The team-up of the unusually named Luka & Petra return to discuss a rather special episode of Game of Thrones — at least special for this season, which lacked any table-setting episodes up until now. The following dialogue includes a discussion on Bronn’s surprising triple-life as Aquaman and, perhaps more surprisingly, Jiminy Cricket; the enlightened rulers Daenerys and Sam could become together; the emotional depth we were surprised to find in a character who may as well be named Cock-on; the new and improved King in the North; Sansa slaying it as the best (sort of) queen of Westeros; this episode being the first in which we suffered the effects of the compressed season; and, of course, the Magnificent Seven‘s quest beyond the Wall. So let’s get to it!
Petra: This entire dialogue could be a bunch of emoticons. It could just be smiley faces, and dragon emojis and fireworks. That’s what this episode felt like. It was extremely emotionally evocative, but it wasn’t one of the most thought-provoking episodes — which is fine; that’s not a criticism. It was a real “fuck yeah!” episode.
Luka: That sounds like a good start for the dialogue.
Petra: Oh, I thought about this.
Luka: Really?! It sounded totally organic, like you just came up with it, so good job!
Petra: [Breaks out into maniacal laughter]
Luka: Shall we begin with the only teleporting that has ever bothered me in the show?
Petra: Jaime and his floating armor.
Luka: They don’t imply his armor floats. They imply Bronn is a freaking superhuman!
Petra: [Laughs] That was really cheap, wasn’t it? We’re positive about the show but it was lazy to resolve that cliffhanger by simply having him magically appear at the opposite river bank. The whole point of the last shot in “The Spoils of War” was that the armor was weighing him down, but that was never addressed. I had resigned myself to a somewhat disappointing resolution since I knew Jaime wasn’t going to drown, but even then I didn’t expect him to just pop up out of the water, fully conscious and a-okay.
Luka: The cliffhanger worked. It just didn’t work in continuity with what happened afterwards. I don’t have a problem with Jaime surviving; the thing I don’t find believable is that Bronn managed to drag him so far, apparently underwater, while Dany or her forces didn’t even see them. What’s unbelievable is that Jaime is not a prisoner.
Petra: It was a daring, stupid choice he made, but it had no consequences.
Luka: Logistics aside, though, I liked their scene together very much.
Petra: Their dialogue was really good. Their camaraderie.
Luka: Jaime’s still in denial about Cersei, and Bronn’s acting as his conscience, as he has ever since they became sparring partners in season 4. Bronn serves as the one who airs the deepest thoughts Jaime doesn’t allow himself to voice. He prompted Jaime to talk to Tyrion in his cell. He’s forced Jaime to face Cersei’s true nature on multiple occasions. It works, but it’s curious, isn’t it? Bronn doesn’t seem to have much of a conscience himself. He seems to be more worried about Jaime’s morality than his own.
Petra: He’s the amoral Jiminy Cricket to Jaime’s fucked-up Pinocchio.
Luka: On the other side of the battlefield, any thoughts on Tyrion’s dilemma?
Petra: I found his conflict with Daenerys compelling. When he and Varys were drinking later back in Dragonstone, Tyrion rationalized (and he’s not wrong) that she’s a ruler, she has to do certain things, but that she didn’t have to burn a father and son alive. That’s a red flag for them. I thought they handled a storyline I was worried about quite well.
Luka: Daenerys burning men alive, a father and a son no less, is obviously meant to evoke her father. Tyrion and Varys aren’t coy about it. But, as you pointed out last week, Dany isn’t mad. Coldness and insanity aren’t the same thing. She executed a lord who refused to bend the knee. We saw Ned Stark execute a deserter in the very first episode of the show; we didn’t flinch, even though we knew the deserter ran away for good reason. It’s cold, and cruel and despotic by our standards, but it’s what rulers are “supposed to do” in that world. The compelling question, to me, is not whether she’s the Mad Queen (she isn’t; she doesn’t hear voices or get excited by burning people alive), or whether she’s as bad as Cersei (she isn’t; Cersei killed hundreds of civilians, and didn’t give anyone a choice.) The compelling question is whether she should do better, precisely because she has the chance and the willingness to be a different kind of ruler.
