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“Eastwatch” picked up moments after the final scene of “The Spoils of War” as Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) emerged from the water that they dived into last week.

This was a fairly predictable way to open the episode but it was a well-acted scene, with Coster-Waldau and Flynn showcasing their chemistry and making it clear that their characters were processing what they had just witnessed. The pair were fully aware of the mess that they were in and as usual Jaime’s first thought was to warn Cersei (Lena Headey).

The only issue I had with this moment was that Drogon and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) had mysteriously wandered off so that they didn’t have to confront Jaime and Bronn. This didn’t make sense to me because Dany would likely have sought retribution against both men; the former because he killed her father and the latter because he shot Drogon with a ballista. Given what we know about Dany it wasn’t particularly believable that she immediately disregarded these indiscretions, and it was abundantly clear that the only reason she wasn’t around was so that the writers didn’t have to think of a way for her to civilly interact with Jaime.

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The next scene was also problematic but similarly entertaining as Daenerys addressed the soldiers that were left on the battlefield after her attack and tried to convince them to fight by her side. Her way of doing this was pretty simple as she offered them two alternatives: 1) follow and live; 2) refuse and die. Most of the nameless men went with option one, as any sensible person would do, but two underdeveloped side characters decided that they’d rather die with honour than support a foreign invader.

These two characters were Randyll and Dickon Tarly, (played by James Faulkner and Tom Hopper), and although they didn’t have enough time to fully explain their reasoning the writing for this scene was pretty good. Daenerys showcased both sides of her character by talking to the men with respect but executing them mercilessly. Rather than a traditional beheading Dany used Drogon to perform the execution, brutally burning Sam’s (John Bradley) brother and father alive in front of the remaining Lannister forces. This was an interesting and visually exciting moment with great CGI and cinematography, and by piggybacking on the success of last week’s final sequence it capped off an entertaining start to “Eastwatch”.

My only issue with this sequence was that Daenerys said that she was ‘not here to murder’, yet moments later she executed two people when she could’ve easily spared their lives. I understand that in her mind she may not think that what she did was murder because she offered both men a choice which would’ve allowed them to live, but that logic isn’t particularly sound and the scene would’ve been much cleaner if Dany hadn’t said the line. It may well be that this contradiction in Dany’s speech was intentional and designed to show her villainous side, but I still feel that the dialogue was slightly clumsy and didn’t help the scene as a whole.

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The episode then turned its attention from would-be queen to actual queen as Jaime abruptly returned to King’s Landing. Again I have to point out that the speed at which Jaime returned makes a mockery of the way that travel was depicted in earlier seasons of the show and breaks my immersion, but because I’ve made this criticism in every season seven review so far it would be excessive to go over it in detail again.

Jaime told Cersei what had happened and tried to make her realise that the Lannisters couldn’t win against the Dothraki and three fully grown dragons, and after doing this he explained that Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) played no part in Joffrey’s (Jack Gleeson) death. Upon this reveal Lena Headey portrayed Cersei’s anger perfectly; you could sense the internal rage that the character was feeling and it made you wonder whether or not she would take it out on someone else like Ellaria (Indira Varma).

I thought this was a good scene and there wasn’t a lot that I would change about it at all; the only thing that bothered me was that it came about a little too quickly and should’ve probably been saved for the next episode to compensate for the fact that Jaime had to travel back to King’s Landing.

Presumably it takes a certain amount of time to get from A to B so if you aren’t going to show the journey as it happens it’s quite difficult to know how long it took or how it relates to other moments happening on the show. This was less of an issue in “Eastwatch” because most of the characters involved in the battle for the Iron Throne ended up travelling around in a similar way to Jaime, but generally I think that this kind of disregard for the show’s timeline is a serious problem especially when you consider how often “Thrones” flits around geographically.

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After this scene the episode cut to Dragonstone for a less problematic depiction of travel. Here we saw Jon Snow (Kit Harington) standing on a clifftop looking into the distance, presumably awaiting Daenerys’ return. I’m not sure what to make of this scene personally because to me it felt quite cheap and almost manipulative, which is a common theme for season seven at least when Jon and Dany are together on screen. I watch their scenes and I enjoy them because I care about the characters and I want them to be allies, but the showrunners haven’t given the pair enough time this year to make their relationship feel earned or genuine. It’s almost like fan-fiction in a way because the scenarios that they find themselves in are specifically designed to make them like one another, thus making their relationship feel contrived and insincere.

Still, the scene itself was reasonably well executed. I thought the special effects were believable and to see Jon actually touch a dragon was a cool moment for book readers and casual fans alike, but it didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Why would Jon put his hand out to a dragon? He had no way of knowing how it would react to him and the novelty of the gesture wasn’t worth the risk. If he’s so desperate to stop the Night King (Richard Brake) and save his people then why would he put himself in a situation that could’ve resulted in being burned alive?

