Breathe deep. Exhale. Repeat.
Every season there’s a Game of Thrones episode where you really needed to take time to absorb it all.
Last season, it was the Battle of the Bastards. This season (so far) it’s The Spoils of War.
A lot happened in episode 4: Arya’s return to Winterfell, a reunion with Sansa and Brandon, a reappearance by Bronn and Jon and Daenerys inching closer to ‘something’.
It’s all the stuff we’ve inched towards in the previous three episodes. All quality stuff that would have had everyone raving about.
And then we get 12 minutes of heart stopping action on par with ‘Bastards’. Beautifully filmed and executed. But before we get to those final 12 minutes, let’s go back to the beginning.
We open with the Lannisters on the march from High Garden. A familiar face is with Jaime as gold and other spoils of war are loaded onto wagons.
It would appear Bronn the sell-sword was in the thick of things when the home of House Tyrell was taken.
Bronn may want a bigger share of the spoils or a castle, but all the gold is destined for the Iron Bank. As Jaime points out; ‘the Lannisters pay their debts’.
In King’s Landing, the bank’s rep is impressed with how quickly Cersei has managed to clear the slate and is more than happy to do further business…for a price, of course.
A line of credit is exactly what Cersei needs as she seeks to expand her navies and armies.
Fortunately, this is the last we see of Cersei in this episode. With her enemies dealt with and her brother ‘on the road’, Queen Cersei has little to do other than wander around King’s Landing drinking, sneering and snarling. Yawn.
To Winterfell, where Littlefinger is trying to get a handle on Bran, who appears to have lost his humanness as he transitions into the ‘three-eyed raven’.
He’s not at all taken by Littlefinger giving him the dagger that effectively triggered the whole War of The Five Kings.
Nor is Bran too fussed when Meera announces that she’s leaving Winterfell. She’s not happy with an unfeeling thank-you for the sacrifices made to see him to safety.
“I’m not really. Not anymore. I remember what it felt like to be Brandon Stark, but I remember so much else now”.
“You died in that cave”.
That’s not far from the truth. Brandon has become a bit creepy with his lack of emotion and dispassionate attitude.
Maybe it comes with the job.
As Meera leaves, we finally have a ‘Stark moment’ as Arya makes it home. So much has happened to her and to those around since she left Winterfell.
She’s no longer the young girl, who ditched sewing lessons to shoot arrows. The Stark family is but a shadow of its old self.
But even her homecoming isn’t straightforward. As she approaches the gates of Winterfell, two dumb-arse guards stand in her way.
“Tell Sansa her sister is here”.
“Lady Sansa is too busy to waste her breath on you”.
“I’m getting into this castle one way or another. If I’m not who I say I am, I won’t last long. But if I am and Sansa finds out you turned me away….”
They quickly realise it would be better for their long term future to let her in, but as they argue who should go tell Lady Sansa, Arya simply vanishes.
Sansa knows where she might be: the crypt under Winterfell. She finds Arya standing in front of the statue of their father. And you’d have to be as tough as that statue if you don’t tear up as the sisters finally hug.
Both have changed in the years since they were last together. Life (and death) has taught them valuable lessons. Neither are who they were as the conversation continues.
“They say you killed Joffrey. Did you”?
“I wish I had”.
“Me too. I was angry when I heard someone else had done it. However long that list got, he was always first”.
“Of the people I’m going to kill”.
Just as she did when she met the Lannister soldiers in the forest; Arya gives her blank look and then laughs. Sansa assumes she’s joking.
Not for long though.
Another family reunion takes place in the God’s Wood. Brandon sits in a wheelchair as the girls approach. Given her training with the Faceless Men in Braavos, she doesn’t bat an eyelid as he welcomes her home.
“You came home. I saw you at the Crossroads”.
“You saw me”?
“I see quite a lot now. I thought you might go to King’s Landing”.
“So did I”.
“Why would you go back there” (Sansa).
“Cersei is on her list of names”.
“Who else is on your list”?
“Most of them are dead already”.
