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Game of Thrones - The Spoils of War - Review

Game of Thrones “The Spoils of War” was written by the creative team of Benioff and Weiss and was directed by Matt Shakman, whose other credits include The Good Wife, Fargo, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and House – not exactly epic battle credits! However, this episode delivers an epic battle and then some as we finally see Drogon in action, roasting the enemy to dust. The episode also features a number of epic reunions. This was a rather shorter episode – a bit disappointing considering we only have three episodes left in the season, but we know where the budget went for this one. And they had to end with that terrific cliffhanger.

The episode begins where it ends – in the fields surrounding High Garden. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is busy stripping all of value from the Tyrell’s. He’s loaded up the gold and is sending it to the Iron Bank via King’s Landing. Bronn (Jerome Flynn) is not letting the wagon leave before he’s paid, however.

Bronn appears to be the same sell-sword that he’s always been, insisting on the gold and prodding Jaime to give him the castle he owes him. But he also seems genuinely interested in what’s bothering Jaime. It’s Olenna’s (Diana Rigg) final words, of course, that she was responsible for Joffrey’s death – his son’s death. Bronn asks if Lady Olenna “gave you one last prick in the balls before saying goodbye?” And of course, she did.

Is Bronn trying to distract him with banter? He asks for High Garden, and Jaime tells him he doesn’t want it – Daenerys would just come and take it away from him. Oh, Jaime, how right you are! But Jaime isn’t about to give Bronn a castle just yet. He needs him for the rest of the war – and he’s right again there too. Jaime tells him that he’ll give Bronn the choice of any castle once the war is won – and no one will come and try to take it away. Bronn scoffs that Cersei’s(Lena Headey) reign will be long and peaceful. Jaime says stranger things have happened. He’s met Cersei, right? Peaceful is not in her nature.

Lord Tarly (James Falkner) and Dickon (Tom Hopper) report to Jaime that they are collecting all the grain and other stores. Jaime assigns Bronn to help the Tarly’s convince reluctant farmers to hand over their harvests. The Tarly’s aren’t any happier to have Bronn along that Bronn is to go.

Back at King’s Landing, Tycho (Mark Gatiss) marvels that the Iron Bank has never had a debt of such magnitude repaid in full in such a way – he’s even more impressed with Cersei. Cersei remarks that his flattery is “very kind, my lord.” And he points out that he is neither kind, nor a Lord. It’s a nice reminder that the Iron Bank does not take sides based on merit or allegiance with any house. They do not follow their hearts – just their pocketbooks. And this is a nice contrast to the discussion that just ensued between Jaime and Bronn. For all his ruthless pursuit of wealth, Bronn is not an emotionless automaton. He may change sides for money, but he does seem to genuinely care about those he serves.

Like any good bank, now that Cersei will no longer be paying interest, Tycho is keen – obsequious comes to mind – to have the Lannisters back in debt. Cersei takes him to her new mural and tells Tycho that her only venture at this moment “is reestablishing control over this continent and every person on it.” Tycho sees potential in the venture – and an opportunity to lend money.

Cersei mentions reaching out to the Golden Company of Essos. Davos (Liam Cunningham) tried to get Stannis to hire them to help fight in Season 4. Stannis refuses the Golden Company, but after Davos secures money from Tycho, they hire the pirate Salladhor to sail them to King’s Landing. One other interesting trivia item is that Jorah (Iain Glenn) at one time fought for the Golden Company. Could he be a way for Daenerys to gain control of them? Tycho seems to suggest he has some control over the Golden Company due to them being in deep arrears. Cersei mentions that she has some things that she would like them to recover for her – or does she mean some “ones?”

The actions shifts to Winterfell, where Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) is presenting Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) with the Valerian dagger that was used in the assassination attempt against Bran! Littlefinger reminds him that it was Katelyn who fought off the would be assassin. Littlefinger declares he would have stopped the dagger that killed Katelyn with his own heart. He’s sorry he wasn’t there when she needed him most, but he’s here now to protect her children. HA! This is hilarious! NONE of them need his protection anymore, and he’s just beginning to see that.

