This episode dealt with the aftermath of the Battle of Blackwater Rush (aka the Second Field of Fire) and worked to set up the upcoming Battle at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. As I’ve said - and will continue to say since it doesn’t seem like it will be fixed - the pacing was off in comparison to previous seasons. We’re at a point in the show where the writers are really just using their characters to fulfill the plot rather than focusing on their character development. I do think it’s a mistake to do so as I can think of more than a few characters whose development would actually help in furthering the plot. While this season is exciting, in disregarding time it makes the story feel a little disjointed and like we’re hurtling towards the end. I don’t think we’ll have time to realize we’re at the end until it’s over, and I’m worried about the plot holes that will be created in the unnecessary rush.
We start the episode off with the aftermath of Blackwater Rush where we find out that Jaime and Bronn are not dead. Bronn - who wasn’t weighed down by heavy armor - was able to pull both himself and Jaime above water. Jaime doesn’t seem very grateful and Bronn is fed up with Jaime for charging at a dragon when he still owes him a castle. He also makes it very clear that he does not plan on fighting anymore dragons anytime soon, and Jaime worries about what will happen to King’s Landing when all three dragons come to call.
Meanwhile, Daenerys speaks to the remaining Lannister army, who look beaten, burnt, and battered. She has this whole monologue where she tells them that she is not there to murder everyone and how she wants to “break the wheel” which is very 99% of her when you ignore the fact that she’s literally trying to conquer Westeros to sit on the Iron Throne and rule over all. It’s the same logic she used over in Slaver’s Bay - only now she’s decided that the “Cersei Lannisters of the world” are the Masters and that she’s the one who will save everyone. It’s a dangerous idea, especially given that while Cersei is indeed the worst, Dany seems to conflate anyone who goes against her as being a part of the ruling class that takes advantage of everyone. It makes even less sense when she then tells the men to either bend the knee or be burnt to a crisp by Drogon. Tyrion is conflicted as this is happening - both because he sees how dangerous Dany is becoming and his own internal conflict with fighting his family. He tries hard to be diplomatic and to convince Dany to show mercy, but Dany never was good at listening to her council when she was convinced she was doing the right thing, so when Randyll Tarly and later Dickon decide not to bend the knee, she burns them alive despite Tyrion’s protests. She has essentially destroyed another great house, because Samwell has denounced his titles as a Brother of the Night’s Watch - though of course that could change given Jon’s precedent and Dany’s misguided and falsely-advertised attempt at breaking the status quo.
Up North, Bran wargs into a bunch of crows and flies beyond the Wall to spy on the army of the dead. He sees that they are nearing Eastwatch, and for the first time since he’s come to Winterfell we see a different emotion from him: fear. He tells Maester Walken to send ravens to everyone about the approaching doom.
Meanwhile, the men of the North are getting agitated that Jon has been gone for so long, because apparently they thought traveling across the country and mining dragonglass was going to take two days? While the travel time has certainly decreased in the show, the northmen are being ridiculously impatient and need to chill before they start nominating other people, in this case Sansa, to lead them. While Sansa stays true to Jon, telling the men to be patient, Arya is offended, and goes to speak with Sansa about it. Arya is angry with her for not defending Jon in the way she would have, namely by chopping off heads. It’s here where we see the parallels between Sansa and Arya, heightened over time. While they’ve both been through a lot, Sansa has been trained in how to play the Game of Thrones, while Arya has been trained to fight. Arya knows facing problems head on and with violence, while Sansa knows diplomacy. And the two clash. Arya doesn’t trust Sansa’s skills, and instad suspects that she wants to rule the North and take it from Jon. While she may be slightly right, even if Sansa does enjoy power I don’t think she’ll betray her family, even if she is better at ruling that Jon (and definitely Arya).
Of course, Littlefinger notices the tension and differences between the sisters and is working to take advantage of it. He also knows that Arya has taken notice of him, and so while Arya spies on him, he leads her to sneak into his room to find an old letter that Sansa (following Cersei’s orders) wrote to Robb and Catelyn all the way back in season 1 - the one telling them to come to King’s Landing to bend the knee. Of course, Arya takes the bait, but I really hope Sansa sees Littlefinger’s handiwork in it, or Bran notices, and banishes him for good, because seriously what is the point of this? THERE ARE LITERAL FROZEN ZOMBIES MARCHING TO EASTWATCH AND YOU’RE CREATING DIVISION?? IF YOU WANT TO DIE SO BAD WHY NOT JUST LET ARYA FINISH THE JOB???
Dragonstone and King’s Landing
Because the writers don’t care about pacing or travel time anymore, there are a bunch of back-to-back scenes where the same characters go back and forth between Dragonstone and King’s Landing - mainly because the formation of A Really Bad Plan, which I’ll get into later.
