The ironically titled The Spoils of War is a rather short episode by Thrones’ standards, but by Christ did they ram it full of excellent moments, spine tingly emotion and you know what.
We begin on the sunny outskirts of Highgarden with the Lannister army marching back to King’s Landing. Jaime pays Bronn the gold he is owed and then we get some classic Bronny banter. It’s been too long. He’s shooting the breeze about wanting his bloody castle, how Cersei will not have a quiet reign and how Jaime is so fucking miserable. Jamie then sends Bronn off with the Tarly lads to batter poor farmers into handing over their food. What was slightly weird with this otherwise fine opener is how much emphasis is placed on gold for it only to safely find its way into Cersei’s clutches.
Everything about the episode was telling us that the gold was going to be an important factor and that it was probably going to be set ablaze, which leads through into the second scene when the *hold your mouth open with your fingers* banker Tycho says Cersei can expect the Iron Banks support as soon as said gold arrives. The bloody cheek of these snakey banker twats. “Oh, cheers for paying back all your debt, your grace, how about you get into some more lovely debt?!?!?!” Scum bags. Also, how in the holy seven does Cersei need to expand her bastard navy when she has the biggest armada the world has ever seen consisting of a preposterous 1,000 ships which were all built within about three bloody weeks? It’s mad how much there is to pick apart in a scene that lasts no longer than two minutes, but I feel a little icky about Cersei being built up to be as good as Tywin, when she’s nowhere near in terms of cunning and cleverness. One final thing, Cersei says she’s had ol’ Qyburn reach out to The Golden Company which is very interesting. I have no idea what she wants them to recover for her, but The Golden Company are rather significant in the books with secret Targaryens and the like. They’re also the one honourable squad of mercenaries going. Now listen, you heard it here bloody first. You’re a strapping young lad with warrior’s blood. You can make swords and you can make armour. You’ve found yourself in Essos with no pals, no coin and no direction. What would you do? Probably get a job at a Blacksmith’s, but, there’s no way the double Ds do not know about the memes. Don’t know about the jokes. Don’t know about the desires. They’ll appease everyone when all had given up hope. Gendry will come back with the golden company!
Up North and Littlefinger’s accent is fucking everywhere. It legit had me creasing. Listen to it again, his pitch jumps about more than a Rabbit on cocaine. Just as he manipulated sweet Robyn with a sweet bird, he hands Bran the gift that every boy wants: the blade which was meant to end their life. He goes on about his love for Kat and wanting to protect her children and I do believe him partially, but the best lies are born in truth. “Chaos is a ladder”. Petyr is fucked. For all his monologuing about knowing and predicting every possible thing ever, he’s now up against a fella who has the capability to do that once he gets his head in order. He’s up shit creek without a paddle and far out of his depth. But are we underestimating him? Who could say, but he’s bloody scared of Bran.
Meera comes in and saves Baelish and it’s heart-breaking. No one even gives the poor girl some new fucking clothes. She’s still in shitty winter rags. Meera Reed is fucking ace and she’s played sublimely by Ellie Kendrick here. In only a few short lines she portrays her utter sadness and suppressed anger, and completely sells what Bran has become. She tells him he’s leaving and he’s still as cold as ice, all he needs is the blue eyes. Bran says how he isn’t really Bran anymore, she tells him he died in that cave… but did he??? Bran was sound as a pound with Benjen last year and we left him within sight of the wall. This change feels very sudden and while I’m happy to overlook many of the shortcuts they’re taking with the plot, this one feels jarring. I reckon if we get some visions with Bran soon, like rapid quick montages, it will help portray what’s going on in his head.
Meera is going home to be with her family, but I’ll bet my left bollock that she’ll defo be back with Howland fucking Reed. The only man alive who was there when Jon was taken from the Tower of Joy.
Arya is home!
Just as she did in season one (there’re soooo many call-backs to earlier seasons in not just this episode but in this season) when trying to get into the Red Keep, Arya is blocked from entering Winterfell. Two funny guards who speak proper northern tell her to fuck off several times. Honestly, I love how we can still get humour in GoT despite the serious end game being upon us. These two lads, Danny Kirane and Eamon Keenan, had me in bits. Keenan’s facial expression when he says, “best fuck off” and Kirane’s simply said line of “I’ll hit you right in the fucking face as hard as I can” were both hilarious. When I found out the director of this episode has done forty episodes of Always Sunny it all made sense. They tell Arya to stay put as they deliberate, but when they turn around she has vanished. Her sad looking face as she took in her burnt and eroded home made me think for a frightful second that she’d done a runner.
