In the ‘Game of Thrones’ recap, Daenerys reaches out to Cersei, Jon plans a trip back to the North, Littlefinger plots against the Starks and a familiar face returns…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
“Maynard says here that he issued an annulment for a Prince Rhaegar and remarried him to someone else at the same time in a secret ceremony in Dorne.”
There’s a lot to unpack from the latest episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ titled ‘Eastwatch’ but perhaps nothing more important than this single line.
It happened while Samwell Tarly was sitting in utter frustration after the maesters at the Citadel all but dismissed his concerns about the army of the dead marching on Westeros while Gilly was reading through a text written by a former High Septon in King’s Landing.
This particular High Septon named Maynard kept records of everything — including his own bowel movements — but it was this particular line of script that changes everything we know about ‘Game of Thrones’ from before or going forward.
Prince Rhaegar Targaryen was the rightful heir to the Iron Throne following his father Aerys Targaryen, but the prince was slain in battle by Robert Baratheon during his uprising against the crown. Rhaegar was married to Elia Martell, who we all remember as the sister of Oberyn Martell from Dorne.
If this writing is correct, Prince Rhaegar divorced Elia and was remarried to a different woman in a secret ceremony. That woman was Lyanna Stark — sister to Ned Stark and mother to Jon Snow.
Last season in a flashback where Bran traveled to the Tower of Joy in Dorne, he witnessed the birth of Jon Snow by his mother Lyanna, who handed him over to Ned and made him promise not to reveal the boy’s true parentage. At that time, Robert Baratheon would have snuffed out the child for any number of reasons, not the least of which would be the boy’s legitimate claim to the Iron Throne at a time when the Targaryen’s still had a lot of loyalty in the Seven Kingdoms.
Add to that, Robert believed that Rhaegar kidnapped and raped his beloved Lyanna, who was promised to be his wife. In reality, Lyanna fell in love with Rhaegar and they ran away together to be married while witnesses the birth of their only child. Sadly, that union caused Robert’s rebellion and brought to an end the Targaryen dynasty.
This secret marriage confirms that not only were Rhaegar and Lyanna in love as most have suspected but they were actually bound together as husband and wife. That means Jon was born into this world as a legitimate child and the true heir to the Iron Throne.
How all of this will come to light is anybody’s guess, but now we know for certain that Jon Snow is the true, legitimate child of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, which makes him the true king born to sit on the Iron Throne.
With that said, let’s recap the latest episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ titled ‘Eastwatch’…
Bend the Knee or Die
In the aftermath of Daenerys’ attack on the Lannister forces, her army has gathered up the last remaining soldiers not killed or burned alive during the battle. With the fighting over, Daenerys has offered the remaining soldiers a very simple choice — bend the knee and pledge their loyalty to her claim as the rightful queen to the Iron Throne or die.
One of the first people to speak out in opposition is Randyll Tarly, who was one of the generals of the Lannister army fighting against Daenerys and her Dothraki horde. Randyll refused to bend the knee, especially not to some foreign invader who has never lived in Westeros like his true queen Cersei Lannister.
Despite his wishes to allow his son to live, Dickon Tarly also speaks up and refuses to bend the knee, instead opting to stand next to his father as they both oppose the rule of Daenerys Targaryen.
While Tyrion does his best to convince the queen that perhaps a few nights in a damp, dark cell would change their minds, Daenerys has already made her declaration. Bend the knee or die.
“Lord Randyll Tarly, Dickon Tarly, I Daenerys of House Targaryen, first of my name, breaking of chains and mother of dragons, sentence you to die. Dracarys.”
~ Daenerys Targaryen
With one word, Daenerys wipes out the hierarchy of House Tarly — although Sam is still out there as well — but this move doesn’t sit well with her closest advisors. Tyrion has seen cruel rulers and Lord Varys has seen mad kings and neither of them want to see Daenerys transform into that same thing.
Varys was reminded of watching ‘The Mad King’ Aerys Targaryen roast men alive with wild fire inside the throne room — including the time he burned Ned Stark’s father Rickard to death. Of course, Varys doesn’t believe Daenerys is the same person as her father but watching her order a dragon to burn her enemies to ash doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either.
