-SPOILERS! A discussion of Season 7, Episode 5.
After Dany burns down apart an entire Lannister supply line in an epic action scene, the show takes a step back and gives us more of a setup episode before the end.
In the Reach:
After seeing Jaime sink for several seconds in the last shot of the previous episode, this episode opens with Bronn dragging him from the water, unharmed. There is very little continuation here, and it’s a very poor edit. The showrunners clearly liked the shot of Jaime sinking in the water because of his armor, but fell too much in love with it, as this episode starts with him being entirely fine. It’s a bit of a problem, but it’s clear that the writers felt that he has more story arc left, and needed to save him. The way that it was done, however, was problematic and represents a growing number of small mistakes that the show is making because of its need to wrap up their story-lines. I’ll talk more about how I feel that the show is getting rushed later. On Bronn’s advise, Jaime arrives back in King’s Landing to tell Cersei about what he just witnessed.
While Bronn and Jaime get away after their near-drowning, the Tarly’s and some of the main Lannister soldiers have been rounded up by the Dothraki to be taken in front of Dany. It seems her ideological leanings have done a nice job combining that of being more ruthless as Olenna Tyrell suggested and more timid and people-friendly like Tyrion has suggested. She tells that them that she wishes to “break the wheel” but also tells them that they will not be prisoners, they should bend the knee or die. The soldiers decide to submit, giving Dany control of the Reach once again, and she does burn Randyll and Dickon Tarly alive for not submitting. With the Tarlys and the Tyrells out of the picture, it’s unclear who will rise up and command the now defected soldiers. Randyll’s rationale for not liking Dany is based on the propaganda that Cersei fed all her supporters, that she’s bringing foreign invaders and savages to their country.
In King’s Landing:
Jaime arrives back at the Red Keep to tell Cersei that they have no chance against Dany. Cersei initially suggests getting some foreign sellswords after their allegiance with the Iron Bank has been solidified, but Jaime bluntly tells her the truth: Dany destroyed their supplies and killed/captured a large number of their soldiers with only one dragon. She has two more fully-grown ones. Jaime also proposes an armistice, and to align with Tyrion, finally revealing that he had nothing to do with Joffrey’s murder. Cersei, in her stubornness, does not listen.
Instead, Bronn arranges a meeting between Tyrion and Jaime to do exactly that, and Jaime and Tyrion have an excellent, emotional scene together after not having seen each other since Season 4. Tyrion states that he killed their father because he was going to have him executed, and this cuts Jaime deep, knowing that he can’t forgive his brother for killing their father, but that he likely understands. He says that Dany will accept a surrender under certain terms.
When Jaime later goes to speak to Cersei about the meeting with Tyrion, which she knew about from Qyburn’s spy network, Cersei agrees that a tentative arrangement with Dany may be the right choice for them. This subplot about aligning and facing the dead together was a huge surprise, and a potential alliance with Cersei is only another mistake that Tyrion has made on Dany’s behalf, mainly because we know after seven seasons that they cannot trust Cersei. I will say that the show’s writing improved with this episode after the intrigue was really toned down in the more epic-filmed sixth and seventh seasons so far. My guess is that their war will end, but that the Lannisters will die a bit differently than expected. Also, Cersei reveals she’s pregnant, and there’s no way that the child gets born. The prophesy said that Cersei will bear three children, and that all three would predecease her. I think she dies before then, and it’s possible that it will be by Jaime’s hand, who they have only continued to slather guilt onto as he realizes more and more how evil his girlfriend/sister is.
In Dragonstone (and also in King’s Landing):
Dany arrives back from the battle on Drogon and lands in the grounds next to the castle, where Jon Snow is brooding and looking out on the sea. This may have been the episode’s best scene, where Jon takes off his glove and pets Drogon who does a full appraisal of him and clearly treats him differently than he would a complete stranger, sensing his Targaryen heritage. This episode is littered with an almost teary-eyed Dany fawning over Jon, mainly because he’s the perfect person to join her side. She asks about the knife he took to the heart (which will be a big reveal to her), and I wonder if there’s any chance that she pulls off the rescue mission with her dragons after his little expedition North (i’ll get there in a second) goes sourly. Also, it’s possible Jon really is the Prince Who Was Promised, and there’s a whole subset about Rhaegar’s parentage that I want to get into later in this review, but my guess is that the only person Dany would accept being a stronger claimant than her would be Jon, because she’s going to fall in love with him.
