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Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 5, “Eastwatch”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 5, “Eastwatch”

Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 5, “Eastwatch”

“Eastwatch” picks up exactly where the last episode of Game of Thrones left off, with Bronn (Jerome Flynn) fishing Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) out of a river, and marks a turning point for the series, as it finally fully embraces its fantasy. To this point, Game of Thrones has carefully rooted itself in medieval lore and tactics (dragons-as-nuclear-bombs notwithstanding), but “Eastwatch” feels more like a heist movie than what's come before. To some extent, this is a result of the ever-accelerated pacing: The journey is no longer shown, only the destinations, and character re-introductions are distilled into essential quips and action. But more importantly, it's an episode that dials back from the epic confrontations that have filled out the majority of this season, choosing instead to focus on eight brave individuals and their almost certainly hopeless quest.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 3, “The Queen’s Justice”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 3, “The Queen’s Justice”

Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 3, “The Queen’s Justice”

There are currently two queens vying for control of Westeros, and the latest episode of Game of Thrones centers around the ways in which they rule. “The Queen’s Justice” is an effective summary of the various futures and beliefs for which the protagonists are all fighting for, but much of the episode feels as if it’s going through familiar motions. First there’s Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), stuck repeating the lessons of her father, Tywin. Her sense of justice is nothing more than revenge, and we already saw that play out in the far more masterful “The Winds of Winter.” And then there’s Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who stands in direct contrast to Cersei by distancing herself from her own father, apologizing to Jon Snow (Kit Harington) for Mad King Aerys’s evil, but then again, that’s also nothing new for her.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 10, "The Winds of Winter"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 10, “The Winds of Winter”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 10, “The Winds of Winter”

The first three minutes of this week’s season finale of Game of Thrones set a somber mood—and with not a single word uttered, just the ominous tolling of a bell. That’s because words are somewhat beside the point. The trial of Cersei (Lena Headey) and Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones) has begun, and if one believes the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), everything about this moment has been predestined. And so director Miguel Sapochnik wisely echoes that sense of fate, orchestrating every shot to the gradual crescendo of a classical choir, and providing hawkeyed viewers with an abundance of foreshadowing.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 6, "Blood of My Blood"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 6, “Blood of My Blood”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 6, “Blood of My Blood”

After the emotional closure of last week’s episode of Game of Thrones, it was almost inevitable that “Blood of My Blood” would take a more subdued step back to reset the table for the next big event. The largest problem with tonight’s episode is that it either changes course so abruptly or restates certain theses so redundantly that it feels like a bit of a tease, especially for those who aren’t too invested in Samwell Tarly’s (John Bradley-West) storyline.

After a tense dinner in which Sam’s father, Randyll (James Faulkner), sternly judges his disinherited son and wildling “whore,” Gilly (Hannah Murray), Sam apologizes for not standing up to him, and then departs with his new family (Gilly and her son) in the middle of the night. “I’m angry that horrible people can treat good people that way and get away with it,” remarks Gilly, and while awful fathers aren’t anything new in the world of Game of Thrones, the show gains little by dwelling on them. Sam’s heroism and love for Gilly has already been well demonstrated up to this point, so these scenes seem like nothing more than a needless opportunity to reiterate Westeros’s cruelty.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 2, "Home"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 2, “Home”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 2, “Home”

Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) is dreaming of better days, specifically his long-lost Winterfell, where he watches as his father, Ned, and uncle, Benjen, learn to spar. He even happens upon a slow stable boy, Willis, and realizes that this is an even more innocent version of the man who’s been protecting him in the present, Hodor (Kristian Nairn). This, of course, is an illusion, and the mysterious vision-sharing man known only as the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow) soon pulls Bran back to his crippled reality. “You finally show me something I care about, and then you drag me away,” shouts Bran, and it’s hard not to hear echoes of the most ardent yet frustrated Game of Thrones fans, because the show’s sprawling narrative has room for no more than 10 minutes an episode for each character. That makes it increasingly hard to becoming truly invested in any of them, especially with a new subplot on the Iron Islands, where the possibly insane Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk), claiming to be the Drowned God, deposes his brother, Balon (Patrick Malahide), by flinging him over a rickety bridge in the middle of a storm.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 4, Episode 10, "The Children"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 10, “The Children”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 10, “The Children”

Contrary to the structure of most serial television, Game of Thrones tends to peak with its penultimate episode, leaving finales open to operate as a form of self-summary. They take stock of the dead, consider the implications of arc climaxes, and anticipate how characters will move forward in the subsequent season. This structure fits with the mission statement of George R. R. Martin’s books: to dispel the orthodox narratives and tone of fantasy to consider how magic and dragons might impact something closer to medieval history and anthropology.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 4, Episode 5, "First of His Name"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 5, “First of His Name”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 5, “First of His Name”

Last week’s episode of Game of Thrones made an unfortunate case against the show’s writers straying too far from the source material. Deviations acknowledge that an adaptation in a different medium must address the context of that medium before strict faithfulness to the text, and the episode’s additions admirably attempted to give focus to George R. R. Martin’s weaker plotlines. Most obvious, and nominally welcome, of these alterations is Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) getting to interact with other characters instead of endlessly wandering the forest with his usual, bland companions, the most interesting of whom is a giant who can only repeat his name ad infinitum. In execution, however, none of the changes seemed to do anything but pad out an hour of television, and a week later, only Michelle MacLaren’s brilliantly composed coda with the White Walkers sticks in the memory.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 2, Episode 5, "The Ghost of Harrenhal"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 5, “The Ghost of Harrenhal”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 5, “The Ghost of Harrenhal”

With “The Ghost of Harrenhal,” David Benioff and D.B. Weiss try too hard to introduce an elemental aspect to Game of Thrones’s focus on the nature of power. A veiled, unidentified woman tells Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) the reason Qarth’s residents lust after Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) dragons is because “dragons are fire made flesh. And fire is power.” Fire is thus associated with strength in “The Ghost of Harrenhal” and water represents powerlessness.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 2, Episode 3, "What Is Dead May Never Die"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 3, “What Is Dead May Never Die”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 3, “What Is Dead May Never Die”

With tonight’s episode, the writers of Game of Thrones continue the trend of organizing each episode of season two around a different theme. Every episode seems to revolve around a Lebowski rug quote (i.e., one that holds an entire episode together like the Dude’s rug held his room together). Last week, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) delivered such a line about midway through “The Night Lands” when he declared that “sometimes those with the most power have the least grace.” In “What Is Dead May Never Die,” a title that paraphrases a famous incantatory line from the seminal H.P. Lovecraft short story The Call of Cthulhu, Varys (Conleth Hill) authoritatively suggests that “power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick, a shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very long shadow” after Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) puts on a great display of power by ferreting out one of Queen Cersei Lannister’s (Lena Headey) spies.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 2, Episode 1, "The North Remembers"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 1, “The North Remembers”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 1, “The North Remembers”

The most exciting thing about the season-two premiere of Game of Thrones is its refreshing sense of focus. Several episodes from the show’s first season reached the cusp of greatness, but the show’s creators seemed somewhat hampered by how much plot they had to disseminate in 10 episodes. Season one is a good adaptation of the first book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series, even if it isn’t as well-paced. Thankfully, “The North Remembers,” the season-two premiere, is thematically focused in ways that all of last season’s serial installments were not. It’s a very auspicious beginning, indeed.