Bran simply stares at the dagger. It’s clear that Littlefinger – who’s used to eliciting and manipulating people’s emotions is a little unsure. He pledges to do whatever Brandon needs him to do. Bran asks if he knows who the dagger belonged to. Littlefinger says no, but the dagger could be seen as the catalyst for the War of the Five Kings. It made Bran what he is today, caused what he went through. Littlefinger doesn’t even realize how right he is when he says “I imagine you’ve seen things most men wouldn’t believe.” I also wonder if Bran does know, simply by holding it, everything about every owner of the dagger.

Littlefinger clearly does not know what to make of Bran. He goes on trying to find a way in. He says it must have been hard for Bran to finally get home only to find such chaos – and that does illicit a response. Bran looks Littlefinger in the eye for the first time and says, “Chaos is a ladder.” And Littlefinger is clearly shocked. Is he also afraid? He probably should be because it’s Bran telling him he knows that Littlefinger is a grasping opportunist who will do anything to climb that ladder. Bran is referring to a conversation between Littlefinger and Varys (Conleth Hill) from season three. At the time, Littlefinger was serving Joffrey – and had done much to hurt the Starks. This is also interesting coming on the heels of Olenna’s confession to killing Joffrey because we know that Littlefinger also had a “finger” in that little piece of chaos.

They are interrupted by Meera (Ellie Kendrick), and Littlefinger takes the opportunity to take his leave from “Lord Stark.” Bran immediately corrects him that he’s not Lord Stark – and the conversation with Meera clarifies just how much he isn’t.

In my last review, I was wondering what Meera would do next, and now we have the answer. She’s come to tell Bran that she’s leaving to join her family – for when “they” come. We see that the Maester has built Bran a wheelchair to help him get around. She tells him he doesn’t need her anymore, and he emotionlessly agrees – thanking her only after being prodded. Meera points out all who have died for him and that she almost died for him. Meera is upset and angry that Bran clearly feels no real emotion about what others have sacrificed for him.

Bran tells her that he’s sorry, but he’s no longer really Brandon Stark – he remembers what it felt like to be Brandon Stark, but he remembers so many other things, that it overwhelms those feelings. Meera realizes that “Bran” also died in that cave. She turns and leaves.

We get a beautiful hero-shot of Arya (Maise Williams) as she sees her home again for the first time. And I was struck by the fact that there is no way to make a grey horses tale look white against a field of snow. But that’s just me….

Arya, inexplicably, arrives at the gate to Winterfell on foot. She definitely doesn’t get the welcome she was expecting – or that we were expecting either. Instead she’s greeted by two buffoons as soldiers (Danny Kirrane and Eamon Keenan). They don’t know Luwin or Roderick and Jon isn’t there – and Arya Stark is dead. Arya convinces them that she is going to get in to the Castle one way or another, so they agree to let her in, but tell her to wait while they go to get Lady Stark (Sophie Turner). When they turn around, she’s gone. We get a beautiful shot, with the Stark theme, as she looks around the courtyard that holds so many memories of her father.

Sansa knows it’s Arya as soon as they mention Luwin and Roderick. She also knows exactly where Arya’s gone. They meet fittingly at the feet of their father’s statue in the crypt. Unlike the other reunions, they don’t simply run into each other’s arms. They’re sisters who’ve had a bit of a thorny relationship. Arya asks if she has to call Sansa Lady Stark and Sansa tells her yes. They are both teasing of course, but it’s a nice reminder of their old relationship. And then they do run into each other’s arms. It’s interesting that Arya’s face remains as impassive as Bran’s did.

Arya tells Sansa she needs better guards. Sansa tells her that she can’t wait for Jon to get back because she knows he’ll be even more excited to see Arya than he was to see her. Arya remarks that Ned’s statue is not a good likeness, and Sansa tells her that everyone who knew his face is dead. Arya points out that they aren’t.

Arya is clearly hoping that Sansa really did kill Joffrey. Arya says he was always at the top of her list, and Sansa asks what list. Sansa laughs when Arya tells her about the kill list. And once again, Arya laughs along when she realizes that Sansa doesn’t take her seriously. It’s better of course, that no one suspects her capable of being a killer.

