Game of Thrones: “Eastwatch” Season 7 Episode 5 Review

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Season seven of Game of Thrones feels different than any other season before it for a plethora of reasons. A lot of those reasons are good. There’s a shot of Jon, Dany, and Tyrion all in the same frame in “Eastwatch,” which in and of itself is very cool. Also, the budget HBO has allowed feels insane; the special effects on this show now rival that of any Marvel movie. But something has definitely been lost in this shorter episode number in terms of the season’s narrative arc. Much like the second episode of this season, “Eastwatch” throws a ton at us very quickly in order to get to the next “event” episode. To be clear, these “event” episode, while technically impressive, also move the narrative forward in astounding ways. They are the greatest showcase of Thrones’ blatantly cinematic directing and years worth of mythology starting to culminate. And in season seven, the number of “event” episodes has grown significantly, just by nature of the show entering its endgame. But the episodes in between have gotten worse, and “Eastwatch,” while full of worthwhile moments, too often feels like its hitting fast-forward to get to the next “Blackwater” or “Battle of the Bastards.”

Case in point, Davos travels from Dragonstone to King’s Landing, back to Dragonstone, and then finally north of the Wall in the span of this hour. On the way, he picks up Gendry, who’s been missing since season three and is immediately on board to fight the army of the dead. The writing does the bear minimum to successfully believe in who Gendry is at this point. The fact that we do is a testament to how good Game of Thrones is at its most careless. But this isn’t a show that used to be careless at all.

The narrative pivots in “Eastwatch” are swift and extreme. Jon gets a raven from Bran saying that the army of the dead is close to finding a way beyond the wall. The new plan is to capture a soldier in the army of the dead and bring it before Cersei, prompting her to join the fight against the White Walkers in the face of her crippling defeat to Daenerys at the end of last week’s episode. Great, this is an interesting and unexpected twist, and one that takes a secret meeting between Tyrion and Jaime to get it off the ground. But their meeting feels rushed. These two, who share a unique and special bond within the Lannister clan, haven’t seen each other since the close of season four, when Tyrion murdered their father. And here they are face-to-face, and we really don’t even get to see the full conversation. But Jaime appears to be at least a little on board with what Tyrion is proposing. Again, this is all over the span of one episode, which, had it been written into two, could have taken its time and wringed more emotion out of these complex reunions. So it feels like the show is sacrificing something by being very excited about its own ending (believe me, we all are too).

Again, what’s happening on the show itself doesn’t feel like it isn’t supposed to happen, but it does feel emotionally unearned. It’s undeniably exciting that we’re finally getting somewhere, and that’s what the show is thriving on right now, but far better episodes this season, and in the show’s long history, took the time needed to get us to feel something when events of this magnitude happened. There’s a slight sense now that the show is just going through the motions until it gets to a point where it doesn’t want to. Two episodes out of seven in a season feeling this way is hardly devastating to one of the best dramas of all time, but it does just ever so slightly tint the show’s legacy as if the writers really just want to get to the good parts. Grade: B-

Some Other Notes:

  • All that said, the new game being played between Arya and Littlefinger is very compelling, as well as legitimately unpredictable.
  • Oddly enough, it’s Sam’s story that feels like it took the most time this episode. His getting frustrated with the maesters after five episodes feels justified, and it also feels like time for him to move on to whatever his next task is meant to be.
  • So Jon Snow leads Davos, Gendry, Tormund, Jorah, the Hound, and the Brotherhood north of the Wall to fight the White Walkers. What a random grouping of characters.
  • Speaking of Jorah, Tyrion and Jaime’s reunion wasn’t the only one that suffered, as Dany and Jorah got a mere two scenes together that were placed in the midst of other events of a far more distracting importance. This episode should have been two.
  • Eight episodes left…

By Matt Dougherty

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