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Nevertheless, I did appreciate some of the dialogue in this scene, particularly when Dany compared Jon’s situation with the Boltons to hers with the Lannisters. Daenerys’ point was a good one and it helped to remind the audience that executing two soldiers wasn’t exactly the worst thing in the world compared to what Cersei and Tywin (Charles Dance) have done in the past. Despite the complaints that I’ve made this scene wasn’t awful by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just that its flaws particularly annoyed me.

For many people the issues that I’m raising won’t seem very important at all and I don’t expect that many people would’ve consciously thought about them during the scene, but the reason that I’m bringing them up is that almost every problem in season seven so far has stemmed from the fact that the writers don’t have a lot of time left to tell their story. My complaints about travel on the show are the most obvious examples of this but I also feel that some of the season’s clumsy dialogue and more insulting plot devices have come from the same issue.

In trying to allow characters to explain their motivations the writers consistently have them saying one thing but doing another. Sometimes this is intentional because “Thrones” is as much a character study as it is an action drama, or at least it tries to be, but it’s clear that on other occasions the writers just get it wrong. Plot devices like the cave drawings and the dragon accepting Jon so that Daenerys sides with him are cheap and idiotic, and they’re most definitely the result of the fact that there aren’t enough episodes left for characters to naturally come to the conclusions that they have to reach for the plot to progress. I’m sure that in an ideal world the writers would’ve spent five or six episodes building towards Dany and Jon finally getting on the same page, but the fact that they only have seven episodes to play with this time around has really hampered them.

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Jorah’s (Iain Glen) late entry into this scene didn’t do anything to improve it, although I suppose that the writers had to get it out of the way for the sake of next week’s episode. Jorah returned to tell Dany that he had found a cure; Dany readily accepted this information without proof or corroborating evidence which some might think was noble and sweet, but personally I found it baffling. The moment would’ve had just as much impact if Jorah had shown Dany his arm when telling her that he had been cured, and this would’ve eliminated any suggestion of Dany being naïve or stupid. I’m all for characters getting along and trusting one another but, much like Jon treating a dragon like a domesticated cat with a wild streak, this level of disregard for personal safety doesn’t mesh with Daenerys’ intentions as a character.

Next we saw the Night King and his army moving towards Eastwatch as Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) used his powers to keep an eye on the enemy. This was an okay scene and was mainly a way of transitioning to Old Town, but personally I thought that this could’ve been more successfully achieved by Jorah if he’d mentioned that Sam cured his greyscale. If the writers had gone about the transition in this way and omitted Bran’s scene then they could’ve used the extra time to develop a relationship between Jon and Jorah which, given where the plot is going, might’ve been a more productive use of this episode’s runtime. Jon could’ve been happy for Sam because he’d have known that he was safe and this reveal would’ve also made Daenerys realise that her actions earlier in the episode were somewhat hasty.

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When Sam did appear on our screens he was his usual know-it-all self. I don’t mean to be too critical of Sam as a character but for someone lacking self-confidence he really does value his own opinion doesn’t he? In this scene Sam’s warnings about the White Walkers once again fell on deaf ears, leaving him frustrated and jaded at the arrogance of the Maesters. This set-up another scene later in the episode in which Sam snapped at Gilly (Hannah Murray) for reading a book which just so happened to tell the story of Rhaegar’s secret marriage to Lyanna Stark. He then decided that it was time to leave The Citadel so that he could be more useful in the fight against the Night King and his army, thus making his time in Old Town feel utterly pointless. I’m glad that he’s going to do something different because his scenes at The Citadel have done nothing but stunt the pacing of season seven, but personally I wasn’t overly enamoured by either of these scenes.

Back at Dragonstone Tyrion and Varys (Conleth Hill) had a brief conversation about Daenerys, specifically her decision to execute Randyll and Dickon Tarly earlier in the episode. Jon then received word that Arya (Maisie Williams) and Bran were still alive, to which his reaction was disappointingly understated. The scene itself was intriguing because it was decided that Dany would forgo the fight for the Iron Throne for the time being in order to help Jon defeat the White Walkers, but Jon really should’ve been written to be more emotional when he found out that two of his siblings were still alive.

In order to give the realms of men the best chance against the Night King, Tyrion proposed that they should involve Cersei by bringing the dead to her as a way of proving the existence of the White Walkers. I didn’t expect this at all which made the scene a lot more enjoyable for me than perhaps it deserved to be, and I found the concept of bringing a wight to King’s Landing quite exciting.

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Unfortunately the next scene was, in my opinion, the least compelling of the episode. At Winterfell Sansa (Sophie Turner) was speaking with the Lords of the Northern Houses who were clearly tired of Jon’s absence. Their frustration was understandable but it’s perplexing to me that the show is so near to its conclusion and yet we have to endure such melodramatic nonsense. It still feels as though the end result of all of this will be Littlefinger’s (Aidan Gillen) demise, which will probably be very entertaining, but the build-up has been incredibly dull and frankly I’m just not interested in watching Arya and Sansa bicker.