Once again, we are spared a scene of characters recounting their stories. They both allude to a long and unpleasant road to where they are now. Arya, however, is the one to point out that their stories aren’t over yet. And Sansa agrees. And then Arya does hug Sansa with emotion. Does she finally see an ending in which she doesn’t simply end up dead? Sansa tells Arya that Bran is home too.

Bran and Arya are reunited under the Weirwood. This time there is no pretense as Arya hugs her brother, her love and joy are clear on her face. Sansa sees Bran’s emotionless face as he goes through the motions of hugging his sister. She sighs and looks down, but it seems she’s accepted that this is now her brother. Of all the memories of Arya he might share, Bran brings up seeing her at the crossroads and thinking that she would go to King’s Landing. Sansa explains that Bran has “…. Visions.”

Arya doesn’t really hesitate to believe that Bran has visions. It’s clear that she knows as soon as she pulls back from hugging him that he is very much changed. She admits that she thought she’d go to King’s Landing too. Sansa wonders why she would go back there, and it’s Bran who explains that Cersei is on Ayra’s list. Now Sansa believes in the list and wonders who else is on it. Arya simply says that most of them are dead already – she doesn’t say who or by who’s hand. Sansa smiles – she really doesn’t have any clue that her sister is now a deadly assassin, and clearly thinks that those on the list have died by someone else’s hand. Arya lets her continue to believe that.

Bran then shows them the dagger that Littlefinger gave him and tells them it was the dagger that was used to try to kill him. Arya immediately wonders why a cutthroat would have a dagger made of Valerian steel – clearly the real owner was very wealthy. Sansa wonders why Littlefinger gave it to him – he never does anything for free – she’s immediately suspicious. And Arya is immediately suspicious that Littlefinger is there. Bran gives the dagger to Arya because it’s wasted on a cripple. It’s an interesting gift given the vision he mentions having of Arya and knowing that Cersei is on her list. Is this the dagger that she will use to kill Cersei and is this the dagger that Cersei gave the cutthroat, knowing it would trace back to Tyrion (Peter Dinklage)? I have almost as much fun envisioning Cersei’s death as she has envisioning everyone else’s!

The three Starks return to Winterfell and are watched fondly by Brienne (Gwendoline Christie). I loved this short little scene. Trusty Pod (Daniel Portman) is at her side and remarks she must be proud. She’s fulfilled her vow to Katelyn. But Brienne insists that she did next to nothing. He insists that she’s too hard on herself, and we see that she too is evolving. She starts to object, and then graciously accepts the compliment. Is she also becoming fond of Pod? Not in _that_ way – because TORMUND!!! Littlefinger also watches their return and looks thoughtful. There’s the sound of crows overlaid – he’s not going to be able to use subterfuge with the Three-Eyed Raven around.

Back at Dragonstone, Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) frets that they haven’t heard from the Unsullied. This is a nice demonstration of her relationship with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) prior to her conversation with Jon (Kit Harrington) and Davos (Liam Cunningham). Daenerys remarks that he will come back to you – meaning Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), of course. Missandei says he’d better, and Daenerys – like any good BFF – immediately senses that their relationship has changed – and wants details! Missandei tells her many things happened – but they are interrupted by Jon Snow – who has something to show Daenerys.

Jon takes her into the caves, telling her that he wanted her to see it before they started hacking it to bits. It’s another beautiful effect as he show her the caves shot through with dragon glass – all they’ll ever need. But there’s something even more important that he needs to show her and he takes her further in to the cave.

He shows her drawings made by the children of the forest – long ago. Daenerys remarks that they were standing right where they were before there were Targaryens, or Starks, or even men. Jon, however, proves that the last isn’t true when he shows her a picture of the Children of the Forest standing with Men – and in fact, standing with them and fighting with them against the Army of the Dead. Daenerys at first thinks the men and children were fighting each other. Jon tells her “they fought together against their common enemy. Despite their difference, despite their suspicions. Together. We need to do the same if we’re going to survive. Because the enemy is real. It’s always been real.”

