GAME OF THRONES Recap: Season 7 Episode 4: “The Spoils of War”

We've been waiting for this one

It’s been an exciting season so far on Game of Thrones, the first three episodes of which have all been about slowly developing and ramping up all of the personal and military conflicts that the show has spent six seasons planting the seeds for. But if the first three episodes of this season were all about build up, episode four, “The Spoils of War” was all about the pay off. Now, granted, it didn’t pay off everything, but at the end of the episode the main characters are more consolidated together than ever before, and the great war for Westeros is in full swing. The episode was a shining example of what the show is capable of, paying off multi-season long dramatic arcs before culminating in one of if not the most insane set piece in television history.

The episode starts with the aftermath of the siege of Highgarden as Jaime, Bronn, and the Lannister army are regrouping and heading back towards the capital. After sending ahead a shipment of Tyrell gold that will satisfy all of the Crown’s existing debts they set to work gathering food and supplies and begin the long march back. We then cut to Cersei discussing the payoff of said debts with Tycho Nestoris of the Iron Bank and plans to immediately secure a new line of credit. This banker feels that someone may need to sit down with Cersei for a discussion about properly managing her finances.

From there we journey to Winterfell where much has changed with Bran’s return. Littlefinger seems to have attempted to gain Bran’s favor by presenting him with the dagger that was meant to kill him, yet Bran manages to quite effectively turn the tables on him by quoting a Littlefinger speech, that Bran was not present for, right back at him which leaves Littlefinger more than a bit unsettled. We also in this episode truly start to get the sense that Bran has been irrevocably changed by his experiences, as just about all of his redeeming qualities as a character have been stripped away since he became the Three-Eyed Raven. Seriously, dude is kind of an insufferable jerk at this point.

Next we journey to Dragonstone, where after a brief discussion in which Daenerys expresses a great deal of interest in Missandei’s most recent romantic rendezvous with Grey Worm, we get yet another fantastic scene between Jon and Daenerys. Kit Harrington and Emilia Clarke are proving to have fantastic chemistry together, and this combined with interspersed hints  of a mutual attraction between the two has this writer thinking that a marriage alliance may soon be in order to settle the currently irreconcilable issues preventing the two from becoming proper allies. It is worth noting however that Dany is now showing the first signs of believing that Jon is telling the truth, especially after seeing cave drawings which depict the White Walkers in stunning detail. Also of note during the scene is that Dany’s mistrust of Tyrion in the aftermath of her recent defeats is nearing an all-time high. She’s grown impatient with his more political and round about approach to warfare and is ready to really wreak some havoc. It’s here that in an incredibly telling moment that she turns to Jon for advice, yet another sign of the growing respect between the two, which may be the only reason that Kings Landing itself was saved from dragon fire in this episode.

We then return to Winterfell just in time for a Stark family reunion as Arya finally makes her return home. She’s clearly been changed by her ordeal and it’s a change that the show is having fun slowly revealing. After sharing perhaps her first ever moment of warmth with Sansa, and reuniting with Bran, we get our first chance to see her newly developed combat skills in action as she takes on Brienne in a training duel. The sequence that unfolded is perhaps the greatest  bit of television swordplay I’ve seen in quite some time, as Arya, armed with nothing but Needle and Bran’s Valyrian steel dagger which he has gifted to her, goes head to head with one of the most talented fighters on the show, and not only holds her own, but wins. This new Arya is somewhat terrifying to behold and every witness to the encounter, Brienne included, comes away shaken by what they have witnessed. Perhaps most telling is Littlefinger’s reaction. Littlefinger, throughout most of the show, has constantly exuded an air of confidence that leads you to believe that he is fully in control at all times. This season however has subtly begun to change that and it’s never been clearer than in this episode. He has quite suddenly become very aware that the Starks he is surrounded by are no longer the duller witted more righteous individuals that he can easily outwit and outplay, but rather an immensely talented and dangerous family that have been hardened by events that he himself set in motion. He is an exceedingly dangerous place and it appears to be dawning on him for the first time.

Finally after a brief reunion between Jon and Theon, in which it’s made very clear that Jon has no love left for him, we get the moment we’ve all been waiting for. As the Lannister army caravan slowly makes its way back to Kings Landing, the unthinkable happens. Bronn in mid conversation with Jaime suddenly silences the Lannister commander to better hear a noise on the horizon. What at first appears to be thunder is instead revealed to be the sound of tens of thousands of horses, as Dany’s Dothraki army crests the hill while screaming in a blood lusty fury.  Just as Jaime manages to form the men into spear lines, a thunderous roar pierces the heavens as we see Drogon, with Dany in tow, come bursting through the clouds setting part of the Lannister lines ablaze mere moments before the first wave of Dothraki screamers come crashing through the lines. Fire and carnage are everywhere as the Lannister forces are being mercilessly burned on one side while the Dothraki slaughter them from the other. In a desperate attempt to turn the battle Bronn unveils Qyburn’s secret weapon, the giant ballistae that the show calls “the Scorpion”. In one of the most dramatic sequences the show has ever produced, Bronn faces down Drogon, firing and reloading as rapidly as he can, in a moment reminiscent of an anti-aircraft gun attempting to take down a fighter plane. Bronn with his second shot manages to wound Drogon and for the briefest of moments it looks like both the dragon and Dany may be in trouble, before Drogon shakes off the wound and incinerates the Scorpion, with Bronn only escaping the fire by inches. Looking on at all of this in abject horror is Tyrion, who has clearly never witnessed a massacre on this scale and is obviously very conflicted watching his queen attempt to wipe out his brother’s army. Jaime, in a final desperate attempt to end the battle charges at Dany as she attempts to remove the bolt from Drogon, and just barely escapes incineration as he is tackled off his horse by someone who appears to be Bronn at the last second, with both falling into the river as the episode fades to black.

