Having a “belief” in Westeros is a powerful thing in Game of Thrones. It can help free you from a lifetime of slavery so you can make your own choice on who to follow or serve. It can make you forsake the gods of your ancestors in hopes of currying the favor of another god who can help you become king (or more likely, a god that sends you a seductive priestess that helps you murder your would-be rivals for the throne and is willing to get busy on the Painted Table). It can even lead you to leave your family, join a religious cult, and then wind up getting incinerated via wildfire by your cousin.
In “Winds of Winter,” Tyrion directly mocked the idea of belief by listing all of the things that people tried to get him to believe in but never took. Yet, the most important belief in Westeros right now comes down to one simple question: Do you believe that a massive undead army is coming and that the real war is between the living and the dead?
In “Eastwatch,” Danaerys, Tyrion, and the rest of the Targaryen entourage begin to seriously confront the looming specter that Jon and Davos came to Dragonstone to warn them about. Even though Dany’s entire life has been consumed by her desire to return home and rule the Seven Kingdoms, she has finally been convinced to put all of that on hold to deal with the real evil in the land. When Davos goes to King’s Landing with Tyrion, he hunts down Gendry, who easily decides to join Davos once the Onion Knight tells Robert Baratheon’s son that bad things are coming. At the end of the episode, Jon’s band meets up with Baric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, and The Hound, all whom trekked north to serve the Lord of Light by fighting the approaching White Walkers. In putting all these characters together, “Eastwatch” shows us that belief will get you to make, in the words of Tormund, some “stupid fucking ideas,” such as going beyond the Wall to capture a Wight, but it will also help you understand what the true threat is.
For others like Cersei and the ponderous maesters of the Citadel, self-interest and skepticism has blinded them to the true threat of winter and what is coming. For Cersei, her doubt as to the warnings from the North are deeply ingrained. Back in “The Night Lands,” from Season 2, Cersei scoffed at Tyrion giving credence to Jeor Mormont’s raven about dead men coming alive by castigating Tyrion for believing in “grumpkins and snarks.” For pretty much the entire show and really most of her life, Cersei has lived in the bubble of King’s Landing.
She has little concern for the North, its people, or its plight other than to make sure the North bends to her will. So, it’s unsurprising when she uses Dany’s offer of armistice while they deal with the White Walkers to form her plan to defeat Dany with subterfuge and hold onto the Iron Throne instead of actually helping protect the kingdom she wants to rule from the greatest threat it’s seen in thousands of years. Frankly, the entire plan concocted by Dany & Co. over the Painted Table is laughable as it depends on Cersei believing that the White Walkers are real. Until a White Walker strolls into the Throne Room, Cersei won’t care about defeating them, and it would only be to save herself, not the rest of humanity. Holding onto the Iron Throne and the power that comes with it is all she cares about. She’s willing to lie (possibly) about being pregnant again with Jaime’s child in order to keep him devoted and loyal to her. Why would having a member of the undead brought to her doorstep convince her to change her ways?
With the maesters, not believing in the White Walkers or warnings from Winterfell is the product of not just doubt about magic and anything that comes with it, but also stronger belief in the maesters’ own self-importance. Even though Sam, a sworn brother of the Night’s Watch and the only person in the Citadel who’s even been close to the Wall or beyond it recently, pleaded with the maesters to believe him based on his own eyewitness accounts, the maesters could not and would not believe Sam because they cannot possibly see beyond their own immediate surroundings.
Despite being the purported keepers of knowledge and tasked with caring about the events and history of the outside world, the maesters dismiss the news from Winterfell as a ploy by Dany to take over Westeros rather than seeing the true plot at hand. Sam’s decision to leave the Citadel and Oldtown came after he realized that the so-called wise men of Westeros were not going to save anyone and that he had to stop reading about other people’s deeds and do it his damn self like he did with saving Jorah.
Ironically, Cersei and the maesters of the Citadel will likely live longer than many of our true-believer heroes, who set out beyond the Wall on the definition of a fool’s errand. By putting themselves in the definition of harm’s way, Jon and his band are risking their lives and future when the skeptics like Cersei and the maesters never would. Yet, the White Walkers will only possibly be defeated by people willing to believe and understand what the true threat is, not the cowards and cravens of the South.
Quick Messages On Scenes from “Eastwatch”
Contributed By: Scott Chandler