Daenerys finally has some visual proof. The cave drawings with the blue eyes are stunning – always fabulous set dressing on this show! Daenerys verifies that Jon can’t win without her armies or her dragons, and then finally declares that she will fight for him and fight for the North…. When he bends the knee! Way to break the mood, Daenerys! But Jon insists that his people won’t accept a Southern ruler after everything they’ve suffered.

Daenerys insists that the people will accept her if he does because they chose him to rule and lead and protect them. She asks him if his people’s survival is more important than his pride. And she reveals that she really doesn’t know him. I don’t believe that he is refusing to bend the knee out of pride. Much more likely is the fear of disappointing the people who didn’t want him to go south in the first place.

The two are met by Varys and Tyrion as they emerge from the cave, and I loved Emilia Clarke here – what now? Tyrion tells her that the Unsullied have taken Casterly Rock – not what she was expecting to hear given their glum faces. She says it’s good to hear and the two exchange a look and then drop their eyes – does anyone NOT love Hill and Dinklage playing off each other? And then Tyrion drops the other shoe.

Everyone trails Daenerys as she walks quickly along the beach. Davos would excuse himself and Jon – this isn’t their war, after all, but Daenerys tells them to stay. Daenerys is furious that she’s been sitting doing nothing. Tyrion points out that they still have the largest army, but Daenerys knows they can’t feed them – interesting to see both Daenerys and Sansa (last week) taking care of every aspect of their duties. Tyrion wants to commit to the plan of blockading King’s Landing, insisting it’s still the right plan. Daenerys has lost faith in Tyrion’s plans – and perhaps Tyrion.

She accuses Tyrion of perhaps not having his heart in it – the enemy is his family after all. Maybe he doesn’t want to hurt them after all. Jon looks uncomfortable as Tyrion gets racked over the coals. The dragons show up in the distance, and Daenerys declares that she’s had enough of clever plans, she’s got three full-sized dragons and she’s going to fly them to the Red Keep. “What kind of a Queen am I if I’m not willing to risk my life to fight them?” Tyrion insists a smart one.

And Daenerys asks Jon for his opinion on what she should do. Jon begins that he would never presume – he doesn’t want to step on Tyrion – or Daenerys’ other advisors – toes. She insists she’s losing the war. She wants to know what she should do. Jon remarks that he never thought that dragons would exist again. He tells her, “the people that follow you know that you made something impossible happen [the dragons]. Maybe that helps them to believe that you can make other impossible things happen. Build a world that’s different from the shit one they’ve always known.” And it’s perfect that the camera pans to Varys – the tortured eunuch – and Missandei – the kidnapped slave girl – here. Jon continues: “But if you use them to melt castles and burn cities, you’re not different. You’re just more of the same.” Jon understands Daenerys and her power much better than she understands him.

Next follows one of my favorite scenes from the entire series. Arya comes to Brienne as she is training Pod. He’s still taking a beating, but I think he might be showing some improvement. I loved the fluid grace with which Arya enters the scene – she perfectly framed within the one doorway. And it’s a beautiful shift from Brienne briefly framed in the same way to Arya’s entrance. Here are two female warrior – one who has mastered braun according to her stature – and one who has mastered grace – and both equally, deadly effective.

Brienne admires Arya’s sword and especially her dagger. Williams does a nice piece of work in twirling the dagger as she presents it to Brienne. Arya is there to train, and Brienne offers to get the Master of Arms for her. But Arya wants to train with the person who beat the Hound – someone who is still on her list. I wonder if she will still have to kill him now that he’s changed sides and changed in other ways too?

When Brienne laughs, Arya reminds her that she swore to serve both Katelyn’s daughters. And it’s the perfect way to get Brienne to agree. She tries to tell Arya that she can’t use her sword – it’s too small. Arya counters by promising not to cut her! And tells her not to worry. Brienne tells her she’ll “try not to”… worry.

Meanwhile, Sansa and Littlefinger have been discussing stores (see comments above!) and are distracted by the scene unfolding beneath them. Sansa gets to see just how much Arya has changed. When Arya brings up Brienne’s oath, Littlefinger is impressed by her powers of persuasion, but Sansa looks worried when Brienne agrees.