A scene later in the episode at Winterfell was equally tedious as Arya followed Littlefinger to his chambers and found a note written by Sansa. Presumably this was the letter that Cersei forced Sansa to write in season one, with Littlefinger planting it in Arya’s path to cause a rift between the two Stark women. This might’ve been exciting if the storyline had been built over the course of a few episodes but at this point it feels rushed and I can’t take it seriously. If this storyline leads to anything other than Littlefinger’s death then I think that the build hasn’t been strong enough to justify the conclusion.

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Back in King’s Landing Tyrion’s plan to convince Cersei to focus on the fight against the White Walkers was put into practice. Davos (Liam Cunningham) smuggled him into the city, (again I had an issue with how quickly he was able to do this), and somehow Bronn had managed to arrange a secret meeting for him with Jaime. This was a good scene, albeit brief, and it was fun to see the two brothers speaking to one another again. I would’ve preferred the scene if Jaime had been slightly more outraged at his brother – patricide is still patricide regardless of your motivation – but I understand that Olenna’s (Diana Rigg) reveal in episode three was designed to make this conversation possible.

Whilst this was going on Davos was in Flea Bottom, and to my surprise he had his own meeting with Gendry (Joe Dempsie). I’m glad that the character is back on the show because it’s been a very long time and it would’ve been annoying on a re-watch of the series if he disappeared after season three. The fact that his weapon of choice was a war hammer was a nice touch given the fact that Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) used the same weapon in battle, and it was cool that Gendry teamed up with Jon later in the episode because their fathers fought together. Obviously Ned (Sean Bean) isn’t actually Jon’s father, but Jon doesn’t know that so this connection still has significance for the time being.

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via watchersonthewall.com

I also enjoyed the next scene because it reminded us that Davos is more than just a lackey for Jon Snow. Davos used his knowhow to talk his way out of trouble with the Gold Cloaks, something which he likely had to do many times when he was a smuggler, and it was a good scene for the character. However, it wasn’t such a good scene for Tyrion who inexplicably walked right past the Gold Cloaks and inadvertently caused their deaths. The only way to explain this behaviour from Tyrion is to say that the writers wanted to showcase Gendry’s fighting ability, which I understand, but this didn’t feel like something that Tyrion would do and made him feel like a plot device in this scene.

Elsewhere in King’s Landing Cersei had a shock for Jaime and I suspect for the audience as well. She told Jaime that she was carrying his child, to his surprise and delight, and explained that she wasn’t going to hide the fact that he was the father. This was interesting as far as the plot goes but something felt off about Cersei’s reveal. I think it was intentional and I wonder whether or not Cersei is trying to use her pregnancy to manipulate Jaime, or if she’s even pregnant at all, but at this point the situation isn’t clear enough to speculate on.

Either way I don’t think that Cersei will live long enough to have the child because Maggy the Frog’s (Jodhi May) prophecy only mentioned three children and it has been right up until this point. I still expect Jaime to kill Cersei and become the Queenslayer before the series is finished so this pregnancy feels as though it could cause a shift in allegiance for one reason or another, particularly with Euron (Pilou Asbæk) lurking somewhere in the background.

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When we visited Dragonstone for the final time in this episode we were treated to a series of interactions between characters such as Tyrion, Jorah, Jon, and Dany. I enjoyed seeing Tyrion and Jorah verbally joust again because I think that the actors play off one another quite well, and as I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion I think that Jon and Dany have a strong dynamic. My only issue with this scene was that the relationship between Jorah and Dany is now in a weird place to the extent that I don’t know what I’m supposed to take from their interactions. It seems like the narrative is progressing in such a way as to have Jon and Dany be involved romantically, so the intimacy of Jorah and Dany’s exchanges makes for uncomfortable viewing.

Finally, “Eastwatch” ended by setting up episode six as Jon, Jorah and Gendry left Dragonstone to head beyond the Wall. They ended up at Eastwatch, (as you’d expect given the title of this episode), where Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) was waiting for them and ready to fight by their side. He took them to see Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye) and the Hound (Rory McCann), all of whom had been locked in cells.

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This was an okay scene but for me there was too much exposition. Given that these characters have history with one another the writers felt the need to have them recap said history for the audience; Gendry expressed his disgust for the Brotherhood Without Banners for selling him to Melisandre (Carice van Houten), Tormund was unhappy at having to fight alongside a Mormont, and the Hound was just his usual surly self. I didn’t care for the dialogue in this scene at all because its purpose was too transparent, but at the same time it did make me interested to see what would happen next week so I can’t be too critical.

Overall, I thought this was a decent episode of “Thrones” but it was limited by the fact that there wasn’t a lot to get excited about. With the season already nearing its end this episode was less spectacular than its predecessors and was designed to set up the plot moving forward rather than be thrilling in its own right. This is fine by me and I was surprised by the direction of the narrative so I don’t feel the need to complain about a lack of action. I didn’t think that the dialogue was particularly inspired and because there was so much to get through some of the reveals lacked impact, but on the whole “Eastwatch” kept my attention and did its job by making me eager to tune in next week.

7/10

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