Sansa probably realises at this point that she’s not the only one forever changed by events. Neither Brandon nor Arya are the same little brother and sister. In their own ways, both are dangerous.
The abilities Arya has acquired on her journey are evident when she takes on Brienne in some swordplay. She has learned to ‘dance’ and holds her own against the Lady of Tarth.
Brienne had knocked the sword out of Arya’s hand, but Arya has managed to hold a knife to Brienne’s throat.
“Who taught you to do that’?
It’s a response that holds more meaning than Brienne could ever possibly know.
The only one missing from this family reunion is Jon Snow. He remains in Dragonstone where he’s begun sussing out the Dragonglass that will defeat the Night King.
He meets Daenerys on the beach and takes her to a cave deep below Dragonstone, where he’s found carvings made by the ‘Children of the Forest’
Further carvings reveal they’ve been fighting the Night King for generations and the First Men have been by their side in that fight.
Jon uses that argument to convince Daenerys that the Army of the Dead are real, but can be defeated if they unite.
She agrees, but there’s a catch.
“I will fight for you. I will fight for the North … when you bend the knee”.
“My people won’t accept a Southern ruler, not after everything they’ve suffered”.
“They will if their King does. They chose you to lead them. They chose you to protect them. Isn’t their survival more important than your pride”.
It’s interesting that she used the word “chose”. Missendei uses similar words when she explains why she follows the Dragon Queen.
It could be shared blood, but Jon and Daenerys inspire the same loyalty in their followers.
It could also be why Daeny is starting to turn to Jon for advice. Does she see him as an equal? Ser Davos seems to think there might be something else. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink)
On hearing of the loss of yet another ally in the fall of High Garden, Daenerys questions Tyrion’s loyalty as he tries to talk her out of sending in the dragons to destroy the Red Keep and her enemies.
She turns to Jon to ask him what he’s do. He gives her something to think about.
“The people who follow you know that you made something impossible happen again. Maybe that helps them believe that you can make other impossible things happen, build a world different to the shit one they’ve always known.
But if you use them to melt castles and burn cities, you’re not different. You’re just more of the same”.
Powerful words from the King of the North. So what does she do? The final 12 minutes tell us.
We return to the outskirts of King’s Landing where the last of the Lannister troops are preparing for the final leg of their journey.
Suddenly, the thundering noise of thousands of Dothraki horsemen can be heard. They’re charging towards the Lannister troops.
What follows is heart stopping battle action. And it’s brutal and it’s unrelenting. And it could spell the end of a major character.
The Lannister battle lines form and you can see the soldiers literally shaking in their boots. And then the Dothraki fall upon them, smashing through their shield wall.
Horses scream as they’re impaled on spears. Blood spurts as the Dothraki slash at the Lannisters foot soldiers.
Then the screech of a dragon can be heard. Jaime looks on in horror as Drogon swoops down. Daenerys leans forward and with one word, all hell breaks loose.
Soldiers are incinerated by dragon fire. Other stumble around as the flames consume them. And still the Dothraki charge.
Bronn reaches Cersei’s Dragon killing device and manages to fire off a bolt that hits Drogon.
Daenerys’ hangs on for dear life as her dragon-child falls from the sky. But he manages to land safely and Daenerys begins to remove the shaft.
Tyrion watches on in horror as Jaime spots his chance to kill the dragon Queen. He runs at her, Drogon turns and just as he’s about to be incinerated, Jaime is knocked into a lake.
Weighed down by his battle armour, Jaime sinks down, down, down into the lake. And the episode ends without revealing whether he’s dead or alive.
Breathe deep. Exhale. Repeat.
So, Game of Thrones has pulled off another epic battle scene that no one saw coming. We have Daenerys unleashing her dragons, but paying heed to Jon Snow (and Tyrion) and not laying waste to the Red Keep.
Jaime may be the biggest character to be eliminated since Ned Stark in season one. If he is dead, it could complete Cersei’s descent into madness.
That might be enough to see her allies desert her and pledge their allegiance to Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen in the war against the Night King.
Breathe deep. Exhale. Repeat.