But thankfully Sansa knows where she’s gone. They meet in the crypts under Ned’s statue and the meeting is frosty initially, but eventually they warm up to each other and by the time the second hug comes around I was all fuzzy inside. Arya drops the list-bomb and Sansa begins to realise that yet another of her long-lost siblings is fucked up. One thing I am quite tired of, though, is I understand that we’re in 5th gear now and there isn’t time for as many conversations, but characters saying it’s a long story… tell your fucking stories to each other! Sit down by candle light, pour a glass of Dorne’s finest and have a proper good catch up and share your stories. At the very least tell her that Rickon is dead. Why does nobody care about Rickon?
Speaking of fucked up siblings, they both go and meet Bran. The three-eyed raven partially returns Arya’s hug here. Maybe he’s learning to be a bit more emotional or learning how to avoid conflict? My theory is that once he gets his head in order then we will see Bran get his humanity back. Three stark children in a single shot and my heart is weeping. We get more list talk before Bran gives the dagger to Arya, surely, she’s gonna use it to slay a Walker? All three walk into the castle. Stark theme. Goosebumps. Especially when Pod tells Brienne she kept her vow, and she finally accepts that she is a Lady. After seeing Sansa, Lyanna and now Arya, Brienne can at last accept who she is. Littlefinger looks on, with a smirk.
On Dragonstone Dani and Missandei have cute girl talk, oi oi. Jon interrupts and takes them into the cave. The dragon glass mountain is revealed to the swell of the Jurassic Park theme. Then we go further into the cave for, the most convenient artwork ever created. Meh meh meh. I thought this looked beautiful, but Christ, come onnnn! Everyone and their mothers of dragons have made the same joke about Jon and Davos scribbling these on with chalk, but I’d absolutely prefer it if that was the case. The mind backflipping I’m making to be able to keep this down is that they’ve made this cave the new Isle of Faces. A small island in the middle of a lake just below Harrenhal. The Isle is the only place not in the North that has Weirwood Trees and it’s where the Children and the first men made their pact. But what I can’t get over is that Dani doesn’t believe in the White Walkers, but seemingly knows who the Children of the Forest are.
Jon stepped up to a charging cavalry without as much as flinching, but he moves back as Dani approaches. He’s Smitten. She says she’ll fight for the North. If he bends the bastard knee. Why is she so arsed? She goes on about how people chose her to be Queen, but now she’s forcing folk to be by her side! The scene is very close, very touchy feely. Obvs sexual tension. I hope they don’t go there, and I reckon when Jon’s parentage is revealed it will be put on hold, though the Targs aren’t exactly against incest.
They leave the cave. Tyrion and Varys give some bad news in a funny way. Dani chews up Tyrion for his bad plans and calls his loyalty into question over his family. Dani asks Jon what he would do and he gives a good line about her just being like every other tyrant if she goes fire blazing to King’s Landing.
Pod’s getting his arse kicked once again – his training is going well – when Arya shows up. This is easily my favourite scene of the episode. Sansa’s discussing wheat stock when she comes across the scene. Arya coaxes Brienne into “training” her. They have a play scrap and it’s amazing. Arya uses speed and surprise to get the better of Brienne and promptly goes 2-0 up, then Brienne kicks her right in the chest to make it 2-1. There’s a moment of worry and then Arya kicks up like Shawn Michaels. Game on. The tie finishes an exhilarating draw. We even get a real zinger of a “no one” line, which only Arya understands is a zinger.
I loved this because it doesn’t necessarily prove Arya is a better fighter than Brienne, but she can fight and not just sneak around and stab folk. She fights in her own way, in such a different style than any Westerosi knight is used to – especially when she’s been underestimated. Sansa looks on rather coldly or worries and it’s hard to grasp what she’s thinking. I believe the show is trying to get us to think that Sansa will turn heel and betray her family in favour of little thing. But I would be shocked if that is what really happens and rather quite angry. Arya stares down Littlefinger and he may find that blade returned to him quicker than even he could have predicted.
Jon and Davos are chatting and big Davo ribs him for staring at Dani’s “good heart”. He even gets to be the grammar Nazi for a change with a “fewer”, letting us know that Stannis the Mannis still lives on. Davos is just loving life atm, all smiles and witty one liners. I’d be devastated if he died. They come across Missandei. The three of them talk about what a bastard means, her leaving Narth and about Dani being the queen they chose. Which gives a little credence to how I think Westerosi will be when all’s said and done, a democratic nation.