“It’s what I told myself when I watched them beg for mercy. I’m not the one doing it. The pitch of their screams rose higher, I’m not the one doing it. When their hair caught fire and the smell of the burning flesh filled the throne room — I’m not the one doing it.”
~ Lord Varys
As concerned as Tyrion and Varys might be about the path Daenerys’ is traveling down, Jamie Lannister has much bigger problems to contend with now that he knows the dragon queen isn’t just a myth but rather she’s just as powerful as everyone proclaimed her to be. Thanks to Bronn knocking him off his horse and into the river just before Drogon would have roasted him alive, Jamie knows that the war is effectively over.
Daenerys’ one dragon just burned the majority of the Lannister army, they lost their field commander and it’s going to be hard to convince new soldiers to run off into battle only to get turned into ash while going up against the Targaryen queen.
Jamie heads back to King’s Landing where he tells Cersei what they’re up against and how by all accounts, this is now a losing battle. Of course, Cersei isn’t willing to concede the Iron Throne just yet, much less surrender it without a fight. It doesn’t help matters much that Cersei is holding onto a mountain of disdain for her little brother Tyrion, who is now Hand of the Queen to Daenerys Targaryen.
That’s when Jamie tells Cersei that part of her reason for hating Tyrion so much isn’t even valid.
He explains how just before dying, Olenna Tyrell confessed her role in Joffrey’s assassination, which exonerates Tyrion from any wrong doing despite being put on trial for the crime. Cersei isn’t ready to believe the confessions of a woman sentenced to die, but Jamie might have convinced her given the Queen of Thorns’ reasoning for committing the act in the first place.
“Would you have rather seen your granddaughter married to Joffrey or Tommen? Which one would Margaery have been better able to control? Which one would have made Olenna the true ruler of the Seven Kingdoms?”
~ Jamie Lannister
It may be hard for Cersei to accept considering how much she loathes Tyrion — and chances are that won’t change because he actually did murder their father Tywin — but on this one particular charge he’s absolutely innocent. That doesn’t mean this ends with a happy family reunion although two Lannister’s do come back together before this episode comes to an end…
The March of the Dead
Bran’s visions carry him beyond the Wall where he wargs into a flock of ravens and witnesses the Night King leading his army of the dead towards Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, one of the last remaining castles belonging to the Night’s Watch on the edge of Westeros.
Bran sends messages to anyone and everyone in Westeros warning them of this oncoming threat with one particular scroll reaching his brother Jon in Dragonstone.
Of course, Jon has been spending his days and nights mining dragon glass to turn into weapons to battle the army of the dead while hoping that he could eventually convince Daenerys to join his cause. The two of them have been growing closer and closer by the day and Daenerys’ faith in Jon seems to get even stronger after she flies home on the back of Drogon and the great beast allows the King in the North to touch his scaly skin. Now perhaps Daenerys reads this as Drogon sensing that Jon means him no harm or a deeper meaning could be that the dragon knows this is actually a Targaryen in front of him. Dragons have a deep kinship with the Targaryen family and Jon has fire and blood running through his veins.
That moment of bonding is soon interrupted by a visitor as Jorah Mormont finally arrives in Dragonstone ready to serve his queen after being healed from the greyscale attacking his body. Daenerys welcomes her old friend back into her service but the reunion won’t last long after Bran’s message is received from Winterfell.
Of course, Jon is equally shocked to find out that both Bran and Arya are alive but now he knows for certain that Night King is moving on Westeros and time is running short to stop the army of the dead.
The only problem is Daenerys won’t leave her home until she’s sitting on the Iron Throne because if she goes north to battle the White Walkers, that will just leave the opening for Cersei to get an even stronger grip on the Seven Kingdoms.
Tyrion then comes up with another suggestion — rather than fighting against Cersei, why not try to turn her into an ally to fight against the dead? Cersei has to know by now that she can’t defeat Daenerys in open battle, but if the army of the dead marches across Westeros, it won’t matter who’s left alive to sit on the Iron Throne.