Arya easily gets her sword in Brienne’s face, and it’s clear that Brienne has held back. She steps her game up a little, and Arya easily avoids her and raps her on her knuckles. Pod is clearly enjoying the match! Brienne has now underestimated Arya twice – and does so one final time. So, if they’d really been fighting, Arya could have killed her 3 times. However, after whacking her shin, Brienne is fully committed – and indeed loses her temper when she kicks Arya full in the chest, sending her flying, and it’s a nice reminder of the difference in size that Brienne’s boot is fully the size of Arya’s chest! As soon as Arya is down, Pod shoots Brienne a look – he hasn’t seen her lose her composure often – and he also knows that she’s going to be consumed with guilt – which she is.

Arya however, jumps up and she has also come up at a new fighting level. Brienne ceases to underestimate her and the two really go at it. Brienne disarms her, but the match ends in a draw as Brienne holds her sword on Arya, who now has her dagger at Brienne’s chest. The two smile in mutual admiration! But the capper is when Brienne asks “Who taught you how to do that?” and Arya answers “No One.” Does Brienne know the significance of that?

Sansa and Littlefinger are both sobered by the display. Sansa realizes how much Arya has changed. Arya looks up and locks eyes with Littlefinger. He smiles weakly and trails after Sansa. Here is something else Arya and Brienne have in common – a dislike and distrust of Littlefinger. Is anyone else dying for a scene between Arya, Brienne, and Lady Mormont?????

Back at Dragonstone, Davos and Jon discuss Daenerys. Davos thinks there might be something between Jon and Daenerys – they are both attractive after all! But Jon has no time for that! Thank goodness! He’s more concerned with the Night King. He asks Davos how many men they have in the north – “10,000? Less?” and Davos corrects his grammar (and confuses him with his answer): “Fewer.”

They come upon Missandei, who Davos dubs to have a good heart. Davos clearly really likes her! I’m kind of digging that chemistry! Missandei calls Jon Lord and then Davos tries to come up with some form of King and isn’t able to light on anything. Jon – proving he has no false pride – says it doesn’t matter. Missandei has a question for them about Jon’s name – why isn’t he a Stark. They explain bastard to her, and she tells them that they don’t have marriage in Narth so there is no concept of a bastard. Davos finds it… liberating.

Jon asks her why she left her homeland, and she tells them her story. Davos wonders how a slavegirl rose to advise the Queen. She tells them she bought her from her master. Davos points out that now she serves Daenerys. Jon asks if she wanted to leave and go home to Narth, what would Daenerys do. Missandei tells them Daenerys would give her a ship. Jon doubts it, but Missandei knows it. She tells them: “All of us who came with her from Essos, we believe in her. She’s not our Queen because she’s the daughter of some King we never knew. She’s the Queen we chose.”

Davos jokes and asks if he’d forgive Jon if he switched sides! But there’s a clear parallel here. Jon is also not the son of some King (well, he is but no one else knows that), he’s the King the North chose. They see a Greyjoy ship arrive in the harbor and head down to the beach.

We get yet another long-awaited reunion. This time between Theon (Alfie Allen) and Jon. To his credit Theon doesn’t run. He’s clearly compelled forward by his desire to know that Sansa is alright. Jon grabs him and Harrington is great here as he voice shakes (maybe it was just cold down there by the sea!) and he tells Theon that the only reason he’s not killing him is because of what Theon did for Sansa.

Davos wants news on what happened with Euron and wonders why Theon is still alive. He tells them that Euron has his sister and he’s there to get help to bring her back.

We return to where the episode started – with Jaime and his convoy. Jaime is concerned that they are stretched a bit thin – but the gold is safely in King’s Landing. This seemed a bit of a hiccup in the writing as didn’t Jaime accompany the gold in the first place? Tarly suggests flogging the stragglers to hurry them up, and Jaime insists they get fair warning before resorting to that. Tarly is disappointed. Again, Tarly’s cruelty doesn’t appeal to either Jaime or Bronn.