A marriage alliance makes too much sense for the two, mainly because of their positions as King in the North and the most powerful claimant to the Iron Throne, but also because that’s the only way Jon’s people would honor a Targaryen being an ally. Plus, Targaryens breed together in order to pass some of the special power-ups that their blood gives, like the whole dragon-whisperer and heat insensitivity thing. It would be very traditional for them to get together in the GOT world, even if she’s his aunt. (I think they’re essentially the same age, or she’s one year younger). Part of me wonders if Jon’s parentage will be leaked as a detriment to him by someone like Littlefinger, basically saying that the North trusted the wrong person, or if it will be leaked to get Jon out of the Northern lords being pissed off that he wants to be with Dany. He could say something like: “I’m a Targaryen and none of ya’ll think I’m crazy.” We’ll see where their relationship goes, but I really like how they’ve grown it over these last 4 episodes.
We also get our return of Jorah, who flings himself right into her service again. Jorah will likely die protecting her, and will happy doing it. The show took someone who was exiled for being impure and turned him into the purest character in the show, motivated only by his faith and love for Danaerys. We also get the Tyrion/Varys scene of them being worried about Dany’s burning of the Tarlys. They are very worried she will become crazed like the Mad King, but I honestly agree with her more than with Tyrion’s strategy. The timidness has cost them time and allies, and she’s right to say that sometimes power is terrible. She has to be somewhat of a conqueror to purge Westeros of their traditional family politics. It doesn’t make her a bad person or a bad leader to want to kill her enemies. I think even Jon understands the necessity of this as a war hero, while Tyrion and Varys are a bit naive as to how this war actually will work, motivated by principle and cleverness, but misunderstanding how force should be used.
The scroll that Tyrion hands Varys is a letter from Winterfell that the new Maester scribed on Bran’s advise, letting them know of the White Walker army marching on Eastwatch, the northern/eastern most castle on the Wall. This is why they decide to go to King’s Landing, Tyrion must set up a meeting with Jaime and negotiate an armistice on the fighting to deal with the dead (Cersei says yes in order to undermine Dany from the inside as I stated above), but they also need to get proof. Dany and her allies send Tyrion into the capital with Davos, a known smuggler who knows the secret passages, and while Tyrion meets with Jaime as I had mentioned, Davos goes an recruits Gendry from his old armorer’s job in King’s Landing. With all of the Dragonglass, they need a good armorer to affix it into weapons, so they have him, plus when he meets Jon, it’s a nice bastardly bond about how Ned and Robert fought as allies, and now their bastards should as well. Gendry uses a war hammer to fight, which is a callback to how Robert fought in the rebellion, and how he crushed in Rhaegar’s breastplate during the Battle of the Trident.
They decide to gather proof to lay at Cersei’s feet to show her that the threat is real, and that the Game of Thrones must end at least for the time being to protect all of humanity. They want to bring one wight back with them as a prisoner to show them, so Jon, Jorah, and Gendry head North to Eastwatch to run a secret mission North of the Wall to capture a wight and bring it back to the Seven Kingdoms. They can use it as proof to convince Cersei, but little do they know that she’s accepting it for the ability to beat Dany from the inside, not of any general concern for the realm. Dany is upset that Jon is leaving, a little frustrated that he would decide to go on this suicide mission himself as King in the North.
When the letter about the dead marching on Eastwatch reaches the Maesters, they greet it with skepticism, further insulting Sam Tarly’s belief that they should reach out to the kingdoms and convince everyone to take proper precautions. That night, while with Gilly, he grows tired of reading useless information instead of working on what Jon had tasked him to do, so they decide to leave, with his parting words being that he’s tired of reading about the achievements of better men, showing that some of the advice his crazy father Randyll Tarly gave him may have been true. Sam does not know that his father and brother were killed.