“She thinks the army of the dead is nothing but a story, made up by wet nurses to frighten children. What if we prove her wrong?”
~ Tyrion Lannister
The idea is this — Jon will lead a small garrison north of the Wall in an attempt to capture a wight so they can bring it back to King’s Landing to prove to Cersei that the threat from the Night King is very, very real. Meanwhile, Tyrion will smuggle himself into King’s Landing with some help from Davos so he can try to convince Jamie to work with him rather than against them so there’s far less bloodshed when this is all over.
Jorah volunteers to go with Jon beyond the Wall to help him capture this dead man walking and bring it back as proof that the White Walkers really do exist. Daenerys reluctantly gives her permission for this plan, but doesn’t seem all that happy to see anybody leaving right now — especially not given the look she has for Jon as he boards his boat to head out to sea.
In the North, Sansa is getting more and more comfortable in a seat of power while doing very little to dissuade the angry mobs from turning on Jon while he’s away from home parlaying with the dragon queen to the south. Rather than silencing this potential uprising, Sansa is only saying that she understands their grievances while listening to their problems.
Arya finally confronts her sister about Sansa’s inability to take up for her brother rather than catering to the whims of the people who sound ready to overthrow him. Sansa attempts to explain that after defeating the Boltons, this is what working together looks like and she needs leaders like those in House Glover and Lord Royce of the Vale to help bolster the army that will supposedly fight back the threat from beyond the Wall.
Of course, Arya doesn’t quite believe what her sister is saying. Remember, when Arya last left Sansa she was a child of privilege, who wanted everything whether she deserved it or not. That’s why Sansa was so excited to marry Joffrey and that’s why she stood next to him while her father Ned was beheaded.
Arya believes deep down Sansa is already thinking about her place on the throne as the Queen in the North and there’s no faster way to make that happen than turning the lords against Jon so when he returns, the seat no longer belongs to him.
“You’re thinking it right now. You don’t want to be but the thought just won’t go away.”
~ Arya Stark
To further confirm her suspicions, Arya begins tracking Littlefinger all over Winterfell to see what he’s scheming because he’s been by Sansa’s side this entire time. No one is hungrier for power in Westeros than Lord Petyr Baelish so Arya believes he’s the key to finding out what secret moves are being made on Sansa’s behalf.
Eventually, Arya sees Maester Wolkan hand over a scroll to Baelish that was found deep in the archives at Winterfell. Baelish thanks him for his service to Lady Stark (further evidence that she ordered this action) and then goes into his room before leaving a short time after, locking the door behind him. Arya soon follows by picking the lock and going inside to see what Littlefinger has hidden.
What she eventually finds tucked inside his mattress as a safe place for keeping is a scroll written by Sansa to her brother Robb after Ned was beheaded. Now this scroll was actually written by Sansa in distress after Ned was branded as a trairor as Cersei took it upon herself to essentially threaten the girl to write this message to her brother or risk being cast out or worst as a result.
So Sansa wrote the letter — Robb saw through it immediately and went back into his plans to declare war on the crown. Here’s the letter in it’s full transcription:
“Robb, I write to you with a heavy heart. Our good king Robert is dead, killed from wounds he took in a boar hunt. Father has been charged with treason. He conspired with Robert’s brothers against my beloved Joffrey and tried to steal his throne. The Lannisters are treating me very well and providing me with every comfort. I beg you to come to King’s Landing, swear fealty to King Joffrey and prevent any strife between the great houses of Stark and Lannister. Your faithful sister, Sansa”
Now this may all seem like garbage considering everything that has unfolded since this time, but remember Arya has no idea how this all happened. When she escaped King’s Landing, Sansa was by Joffrey’s side, a loyal woman ready to marry her king. This letter is damning evidence that Sansa attempted to broker a peace between the Lannisters and the Starks despite Joffrey branding their father as a traitor before beheading him.
After she leaves the room, we see Baelish keeping a close eye on her, which means he planted that message knowing that she would find it.
Arya was already wary of her sister’s true intentions but this letter serves as proof that Sansa once betrayed her own family to protect her own interests. Of course, Arya could speak to Sansa to find out the truth, but she’s been suspicious that the eldest remaining Stark child has designs on taking control from her bastard brother Jon.
