Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 5 Deconstructed

by: Geoffrey Golia and Michael Shields

The calm after the (fire)storm was anything but, as alliances were formed, plans hatched, and secrets revealed in the latest Game of Thrones entitled “Eastwatch”…

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MCS.: Let me start by stating how excited I was for this episode in particular, as I am such a fan of the episodes that come in the wake of the epic moments and battles on Game of Thrones. There is something so special about the regrouping that occurs in the episodes when the dust (ashes in this case!) finally settles. I loved the episode entitled “Valar Morghulis” (where Sam came face to face with the Army of the White Walkers and Daenerys seals Xaro Xhoan Daxos in his vault!) that took place immediately following the Battle of Blackwater, and I was taken by “Mysha” which walked us through the aftermath of “The Red Wedding.” “The Children” which followed “Watchers on The Wall” (a stunner, where the wildlings assaulted Castle Black) was wholly captivating and found Jon meeting with Mance Rayder, Tyrion taking out Tywin with a crossbow, and Brienne and the Hound facing off in dramatic fashion. And “The Dance of Dragons” which followed the Night King’s strike on Hardhome featured Shireen’s deeply troubling sacrifice and Dany being rescued from the Sons of the Harpy in the stadium of Daznak’s Pit by Jorah and Drogon (who wasn’t done torching Lannister soldiers we found out this week – we hardly knew ya Dickon!). So, “the one” after “the one” has always been special in my book, and now in this week’s episode “Eastwatch” we learned that Jaime is still alive and we witnessed how Westeros reacted to the knowledge that Dany and her dragons are real and aren’t fucking around. What are your initial thoughts on the fallout, particularly Cersei’s stubbornness…and well…her big news!!!?

G.G.: I’ve been going over potential baby names for Cersei and Jaime’s new bundle of ambivalence since Sunday night: Shaime, perhaps? Bronnda, if it’s a girl? Dickon, just because? Donald? Goffrey? Nevermind…the choices are endless, and, honestly, who saw that coming from Cersei? Notwithstanding the paucity of family planning options in Westeros, carrying and birthing a child while fighting a multifront global and existential conflict is a risky strategy, let alone having that child be the product of incest. But, I mean, who can blame Cersei for thinking about the future of House Lannister?

Speaking of the future of Great Houses (and other things I did not see coming), let’s talk about Dickon Tarly. To begin with, in the books, Dickon is one of four (yes, four!) Dickons mentioned. There’s also Dickon Frey, Dickon Morrigen, and my favorite, Dickon Manwoody. Additionally, Dickon T. does not show up in any of the Point of View chapters except when mentioned by Sam. Yet, we know that he’s an important character because his mere existence allows Randyll, their Lord Dad (who’s about as likeable as a Republican congressman), to pass over Sam, the squeamish and bookish first-born son, in favor of Dickon, who is younger but oh so robust. Thus, Sam heads to the Wall, and Dickon is set to inherit Horn Hill and his dad’s lordship. Of course, we know that Sam is making history and giving zero fucks, while Dickon – at least in the show – is toast. So a few questions remain, chiefly: Why introduce such a sexy babe and then kill him? Many fans were like, “Well, he’s a goddamn hunk so I’ll get over his unfortunate name” and just as they were about to make adorable Dickon collages, he chooses honor and immolation, along with his Lord Dad, by Drogon. Why? It couldn’t be merely comic-relief.

One answer could be that the conflicts in Game of Thrones, like Dany’s invasion, often result in the murder and extinction of old, established Houses who happened to have picked the wrong side. There are many examples, a few of which are known even to the most casual show-watchers: the Reynes of Castamere, the Tarbecks, and House Hollard, just to name a few. There is something visceral and sad about extinction, yet it also makes way for something new. Dany’s war, and the war against the Others, will probably mark a new era in Westeros, and the end of House Tarly, and dreamy Dickon, was merely a dramatic example of that process.

The other questions is: Does Sam eventually come back to Horn Hill and take his Lordship back, which was his birthright? He has Heartsbane, the Tarly family Valyrian steel sword, though we can be reasonably sure he stole it so he could fight the Others more effectively. If he survives that conflict, it would be kind of sweet for him to return to his home with Lady Gilly and Sam Jr. and become a just and competent liege for the municipality.

