We start this week’s episode picking up after the stunning defeat of the Lannister’s. Bronn recovers Jamie and drags him to land while telling him that the only person who is allowed to kill Jamie is Bronn (at least until Bronn gets his comeuppance). Jamie full well realizes the power of Daenerys’ army and the even deadlier three dragon weapons that wiped out his host. Yet he has the unenviable task of revealing this information to Cersei.
From there, we see Tyrion surveying the destruction left by Daenerys’ forces. The Dothraki plunder their fill among the ash filled landscape of burnt soldiers. Clearly, Tyrion feels remorse at the situation in actually witnessing the outcome of the war.
In the meantime, the surviving soldiers are escorted as hostages to the Dragon Queen who offers to allow them to join her forces or choose death. She offers her viewpoint that Cersei’s propaganda has brainwashed those on her side as depicting Daenerys as being a murderer and tyrant. However, she still sees herself as a liberator.
Daenerys mentions again the metaphor of the wheel as a symbol that rolls over the rich and poor to benefit certain groups of people. It’s an interesting moment in that you have to question Daenerys’ self-awareness and ultimate endgame plan. By her rhetoric and action, one would believe that under her rule there is still a sense of tyranny in how she treats her subjects that disagree with her as well as ignore decorum.
Drogon’s roar emphatically induces fear in the soldiers, making most kneel before Daenerys. The image isn’t necessarily a pleasant one in the sense that people are not entirely making a choice but are being coerced, making Daenerys seem quite hypocritical (as she often is when in this position).
One of the few who refuses the offer is Randyll Tarly. Despite Tyrion attempting to logically coax him into switching sides yet again, Randyll remains steadfast in his allegiance to Cersei. He provides a poignant quote:
“There are no easy choices in war.”
In the end though, Randyll’s main reasoning for remaining loyal to Cersei is that she is not a foreigner nor someone who has brought the barbarian Dothraki to invade the lands. Tyrion offers Randyll to take the Black at the Wall but Randyll continues to retain his honor, thus sealing his fate.
Dickon also wants to stand beside his father with Randyll trying to prevent him. In all likelihood, Randyll recognizes what Dickon’s move will cost his house, which makes him try to prevent his son from suffering the same fate. Together they stand and are roasted by Drogon.
From there, we see Jamie urgently needing to talk with Cersei. He’s passed in the hall by Qyburn but ignores the ex-maester. When he enters, Cersei seems already fully aware of their losses. Still she appears unphased by the news as she now is in possession of the gold from Highgarden. Nonetheless, Jamie having witnessed the slaughter of his men, tries to convince his twin that the mercenaries (the Golden Company) Cersei seeks will not be able to thwart Daenerys’ forces.
Cersei remains unconvinced that pursuing a peace treaty will offer anything to them. However, she does consider Tyrion interceding on their behalf (perhaps half-amusingly). At that moment, Jamie chooses to unveil the truth about Joffrey’s murder. Cersei though stays in denial, which seems to suggest absorbing their father’s prejudices against the dwarf. Furthermore, Cersei cements her decision to continue her defiance and maintain her position as queen.
Next, we have Jon Snow awaiting on the cliff (for some odd reason) as Daenerys flies in on Drogon. As if trying to intimidate the King of the North, Daenerys approaches Jon Snow on the back of Drogon. However, Drogon does not treat him with contempt and Jon Snow removes his glove to pet the massive dragon. Daenerys seems impressed by Drogon’s gentle demeanor towards Jon.
Daenerys share a conversation where Daenerys describes her dragons as beautiful while Jon describes them as beasts. To Daenerys the dragons are her children and are not beasts. From there, they discuss Daenerys’ recent conquest and she compares her situation to Jon Snow’s retaking of Winterfell. Both share similar abstract ideals of ruling, but Daenerys’ concept involves maintaining a position of strength (which is very Machiavellian).
After, Daenerys receives the sight of a friend she hasn’t seen in a while: Ser Jorah Mormont. He requests to be taken back into her service for which he receives a hug. Jon Snow seems a little unsettled (or rather Daenerys’ tender side astonishes him).
We return to Winterfell where Bran commands Ravens to scout for him. We see a view of Eastwatch near the sea against the Wall.
Eventually, the ravens come across the legion. The Night King glowers at them and they scatter. In turn, Bran awakens to deliver a message to Maester Wolkan to send more ravens throughout the land.