Now it appears that Baelish is trying to turn sister against sister, which would more than likely mean Sansa will come to him for help.
Baelish has been out of the power vacuum all season long but there’s no better way for him to climb back into an enviable position than by creating a little chaos amongst the siblings. Chaos is a ladder after all.
The Longest Night
At the Citadel, the maesters receive word from Bran Stark warning them about the army of the dead advancing on Westeros while asking them to send word to all the other houses for help in defending the Wall. Samwell overhears this conversation before chiming in to offer further proof that this threat is very real.
Samwell has seen it first hand — he killed a White Walker after all — but still the other maesters don’t seem all that interested in hearing him out. He leaves angry that no one will listen as the archmaester notes that they just received word about his father and brother being roasted alive by the dragon queen, but didn’t have the heart to tell him yet that they’re dead.
Meanwhile, Sam goes back to his room with Gilly where she spills the news about Rhaegar and Lyanna but unfortunately he’s rather preoccupied.
Sam is tired of telling the maesters about the true threat that lies to the North and no one paying him any real attention. So Sam goes to the restricted reading room, gathers up all the materials talking about the Long Night — the historic battle between the living and the dead that happened hundreds upon hundreds of years ago — and sets out on a course to reunite with his friend Jon to help him in the battle ahead.
Sam leaves the Citadel never officially becoming a maester while still not knowing that his brother and father are dead.
Back in King’s Landing, Davos arrives with Tyrion as both of them have missions to carry out.
Thanks to some assistance from Bronn setting up a meeting, Tyrion reunites with his brother Jamie deep in the bowels of the Red Keep where the skulls of all the Targaryen dragons are kept. At first, Jamie is angry at the sight of his brother after vowing to kill him following the death of their father Tywin. Tyrion attempts to explain away his murder of their father due to Tywin knowing that he had nothing to do with Joffrey’s assassination and still sentencing him to death anyways. Jamie isn’t interested in hearing about Tyrion’s reasons behind killing their father but he’s still listening.
Jamie has always loved Tyrion and he knows his brother wouldn’t have come here without good reason.
Tyrion tells Jamie that the war is already lost for Cersei.
Daenerys has a more powerful army and she has three dragons, which puts her a position where Cersei can’t even compete with her on the battlefield.
Jamie arrives at Cersei’s room where he finds Qyburn inside — he quietly says he could offer her something but she declines (what ails her is unknown at this time) — before he meets with the queen to tell her about the clandestine meeting with Tyrion.
Strangely, Cersei doesn’t seem all that shocked about Jamie’s secret meeting with their brother. Instead, Cersei wonders if Jamie will punish Bronn for setting up this reunion in the first place.
See, Cersei already knew about the meeting before it ever happened. Her hand Qyburn is quite the master of whisperers just like Varys was in his day. As it turns out, Cersei allowed the meeting to happen so she could find out this news.
Jamie tells her that Tyrion is offering them an armistice for now to join forces for the greater good of battling against an army of the dead that’s bound for Westeros. Tyrion promised to provide them proof at this meeting where Cersei will come face to face with Daenerys for the first time.
“I’ve come to believe that an accommodation with the dragon queen could be in our immediate interest. She has the numbers. If we want to beat her, we have to be clever. We have to fight her like father would have. Dead men, dragons and dragon queens. Whatever stands in our way we will defeat it. For ourselves, for our house and for this”
~ Cersei Lannister
This — as Cersei clutches her womb — is her way of telling Jamie that they have another child on its way into the world. She then tells Jamie that when the baby is born, they will tell all of Westeros about the baby’s true parentage no matter how much that might upset people. Cersei then hugs Jamie before whispering in his ear a rather chilly warning to never betray her again.
It’s clear that Cersei is still playing for keeps — whether or not she’s with child, Jamie believes that she’s going to have another baby and that solidifies his loyalty towards her. They had three children together and now all of them are dead. It’s safe to say, Jamie will do whatever it takes to protect Cersei and this baby.
