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Game of Thrones: Beyond the Pale

We discuss “Eastwatch,” the fifth episode in the seventh season of HBO’s fantasy series.


Each Monday, the New Republic staff will discuss the newest episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, which is in its seventh and penultimate season. Join us as we chat about the latest plot developments, a pregnant encounter with a dragon, and Jorah in the friendzone.

Ryu Spaeth: One of the great pleasures of this season, as we finally hasten toward the end, is to see how various expected plot developments actually play out. We know from countless fan boards that Jon Snow is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, and the notion that he may be more than the bastard of Ned Stark dawned on both Jon and Daenerys in exhilarating fashion in “Eastwatch.” He gingerly pets Drogon’s snout as if he were an immense dog, while the dragon’s oily eye seems to recognize that there is Targaryen blood in the man before him, a nerve-wracking scene that was reminiscent of an iconic encounter between Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and the alien in the Alien franchise.

But this season has also introduced entirely unexpected plot developments. If you had Jon leading an expedition north of the Wall to fetch a wight for Cersei Lannister on your bingo card, congratulations. Is it me or is this whole idea just a bit batty?

Sarah Jones: I don’t think Cersei will care very much, even if a wight is dropped into her bedchambers. She is getting nuttier as the season progresses, which is an interesting parallel to what could be a dark turn for Dany, too. There was a cold logic to her punishment of Randyll and Dickon Tarly, but publicly burning soldiers to death with dragon fire is not really a good way to unite people under your banner.

That said, it was a fitting end for Randyll, the xenophobic Republican of Westeros; and for Dickon, who just wanted to make his father proud. RIP, Dickon. 

Clio Chang: If Dany wanted to show she isn’t an extremely cruel leader who enjoys burning people alive, she could deploy her three dragons to the North to wage war against an army of the dead. Or, you know, why not send six dudes to try to capture one undead person instead? The only way this plot twist will be worth it is if one of these big burly boys dies and turns into a wight himself. All my bets are on Jorah. I want to see undead Jorah return that coin to Tyrion and then finally have the courage to ask Daenerys out on a date.

I loved the scene with Jon and Drogon. But the worst part of the episode was when it was revealed that Jon is probably the legitimate son of Rhaegar and Lyanna through Gilly reading it in a dang book, before she is promptly bulldozed by Sam’s ego.

Rachel Stone: Good boy, Drogon! I loved that scene too because it was really the first time we’ve seen Daenerys in the presence of an equal; Jon isn’t an adversary Dany can burn, nor is he a member of her crew of infatuated acolytes. For a while their chemistry seemed shaky, but I’ve come to enjoy Jon and Dany’s tentative admiration for each other, which Jon’s connection with Drogon seemed to only deepen further.

I don’t know what to make of the Jorah/Jon/Daenerys relationship in an episode filled with moments of Dany gazing at Jorah with admiration and Jon lurking somewhere behind them, though maybe the northward expedition will develop that plot line some more.   

Ryu Spaeth: I think this means that Jorah is about to go deeper into the friendzone, if that is even possible.

Sarah Jones: Jorah’s fate is to be friendzoned forever. It is known.

Ryu Spaeth: As Sarah mentioned, Dany took a dark turn this episode, incinerating Randyll and Dickon Tarly. Cersei took her malevolence a step further, threatening to shiv her brother if he ever betrayed her. And then there is Arya, who is skulking around Winterfell, spying on Littlefinger, and accusing Sansa of selling Jon out for her own gain. I am worried about Arya. Anyone else?

Sarah Jones: I am also worried about Arya. I imagine that going to Magic Assassin School teaches you that everyone is a threat, but that’s not particularly conducive to politicking. Sansa clearly has to mollify these lords; she’s right that she can’t afford to lose their support. And though Arya is probably right that Sansa has considered taking over, she’s clearly decided not to. Here’s hoping these two finally put aside their differences and focus on the real threat: Petyr Baelish, who needs to be shanked.

Clio Chang: When it’s revealed that Littlefinger was standing behind a wall watching Arya the whole time she was in his room, I almost expected the camera to cut again to Arya standing behind another wall watching Littlefinger. An infinite loop of Littlefinger watching Arya watching Littlefinger. Alas.

But while the show is setting us up for a showdown between Arya and Littlefinger, I stand behind my prediction that Nymeria will be the one to rip Petyr “What Accent Shall I Use Today” Baelish apart.

Rachel Stone: New Dany seems more in line with old Dany, even with more firepower and some nice rose-gold eyeshadow. She’s burned people alive before, and she is concentrating on what matters most to her: breaking the wheel of violence that oppresses all the people of Westeros. But Tyrion and Varys’s little huddle about how best to control her doesn’t bode too well for their alliance.

Cersei, on the other hand, seem to have gone completely bonkers, and I love it.

Sarah Jones: Much to my delight, the show seems to be setting things up for Jaime to finally turn on his sister. I don’t believe for a second that Cersei is actually pregnant, though this could be wishful thinking; it seems like an attempt to enmesh Jaime more thoroughly in their mentally unhealthy and biologically unsound relationship. I can’t fathom what Jaime’s thinking: Their first three children are dead, one of them because Cersei drove him to commit suicide. Not exactly mother-of-the-year material. Jaime can do better.

Ryu Spaeth: In addition to Jon and Jorah, the merry band of warriors heading beyond the Wall includes The Hound, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of the Hipster Topknot, and … Gendry? I confess I don’t quite understand why Gendry is back, and how he got so good with that hammer.

Sarah Jones: Gendry is back because this is an epic fantasy series and he’s a king’s bastard who is generically good-looking. He will probably die heroically, and BuzzFeed will publish a listicle in his honor.

Rachel Stone: True, or he’s back to provide a segue into the buckets of aphrodisiac fermented crab?

Clio Chang: Personally, I loved Gendry’s reintroduction to the show. His friendship with Jon shows that solidarity can run through generations, even for bastard sons. When god takes a Dickon, he gives you a Gendry. Gendry is the new New Dickon. Long live Gendry!!!

Sarah Jones: Clio. No.