Game of Thrones S7E4: The Spoils of War
Emilia Clarke, Sophie Turner, Kit Harington, Maisie Williams, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jerome Flynn, Aidan Gillen, Isaac Hempstead Wright
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…an effective, lean, focused episode and the highlight of season seven so far.
[SPOILER WARNING: Please don’t read unless you’ve seen the episode. I mean, come on, you know how this works]
Ever since Game of Thrones’ first season finale, “Fire and Blood” – when Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) birthed her wee dragon babies – there has been an expectation that we would, at some point, see Dany use her scaly children to wreak fiery retribution against her enemies. Although that expectation has been met to a certain degree on smaller scales (hoho), it’s really tonight’s episode, “The Spoils of War” that delivers in full.
The episode begins with Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) in the aftermath of the battle for Highgarden, divvying up the literal spoils of war, as a wagon laden with gold is being sent to pay off the Iron Bank. Bronn is grousing about his share of the pay and informs Jaime he wants a castle. Jaime rolls his eyes and tells him to bloody well wait. It’s a small and seemingly inconsequential moment that becomes much more important before the ep’s conclusion.
Elsewhere, Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) gives an iconic dagger to Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright). It’s the very one used by the assassin who tried kill him in season one, which seems an odd choice for a gift. Bran looks like he’d rather be elsewhere, probably listening to The Smiths, and tells Littlefinger, “chaos is a ladder”. Righto, Bran, give it a bone, mate. To further Bran’s douche tour, Meera (Ellie Kendrick) bids the lad a farewell to which Bran barely responds. He’s gone full Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen: he sees too much to properly connect with humanity anymore. Either that or he’s just a wanker. Jury’s still out to be honest.
Meanwhile, Arya (Maisie Williams) finally returns to Winterfell! She’s greeted by a couple of incompetent guards who don’t believe she is who she says she is, but rather than kill them she tricks them and slips past. That’s personal growth, lady! Sansa (Sophie Turner) knows just where Arya will be and the pair reunite at the statue of Ned Stark (Sean Bean). It’s not exactly the warmest of reunions – Arya and Sansa never got along all that well – but it’s nice to see them together even if they’re awkward. Arya looks at Ned’s statue, complaining that it doesn’t look like him.
“Everyone who knew his face is dead” says Sansa.
“We’re not” Arya replies.
The sisters visit Bran in the Godswood where he regifts the dagger to Arya who looks delighted. You can almost see her thinking up people in whom to shove it. Bran also manages to avoid talking about Sansa’s rape this time, so that’s positive.
Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick (Daniel Portman) observe the three Stark Children together. “Catelyn Stark would be proud,” opines Pod and Brienne allows herself a slight glimmer of happiness.
On Dragonstone, Dany gets a tour of the dragonglass mine via Jon Snow (Kit Harington). Jon really wants Khaleesi to pay extra attention to the cave paintings, daubed by the Children of the Forest so very long ago. The pictures show the children and the first men fighting together against their common enemy: the army of the dead.
“The enemy is real,” says Jon, “it’s always been real.”
“I will fight for you,” Dany replies, “I will fight for the North… if you bend the knee.”
Honestly at this moment the UST is so thick in the room you could carve it. Just get married, you guys. Perfect solution.
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) pops in to deliver the bad news about their battle plans thus far and Dany starts to get the shits, seriously contemplating reducing King’s Landing to bubbling slag. Jon advises caution because of course he does.
At Winterfell, Brienne and Arya have a wonderful “training” session where the two appear well matched, fighting back and forth with skill and style.
“Who taught you how to do that?” Brienne asks, breathing hard.
“No one.” Arya cheekily replies.
Meanwhile Sansa watched with wide eyes, thinking what the fuck happened to her bratty little sister?!
At Dragonstone we have a sweet moment where Davos (Liam Cunningham) advises Jon to follow his heart (or boner) for Dany. Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) chats with the pair about how great Dany is, and then Theon (Alfie Allen) arrives on the beach. Jon angrily informs Theon the only reason he’s not dead is because he helped Sansa, but Theon wants to know where the queen is. Actually that’s a good question…
Back where we began, with Jaime and Bronn. Things appear normal for a few moments but then… what’s that sound? Horses. A shitload of horses. The exhausted Lannister troops try to rally as best they can but the sight of a bunch of Dothraki riders approaching isn’t great for morale. Also bad for morale? DANY RIDING A FUCKING DRAGON INTO BATTLE!
Yes, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for, Dany flies into battle, scorching her enemies with long plumes of dragonfire and reducing those who would oppose her to ashes. Not only is the sequence cathartic and well-directed, it’s also layered. From Dany’s perspective the battle is a glorious triumph, but when we’re at ground level with Jaime and Bronn, we’re watching people scream in agony as they burn to death. It’s sweeping and beautifully executed and one of the most memorable moments in GoT history.
The battle rages back and forth, with the Lannisters taking the brunt of the losses. Bronn attempts to use the big dragon-killing crossbow but while he lands one hit, the dragon rallies and destroys the contraption. Spying an opportunity, Jaime attempts to kill Dany but is almost charbroiled – and in fact would have been, had Bronn not knocked him out of the way. Are the sellsword’s efforts all for naught? The episode’s final moments have Jaime sinking into the water of a lake, weighed down by his armour.
Wow. Despite the fact none of our primary characters are killed in the big battle it’s an amazing sequence, showing Dany’s determination but also hinting at a possible madness that may manifest itself more acutely in the future. Bronn lives (yay!) and Jaime probably will too (kinda… yay?) but make no mistake, the game has been well and truly changed and Cersei (Lena Headey) is gonna be maaaaaaaaaaad.
Interesting side note: “The Spoils of War” is just 50 minutes long, GoT’s shortest ep to date, and in fact feels more like 20. It’s an effective, lean, focused episode and the highlight of season seven so far.