Add to that, Cersei’s comment about fighting Daenerys the way that Tywin would have done it harkens back to the Red Wedding. Tywin commented to Tyrion after orchestrating that event how so many people felt it was more noble to watch thousands die on the battlefield rather than a cunning maneuver brought an end to the war with only a few people being slaughtered at a wedding. It looks like Cersei is ready to play the game of thrones with Daenerys and only one of them can win.
Meanwhile, Davos arrives at Flea Bottom inside King’s Landing where he finds Gendry — Robert Baratheon’s bastard son — hammering away as a black smith once again. Davos says that he thought Gendry might still be rowing — a long standing joke after he put the boy on a boat outside Dragonstone bound for King’s Landing before disappearing for the last four seasons.
Gendry has been back working as a black smith in King’s Landing ever since, but he’s just been biding his time until an opportunity came to escape. Davos offering him a spot in the North is all he needs to pack up his shop and leave to join the battle against the dead.
Of course, Gendry has really honed his craft as a black smith but he never got any better with a sword. Instead, Gendry made himself a weapon more befitting of his heritage — a war hammer encrusted with the stag of House Baratheon just like the one Robert carried into war all those years ago.
At the shore just before escaping, Davos, Gendry and Tyrion are discovered by a pair of gold cloaks who remember that the queen was looking for a dwarf with a scar on his face. Rather than ask many questions, Gendry puts that war hammer to good use, smashing their heads in before they all leave on the boat bound for Dragonstone.
Once they arrive, Davos introduces the boy to the King in the North, although he wants him to use a different name Gendry doesn’t reveal his true parentage.
Instead, Gendry announces himself as the bastard son of Robert Baratheon and then offers to join Jon’s fight to the North against the army of the dead. Immediately, Gendry and Jon are quick to like each other much like their fathers did over the years as Robert and Ned were more like brothers than just friends.
Jon welcomes Gendry to the team as they gather up the rest of the dragon glass and prepare to leave for a trip to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.
Night of the Living Dead
After arriving at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, Jon explains his plans to Tormund to lead an expedition beyond the Wall in an attempt to capture one of the wights to bring them back as proof that the army of the dead actually exists. Tormund knows it’s a suicide mission but he’s always willing to help his friend Jon, especially because he’s one of the few people who has seen what the Night King can do.
As it turns out, Jon isn’t alone when it comes to venturing beyond the Wall because another group was recently captured just outside of Eastwatch trying to get past as well.
Down in the cells, Jon and his group set eyes on the Brotherhood without Banners — Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr and ‘The Hound’ Sandor Clegane. They’ve been kept prisoner for days now after attempting to get past the Wildling army to go beyond the Wall.
Of course everybody in this group has a reason to hate each other.
Gendry reminds the brotherhood how they sold him off to Melisandre where she planned to kill him because he has king’s blood running through his veins. Tormund hates Jorah because his father was the former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, who routinely slaughtered Wildlings as part of his daily routine.
Now Jorah actually has history with Thoros after they fought together during the Siege of Pyke — one of the final battles in the Greyjoy uprising when Balon Greyjoy attempted to break free and started an uprising against Robert Baratheon. Thoros and Jorah fought side by side along with Jamie Lannister and Ned Stark to stamp down the rebellion. The end result was Balon Greyjoy bending the knee and his last remaining son Theon being handed over to Ned Stark as a permanent hostage to ensure his father wouldn’t rebel again.
Despite the differences many of the men share, Jon notes that they are all ultimately fighting for the same cause.
Jon: “We’re on the same side”
Gendry: “How can we be?
Jon: “We’re all breathing”
A few moments later the gate opens up that leads beyond the Wall as Jon Snow leads his men against the army of the dead. He’s surrounded by Jorah Mormont, Tormund Gianstbane, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, Gendry and ‘The Hound’ Sandor Clegane as they all venture out into the cold, unforgiving winter not knowing what lies ahead for them.
And the Night King is somewhere in that cold, blistering distance just waiting for the chance to introduce the living to the dead.
Only two more episodes left this season! ‘Game of Thrones’ returns next Sunday night at 9pm ET on HBO.