Game of Thrones: Recap of Season 7 Episode 4 – The Spoils of War
Just like that, Game of Thrones’ Season 7 is halfway over. This season has been a non-stop thrill ride (that in my opinion might be going too fast) that is not showing any signs of slowing down as we head in to the final three-episode stretch. I think what has set this season apart from previous ones is the amount of callbacks and references to past scenes, episodes and seasons (both large and small). Just in Episode 4, Bran eerily references to Littlefinger’s Season 3 “Chaos is a ladder” monologue, Davos pulls a Stannis Grammar Police “fewer” on Jon, and Dany asks Jon “Isn’t [the Northerners’] survival more important than your pride?” is a direct quote from Season 4 when Jon asked Mance to bend the knee for Stannis after “The Watchers on the Wall” battle. It gives viewers a sense of nostalgia for past seasons and links events from the past and how they have shaped the present and will affect the future. The constant callbacks thus far have really created a nice synergy throughout the seven seasons of this show and have helped to create a sort of circular and revolving theme.
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We didn’t get too much King’s Landing this week but the Iron Bank representative Tycho Nestoris is practically giddy at the news that Cersei will be repaying the crown’s full debt. (Despite a lot of internet confusion, we later learn from Randyll Tarly that the gold taken from Highgarden has arrived safely within King’s Landing’s walls. It is the food and provisions that Jaime’s and Bronn’s caravan is carrying during the Dothraki attack.) Tycho even mentions that the Iron Bank would assist in further investments as the two discuss the Golden Company ( a sellsword group from Essos) entering the fray on Team Cersei. I can’t help but wonder if the Golden Company’s founding and history with Targaryen blood will play a role later on this season or next.
Aside from the Reach and the Blackwater Rush final scene, Winterfell brought home the biggest prize with a series of emotional and heartwarming scenes. We first see Littlefinger giving the Valyrian steel dagger to Bran as a gift, the same blade that was used to attempt his murder. It’s very odd that Littlefinger would give this to Bran, and I really do wonder what the importance of that blade is moving forward. The show has hinted at its significance since episode 1 when a painting of it was in a book that Sam was reading at the Citadel. Could it be Littlefinger’s undoing? Perhaps Bran’s or the Night King’s? It was funny to see Baelish a bit panic-stricken for once when Bran quoted Littlefinger.
As many other viewers said, I’ve hated how emotionless Bran has become since returning home. Even the Three Eyed Raven showed some emotion with Bran, either in their weirwood visions or in the cave. Perhaps Bran’s feelings will come back to him, but I think this personality change is a bit misguided by the directors. It was truly disheartening to see how he treated Meera in this scene after literally giving her life (and Jojen’s, Hodor’s, Summer’s, the Children, and Bloodraven’s) to him countless times. She is right in saying that the Bran we knew died in that cave.
In a happier scene, Arya finally returns home. There was another callback with her trying to get through the Winterfell gates, similar to how she proclaimed that she was the Hand’s daughter outside of the Red Keep’s gates in Season 1. Despite their past differences, I did think that the reunion between Sansa and Arya was touching, especially with how open Arya was with Sansa about her “list.” Later, we get the last three trueborn Starks together, with Bran giving the dagger to Arya as a gift since he knows she has the talents to possess it. Another great moment was the two girls wheeling their brother through the courtyard as Brienne and Pod (and Littlefinger) looked on. It was a sight that fans have longed for and hoped would happen for years.
Later on, we get what might be my second favorite scene of the episode as Arya challenges Brienne to a duel. Arya’s combination of water-dancing, Faceless Man training, and experiences with Sandor Clegane is on full display as she (in my opinion) defeats Brienne with ease. While a lot of people have various opinions of what Sansa is thinking as she overlooks the training, I felt that it is her surprise in how much Arya has changed and truly become a weapon since they last saw each other. I also loved Arya’s quip of “no one” when Brienne asked her who Arya learned all of moves.
Back at Dragonstone, Jon leads Daenerys past the walls of dragonglass to an ancient part of the cave where the Children of the Forest drew painting of them fighting side by side with men to defeat the White Walkers, a clear analogy to Jon hoping to convince Dany to set aside their differences to fight the true enemy together. I thought it was a pretty convenient plot device that these cave paintings were here and that Jon was the first to discover them. A bit weak to be honest.
