game of thrones eastwatch review 10

An Armistice in the Face of the Apocalypse

For years, Game of Thrones fans have wondered when someone would take one big step back from the conflict, notice that there is a literal zombie army marching toward Westeros, and say, “Hey, maybe we should stop stabbing each other in the back and deal with this.” Jon Snow, finally in a position of real authority, was the first to say it out loud. And now, he’s got Daenerys siding with him. And wouldn’t you know it? Even Cersei is interested in this little armistice, even if her reasons have less to do with saving the realm and more to do with taking advantage of an armistice to get a little sneaky and find an upper hand.

Daenerys’ newfound trust in the King in the North doesn’t extend to lending him a dragon or an army, but it does extend far enough to let him return to the north with one of her most trusted men on a dangerous mission to prove that this threat is real. But seeds of a something more are definitely blossoming between the Dragon Queen and her secret nephew (that’s still a weird thing to write). Jon Snow got up close and personal with Drogon and didn’t even flinch. We could say that’s because he’s a secret half-Targaryen, but it’s also because Jon, the most direct, bold, and brave character on the show, really has seen it all. Jon Snow has faced zombies, white walkers, massive Wildling armies, and even death itself. Jon Snow is done being surprised by anything.

And who knows? Maybe that’s exactly what Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen wants in a king (and that’s before you recall that Targaryens always wed Targaryens, making them a match made in a totally creepy heaven).

game of thrones eastwatch review 3

The Magnificent Seven

Very little of “Eastwatch” actually takes place at Eastwatch, a Night’s Watch castle that has been criminally undermanned and unmaintained for years. However, the title is appropriate because it’s where everyone is going, the location that the entire episode builds toward. It is at Eastwatch that Jon Snow and his ragtag band will venture beyond the Wall. It is at Eastwatch where a small team of unlikely allies will try to press pause on a war by proving that there really is an undead invasion threatening every living thing in Westeros. To see the line-up of characters venturing beyond the Wall is to understand why the show had to move so quickly this season and why “Eastwatch” is so jam-packed with reunions and meetings and impossible travel times.

There’s Jon Snow, the King in the North and one of the few men to have faced a White Walker and lived to tell the tale. There’s Jorah Mormont, the aging but loyal knight who was exiled from the north years ago and now returns in the name of Daenerys Targaryen. There’s Tormund Giantsbane, the unlikely leader of the Free Folk who must now return to his former stomping grounds alongside the men he once considered enemies. There’s Gendry, the final Baratheon who, warhammer in hand, represents the legacy of the late King Robert. There’s Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, the tormented murderer and monster whose scarred face masks a wounded soul craving redemption. There’s Beric Dondarrion, the leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners whose many resurrections have transformed him into a walking embodiment of his god’s power. And finally, there’s Thoros of Myr, the red priest and drunkard whose unlikely magical abilities made Beric the man he is today…and may have revealed the Hound’s true purpose.

I mention this line-up in detail because Game of Thrones has gone full “men-on-a-mission” movie and this is nothing short of delightful. You know the template. A group of people, usually soldiers or warriors, from different backgrounds with different skill sets find themselves thrown together for a common cause, despite having little in common and despite the resentments and grudges lurking just underneath the surface. It’s a common template for war movies, but it’s certainly not uncommon in fantasy. Just look to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Hell, just look to any Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

It may have taken some leaps in time and logic to bring these men together for this mission, but as they trek into the icy wastes at the end of “Eastwatch,” it all feels worth it. These are characters we never thought we’d see sharing the screen, let alone embarking on a mission together. I’m anxious to see them come together or fall apart. I’m anxious to see them succeed or fail. Only one thing is certain: not all of them are coming home alive.

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister and Conleth Hill as Varys

The Players

Technically, Daenerys is still standing on the top of the heap this week. She’s winning the war, the Lannisters have been routed, and House Tarly has been reduced to two piles of ashes. Cersei may have a plan, she may be plotting to fight back in true Lannister fashion by stabbing the Mother of Dragons where and when she least expects it, but she’s been knocked on her ass. No question.

When it comes to to subtler victories, Littlefinger is also a big winner this week, having engaged in step one of Operation: Tear the Stark Sisters Apart. The north is a fragile place right now: the King is on a deadly mission, the Lady of Winterfell is facing angry lords, the rightful heir is drifting in and out of psychic head trips, and the newly-returned youngest daughter is a living weapon. No one is in a better position to scoop it all up.

But only one character truly shifted the continent this week: Jon Snow. While the other leaders of Westeros remain skeptical of his stories of Night Kings and wights and armies of the dead, he finally got them to listen. He convinced Daenerys to let him leave Dragonstone and allowed Jorah to join him. His words encouraged an armistice between all parties, which, whether it happens or not, is something. House Stark has never been good at navigating the tangled web that is Game of Thrones, but in “Eastwatch,” Jon Snow raised Longclaw and cut through the knot entirely.

Currently Winning the Game of Thrones: Jon Snow

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