I wrote last week that the Tyrell gold never reached Cersei, as it seemed like the dragon attack stopped the whole loot train, including the gold, and Randall Tarly’s assertion that it was already in King’s Landing seemed like an optimistic assessment rather than an accurate description. Yet it seems this week that Cersei has the gold, the Iron Bank is happy, and Lannister Inc.’s HR division is currently interviewing sellswords about work fighting foreigners and dragons, to be paid with Tyrell gold. So, I admit I got that one wrong. This week’s guest editorial, however, has been fact checked by three maesters, two interns, and a very scrupulous White Walker and thus has been declared free of error, but full of insight.
Aftermaths, Revelations and Flotsam & Jetsam
The etymology of “aftermath” comes from Middle English meaning “after the crops are mown down.” In other words, it means what is left in the field after the harvest. In current English, it implies what is left after a devastating event. Both definitions apply to “Eastwatch.”
The episode begins with an aftermath - that of the battle of the loot train. Shame on you, GoT. Last week we saw Jaime sinking down in the river with the rapidest drop off ever seen. This week begins with Bronn pulling Jaime out of the river almost a mile away from the aftermath of the battle. We see smoke rising in the distance. No extended aquatic rescue scene, no fighting to reach the surface. We just see the aftermath of their escape, like a cheap cliffhanger from a movie serial, resolved easily in the first few minutes of the next episode.
Tyrion stands in the aftermath, walking through the carnage - we see what he sees: the ashes of Lannister soldiers holding their shape until troubled, then collapsing into unrecognizable heaps, Dothraki looting the dead, and the prisoners of war being brought before the queen. This is indeed crops having been mown down - Drogon has burned all the food the Lannisters stole from the Reach. All that is left is aftermath.
Daenerys is not done burning or aftermathing, though. Her tinder profile lists “bending the knee” as one of her favorite things. She tells the remnants of the Lannister army they can bend the knee or burn like the rest of them. Many take the knee. Ser Tarly and son do not. In an odd, yet beautiful, moment of pride and regret, the two hold hands as they face execution by dragon fire, and Drogon sends them into eternity. Seeing this encourages the remaining holdouts to take the knee.
Yet this aftermath has an aftermath, too. Tyrion and Varys are worried. Tyrion fears Daenerys is too much like her father, too inclined to burning and vengeance and destruction. Varys expresses regret for his role in not stopping Dany’s dad when he was getting a little crazy with the dragon fire, saying, “It's what I told myself when I watched them beg for mercy: ‘I'm not the one doing it.’ When the pitch of their screams rose higher: ‘I'm not the one doing it.’ When their hair caught fire and the smell of their burning flesh filled the throne room: ‘I'm not the one doing it.’” Varys now believes that those behind the throne do have a responsibility to give the leader better advice, or work harder to be heard when they know the ruler has made bad choices. “You need to find a way to make her listen,” he tells Tyrion, advice he could just as easily give Jaime about his queen (and sister) (and lover).
Cersei learns of the aftermath and remains unperturbed. “So, we fight and die or submit and die. I know my choice.” She learns the truth of Joffrey’s death and decides she does not care. Her response in the aftermath: “Dead men, dragons, and dragon queens... Whatever stands in our way, we will defeat it.” Jaime and Bronn do not share that optimism.
In the aftermath of the return of the Starks to Winterfell, Arya sees Littlefinger doing…something. She breaks into his room, steals a scroll she finds there - the letter Sansa was forced to write all those seasons ago. She leaves the room. Littlefinger watches her go. We are now inside a very interesting game of spider and fly, but who is the spider and who the fly? (And don’t email me saying Varys is the Spider. I know that - I was employing a poetic metaphor!)
Three major revelations were shared with the audience this week, only two of which were realized by the characters, but all three are game-changers.
First, Bran wargs into an unkindness of ravens (That is really what a group of ravens is called!) and spies on the Night King and his army of the dead. It is revealed that they are approaching Eastwatch by the Sea at the eastern edge of the wall. He immediately sends ravens to everyone who might be able to do something about it. Only Jon Snow does. The revelation about where the Night King’s army is does nothing to spur attention to the issue or rally defenses. Jon decides to leave Dragonstone. “I haven't given you permission to leave,” the Queen tells him. “I don’t need your permission. I am a king,” the King in the North shoots back. He reminds her that if he doesn’t return she won’t have to deal with the K in the N anymore. “I've grown used to him,” Dany quips with a hint of a smile. (Are these kids flirting? Are they into each other? Their relationship is slowly being revealed, too).
So Jon, Davos, Gendry, Jorah, and some extras head to the eponymous Eastwatch where Tormund Giantsbane is in charge of defense, and he is not happy with the small group that has shown up to capture a walker to convince all the queens to stop fighting each other long enough to fight the Night King (Nobody says it, but when Tyrion proposes the plan on Dragonstone, they need a high school kid to say, “It’s kind of crazy but it…just…might…work!”). Next, it is revealed that Beric, Thoros, and the Hound are in county lockup at Eastwatch, having been stopped trying to get north of the wall. Jon has a revelation: It doesn’t matter why they want to go north of the wall - “We're all on the same side.” When the dead are your enemy, the living are your allies, even if these particular living are no prize. Looking forward to seeing this bunch capture a Walker.