Aside from baby Shaime and “Dickon’s demise,” I think what we saw, and what we’re in for during the next two episodes, is less a “fallout” than some sort of detente, which interestingly enough makes sense, though this also seems out of left field. Given the sometimes inane strategic decisions that are made, which result in senseless and horrible tragedies, only after which some kind of peace is established, it looks like Cersei, Jon, and Dany are all prematurely looking for at least a temporary end to hostilities. Clearly, I’m not holding my breath, as I don’t think Cersei can act in good faith given her Scaramucci-esque paranoia, but it would be startling if the major players hit “pause” on the Game of Thrones.

MCS: Jon mentioned the other week how Eastwatch was the closest castle to Hardhome (where they last saw the Army of the White Walkers), and upon the revelation of the title of this week’s episode we could assume things were going to go down at Eastwatch. What can you tell us about Eastwatch first of all, and also when the episode’s title was revealed I began to think about Tormund (who amazingly is asking Jon about “the Big Lady”!!). By episodes end Jon, Jorah (with a full head of hair), Gendry “hammer time” Baratheon, the Hound, Beric Dondarrion, and Thoros of Myr are heading north of The Wall. What do you think of  “Wight Team 6”’s (#Squadgoals) scheme to catch a White Walker in an attempt to prove to Cersei of their existence? This plan is surely too big to fail, right?  

G.G.: I can’t tell if this rag-tag bunch of grizzled warriors is more like The Expendables or the Space Cowboys…not that I saw any of those movies, but I imagine films like this are produced as a way for older dudes to live vicariously through tough, commonsensical characters whose life experience helps them show young whippersnappers who’s boss. And, now that I think about it, while I’m happy to take a dig on all those lame Boomers, I guess I was just taken by the lame trope that is a group of white dudes setting off on a violent adventure together where they all have their unique talents and skills and will face tremendous odds to prove to the world they were right all along.

As for Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, it is one of the three castles still “manned” by the Night’s Watch. For decades up until the events of the series, the Night’s Watch has been diminishing in both honor and manpower. It is said that at the time of Aegon’s Conquest, the Night’s Watch had a force of approximately ten thousand men, utilizing all of the castles and towers between the Shadow Tower in the west, Castle Black in the middle, and Eastwatch in the east. At that time, they could boast great fighters and knights, and there was still some honor in joining. When Jon took the black, the Night’s Watch had dwindled to about one thousand men. Of these thousand, six hundred were stationed at Castle Black, two hundred at the Shadow Tower, and fewer at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, with the rest of the castles long abandoned. Along with the diminution of manpower, the prestige of the Wall has also declined. It is now considered little more than a penal colony, where those convicted of crimes can escape death or dismemberment in exchange for a lifetime of service.

Located on the Bay of Seals, Eastwatch is both a castle and a port, and the main conduit for trade, communication, and transportation from the Wall to the eastern coast of Westeros, Skagos, and Essos. As such, it keeps several ships for various uses, including launching the ill-fated rescue mission to Hardhome, which is not that far away. In the show, Jon goes himself, and while it is ultimately a tremendous waste of time and manpower, at least we get to see Jon kill an Other with his cool sword. In the books, the situation is far more troubling. Here’s an excerpt from a message Jon receives from Cotter Pyke who, in the books, is sent to save the Wildlings at Hardhome:

“At hardhome with six ships. Wild seas. Blackbird lost with all hands, two Lyseni ships driven aground on Skane, Talon taking water. Very bad here. Wildlings eating their own dead. Dead things in the woods. Braavosi captains will only take women, children on their ships. Witch women call us slavers. Attempt to take Storm Crow defeated, six crew dead, many wildlings. Eight ravens left. Dead things in the water. Send help by land, seas wracked by storms. From Talon, by hand of Maester Harmune.”

My prediction is, they’ll get their ice-zombie, one or two of the Brotherhood will die, and given his hatred for fire, maybe Sandor Clegane will decide to stay at the Wall?