Bronn and Jaime join Dickon, who Jaime calls Rickon – does he just care so little about this guy? Regardless, even Dickon is embarrassed about his own name as he corrects Jaime and Bronn laughs outright. Jaime tells him he heard that he fought bravely at High Garden and asks if it were his first battle and what he thought. Dickon rabbits out “glorious” because clearly that’s what he’d been told to say.

Bronn and Jaime are actually a little nicer to him. Bronn tells him – you’re father’s not here – yes. They all know what a useless tool Tarly is as a father! Dickon answers more honestly. He’s not the cruel man his father was – he knew the men of High Garden. He’s clearly bothered by having to kill men who were friends. Jaime points out that the Tyrells had turned against the Queen – their choice. Dickon remarks that he didn’t expect the smell. He’s clearly no coward, but also not really a Dick – something he proves later when he saves Jaime’s life. We also learn that Bronn learned men shit themselves when they die when he was five – when he killed his first man?

Their conversation is interrupted by the sound of thousands of hooves – and it’s Bronn that hears it first. Jaime and Bronn ride one way to form the line and Dickon and his father start at the other side. This is simply one of the magnificent battle we’ve been waiting for. The Dothraki are every bit as impressive as we could have hoped for. Bronn tries to tell Jaime to leave, but he insists that they can hold them off – and then Daenerys is there on Drogon… and it’s GLORIOUS!

We get amazing stunts galore. I had a particular fondness for the Dothraki standing on their horses and shooting arrows. We get various reaction shots of horror from Dickon and Jaime as they watch their men being burnt alive – and boiled in their armor. It did seem a little silly to destroy all that food and supplies – Daenerys has to feed her own army after all. Jaime sees that nothing is going to stop Drogon – except the “Scorpion” – and he sends Bronn to use it. Bronn doesn’t want to run through the fire to do it, but Jaime can’t shoot with one hand.

Bronn’s flight to the Scorpion is fraught with dangers from the fire and the Dothraki. He loses his horse – and his gold early on. He almost stops for the gold, but keeps going. I have to say that I did love the shot of the Dothraki looking in at the Scorpion before being the first to be skewered by it.

There’s another nice parallel as the Dothraki tells Tyrion that his men can’t fight, and Tyrion looks stricken. Just like Dickon, these are men who have fought with and for him – he knows the Lannister army. Not to mention, his brother is down there, and Tyrion wouldn’t be alive if not for Jaime.

Jaime watches as his men are turned to dust, and his hatred of Daenerys and Drogon is solidified. Tyrion and Daenerys are both alarmed when Bronn’s first bolt narrowly misses. The second bolt hits and there is a horrifying moment when it seems both Daenerys and Drogon may be killed. It does bring Drogon down – but not before he sets the Scorpion on fire. I loved the disgusted way he smashes it with his tail.

Tyrion sees Jaime on the battlefield and knows exactly what he’s going to do, he mutters under his breath, “Flee, you idiot.” But of course, Jaime is brave if nothing else and he grabs the spear in front of him and charges for Daenerys and Drogon. Daenerys has her back to him as she tries to pull the spear from Drogon. Tyrion continues to mutter: “You idiot. You fucking idiot.” And it almost seems like Jaime is going to be able to kill Daenerys.

And then Drogon’s head snakes around Daenerys, protecting her, and Jaime is confronted with a whole lot of teeth and can see the fire coming – just before Bronn tackles him off his horse and into the water. Into the frying pan out of the fire so to speak as the last shot is of Jaime’s armor pulling him to the bottom of the lake. And boo Jaime for getting your horse killed…

This was another fantastic and epic episode. The battle scenes alone demonstrate why they could only afford 7 episodes this season. I’m still sad that there are so few, but it’s hard not to love how they’ve put the money to good use. What did you think of the episode? The battle really brought home to me how much I like some characters on either side of the battle. It’s hard to believe that Jaime is dead, but who will save him? Will it be Tyrion, making Jaime a prisoner? Or will it be Dickon, taking Jaime back to fight another day? Or will it be Bronn? And will Drogon recover? Will Jorah step in to supplant Tyrion as Daenerys’ Hand? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!