Second, down in the southeast of Westeros, Samwell is not doing well in his first year at Maester U, Oldtown Campus. The Maesters don’t believe him or the ravens that are coming from the North that the Night King represents a real threat to the seven kingdoms. Like all good academics, they decide to research the problem and perhaps form a subcommittee to discuss options. (I also note, tangentially, that they mock and laugh at their predecessors who wrote such boring monographs on subjects unworthy, unlike the monographs they are presumably writing. As an academic, I watched this scene and felt it hit home - it is the prerogative of the faculty to mock their students and their predecessors, as it is the prerogative of the students to both mock the faculty and eventually become them. Circle of academic life, my friend.) So, Sam steals a bunch of books about White Walkers and the long night from the restricted section, throws Gilly and son into the station wagon (which is an actual wagon), and heads out for parts unknown.
But, before he gets fed up enough to leave, he complains to Gilly over supper, sharing work stories with her. Gilly is reading High Septon Maynard’s tell-all biography (It really is a tell all - he records his bowel movements in detail!) and asks Sam what an annulment is. Sam tells her it is when a marriage is declared void. She tells him “Prince Ragger” got one after a secret marriage in Dorne, and everyone who has been paying attention jumped off the couch and made noises whilst pointing at the television. That is because “Prince Ragger” is her mispronunciation of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen who apparently was actually married to Lyanna Stark which means that Jon Snow is not a bastard, but is actually the legally born Jon Targaryen. His parents got an annulment so Rhaegar could marry someone else (which means they were Catholic, I guess).
Here’s the point - we know now that Jon is too legit to quit, and a real Targaryen. BUT NOBODY ELSE DOES! Bran kinda knows, but he’s the “Three-Eyed Raven,” which puts him in the same category as the kid everyone knew as “Dave” in high school who comes home from college and says, “Call me ‘The Edge.’” Nope. Not gonna listen to that kid until his first hit record. So, the only person who knows Jon Snow’s true lineage is Gilly, who calls his dad “Ragger.” Okay - Drogon also knows Jon has Targaryen blood - beautiful, little scene in which Dany tries to intimidate Jon by landing Drogon right in front of him and let the dragon do its giant-German-Shepard-on-meth bit. Instead, Jon holds out his hand, lets the dragon sniff it, and then starts to pet him. Daenerys is impressed, that is until Jon calls them “beasts,” when she informs him they are her children and she is their mother and Jon gives her a look like, “You and Bran should have a conversation - that’d be a whole new level of weird.” That’s another lovely, little revelation moment - Jon gets a raven telling him Arya and Bran are still alive and have moved back into their old bedrooms.
Third, and most major, Cersei and Jaime are going to be parents again! She drops that bombshell right after she tells him she knows he met with Tyrion and that Bronn set it all up. “Do you think anything happens in this city without my knowing it?” she asks her brother/lover. “Never betray me again,” she tells him coldly, implying that even meeting with Tyrion is a betrayal of her. “Who will we say is the father?” Jaime asks. “You,” she tells him. Cersei seems to think the nation won’t have a problem with open incest. Joffrey and Tommen were an open secret, but at least Robert Baratheon gave them plausible deniability. Now, she just wants the little Lannister baby to be held aloft like an inbred Simba and shown to the people as their future king. She does not care what they think: “The lion does not concern himself with the opinions of sheep.” Except the lion queen should if she wants her incest baby to be a Lion King.
FLOTSAM AND JETSAM
Some lovely little things just float out of this episode and live on after one is done watching it:
The scene between Tyrion and Jaime is just a beautiful moment between the two conflicted and wounded brothers and an acting showcase for Dinklage and Coster-Waldau. It is a heartbreaking scene that shows GoT at its best.
The scene between Gendry and Jon, as bastards bonding, is another wonderful, little note. Jon is King in the North, but Gendry talks to him about how their fathers were friends and now they can be friends and Jon smiles warmly at him. Rare in this show is genuine affection of one human being for another when they meet. These guys get each other and will do well together. Nice to have you back, Gendry.
Lastly, we have the winners of the most true thing said during the episode. In third place is Ser Davos, who cannily observes, “As my father used to say, ‘It's better to be a coward for a minute, than dead for the rest of your life.’” You just got some knowledge dropped on you (and Davos’ dad sounds fun, or at least good at dad jokes).
In second place is Bronn, who cannily observes, “You’re fucked,” to Jaime as they exit the river. “Don't you mean we're fucked?” is Jaime’s reply. “I do not,” explains Bronn, “Dragons are where our partnership ends.” Bronn might have rescued Jaime because he needs him alive to get any money or castles out of the Lannisters, but their partnership is not a suicide pact. In fact, the only thing that scares Bronn as much as the dragon is Cersei (“I have to tell Cersei,” says Jaime. “May as well jump back in that river,” quips Bronn, knowing that Cersei has become the Darth Vader of GoT, not taking bad news well).
As winner and still champion, however, Ser Davos says it better than anyone: “Nothing fucks you harder than time.” A canny observation with two episodes left in season seven and only eight episodes left in the series.
Kevin Wetmore is an author and professor at Loyola Marymount University. His books include The Theology of Battlestar Galactica, Post-9/11 Horror in American Cinema, and The Empire Triumphant: Race, Religion, and Rebellion in the Star Wars Films. For more information about Kevin, check out his website, Something Wetmore This Way Comes, and to purchase his non-fiction and fiction books, see Amazon.