So first, Jaime arrives at King’s Landing to deliver the news of their defeat to Cersei. Cersei seems unbothered because they have the gold they need to hire more men to fight for them. Jaime seems pessimistic and I would have to agree here because if Bronn is any indication, there’s probably not enough money in the world to make sellswords fight in a war where there are three full grown dragons on the other side. Jaime also tells Cersei that Tyrion didn’t kill Joffrey, and that it was actually Olenna. Cersei doesn’t believe him at first, but she becomes angry when Jaime convinces her, angry at the fact that she didn’t have Olenna tortured rather than just poisoned. At this point Cersei feels that the only option is to keep fighting because she knows that if she surrenders she’ll be killed and if she loses she’ll be killed.
Then, immediately after, Daenerys arrives back at Dragonstone on Drogon. They land near Jon, who then REACHES OUT TO PET DROGON BECAUSE HE’S A TARGARYEN AND YESSS. This of course grows Dany’s crush on Jon, and while she doesn’t offer him Viserion or Rhaegal, she does bring up the “knife in the heart” thing again. Jon brushes her off, and she doesn’t get a chance to press him harder because a newly-cured Jorah has apparently Apparated all the way from Oldtown to Dragonstone and interrupts the cuteness.
Meanwhile in the throne room, Tyrion and Varys are discussing their trepidations about Dany. I do want to say that while she was definitely trippin’ at the beginning of this episode, I don’t think her actions at the end of the last episode were problematic. Both Tyrion and Jon counseled her not to burn King’s Landing to the ground and so she met the Lannisters on the battleground, which I feel like is fair game. However, Tyrion and Varys are worried about her not heeding their advice, and Varys tells Tyrion that he needs to find a way to make her listen.
Varys then gives Jon a scroll from Winterfell (after reading it of course). It’s from one of the ravens Bran had Maester Walken send, and through it Jon finds out that both Bran and Arya are alive. Of course, Jon can’t be too happy about it because the army of the dead are still coming and now he has even more siblings to protect. Jon tells Daenerys that he needs to go back to Winterfell to prepare and asks her to come with him. She says no, mainly because she knows that Cersei will take advantage of her absence. Tyrion, however, says that that may not be the case as long as they convince Cersei that the Long Night is coming, something that can ONLY be done if Jon brings a wight to the Red Keep to show her the truth. Tyrion volunteers to get through to her by going to Jaime, using Davos to smuggle him into King’s Landing. Jorah then volunteers to go North as well because apparently after almost becoming a stone zombie becoming an ice zombie is really tempting. A clearly worried Dany tells Jon that she didn’t give him permission to leave Dragonstone, but Jon counters, telling her he is a king and can do what he wants.
So then Tyrion and Davos get into their medieval speedboat to King’s Landing, where they meet Bronn and Jaime in the dungeons with the dragon skulls. There is understandable tension between the brothers, since while Tyrion didn’t kill Joffrey, he definitely killed Tywin. In a lot of ways, their characters are paralleled in the same way the Sansa and Arya’s are. Right now they find themselves working for Queens who may or may not be as suited for rule as they originally thought and trying to deal with their complicity in that, and on top of that dealing with their own guilt about the crimes they directly committed. Anyway, through all this great acting and subtext, Tyrion tells Jaime about the whitewalkers and offers a truce so that they can all band together to prevent the Long Night.
Meanwhile, Davos goes to the Street of Steel in search of a mysterious person who turns out to be Gendry! He’s apparently been in King’s Landing this whole time, biding his time and making steel for Lannister men until something better comes along. As far as he is concerned, Davos is that better thing, and he won’t even let Davos explain what it is he’s walking into before saying yes. We find out that in addition to making weapons, Gendry has been learning how to fight with a warhammer just like his father used. We even get to see him use it when Tyrion accidentally shows up at the wrong moment and exposes himself to two goldcloaks.
Back on Dragonstone, Davos implores Gendry to go under a pseudonym, but Gendry disregards all pretense, telling Jon straight up who he is. There is a nice moment of camaraderie between Jon and Gendry because they are both (allegedly) bastard sons of powerful fathers, but this feels like it was done for no reason given the Very Bad Plan I’ve already brought up and will outline later on as well. In order to carry out this Terrible Terrible Plan, Jon, Davos, Gendry, and Jorah all ship out, making their way to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea with no army and no dragon. But like I said, I’ll get back to this.
Back in King’s Landing, Jaime goes to speak with Cersei about his meeting with Tyrion. He tells her about Dany wanting to discuss a truce because of the army of the dead and that Tyrion will bring proof. It’s unclear whether Cersei truly believes that the whitewalkers are coming, but either way she doesn’t seem too concerned. Not only did she know that Tyrion had reached out to Bronn, but she thinks that a meeting with Daenerys could be in their interest, which seems suspicious and not like a good idea for Dany at all. She seems to think that the whitewalkers are just another obstacle in the way that Dany and her dragons are, which seems wrong but whatever, it’s her brain. She then drops another bomb on Jaime: she’s pregnant. She tells him that they will tell everyone that it’s theirs, but I’m not even sure she really is pregnant. Given Jaime’s caution and doubt in the past few episodes it feels more like Cersei is manipulating him to keep him solidly on her side, which she kind of emphasizes even more when she tells him to never betray her again. At this point, I’m entirely convinced that Jaime is going to have to kill Cersei. While presumably on the same side, the tension is growing, and we know from experience that Cersei will undoubtedly do something stupid and catastrophic sooner or later.