Episodes like this are what we all signed up for when we started watching the show. The pure spectacle on display is unlike anything that has ever aired on television before and watching it unfold is exhilarating. It’s hard to know where the story goes from here, but one thing that is for certain is that the playing table has been upended yet again, this time by Dany. The Lannister army has been crushed, their food supplies burned, and their remaining soldiers apparently captured. Jaime appears to at least be temporarily out of action and Cersei is now left without a truly functioning army on the continent. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m really excited to see where this goes next!

  • Between Arya’s duel and Dany’s attack, this episode was basically all I’ve been waiting for years now to see

  • YayMayorBee

    The dragon attack is basically what I’ve been imagining since the season 1 finale. It would have been so easy for GoT to underwhelm there because they’re battling the imaginations of millions of viewers working overtime for 7 years (or longer). Whatever the show’s faults, it never fails to deliver creative and effective action setpieces.

    Aside from the showstopping finale, I think the bit I enjoyed most last night was Sansa and Arya’s reunion. Just like last week’s reunion between Bran and Sansa, I feel like the show has been very smart about not making these super weepy, victorious moments. None of the Starks are who they used to be. They’ve spent years apart and are pretty much strangers to each other. They’re still discovering each other, and not always with happy results because–surprise, surprise–their time in the wilderness has fucked each of them up in profound ways.

    • Allen

      The fact that Jon, you know the one that literally died, is the least messed up of the Stark children is crazy and honestly amazing story telling. One thing I love about the books and the show was the dedication to forging unlikely characters into heroes and villains. Time after time the show has killed off the obvious hero or villain, each time drawing us closer and closer to the actual heroes and villains of the story.

      • YayMayorBee

        Yep. Jon hews close to certain fantasy hero archetypes (the secret prince, the put-upon outcast), but he’s way more psychologically real and, of course, the particulars of his story are almost a total 180 from the usual hero’s journey. Dany, meanwhile, kind of fits fantasy villain archetypes–the brutal, power-hungry, cult-supported queen from across the sea–without ever being an outright villain. She may, in fact, be a hero. For fans of fantasy lit, the books and show are a treasure trove of thoughtful subversion.

        • Allen

          Exactly, and the most fascinating thing of all of this is that if you go back and view the story through the lens of the surviving characters being the leads, it feels painfully obvious in retrospect. It all lines up perfectly for the arcs that they are on but it weaves it just subtly enough at first that you don’t really catch on until late in the game.

          • YayMayorBee

            Yes. The story was hidden in plain sight all along. Martin may be a slow, frustrating, self-conscious, and self-indulgent writer, but he’s still excellent with character and plot. ASOIAF, if it ever gets finished, will absolutely live up to the hype of being the modern answer to Lord of the Rings.

          • Allen

            Yeah it’s crazy, everyone was going on for the longest time about how it’s a non-traditional fantasy story, which really isn’t the case. It’s a very traditional fantasy story, approached from a non-traditional angle. He’s telling a story with all the basic archetypes and structures, he just did a masterful job of disguising them by presenting more obvious heroes and villains at the outset and unceremoniously killing them off as he went.

          • YayMayorBee

            Maybe the best part is that ASOIAF functions as a traditional fantasy hero’s journey and directly subverts the same, in that it is set in the aftermath of the evil king being deposed and the love-struck rebel taking power.

  • THERE IS MY DRAGON!!!

  • Holy crap. Just caught up. Holy crap. That was great.

  • Not tied to this episode in particular, but I have to say that my favorite character continues to be Jaime. He was such a mustache-twirling villain at the beginning and I’m really happy with how he’s developed.

    • YayMayorBee

      I feel like people got really hung up on GAME OF THRONES’ plot twists, when the really interesting part of the show (and books) is the approach to character. Everyone has good reason for doing what they do (with the exception of peripheral, unknowable characters like the Mountain). Jaime is probably the most interesting, though, in that he’s a villain, then a quasi-hero, then a quasi-villain, without ever really changing who he is deep down. But circumstances and exterior influences change.

    • Brandon Maughon

      Jaime is one of Kara’s favorite characters too. She started screaming as he faded into his watery abyss.

    • Yep. In the books too. He’s complex, understandable, and still does bad shit, but is conflicted about it