​“Game of Thrones” Recap and Review: “Eastwatch” Explores the Political Landscapes of Westeros

Cersei Lannister in "Eastwatch"
Courtesy of Helen Sloan/HBO

The fifth episode of “Game of Thrones” is no nail-biter, but that’s because it’s not supposed to be. “Eastwatch” shifts its sights away from the violence, and chooses to focus on the political landscapes of Westeros, and how the characters navigate their way through them.

Or in Daenerys' case, steamroll through them with dragonfire. In the last episode, we saw her abandon Tyrion’s casualty-minimizing approach, opting to rain hellfire on Lannister soldiers instead. “I’m not here to murder,” she tells the ones not reduced to ashes against a backdrop of charred bodies. “I offer you a choice. Bend the knee and join me…or refuse and die.” That’s not much of a choice, Dany.

She’s even ruthless enough to destroy a whole house within a few minutes, executing the Tarlys when they refuse to accept her as their new queen. Perhaps she doesn’t care about the old system, but it’s one that has a lot of significance to the people of Westeros. This is what some feared from a Targaryen—that Daenerys would turn out like her father, the Mad King. And now, Tyrion is slowly seeing it unfold before his own eyes, as he walks through the fields of dead Lannister soldiers—soldiers who might have once sworn to protect him. His own inner turmoil is fascinating. Tyrion has abandoned his house, which doesn’t just mean betraying his sister. It also means betraying all of the Lannisters’ people, allies, and soldiers.

Ultimately he thinks it’s for the greater good. But it looks like Tyrion is having more and more trouble believing that as Daenerys tries to win over Westeros with dragonfire. Politics were so much simpler in Essos, when “Game of Thrones” writers painted an unsettlingly simple depiction of good and bad (i.e. Daenerys frees slaves. Daenerys is good at it. Daenerys is good.).

Someone from those simpler times decides to visit. Jorah Mormont is finally rid of greyscale, and literally bends the knee to Daenerys as soon as he sees her on Dragonstone. This is a moment that’s had a lot of buildup from the whole season, given Jorah’s romantic affections for Daenerys. But it falls flat. Unfortunately, Emilia Clarke has struggled with Daenerys’ emotional range in the past, and the poor writing in this scene doesn’t help. There isn’t enough time devoted to this reunion. The last time the two were together they were unsure if they would ever see each other again. The emotional potency promised by this plotline is missing. Instead they carry on with awkward conversation like he was just out with the flu.

Meanwhile, Sam decides that he’s had enough of trying to persuade the maesters’ of the White Walkers’ existence. He and Gilly (who confirmed Jon’s Targaryen lineage while Sam ignored her) leave the Citadel, with a few stolen books in tow.

Later, Jon and Tyrion form a plan to convince Cersei of the White Walkers’ existence. Jon and Jorah will be heading north of the Wall to try to catch a White Walker. Tyrion will be going to King’s Landing to convince his brother for an audience with Cersei. It’s unclear if either of them will survive these encounters, but Tyrion makes it out alive with the help of Ser Davos. He also gets help from Gendry, who turns out to have been hiding at a blacksmith's all this time. Jon, meanwhile, takes a ragtag team of minor characters beyond the Wall. It’ll be interesting to see how the dynamics in this mashup work as they try to capture a zombie.

More trouble is brewing north. In the last episode, Sansa was shocked by Arya’s newfound talents as an assassin. This time, Arya is suspicious of Sansa’s role as the Lady of Winterfell. Arya says that she knows what Sansa’s thinking, and a rebellion in favor of the elder sister is implied. Arya later snoops around Littlefinger’s room, where she finds the letter Sansa wrote under Cersei’s influence, asking Robb Stark to surrender.

The letter was planted, unsurprisingly, by Littlefinger, probably as a way to create an even wider divide between the Stark sisters. What seemed like petty drama in the last episode is now more sophisticated and intense. Arya and Sansa clearly don’t trust each other anymore, and their old differences become amplified in the most cruel way.

Seams are splitting in Winterfell, but in King’s Landing (despite just losing thousands of men and stolen crops), Cersei manages to solidify her hold on her brother by announcing her pregnancy. The question of whether or not the baby is real doesn’t seem to pass through Jaime’s mind, unfortunately. He was just starting to realize that his relationship with Cersei isn’t just loving—it’s toxic and unhealthy, with Cersei as the puppetmaster and Jaime as the toy. But now the “baby” has Jaime locked into Cersei’s grip, even as she calmly says to him “Never betray me again.” Mid-embrace too.

Jaime being caught in Cersei’s manipulation is heartbreaking, as he’s the character with the most interesting growth. He used to be a bully, and now he’s a brainwashed soldier with an easily-overlooked conscience. He doesn’t want the same things Cersei wants anymore, and what Cersei wants is to win or to die. But Jaime is meant for more than that—Jaime is worthy of living. Cersei knows this, and yet she continues to drag his reputation down further, declaring their incestuous relationship publicly in a time and place where a royal brother-sister romance will provoke violence and protest.

If Cersei stays queen, her incestuous relationship won’t bother her. If Cersei loses the crown, then she’ll die, and then literally nothing will bother her. But that isn’t the case with Jaime. Instead, he might have to live to suffer the consequences resulting from his sister’s actions—without the queen’s protection. And while Cersei might disguise her openness as love, it’s clear what she’s actually doing.

Cersei’s dragging Jaime down with her. And it looks like he doesn’t care enough to stop her.

—Staff writer Grace Z. Li can be reached at grace.li@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @gracezhali.

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