While reading, Gilly makes a huge discovery about Rhaegar Targaryen annulling his marriage to Elia Martell, and getting remarried (obviously to Lyanna Stark) in Dorne. This is big information for a few reasons…
In the books, it’s shown that Rhaegar was a strong believer in the Lord of Light, and followed his prophesies, presumably realizing the need to create The Prince Who Was Promised to save the realm from the White Walkers. It’s also a well-known Targaryen tradition that the dragon riders come in packs of three, like when Aegon first came to the seven kingdoms with his two sisters. (Look at their family tree, their kids come in packs of three: like Rhaegar, Viserys, and Daenerys). Rhaegar married Elia Martell and had two children with her, but the second pregnancy left her unable to bear any additional children. This is why the marriage was annulled and the ceremony was held in Dorne, it seems likely that Elia remained loyal to Rhaegar and allowed him to remarry in order to ensure the third child was not a bastard. She likely also believed in the three dragon riders theory as well. It also seems to be that the Prince Who Was Promised myth may overlap with the Ice and Fire myth, which is clearly what Rheagar believed. Thinking he needed a third child to fulfill the dragon riders and one of fire and ice to fulfill the Prince prophesy, he wed Lyanna Stark to make a child of fire and ice, which is obviously Jon Snow. It only makes it more likely that Jon is the chosen one and not Daenerys. However, Elia and Rhaegar’s two children were murdered by the Mountain during the end of Robert’s Rebellion, when the Lannisters turned on the Targaryen’s and held King’s Landing open for the taking. Although we have our Prince Who Was Promised, the son of Ice and Fire, Jon does not have two other dragon riders as half-siblings. Dany seems a good enough substitute, as she is essentially the dragon’s mother, is of Targaryen heritage, and has more experience with them than Jon. It’s possible Drogon, as the leader, will defect to Jon, or maybe one of the other dragons will start responding to him. Dany can ride any of them, so if Drogon prefers Jon, maybe she just slides over and takes a back seat. As I said before, she may be willing out of love for him. The third rider is a bigger problem, it’s possible that one of the dragons dies and becomes a white walker, but if we need a third rider there are only a few candidates: Tyrion, The Hound, or maybe Jaime Lannister himself? Either way, the annulment is a huge deal because it means that Jon comes before Dany in terms of the primogeniture bloodline as Rhaegar’s son. I’d always assumed he was a bastard either way, but he’s not, and this only further incentives Dany to marry him. (There’s a whole idea that Tyrion is also a secret Targaryen, the product of Aerys Targaryen having sex with Joanna Lannister while Tywin was away, but we’ll see. The show hasn’t really hinted at it, although Tyrion has had contact with the dragons before. It could also be as simple as this: if the third dragon that would be his does die, then maybe he dies shortly after in an unrelated incident almost as if it’s fate. It’s the same reason why I don’t trust Sansa with the other Starks, her direwolf was the first to die, and she seems ready to betray Jon and Arya and any moment. Bran’s wolf died, and he tells us that he isn’t really a Stark every episode. Sansa really isn’t one, either.)
This story-line starts with Bran seeing the army of the dead moving south towards the Eastwatch castle. The scroll that the Maester sends out on Bran’s word is referenced in a few other locations, as I said before.
Sansa is dealing with Northern and Eastern Lords (from the Vale) complaining about Jon disappearing South, saying essentially that Sansa should just be the permanent ruler. Arya is frustrated with Sansa not defending Jon, and they have a fight with Arya questioning Sansa’s motives, and that she still thinks she’s better than the other Starks by being more proper. Sansa is disturbed by Arya’s angry, homicidal streak, and tries to explain to her that she needs to be diplomatic. Arya leaves by saying that she knows that Sansa desires power. Arya appears to be getting at what I’ve been worried about since Sansa got to Winterfell, which is that she’s secretly more loyal to Littlefinger and ruling the North or even the entire Kingdom than representing her family.
Sensing this, Arya begins following Littlefinger, who clearly has some shady deals going down after realizing he can’t really fuck with Bran or Arya. He plants a scroll in his bedroom, knowing she’ll break in, which is the scroll Sansa sent to Robb in Season One, asking him to bend the knee to Joffrey in order to save their father’s life. It was at Cersei’s insistence, and Ned was a prisoner, but Arya may misunderstand it, and this plotline ends with Littlefinger smirking to himself. This story-line between Arya, Sansa, Littlefinger, and even Bran, will come to a head son, and it’s gonna be wild.
Our characters can now fast-travel across the continent (it sucks to lose the episodes of travel and banter like we’re used to, but with limited episodes left, I’m okay with the pace picking up and time being relaxed. We get a travel mission done in one episode that would’ve taken three or four previously).
Jon, Jorah, and Gendry arrive to Eastwatch, where Jon had left Tormund in charge, who is pissed that Jon would risk himself in another raid beyond the Wall. Either way, those four meet three Eastwatch prisoners, Beric, The Hound, and Thoros, who we saw earlier this season, to form our Magnificent Seven for the mission. This is such an interesting cast of characters, and I love how they all can be mad at each other on the surface level.
Tormund can hate Jorah because Jorah’s father Jeor Mormont was Commander of the Night’s Watch and crushed wildling forces for years. Beric can hate the Hound because the Hound killed him earlier in the show, and the Hound’s brother raided Beric’s lands after Tyrion was captured in Season One. Jorah and Thoros know each other from their old travels, as Thoros is from Myr over in Essos. Gendry hates Beric and Thoros because of the trouble he’s had with the Brotherhood selling him to Melisandre, who wanted to sacrifice him and performed those leech experiments on him. It’s a wild group, but I’m excited. The episode ends with them heading North of the Wall.
Also, I went back and revisited the earlier episodes, and here are my revised scores:
-The Queen’s Justice, (A-)
-The Spoils of War, (A+)