Luka: The issue with Dany executing people is that she wants to be something else, something better, and this is a digression away from her achieving her to plan to “break the wheel.” That said, she did bring that metaphor up again, which I appreciated. Many people misremember what that speech was all about, because the season five trailer omitted House Targaryen from the spokes of the wheel she intended to break. In the actual episode, she included her own House. She’s a monarch, but she’s what we’d call an enlightened despot. It’s nowhere near a democratic system, but it’s at least three centuries ahead of medieval times. Cersei recently accused her of being a revolutionary to scare the Lords of the Reach and the Iron Bank, but Daenerys hasn’t talked about these ideas much herself this season. She was treating with a self-proclaimed King in the North, and would-be Warden of the North, so she understandably focused on her right to the throne, more than what she would do when seated on it. Still, as of this latest episode, I’m happy she hasn’t forgotten, and neither have the writers.
Petra: This is why I find Daenerys frustrating but also engaging. On the one hand, she has this enlightened sense of morality she’s intent on codifying. On the other hand, she very much insists on her biological right to rule. The dichotomy in Daenerys is what I find interesting about her, when it is intentional on the part of the writers.
Luka: Still at the Field of Fire (the name better fucking stick, I’m still not calling it… that), let’s talk about poor Dickon. Who would’ve thought that we’d get so much pathos from Randyll and Dickon? When they were cast for season six we all expected them, but especially Dickon, to be a foil for Sam and little else. So, I found it strangely refreshing that they were written as fully formed characters with their own mini-arc.
Petra: Tom Hopper fleshed out Dickon Tarly well with very little screen time. Last week you mentioned how Dickon feared being perceived as vulnerable because of his father’s aggression. And here, when push came to shove, he stood by what Randyll had taught him, what he believed was right. And that turned him into ash. There’s a message there.
Luka: Randyll taught his son to be a “macho man.” So Dickon’s death is on his hands. Still, I was pleasantly surprised that Randyll wasn’t a total monster. He tried to convince his son to bend the knee and even lovingly touched his hand before they were burnt to a crisp. I’m pretty sure that was the first time he’d ever done that. And the last, sadly.
Petra: When Dickon refused his father’s order to bend the knee, there was this little smile at the corner of Randyll’s mouth. He was proud of his son. He wanted him to live, but he was proud of Dickon too, in that moment. That was a really subtle touch.
Petra: And speaking of subtle acting moments, Tyrion’s and Jaime’s reunion had some of Dinklage and Coster-Waldau’s best acting on the entire show. When Tyrion joked that it would take a while for Jaime to kill him with a sparring sword, Jaime gave him this look. He was heartbroken and angry, but… oh goddammit, Tyrion’s still his brother.
Luka: At the same time, his reaction was very much like “don’t you dare try to be funny.” By the way, you deviously skipped this entirely, but I do want to discuss Jon and Dany.
Petra: Oh, yeah, go ahead! Absolutely! I wasn’t avoiding it deliberately. It’s perfectly fine.
Luka: [Laughs] There’s a romantic side to this relationship, more explicit each episode, but I’m really enjoying how their bond is developing generally. Aside from the Targaryen implications for the audience, Drogon accepting Jon meant a great deal to Dany.
Petra: It was an “oh, my kids like you” sort of moment.
Luka: She also cares about what he thinks, or else she wouldn’t have reasoned with him about the necessity of the recent battle. She asked him about Davos’ comment of “taking a knife to the heart,” so she wanted to know more about him. And she tried to stop him from going on that suicide mission, and made it clear she wants him back. They’ve developed this affinity between the characters really well in a short span of time. I’m also really enjoying Jon as the Great Uniter of People. He’s becoming one my favorite characters. I’m aware Jon’s always been a popular choice, but for me it’s been a journey. He’s grown on me since season four. I find his relentless focus on the mission inspiring.
