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GoT S7E5 Eastwatch review | Catspaws and daredevils

Most of us old fogies got into Game of Thrones when it was in its infancy, when it invested a lot of screen-time on atmosphere, period, and banter that didn’t have all that much plot relevance but served to engage and lull the audience in its luxuriating immersive idyll. This can be attributed to the show being an adaptation of a very elaborate set of books that had spent a considerable amount of time and energy on world-building and character development. Then, of course, came the war and the double-crossing and the blood, and the idyll was shattered all the more explosively for its earlier placidity.

However, since the show emancipated itself from George R.R. Martin’s slow-moving gravy train, it has been able to kick into high gear. Over the past two seasons especially, it has dispensed with languid world-building and taken to crunching the plot-flow aggressively, so that each episode covers as much ground as GRRM might over the course of half a book or more. The irony in all this narrative acceleration is that an indefatigable single-minded army of the undead continues to trudge along interminably even as the human protagonists of Westeros zip back and forth across the continent in the interstice between two episodes. There’s only so much disbelief one can suspend, Oh revered showrunners.

Anyhow, we now have a confirmation of how close to the Wall the Whitewalkers and Wights really are — 1 mile. Jeepers creepers. And the closer Winter arrives, the more the story is hotting up. Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) has travelled thousands of miles (and at his ripe old age; #DavosHumour) and reunited with his Queen, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who has got the most convoluted complex sense of morality. When she has zero qualms about using fire and fury to follow through on her cruel ultimatums (“bend the knee or die”; really?), is she really different from her mad arsonist father Aerys simply because she is ‘charitable’ enough to offer her victims the tokenism of ‘choice’? Randyll Tarly (James Faulkner) and his son Dickon (Tom Hopper) take the Morality Consolation prize here by refusing to submit, even if for their questionable reasons (has no one told Lord Tarly that Daenerys was born in Westeros and isn’t an ‘outsider’ as much as a ‘returner’?), and acquiescing to death, together.

 

The Stupid Bravery prize last week went to Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) for having lunged at a fire-breathing dragon in, we realise now, a bid to end the war. Heroic as that may have been, he is fast realising the futility of holding out against a rival with three apocalyptic beasts. Oops, I should have said ‘beautiful children’. Ah, the mesmerising illusion that you get when you conflate awe with beauty — this is something I have always had a problem about with the maternal and duplicitously emotional soundtrack that accompanies the dragons; they have always been cast to us through the eyes of Dany, a mother who can never find her children ugly. But there is little correlation between magnificence and munificence. And that is something the show fails at recognising or acknowledging, still. But who cares about all that philosophy, when the scene is stolen by Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) all but exposing that he has Targaryen blood when Drogon lets himself be stroked tenderly. But I blame all this on the showrunners’ fetish for emotive appeal. Nor Kit Harrington, a mere director’s catspaw. Not Jon Snow, a mere man of rectitude vested with humankind’s survival, who wins this week’s Stupid Bravery prize for the umpteenth time.

Props to Jon Snow for being the one guy — well, besides, perhaps, Samwell Tarly (John Bradley-West) — who understands the urgency of the real threat, and isn’t afraid to defy popular opinion or bureaucratic protocol to ensure what he knows to be the priority gets priority. Although, as we have often seen from Jon’s actions, rationality doesn’t necessarily preclude daredevilry.

The crisp dialogue in Dany’s Dragonstone round table gives the impression of sequential linearity — the only way Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) will cease hostilities and leave Dany’s army free to go North to help Jon defend the living against the Whitewalkers is if she is persuaded that the undead are real, and no old wives’ tale. But really, it’s quite a leap in logic to come to the outlandish conclusion that the only solution is for someone to go beyond the wall and steal/capture/smuggle a wight to prove their existence to Cersei. Um...

 

You’re going to risk the lives of frontline commanders/fighters like Jon Snow, Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and Jorah Mormont for the most morbid show-and-tell lesson ever? How do you even capture a wight from under the nose of the Night King? A wight isn’t like a weak herd animal that can be isolated and hunted down. How do you subdue one? How do you transport one all the way to King’s Landing? Even if you defy all odds and manage to escape with one, why couldn’t the Night King simply deactivate (or is it de-animate) the compromised wight? And after Cersei miraculously strategically deigns to ‘give audience’ to her arch enemy, what makes you think that she will not, like Varys observes, kill you right where you stand just because Jaime asked her not to? And will being convinced of the greater threat persuade her, the cornered solipsistic monster that she is, to actually stop fighting to save her throne?

Speaking of being capable of doing anything for the throne, Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen). Last week, when Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) looked on warily as her sister Arya (Maisie Williams) sparred withélan, one figured old insecurities were surfacing. And Petyr Baelish was there to note this subtle chink in the sisters’ interpersonal equation. And Petyr Baelish promptly set out to execute his discord sowing. Leading someone of Arya’s trained-assassin vigilance into his trap was genius, and he deserved his 4-second self-congratulatory smug-gaze-across-camera. Information is power. False information is undoing. It’s certain that Arya, already suspicious of her sister’s ambitions, now suspects, after reading the letter Sansa wrote under duress back in Season One, her of being a master-manipulator capable of doing anything for the cachet of power. At this point — for me personally — more fitting than Jon Snow piercing the Night King’s heart with dragonglass would be Arya impaling Littlefinger with the murderous catspaw dagger he dared gift his own failed target. What gall.

All this apart, it’s going to be epic when Jon and his crew march into the maw of death, like Jaime did. And yet, I feel myself savouring the dread. You see, if there’s one thing that comforts me about the show not being authored by GRRM, it’s that I can be sure the protagonists I love will emerge victorious. I like the show; I wish GRRM had finished the books so the show could be true to his storytelling style.


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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 8:23:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/got-s7e5-eastwatch-review-catspaws-and-daredevils/article19497583.ece

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