Tuesday, August 15, 2017

(TV) Game of Thrones: Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 5 Review: ‘Eastwatch’ (HBO)

(Photo Credit: HBO)

Game of Thrones
Season 7, Episode 5
By Garrett Yoshitomi

After last Sunday's thrill-filled episode, Game of Thrones takes its foot off the gas pedal, downshifting into a slower, more expository episode, in this week's "Eastwatch." It's always hard for an episode to follow-up an all-timer like "The Spoils of War." "Spoils" gave us almost everything we've been waiting six years for, in terms of battle scenes, including a fully unleashed dragon, as well as Daenerys' Dothraki seeing their first major action on Westerosi soil. "Eastwatch" has none of this, and very little action at all outside of the first five minutes. Obviously, we need these kinds of episodes- the kind that set the stage narratively, so that the battles that do eventually occur have more importance, beyond just whose side beats whose. But, "Eastwatch" is especially slow, and feels scattered, with awkward pacing, and forced, tangential storylines that distract from the season’s main arc.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about how Daenerys could be shaping up to be the next major antagonist for the final episodes of Game of Thrones. Admittedly, it seemed a bit far-fetched at the time, given that Daenerys has been one of the few characters worth rooting for, for much of the show. But, after Dany unapologetically burns Randyll and Dickon Tarly to a crisp, during the opening minutes of this week’s episode, it’s a bit easier to see this villainous transformation coming to fruition. And, it’s just not us, as viewers, who are catching on. Tyrion and Varys are both becoming more concerned with just how brutal Dany is proving to be in her thirst for conquest. Varys, in particular, can sense the similarities between Daenerys and her father, the Mad King Aerys. And while it’s not like Dany is committing any act of war that a Cersei or a Tywin wouldn’t, that’s more or less the problem. As Jon said last week, if Dany uses her dragons, not to inspire hope in others, but to “melt castles and burn cities.” Then she’s no different than every other previous ruler of Westeros; she’s just more of the same.

(Photo Credit: HBO)
And yet, despite her recent missteps, I actually think it’s less likely now that Dany will turn into the next villain. Because unlike the Mad King, Daenerys has followers and a council that ultimately believe in her goodness. Both Tyrion and Varys are willing to work with Dany, to help her become the fair and just ruler she has the potential to become- even if she’s currently walking the path of a tyrant. Above all else, I think Jon Snow will have the greatest impact on her. The show is obviously pushing these two characters together, and despite their, err, “relatedness,” it’s clear that Dany has taken a liking to Jon, and respects his opinion, not just as a fellow leader, but as a person.

Prior to the season, it sounded like the tension, between Jon and Sansa, would be the Stark family drama dominating headlines in season seven. But, with all the (living) Stark children finally reunited, it seems like the real sibling rivalry will be between the current Lady of Winterfell, Sansa, and her younger sister, Arya. Even dating back to the beginning of the series, Sansa and Arya have always mixed like oil and water. Back then, Sansa was more concerned with appearing lady-like, and attracting the attention of a noble prince, whereas Arya yearned for adventure, preferring archery practice with her brothers, over sewing lessons. But, even more than just a difference in hobbies, the rift between the Stark sisters runs deep. Sansa looked down on Arya for her tomboyish-ness, while Arya mistrusted Sansa’s obsession with marrying Joffrey. Their feud came to a head, when Sansa refused to side with Arya, in her testimony of Nymeria’s attack on Joffrey. The two were separated for good shortly after, at the end of season one, depriving both sisters of the chance to make amends.
(Photo Credit: HBO)
We’ve spent six years waiting for the Starks to be reunited, and when it finally happens, it’s pretty disappointing that Sansa and Arya almost immediately fall to in-fighting. Sure, Littlefinger’s involvement makes things a little more interesting, as it gives the long-time schemer something to do before, what many fans assume will be, his final act. But, even from Arya and Sansa’s first interaction this season, in the crypts of Winterfell, it’s clear that there’s still lingering tension between the two. There’s only eight episodes left in Game of Thrones, and from a story standpoint, character arcs need to start getting narrower and more focused, rather than becoming broader by reintroducing plot points that haven’t been relevant for multiple seasons. Nobody wants the Stark kids to get back together just so they can rehash their season one beef. Simply put, it’s too late in the game for this Arya and Sansa b.s. to take place.

We know that Arya and Sansa aren’t going to turn into mortal enemies, we know that they’ll eventually triumph over Littlefinger. There’s no suspense when we already know the outcome, and there’s no enjoyment when the outcome isn’t even that interesting to watch. Even though I already know that Game of Thrones will probably end with Drogon melting White Walkers in a shower of dragon fire, I’ll still enjoy watching it because dragons fighting White Walkers is literally what I live for. But, I know this whole Sansa-Arya-Littlefinger triangle of scheming will ultimately end with some variation of Arya stabbing Littlefinger with his own dagger. And it’s not like I wouldn’t be excited to watch this, I just think that there are a multitude of better ways to get there- ways that would have made much better use of what precious, precious Game of Thrones screen time we have left.

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