Petra: What makes Jon work, even for cold-hearted me, is that he does what’s right when doing the right thing is difficult in a world in which actions have consequences. I have a knee-jerk reaction against old-fashioned heroes because there’s a presumed safety net under them. Their goodness doesn’t cost them. On Game of Thrones, though, we know how much courage and integrity it takes to fill the archetypal heroic role.
Petra: Talking a bit about Jorah … he looks really good in that black, first of all. It’s not the V-neck yellow shirt anymore but he works that black cape very well.
Luka: [Lascivious mutterings] And they did something with his hair. It looks better.
Petra: Oh, I didn’t notice!
Luka: I did.
Petra: [Laughs] I appreciate Jorah more now because of you. I never thought much about him, but now I’m like “Oh, his voice really is like melted chocolate.” And the writers are having a little fun with Jorah’s friendzoned status. The way Dany called him “an old friend” and hesitated before she went in for that hug felt like an inside joke.
Luka: It didn’t to me, to be honest. I felt it was completely earnest. There was certainly a meta intrusion in the editing, though: that shot of Jon between Jorah and Dany on the beach. It wasn’t necessarily jokey but self-aware and self-referential.
Petra: In the same way Davos told Gendry “I thought you’d still be rowing.” So did we!
Luka: Swiftly moving south to Oldtown: Sam got tired of everyone’s shit.
Petra: Literally, yes.
Luka: I don’t have much to say about this except that he referenced what Randyll told him at dinner when he said, “I’m tired of reading about the achievements of better men.”
Petra: It was an interesting decision for him to leave the Citadel. As we’ve talked about before, I saw his future in the Citadel, while you foresaw him as Lord of the Reach. He’s a badass who can kill a White Walker but his love for academia is what really defines him. His decision to become a Maester felt like an act of self-acceptance to me (like Neville Longbottom becoming a Herbology professor in Harry Potter after being a bit of a badass too). So I don’t know where his arc is headed, now that he’s rejected the Citadel.
Luka: He said that he’s tired of reading about the achievements of better men. So, he’s going to become one of those better men. But that doesn’t mean he has to be a macho White Walker-slayer. He’s just going to do what the maesters are unwilling to do and apply his new knowledge towards fighting the Long Night. I do see him as a lord but not the traditional kind. He will continue his relentless pursuit of knowledge, and put it to great use as a ruler. If Daenerys also happens to survive, I could see him in her small council as a new kind of adviser: not an old, stuffy Grand Maester, or a scheming Master of Whisperer, but a more kind of modern academic, scientific adviser. He’d make a good Hand for the right monarch, if there’s still one when this is all over.
Petra: If we ignore the fact that Daenerys just executed his father and brother (that’s so gonna come back,) they could make a really good team. He and Dany are similar, in a way. They’re both pretty enlightened thinkers, especially for the times.
Luka: They seem to be a few centuries ahead of the rest of Westeros.
Petra: I don’t really have anything new to say about Cersei and Jaime but … my God, that relationship is fucked up! I keep thinking Jaime’s finally going to break away from her, but then he crawls right back. I loved the look on his face when she said “So we fight and die or we submit and die.” He gave her this look like “What are you doing?” And yet, at the end, when Cersei revealed she’s pregnant, he was putty again.
Luka: I love how much like a classic romance that scene played — the actors, the editing and the music came together to be almost cheesy … only for the rug to be pulled from under both us and Jaime when Cersei darkly whispered, “NEVER BETRAY ME AGAIN.” That was wonderful. Jaime was as happy as a puppy (though maybe a conflicted puppy) right up until that line. He’s waking up from his denial only to realize that he’s trapped.
