Holy GAME OF THRONES.
It is episodes like the latest, titled “The Spoils of War,” that make me wish I had a time machine so I could transport Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz to my living room tonight, have them watch the full hour of this epic show with me and tell them “You guys, this is television now.”
We had the battle of Blackwater Bay in Season 2, the battle at The Wall in Season 4, Hardhome in Season 5, the Bastard Bowl in Season 6, and now “The Spoils of War” will rank among those epic battle episodes. The Lannisters finally get a taste of the Dothraki, the Queen of Dragons, and… her dragons. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
The episode saved much of fireworks for the last third of the hour, with the first two thirds bringing relatively quiet, tidy, and sometimes even uplifting scenes (more Starks are reunited: yay!). It started out with Cersei speaking to Tycho, the liaison between King’s Landing and the Iron Bank. The Crown is in some pretty steep debt to the Bank through all their conquests, and they’re going to need more to foot the bill for more armies and conquests with the way the world is fractured and divided at the moment. Luckily Jaime has sent the spoils from their capture of Highgarden in last week’s episode, and the Bank and the Crown are square (although Tycho points out they’ll miss the Lannister’s interest payments). The Bank basically approves her loan for new armies. Leave it to Game of Thrones to make banking exciting.
In Winterfell, there are many reunions, though not all as joyful as one would have anticipated, and a few goodbyes. Littlefinger gives a gift to Bran: the dagger of Valyrian steel that was used to try and kill him the night after his fall. Why he would want such a thing is beyond me, and it turns out he doesn’t want it really, but not because he is afraid of it or it brings bad memories. Meera Reed tries to make a heartfelt departure with Bran, after all they’ve been through, and he is barely moved. He explains that he isn’t really Bran, not anymore. He remembers what it was like to be Bran, but now he is the Three-Eyed Raven. And he is having a hard time relating to people, even his sisters.
Speaking of his sisters, another one makes a long-awaited return to her home of Winterfell this week. Arya arrives and is met by a couple dummies guarding the entrance who don’t believe she is actually Arya Stark. She ultimately convinces them to let her in and quickly loses them because, well, she’s Arya. Sansa hears about this young girl’s intrusion and knows that it’s her. She also knows where to find her; in the halls of the dead Starks, in front of the one that marks their father Ned. They embrace and catch up a bit before Sansa takes her to see Bran. Arya is surprised to learn that Bran knows about her kill list. He also says he saw her at the crossroads. He gives her the dagger.
Of course Brienne of Tarth and Arya need to have their reunion as well. Last they had seen one another, Brienne had kicked The Hound’s ass. While sparring with Podrick, Arya comes upon them and offers to spar with Lady Brienne herself. Incredibly confident with her training now, she manages to one up Brienne and impress her. When Brienne asks who taught her how to do this, Arya cleverly answers “No one.”
At Dragonstone, Jon meets with Daenerys to show her what he’s made this huge fuss about: the dragon glass. He takes her into some caves beneath Dragonstone and we see it there, covering the vast walls. We also see drawings done by the Children of the Forest millenia ago. When Dany remarks that they probably did it before man even, Jon shows her another drawing of the Children and the First Men together, and they are battling the White Walkers together. They were real then and they are real now. Dany is just beginning to realize this, and she promises Jon her support against the Night King IF he bends a knee. Jon remains unsure what to do.
As they come out of the cave, Tyrion and Varys are waiting for them with somber faces. Tyrion reports that Casterly Rock was successfully taken. When Dany questions why they don’t look happy, he has to tell her that Highgarden was lost. Daenerys is incredibly frustrated. First the Greyjoy’s fleet and with it Dorne, and now the Tyrell’s army and support. She started out with an incredible advantage and is still somehow losing. She wants to take her dragons to the Red Keep and just start burning things down, but Jon tells her if she does that she is no different than the people who are currently ruling, and have been ruling for thousands of years.
Dany has a different idea.
On the road from their victory in Highgarden, Jaime and Bronn are quibbling over Bronn only receiving gold and not having received a castle as he had been promised. This all will seem trivial in a moment when Jaime hears a sort of oncoming thunder. Realizing it is the beating of horse hoofs coming towards them, he orders all his soldiers to ready their shields and spears. What goes down next is by far the most exciting sequence all season: an epic battle between the Lannister and Dothraki forces, although battle may be a strong word for what happens between them. The Dothraki easily slaughter many of them, and with Dany riding Drogon and setting ablaze legions at a time, including equipment, there isn’t much of a fighting chance for Jaime’s forces.
I thought for sure Bronn was dead. They were setting it up as an epic send-off for this character who’s been with us since Season One. He is able to get one of Qyburn’s gigantic crossbows rigged up and fires a few at Drogon, only hitting him once. It’s enough to shake him and Dany, and they have to land so she can take it from the dragon’s neck. As she’s doing so, Jaime spots her and sees an opportunity to take his foe out. He charges her with a spear, while Tyrion watches from a hill high above them remarking what “f***ing idiot” Jaime is being by doing so. As he’s about to strike her down, Drogon turns his head and breathes fire! At the last second Bronn tackles Jaime into the river, saving him. But the final shot of the hour show Jaime sinking from the weight of his armor. Will he survive?
As stated above, this will go down as one of the best directed and well plotted out episodes in Game of Thrones and possibly TV history. I rarely give A+’s here but this has surely earned it.
Season 7, Episode 4 (S07E04)
Game of Thrones airs Sunday at 9PM on HBO
Paul Gulyas | Contributor