Over at the Citadel, Samwell enters a meeting between the maesters debating the authenticity of Bran’s message. The archmaester inquires about Sam’s own experiences and what they ought to do. However, they continue to believe the idea is nonsense, which infuriates Sam. After Sam leaves, they discuss Sam’s father and brother being burnt, showing that they are actively withholding information from him.
Over in Dragonstone, Varys and Tyrion share wine and debate about what to do with Daenerys. Varys reminisces over his own complicity in aiding Daenerys’ father in locating traitors. The speech reminded me of the “cog in the machine” description of Nazis who would run say a gas chamber but not be the ones deciding the Jews’ fate.
Although they both agree that Daenerys is not her father, Varys points out only by her listening, which sounds to be Tyrion’s job. At that point, Tyrion notices a sealed scroll but of course Varys already has read its content.
Jon reads the scroll glumly. It ought to be good news considering that both Bran and Arya are now reported to be safely back at Winterfell. Even Daenerys shows her support for the change in news. But Jon stays grim at the news of Bran seeing the army of the dead marching near Eastwatch.
Jon wants to return and try and defend the North with his remaining forces. Daenerys doubts that he can do so but Jon says that he might have some chance if the two join. Still, that might leave an opening for Daenerys to lose her upcoming war with Cersei.
Yet it is Tyrion who figures that Cersei will doubt the plan since she has been raised to believe the Wight Walkers are nothing more than a children’s fiction. He suggests capturing a single soldier to return to King’s Landing as evidence. Of course, getting Cersei to even listen to anyone is impossible according to Varys, which Tyrion counters by saying that Jamie will make her listen. In turn, Tyrion will get Jamie to hear him out.
To get Tyrion inside King’s Landing, Ser Davos will smuggle him in, although he admits to not being a fighter. That still leaves the issue of getting someone to catch a Wight. Ser Jorah volunteers.
Furthermore, Jon tells them that the Freefolk will give them the aid through the “real” North. They won’t follow Ser Jorah (due to his bad blood) which implies Jon Snow will go. Daenerys seems upset by his decision but Jon Snow says he’s the only one of the people there who has fought them. Jon gives a speech in putting trust into a stranger at this moment to give them the best chance at saving their people.
Back in Winterfell, the lords of the North await impatiently for action. However, Sansa seems content in her position as Arya looks on, seeming alarmed at her sister’s newfound power. As the two walk away and return to Sansa’s chambers (which were their parents’), Arya senses that Sansa may enjoy her rise up more than she should. Perhaps, the play Arya watched may have issued a warning about her sister.
Outside of King’s Landing, Tyrion and Ser Davos smuggle themselves to the beach. Ser Davos has business to do in Flea Bottom which concerns Tyrion as there are no people guarding.
Somehow Tyrion manages to persuade Bronn to escort Jamie into the depths where the dragon skeletal heads are preserved to hold a private talk. It’s emotional for both of them and even Jamie seems slightly warmed to Tyrion’s old humor. However, Tyrion is there for a proposal to Cersei: an armistice.
In Flea Bottom, Ser Davos tries to locate an old friend: the long, lost Gendry.
There’s a fun rowing joke tossed in but Ser Davos’ purpose is to pick him up. Without hesitation, Gendry agrees to join him as he has heard about the recent rumors about what is going on in the North and hopes to participate.
Back by the shore, Gendry and Ser Davos begin packing. Soon enough a pair of Gold Cloaks arrive to inspect the scene. Ser Davos is recognized by one of them and he’s forced to bribe them. In the background, Gendry appears at the ready. However, they continue to take interest in the content of the boat, for which Gendry has hidden his war hammer. Instead, Ser Davos manages to cover up the war hammer to unveil fermented crab used as a sexual arousal ingredient.
Just as Ser Davos believes he is able to convince the pair of Gold Cloaks that his basket of crab has some form of sexual stimulant, Tyrion begins to descend from the hill. It doesn’t take much to convince the pair that Tyrion is the infamous dwarf wanted by Cersei for murdering Tywin Lannister. However, Gendry sneaks up from behind and clobbers the two men’s faces.
We return to the Red Keep where Qyburn seems to be inspecting Cersei. Jamie is a little suspicious as this is the second time he is with her privately. At any rate, Jamie admits to meeting with Tyrion for which he proposes the truce due to the marching dead on the north.
Cersei ignores him and focuses on Bronn as betraying Jamie. The meeting was done in chicanery which deserves some form of punishment. But Jamie’s expression demonstrates otherwise where his real shock is in learning that his own sister has been spying upon him.