Petra: Cersei wasn’t doing much politicking this episode but I did think there was some interesting political talk between Sansa and Arya about how to deal with one’s enemies, which is normally what Cersei harps on about. Can I just say, I’m so happy to like Sansa again. It’s like a physical weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
Luka: The best way to put the characters of Sansa and Arya into perspective is to put them in a scene together. For years, I identified more with Arya, for the reasons most people do — you know, she’s the little badass tomboy, she’s fun. But now Sansa is 100% more functional in civilized society. Arya is just waaay too eager to kill people.
Petra: She thinks short-term. Sansa, by necessity, is a long-term problem solver.
Luka: Sansa knows she needs to please everyone as best she can to make it all work. That certainly precludes executing men left and right for raising their voices against Jon.
Petra: And the lords do have a point. Arya’s been so fixated on avenging her family that she’s cultivated a very black and white view of the world. For the most part, it’s: “if you hurt my family, you deserve to die” with her. That’s extremely dualist morality. Sansa, by virtue of politicking for seven seasons, knows that’s not the way. The lords have their own points, and you can’t just cut off heads to solve all of your problems.
Luka: That’s not to say Arya’s arguments and suspicions are irrational, especially in regard to Littlefinger, but Sansa was the clear winner of that argument. For all the emphasis placed on comparing Cersei and Daenerys, Sansa is coming up on top.
Petra: Maybe it’s because she’s learned to balance what she’s learnt and with who she was as a little girl. Catelyn said she was “a lady at three” in A Clash of Kings and she hasn’t lost that sense of decorum. She had the patience to say, “Yes, they were insulting Jon, but it’s my job to listen to them and hear them out.”
Luka: Of course, there’s that malignant tumor clawing at Sansa’s mind…
Luka: Petyr’s been so focused on mentoring Sansa and trying to manipulate her for a few seasons that we’ve haven’t had much of his old machinations. So it was refreshing to see Littlefinger littlefingering again, in his element, with that Spy vs. Spy montage.
Petra: And Arya’s a very good stalker. She’s got the dead-eyed stare.
Luka: So does Littlefinger, in the end!
Petra: Maybe this will end with a dead-eyed stare-off.
Luka: The straight reading of the scene, with which I agree, is that Littlefinger was letting himself be stalked in order to throw suspicion at Sansa and create an incident. There’s this idea going around that Arya knows that Littlefinger knows that Arya knows, if you follow me, which I find entirely unconvincing, for many reasons.
Petra: Agreed. In this particular case, I believe Littlefinger’s got the up on her.
Luka: Which was refreshing, after four episodes of being put down by the Stark kids. I don’t like Littlefinger, but I enjoy seeing him be good at what he does. Ever since he revealed his end goal to Sansa in last year’s finale and she refused his advances, I’ve considered him a dead man walking. So, it was nice for him to have a “last hurrah.”
Petra: I have to assume his goal is to drive a wedge between the sisters, and so he planted the letter in which Sansa seems to be supporting the Lannister side. Arya probably doesn’t have the wherewithal to think it through fully.
Luka: Not only because she’s more short-sighted, but because she doesn’t have the context we do about that letter. And, of course, it was quite clever of Littlefinger to thank Maester Wolkan for finding and delivering the letter on behalf of Lady Stark, to make it appear as if Sansa asked him to do it. To be honest, it would make sense for Sansa to destroy a letter like that because it does make her look bad. I would do it!
Petra: Let’s address the elephant in the room before we go. A downside of this fast-paced season is that, when more attention is paid to one storyline than another (particularly one that involves a lot of time skips), the secondary plot really gets left behind. Grey Worm’s been stranded at Casterly Rock for months now and, apparently, Theon returned to Dragonstone just to crawl into the fetal position under his bed.
Luka: This was the first episode in which I noticed the shortened season. It moved around a lot of chess pieces. Though, the last two episodes will be the longest in Game of Thrones history, so “Eastwatch” will probably be the only episode that feels that way.
