After the face-melting and masterful The Spoils of War, Game of Thrones heads into the back half of this shortened season with Sunday’s Eastwatch.
Based on the title and episode preview, we know that we are headed to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. This has been hinted at all season and it seems that many far-flung characters will be converging on this location.
In anticipation of what has the makings of another Hardhome-level episode, here is a brief rundown on Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and some speculation about what might happen there.
Where the wall meets the sea
Eastwatch-by-the-Sea is the easternmost castle on the wall at the north of Westeros. It sits on the coast at the end of the wall in an inlet of the Shivering Sea called the Bay of Seals.
This castle is one of only three of the 19 castles on the wall to have been continuously manned since the height of the Night’s Watch thousands of years ago.
In addition to being a Night’s Watch stronghold, Eastwatch is also a major trading port. The Night’s Watch, people from Westeros, wildlings and those from across the Narrow Sea have all been known to trade there. The Night’s Watch also ports their small fleet of ships at Eastwatch.
In the novels, Eastwatch has fewer than 200 men stationed there, making it the weakest of the still manned castles.
Lacking in men and at the edge of the wall, this is a vulnerable position that the Night King can exploit.
A man named Cotter Pyke is the commander at Eastwatch. Cotter is originally a bastard of the Iron Islands and as such he is unpleasant and miserable like all those from the armpit of Westeros.
This bold, grizzled, and uncouth commander went to Hardhome in the books and has not been seen since. It is possible that he won’t be introduced on the show at this late stage.
There are however, quite a few familiar faces who should show up at Eastwatch.
Who’s headed there?
Last we saw the band of misfits known as the Brotherhood without Banners, they were heading north towards Eastwatch.
Beric Dondarrion and the Hound are formidable warriors and neither scares easily. And, while he may not be as flashy as Melisandre, the fire god powers possessed by Thoros of Myr might prove useful should anyone meet a snowy end and need a resurrection.
In the episode preview, Bran, using his three-eyed-raven powers, is doing recon on the Night King.
He gets a message to Jon on Dragonstone that the army of the dead is marching on Eastwatch. Never one to miss out on the possibility of a glorious and horrible death, Jon will not be late to this party.
The question is will he bring anyone or anything (dragonglass? Rhaegal?) from Dragonstone with him.
Tormund & the wildlings
At the beginning of the season Jon sent Tormund and the wildlings to help man Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.
Eastwatch is the closest stronghold to Hardhome and that is where they last saw the Night King. So we know that the wildlings will be there to greet the army of the dead.
I’m fearful for Tormund in this fight and hope he survives and lives to brazenly gawk at Brienne again.
Will Eastwatch be a turning point?
We are definitely headed for a showdown near the grey windswept shores of Eastwatch. But is this the beginning of the Night King’s full-scale invasion or is it merely a probing strike?
In the novels, Melisandre actually has a vision of Eastwatch, albeit in a different context and situation.
She says: “I saw towers by the sea, submerged beneath a black and bloody tide. That is where the heaviest blow will fall”. This does not bode well for those who go to fight at Eastwatch.
No matter how many northerners, brothers of the Night’s Watch and wildlings defend Eastwatch, our heroes will be outnumbered.
If the Night King brings his whole force to bear, there is no path to victory. So will this battle end in a retreat or a massacre?
Given the high stakes of this season it is somewhat surprising that we haven’t yet lost any beloved characters beyond Olenna (sorry sand snakes).
Given that nobody was reduced to ash by dragon fire last episode, I’d say we are overdue. I would be surprised if all of our heroes make it out of Eastwatch alive.
Perhaps Jon’s brooding and art show will be enough to convince Dany of the direness of this situation.
Maybe she will provide a last-minute save and rescue Jon & Co. Someone has to check the Night King’s arrogance and having Dany roast his forces atop Drogon would be a suitable mic-drop moment.
If the forces of the living suffer a major blow or the walkers get past the wall this could be a wake-up call to the rest of the realm.
Knowing that the enemy is indeed real could show the rest of Westeros that the battle for the iron throne needs to wrap up as quickly as possible.
It looks like the great war is finally here on Sunday’s Game of Thrones. Eastwatch here we come…
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.