On a side-note, I continue to wonder about the spiraling shapes that is always associated with the White Walkers. After seven seasons, there must be an importance to it all. But we also get a bit of sexual tension that Davos is a bit eager to discuss. I could really do without the cliché romance of it all, but it’s not unsurprising that this is the path that the directors and writers chose. I’d expect this behavior, bordering on flirting, to continue in future episodes, so long as Jon remains at Dragonstone.
Once they leave the cave, Dany learns of her most recent loss at Highgarden and wants to go all “Fire and Blood” on King’s Landing, despite Tyrion’s and Varys’ doubts. She shows a sign of maturity by asking Jon for his advice, and he sides with the Imp and the Eunuch to ensure that she isn’t hated by the common-folk due to dragon destruction.
At Dragonstone, Theon arrives and meets not his queen, but Jon, the bastard who he grew up with at Winterfell and whose family was decimated due to the actions that Theon took. I was hoping for a bit more conflict in this scene as it seemed to be lacking, especially considering the short time length of this episode. I tend to doubt we get more Jon-Theon interaction in the immediate next episode but I still hope there is more redemption in Theon’s story arc, hopefully in aiding the Starks.
In the South
As Jon tells Theon that the Queen is no longer at Dragonstone, we see the Lannister caravan traveling through the Reach to King’s Landing, transporting the harvest and goods. As Jaime, Bronn and Dickon (Bronn- ha Dickon) are talking, they hear the thundering herd of the Dothraki. Many viewers were thrilled to finally see Drogon wreak havoc on foot soldiers, but I was eager to see the Dothraki in action in a full-fledged battle. “Only a fool would meet the Dothraki in an open field,” Robert Baratheon wisely said in Season 1. Their military tactics were incredible to watch, as they used bow and arrow with precision on horseback and cut through horses and soldiers with their nerve-wracking screams. Even without Drogon, the Dothraki would have easily won this “battle.” Dany and her dragon were there to terrify the enemy and announce her (and her dragon’s) presence in Westeros.
Despite a bit of a thought to escape the attack with his gold, Bronn rushes to the ballista in order to take Drogon down, who has already engulfed dozens of Lannister soldiers in flame. I was surprised to see Tyrion at the battlefield, watching safely away from the action. Despite his allegiance to Dany, you can tell he is pained and emotional seeing Lannister soldiers (and later, his brother) getting taken down or burned with ease.
Visually, this entire sequence was a masterpiece. The countless Lannister soldiers burned (or burning) to a crisp, the smokiness of the air from Drogon’s fire, the shrieks of the Dothraki as they hunt down remaining, fleeing Lannisters were all a magnificent site. In the battles that we’ve seen this season (and even in past seasons like the Battle of the Bastards and the Blackwater), the show has done a great job in showing various military strategies and types of warfare. This “Field of Fire 2.0” continued that pattern and raised our expectations for future scenes even futher.
After an unsuccessful attempt at taking it down, Bronn is able to connect and hit Drogon in the side, but it simply slows the dragon down and is not a death knell. Many viewers, myself included, are wondering if Qyburn was smart enough to poison the arrows. I’m sure we will find out for certain in the episodes to come. As Dany tries to pull the arrow out of its belly, Jaime idiotically (as Tyrion describes it) goes for a suicide mission to kill the Queen. You could sense Tyrion’s anxiety as he essentially watched from afar what would be the death of his brother.
If it wasn’t for Bronn’s heroics in pushing Jaime in to the water (that I guess is supposed to be the Blackwater Rush but seems to be more of a stream until we see Jaime sinking further and further in to the depths), he would have been dragon crisp. I cannot imagine that the drowning can be the end for Ser Jaime. In fact, as a viewer who believes in his (eventual and ultimate) redemption arc, it would disappoint me. I am also interested in learning how Dany treats the survivors of the battle, as well as the implications on the loss of food and provisions for King’s Landing. But, as it always is with Game of Thrones, we are left on the edge of our seats until next Sunday night at nine.