She continues that the temporary truce would prove fruitful as Daenerys possesses the physical force. However, Cersei believes she can win by the mental game. Her motivation though comes as a result of revealing that she is pregnant once again with Jamie as the father. That brings him close to her again though she reprimands him for betraying her. It’s a very Michael Corleone moment from her.
Back on Dragonstone, Ser Davos wants to introduce Gendry to Jon Snow and have him take a position as a blacksmith in Winterfell. Once the two meet it’s a throwback between the friendship of Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark where there’s small jabs but commonalities that bring them close.
As the men prepare to travel to Eastwatch, we have yet another odd reunion between Ser Jorah and Tyrion. Tyrion makes a snarky remark on how he missed Ser Jorah’s companionship. He hands a coin to Ser Jorah and offers his own version of an apology for banishing him by stating that the queen needs him.
He does get to kiss Daenerys’ hand before he leaves. The brief camaraderie is broken up by Jon Snow, who mentions that if they don’t hear back from him, then she won’t have to worry about the King in the North. Daenerys coyly retorts that she has become accustomed to him. The men depart with Ser Jorah looking back once last time, although Jon Snow does not.
Over in the Citadel, Gilly shows off her newfound ability to read. She recites what seems like trivia that unnerves Sam. One critical thing she mentions in passing is the idea of an annulled marriage, particularly for Rhaegar. However, her pronunciation of Rhaegar’s name is wrong, causing Sam to ignore the detail completely.
Later, Sam invades the library where he begins taking what he thinks are critical pieces of information. Then he sets off again with Gilly back North as he feels that his time is being wasted reading of other great men’s deeds. Essentially, he’s evading his dream of being a maester to create his own destiny.
Back in Winterfell, we get a spy-vs-spy story going between Littlefinger and Arya. Littlefinger manages to acquire the letter that Sansa wrote to Robb Stark in requesting for him to bend the knee to Cersei. He ends up hiding that letter under his bed, which piques Arya’s curiosity. She goes to hunt for the letter, uncovering then relocking his chambers all the while believing that Littlefinger is nowhere to be seen. On the contrary, he is aware of her spying upon him and is shown in the corner observing her get his planted evidence. Pretty much Littlefinger is attempting to pit sister against sister in creating his ladder of chaos.
Up in Eastwatch, Jon’s small platoon joins up with Tormund. He tries to convince the wildling of his insane idea. In turn, Tormund reveals he knows others who want to travel along the same path.
The aforementioned people are none other than the Hound with Thoros and Beric. There’s tension between each party with Gendry lacking trust towards the people who wanted him to be sacrificed, while Ser Jorah’s name is revealed to an equally suspect Tormund. However, Beric reminds them that what they think maybe their purpose doesn’t matter as someone else (GRRM?) has planned a greater destiny for them.
We get a glimpse of this unlikely band of potential heroes before they set out into the true North.
This episode obviously is setting up for next week’s episode. However, there were plenty of reunions and the return of one of the longest ongoing memes on the net with Gendry. No, his arms weren’t as swole as people had theorized but we did get to see him briefly in action.
For Jon Snow and Daenerys, we see them growing in admiration for one another. Jon Snow sees a good side to the dragon queen while Daenerys understands the raw courage and humility of the King of the North. Cersei proves to be more resourceful as of late and that all her late father’s teachings did not go unnoticed by her. However, her beloved Jamie seems torn as ever in his loyalty and love towards her vs the depths at what she will sacrifice to gain her way. The revelation of her pregnancy might be a trap for Jamie to keep his loyalty in bringing a larger stake.
The Winterfell story line is somewhat devoid of emotion for me, despite the Stark reunions. It feels disconnected to the rest of the plot with Littlefinger attempting to disrupt the importance of what’s at stake. Only Bran’s ability to see things anchors Winterfell to the other parts of the land.
Of course, the real interest is the brewing war to the North. With the band of seven together, we see what could be a band of heroes or failures depending on how they react towards one another especially in the face of the real threat.
For myself, I’m mostly interested in next week’s episode (as well as the finale). A lot has been building up to episode 6 with the Wight Hunt. With seven of the most interesting characters now brought together, it’ll be interesting to see how that episode plays out. The promos state firmly that “winter is here” but the word “winter” is ambiguous. I don’t think it just means “snow” and the “cold” but something greater that’ll blow us away.