Who would you vote as leader?
Theon lands at the beach and we have another family reunion, the bastard and the hostage. A reunion I wasn’t anticipating but loved all the same. The tension is palpable from the moment Theon simply says “Jon”. Alfie Allen really is brilliant. Jon grabs him by the scruff and says he won’t kill him for fucking over Rob because he saved Sansa.
The queen is gone.
The Lannister lads are chilling out in West World. Sunning themselves by the water. Relaxing. Big Randyl informs us that the gold is in king’s landing and wants to flog the stragglers. What an amazing bastard. Bronn and Jaime go to Dickon. I’m so glad Dickon was recast because Tom Hopper is an excellent actor and really portrays well how conflict has messed him up. His story nicely mirrors Tyrion’s feelings later. Bronn laughs at his name and I’m glad someone has. Working class hero Bronn of the Blackwater hits some home truths to the posho, when Jaime was trying to let him down gently. Jaime’s bug-eyed reactions have been fun this season.
Then we get the long, menacing build as Bronn hears hooves. The screams get louder and louder and the Dothraki come flowing over the hill like a flooding bath. Jamie and Randyl get everyone in order, but then through the dark cloud swoops Drogon.
*Deep breath* The chaos commences.
Drogon sets the poor bastards on fire and a gaping hole is blown in their defensive line. The Dothraki rush in and we finally see their slaughtering prowess. The very real scene of the Dothraki standing on their horses and shooting arrows is breath-taking.
Drogon goes on a strafe run and blows up the wagons. I can’t imagine this is all full of the food from the Reach, but there may well be fewer peasants soon. One unfortunate fucker gets turned to dust and is literally *puff* gone with the breeze.
The archers fire and it does sweet fuck all. Though Dani really should be wearing some armour. Jamie sends Bronn for the scorpion, and as he’s struggling to fight off a Dothraki good ol’ Dickon comes to the rescue.
Bronn gets chased by a single Dothraki who defects his cool back knife and chops his horse’s leg clean off. Bronn chooses his life over his gold. Smart. This whole tracking shot of Bronn is yet another amazing aspect of this boundary-shattering battle. It also very clearly echoes Jon’s delirious run through the Battle of the Bastards. We even get an exact replica shot of a horse mowing down a bloke. I find it interesting that in the battle in the cold Jon is the one in peril, but in the battle of fire Dani is bringing the peril. Bronn makes his way to a wagon and in a great display of overkill winds up pinning the pursuing Dothraki to the next wagon.
For all the disappointment when it was revealed, the scorpion looks fucking badass and menacing as Bronn loads it and takes aim.
Tyrion watches on as a Dothraki says that Tyrion’s people can’t fight, which is a bit fucking unfair geezer you’ve literally got a giant fire breathing lizard and about 3,000 horse masters with big fuck off scythes taking them all by surprise.
Bronn aims down his sites, he fires and hits Drogon right in the shoulder. This was the moment when I really became terrified during this battle. I didn’t want anyone to die. Not Bronn. Not Dani. Not Jaime. Not Drogon. Not even Dickon. No one. But I kinda would have been happy for the working-class lad to become a bloody dragon slayer. The emotions throughout all of this were so conflicting which shows just how great this show is.
Dani gets off to take the arrow out of Drogon’s shoulder (poetic considering Drogo died from a shoulder wound) when Jamie charges with a spear. Not giving a single fuck, thinking he can end the whole bloody war there and then. End the destruction. End the burning. The thing he fears so much. The thing he killed a king and destroyed his honour to protect. Just like the soft Tarly lad way back in King Rob’s war story in season one. Tyrion calls him a fucking idiot and he’s us, he’s saying what all of us are thinking.
He’s about to be burned asunder when Bronn proves his worth once again saving him. But he falls into the Rush and just as he said earlier, the more you own the more it weighs you down. He’s 100% not dead, but how he is saved will be interesting. Will he shed his golden hand, all his expensive armour, shed all he owns and be born again? Baptised by fire. Anew. Will this finally lead him on the path to cut away from Cersei, or are they destined to be the end of each other? Probably both.
This was an already great episode that was topped with an astounding spectacle of a battle, both exhilarating and terrifying to watch. If you get the chance go and watch the thirteen-minute video on the GoT YouTube channel showing how this battle was made. It’s insane. They set twenty actual people on fire. Had bombs, pyro, flamethrowers, zip lines, drones, bucking broncos real horse stunt men. The lot.
See you next week for Eastwatch.