Petra: They’re doing a good job balancing the break-neck pace of the plot with quiet character beats — little jokes and references, aphrosiac fermented crab, stuff like that. But still, everyone’s on a mission, everyone’s racing to their spots.
Luka: I’m not greedy. I’m not asking for three more episodes. I just needed “Eastwatch” to be a few minutes longer so the reunions and introductions could breathe a bit more. Granted, some of my complaints may be addressed next episode. The Magnificent Seven are on a quest together, so Jon may talk about Arya with Gendry and Sandor; Jon may bring up Longclaw to Jorah; Beric and Jon may exchange “resurrection stories.” Still, there were a few moments I wish had been longer. More than anything else, I wanted to see Jon’s private reaction to the news that his siblings are alive, especially Arya.
Luka: This was a great episode, but we’d get more out of it here if our format focused on trivia. There were lots of references, not only to the show itself but to ASOIAF lore as well. But that’s not the kind of thing we do here. Anyway, we’ve gotten so spoiled this season. Every episode has been worth a deep dive. And it’s been a spectacle, throughout!
Petra: “I need a battle! I need a dragon!”
Luka: “Eastwatch” felt like an episode seven or eight. Just before the shit hits the fan.
Petra: It felt like the transitory episode.
Luka: The problem is that it’s the only transitory episode in the entire season so it needed to pull a lot of weight. The weight of about three episodes, I’d say.
Petra: That’s probably it! It felt a bit like they were running around shouting, “Shit, we’ve got to get Gendry back! We’ve got to get all these characters in place for the big finale! You know where your Xs are, everyone! Run to your Xs! Go! Go! Go!”
Luka: I don’t care that characters are traveling far within an episode so long as there’re no obvious contradictions, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have liked to see more of Jorah with Daenerys, for example. We saw him arrive and then go away again, basically. If Jorah dies the next episode, I’m officially pissed. Of course, we got the fond farewell not only between Jorah and Dany but between him and Tyrion, which was enough to worry us that he’ll be killed, but not enough to satisfy me if he isn’t coming back.
Petra: The trouble with having so many characters in a show is that every one of them is probably somebody’s favorite. The writers need to craft satisfying conclusions for all of them. As we said last week, Meera’s final scene with Bran might have been beautiful but she didn’t get a proper send-off. Maybe something similar will happen with Jorah.
Luka: But unlike Meera, Jorah is a main character. And we’ve just gotten through a very intense and painful journey to get him back. Setting aside greyscale, he’s been exiled twice. So if he dies next episode… No, he can’t. He can’t. He CAN’T. [Laughs]. The same goes for Gendry. You can’t bring him back one episode and kill him the next, can you?
Petra: Can you fucking imagine if they did that?
Luka: [Laughs uproariously] Well, they did it with Osha!
Petra: Oh, they did, didn’t they?! Oh, man…
Petra: I was surprised they called this episode “Eastwatch” when we got so little of it. That felt like a tease. But I love all these men coming together, not getting along, and Jon giving the briefest of motivational speeches: “We’re all breathing.” Short and to the point. As you said, the uniter of men unites the men. That was a great final scene.
Luka: Beric wanted to give a longer speech. But Sandor wouldn’t have it.
Petra: [Laughs] That was nice!
Luka: Honestly, I was like “Come on, that’s the thousandth time you’ve said this,” so Sandor’s interruption was appreciated, I’m ashamed to admit. I love Beric, and I could listen to Richard Dormer reading the phone book, but still…
Petra: Him and Iain Glen could take turns.
Luka: Oh! Wow. No, that’s too much [Laughs]
Petra: I suspect we’re getting a lot of curtain calls soon. It doesn’t make sense to get all these characters assembled as if they were Avengers and immediately cut them all down, but at the same time it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones if they all made it out.
Luka: To be fair, most of next episode will involve their quest, so there’ll be plenty of time for us to get used to the relationship dynamics. It won’t feel like they’re killing them immediately. It’s going to be 70 minutes long, after all. Any one of them could die!