Down at the Citadel, the archmaesters received their e-raven from Bran about the whitewalkers and they of course don’t believe it. Sam overhears and interjects, begging them to tell people that the threat is real, to send folks North, and to read the books to learn how to prevent the Long Night for good. Archmaester Ebrose (who still hasn’t told Sam about his father and brother’s deaths) says that while what was written to them could be true, it could also be a plot from Daenerys to give her access to the south, which would only make sense if Sam didn’t also insist that the whitewalkers were coming, but of course these men of high learning don’t use actual logic. They decide they will write back to Maester Walken for clarification, but don’t seem to be taking it all that seriously.
Later that night, Sam is doing his copying while Gilly reads a book by Septon Maynard. In addition to telling Sam some interesting fun facts about the Citadel, Gilly also finds that Prince Rhaegar annulled his marriage to Elia Martell and got remarried at the same time in Dorne! Ignoring that this doesn’t make sense canonically - as Targaryens were polygamists so he didn’t actually need to annul the first marriage - the shade of him marrying a new woman in the place his first wife was from, AND Septon Maynard keeping record of a ceremony that was literally supposed to be a secret, SAM WAS TOO FAR IN HIS FEELS TO PAY ATTENTION. This is a huge discovery, and while Sam definitely didn’t have any context as to why that would be important, if he had actually been listening to Gilly, he could have uncovered the proof that Jon is a Targaryen. Instead, he shows us that he may have been a Gryffindor all along by recklessly breaking back into the restricted section to steal more books, brashly leaving the Citadel, and stupidly bring Gilly and baby Sam with him north. Deciding that he is tired of reading about the “achievements of better men,” Sam the Slayer makes his way back to the Wall, hopefully with Maynard’s book in tow.
After Sam and Gilly hit the road, we go back up to the Wall, where Jon and the others have arrived at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. And before I get back to the Most Horrible Plan Since Ned Stark Confronted Cersei Lannister and Told Her His Entire Plan, I do want to point out the strange lack of men at Eastwatch. We know the Night’s Watch is severely depleted but I don’t remember Jon ever calling them all to Castle Black during his time as Lord Commander, so there should at least be a few. And then earlier this season, he sent the wildlings to man the castle, but only Tormund and a few are there? Jon asks about the others, and it seems they won’t come or aren’t there for some unexplained reason? It’s not really clear, but it does add to the reason why they should not go forward with this plan. But here’s the plan (part of which I already mentioned above):
Step 1: Davos smuggles Tyrion into King’s Landing so that he can relay a message about the whitewalkers to Cersei through Jaime (which shouldn’t have worked so easily, but did so we’ve passed that).
Step 2: Jon, Jorah, Davos, and Gendry travel straight to Eastwatch from Dragonstone. Not to Winterfell. Not to one of the other northern castles. Straight to Eastwatch.
Step 3: Daenerys doesn’t offer Jon the use of a dragon - who Jon seems to have an affinity for and which she KNOWS would help kill wights.
Step 4: Jon doesn’t call for reinforcements. Fine, he doesn’t have Dany’s army but he does have AN army. No ravens are sent to Winterfell about this plan.
Step 5: Jon will take Jorah, Gendry, Tormund, and maybe a few more wildlings beyond the Wall to capture a wight.
PLOT TWIST: the Brotherhood has already made it to the Wall. They’ve been imprisoned despite saying they want to fight whitewalkers too. Jon lets them go. Not we have four more people! Wow this makes the plan so much better.
Step 6: The seven of them capture a wight and bring it back to Eastwatch and Davos.
Step 7: Davos smuggles a whitewalker into King’s Landing to show Cersei. The whitewalker doesn’t melt or rot or disintegrate.
Step 8: Everyone comes together in a kumbaya moment and sends their armies north to defeat the walkers.
BUT NOT REALLY because how are these seven people (and an unknown maybe nonexistent number of other wildlings) supposed to capture one wight in the middle of an army of wights? For all of Tyrion’s cleverness and Jon’s experience with the Night King it feels like no one thought this through? As I said before, Jon has an army, one that he is unwilling to use right now for some unknown reason. I really am perplexed, and it seems like there are about to be six more additions to the Night King’s army, including Gendry who we JUST got back. All I can see happening is them failing miserably, Jon being the only one to escape, and the wights passing the Wall, crumbling it on the way.
There are only two more episodes of this season and I am so anxious and frustrated with these characters right now. I’m expecting some amazing fight scenes and nerve-wracking drama next episode, most of which could have been prevented if Jon had just called his sister. Maybe Bran will save the day with his warg-crows or something. I don’t have a lot of faith.