargaining chips and, while they remain alive, ensure the support of their men. “Bend the knee or die” is an effective strategy to subdue foes when you’ve got three dragons at your back, but turning foes into friends is another matter entirely.

The appropriateness of such a move used to be what the show was preoccupied with exploring, whether it was Robb Stark executing Richard Karstark, Jon Snow with Janos Slynt and the Night Watch traitors, Daenerys with the Masters of Meereen, or Ned Stark in the very first episode. The ethics of Daenerys’ execution of Randyll and Dickon Tarly is only briefly pondered over by Tyrion and Varys, and in comparison to those prior deaths, it seems unlikely this will have any lasting consequences.

Game of Thrones has become the Hollywood summer blockbuster of premium television drama. It’s basically Fast and the Furious with dragons instead of cars. It’s still full of memorable characters, witty one-liners and wildly entertaining action scenes, but as soon as you think about any of the plots points too logically the whole narrative immediately starts shaking on its very flimsy base.

And kind of like the Furious franchise, each year it just seems to get more crazy, more entertaining and more popular. Eastwatch isn’t really a bad episode, but it does make you wish the writers paid as much attention to logic as they do explosions.

2 responses to “Game of Thrones – Eastwatch episode review

  1. The issue with Jon isn’t that he might have a legal claim to be King, it’s that he has *always been the King* in the Targaryen succession.

    The reason the KingsGuard were at the Tower of Joy is because in their mind they were guarding the new King, who we know as Jon Snow.

  2. It just seemed like they were trying to cram more into this episode than most 2-3 episode sequences from past series. Not only did they gloss over the difficulties of actually getting Tyrion into Kings Landing in the first place, but they achieved the complete return journey in about half an episode. With only 8 episodes in total to go this year and next, I hope this wasn’t indicative of a rush to the end, to the exclusion of actual plot development.

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