MCS: What was Littlefinger up to? He was obviously playing Arya – leading her to a letter that Sansa once wrote (under much duress – unbeknownst to Arya!) that could potentially divide the Starks, a letter which urged Robb to bend the knee before Joffrey. I have heard there is mention of this note in the books. Learn us about this correspondence and its possible repercussions, if you could GOTGuru…

G.G.: You’re right to say that this letter was written under duress. In the books, she actually writes four letters (it’s like the “Dickon Rule of Fours”): one to Catelyn, one to Robb, one to her Aunt Lysa in the Eyrie, and another to her grandfather Hoster Tully, Lord of Riverrun. And while we’re all like, “Oh, yeah, that looks pretty bad right now,” it isn’t hard to think about a young teenager, fearing for her father’s life as well as her own, trying to do what she is being told is the right thing to do. Nothing about Sansa’s education up until then had prepared her for power politics. She was raised on the mythology of courtly love, and sought to play out that fantasy with Joffrey. Her relationship with Arya was very contentious, and the highest authority in the land was commanding her to convince her family to bend the knee.

Arya’s not stupid, and while she may be walking into Littlefinger’s trap (although I don’t believe this), it doesn’t take an Archmaester to figure that Arya will see her way out, find a way to trust her sister again, and maybe kill Littlefinger in some really satisfying way. Bran might even take a break from listening to New Order long enough to help…

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MCS: Drogon seemed to like Jon a little bit (and it appears Dany will miss Jon some – “I’ve’ grown used to him”). Anything to take away from this meeting between man and beast? AND – more importantly – Gilly’s talk about annulments led us into a revelation (it seems) that Rhaegar married Lyanna Stark. So, wait…umm…does this mean that Jon is not even a bastard?? Does this also maybe mean that Jon is a legit Targaryen and potentially a legitimate heir because as a male in this misogynist world, his Iron Throne claim would trump Dany’s? My head is spinning. Help.

G.G.: I think the only way you can interpret these two sequences is that Jon is Rhaegar’s true-born, legitimate son. Having had his marriage to Elia Martell annulled (with whom he had two children), Rhaegar seems to have married Lyanna Stark, and together they had a son. It’s worth considering Rhaegar’s belief in prophecy, which most likely led to this series of events. Here’s the deal: Rhaegar believed in the prophecy of “The Prince who was Promised,” whose song is that of “ice and fire.” It is said that Rhaegar initially thought that he was the Prince, then claimed that perhaps his son Aegon was (I won’t get into the books and “Faegon” and all that stuff). All of a sudden, his connection with Lyanna Stark doesn’t seem so random, given that Rhaegar was continually looking to fulfill the prophecy. It makes sense that he would go as far as divorcing his wife and alienating her powerful kingdom to make the PWWP a reality. And, all things considered, Jon is a really good candidate for the “song of ice and fire” piece, which means he could be the PWWP. Or maybe Dany is the Prince(ss), and Jon is her “song”…corny, I know, but maybe!

Regardless of prophecy, one thing is pretty certain — if Rhaegar did get an annulment, legitimately married Lyanna, and produced a child, which is Jon, he would most likely be the legitimate heir, even if primogeniture were not the Targaryen and Westerosi custom…because Dany is not his sister, she is his aunt, which makes her claim far less strong than his. When she was the “last Targaryen,” her claim was solid. I fear the only way she will be able to assert any independent claim, after the news spreads of Jon’s real identity, is through conquest or marriage. And I think we’re getting hints, implicitly through the very erotic, non-sexual threesome Dany and Jon had with Drogon, and explicitly, when she basically told him she’s caught feelings for him in front of everyone!

On another note…I feel like I have to ask this: When will Jorah realize Jon has his family’s Valyrian steel sword, and will he ask for it back? It’s like a double insult — Ned Stark, who acted as a father to Jon, basically exiles Jorah from Westeros (he was supposed to execute him, but Jorah split), then Jorah’s dad gives Jon his sword…and now Jon is about to make love to Jorah’s number one crush. Rough stuff!

Join us next week for ATM’s Deconstruction of Episode 6, “Beyond the Wall.”

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