Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers from Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 5, “Eastwatch.” Read our recap of Episode 4 here.
Now that was the Game of Thrones we love.
After a fiery, bombastic episode last week, Game of Thrones spent an hour showing it can still make a tense, suspenseful and immensely entertaining hour of television even without all that dragonfire and death. And, OK, there was a little dragonfire and death this time, too.
“Eastwatch” was the best episode of Thrones so far this season. The series needed to reinvent itself after it brought so many major characters together and narrowed its focus. It’s been unable to continue its set pattern of flittering from location to location, checking in on the status of each major character and sprinkling in some major events or reveals when it made sense. In the first four episodes, Season 7 has been clumsy trying to deal with the new circumstances of its characters from a structural standpoint, which was felt in last week’s uneven episode, which struggled when there wasn’t a dragon onscreen.
But Sunday’s episode somehow figured out how to crack the code. It veritably zipped along, bringing characters back we thought were rowing forever (hi, Gendry) and informing us that Rhaegar and Lyanna may have been married (thanks, Gilly). It focused on character and nudged the plot along without being too slow. It was funny, surprising and the most enjoyable episode in a good while.
Game of Thrones is a thrilling and explosive series, sure, but it’s also a drama about the folly and idiocy of mankind, the cost of war and the ramifications of interpersonal conflicts that play out on a huge stage. “Eastwatch” reminded us of those themes and introduced a new one: the need for teamwork. Cooperation and compromise have almost never worked for the characters on the drama, if they had been attempted at all (see Theon’s betrayal, the Red Wedding, etc). But the enemy of my enemy is a friend, as the saying goes, and they’re all up against a giant frozen hoard of dead coming to kill us all, so it might be time to set aside sibling rivalry.
Or as Jon Snow put it, they’re all on the same side because, they’re “all breathing.”
If everyone on this series doesn’t learn how to be a team, they won’t stay breathing for long.
More details from this episode to come.