‘The Spoils of War’ had it all. We were given a growing alliance, both political and personal, between Jon and Dany. We were given a poignant reunion of the three remaining Stark children at Winterfell. We were given another incredible fight sequence with Dany’s surprise attack, where she finally unleashed Drogon and the Dothraki. We had fire, death, dragons; family, friendship, homecoming. What a cocktail.
This episode had two main focuses for me – the Starks in the North, and Dany’s Loot Train Attack. In the North, at Winterfell, we see Bran still struggling with the heavy burden of being the Three-Eyed Raven. He barely registers Meera saying her goodbyes, or reminding him tearfully of the sacrifices her brother, Hodor and Summer all made for him. He’s not the only Stark who’s burdened with his past either, as this episode gave us the much anticipated homecoming of Arya. It has been six seasons since she was last here. As she sits in the courtyard, slowly looking around the castle, we see what she does: this is her home, but it is not what it was, and neither is she. The same goes for all three of the Stark children, whose reunion is loving but suitably strained with their individual hardships and experiences.
The reunion of the Starks takes place in two of the most symbolic places within Winterfell, firstly in front of Ned’s effigy in the crypt, where Sansa and Arya meet again for the first time in six seasons. Since leaving each other back in season one, Sansa has survived not only the deadly intrigue of the Red Keep and the Eyrie, but also rape and abuse in her second (forced) marriage. Whilst Arya has survived a dangerous journey through Westeros with the Hound, a near miss at the Red Wedding, and a blinding and beating at the hands of the Faceless Assassins.
This is the first time that Dany really shows Cersei and her army what she can do
The restraint in this scene was key. Sure, the sisters are relieved to see each other, but they have both been through too much to reunite with laughter, hugs and a quick coffee catch up. The same goes for Arya’s reunion with Bran, in front of the weirwood heart tree where we have seen many Stark scenes. The love is there, but so is the awareness of how much has been irreversibly changed. The almost mournful procession of the three Starks as they walk back through the courtyard is particularly poignant. Yes, they’re back, but what has it cost them?
As the episode unfolds, we see more of the siblings slowly realising what each other has been through. This is particularly obvious when we see two fan favourites, Brienne and Arya, practice their sword skills as Baelish and Sansa watch on. Brienne, with her famed skills, great stature, and longsword, is beaten by Arya, with her unknown skills, small stature, and tiny Needle. Arya also uses her new Valyrian steel dagger, given to her by Bran, who was given it by Baelish. We know this dagger has history, and I’m sure it has a part to play in the future.
Now to my favourite part of the episode, the expression on the faces of Jamie and Bronn as they slowly realise that a screaming hoard of Dothraki warriors are racing towards them and their unprepared army. Yet it was the next shot that really gave me shivers, the shadow that covers the mass of yelling Dothraki, the shadow of Dany riding Drogon. This is the first time that Dany really shows Cersei and her army what she can do. She burns the food and supplies of her enemies into a crisp, as well as a fair few soldiers who get in her way. We also see Dothraki acrobatics, feet on saddles as they leap into the haphazard shield lines of the Lannisters. The CGI in this battle was incredible as always, making the dragon and dragonfire seem as terrifyingly realistic as they could be.
Yet what really makes this battle as not just another bloodbath are the moments between characters amidst the chaos. We see Bronn struggling to escape a persistent Dothraki warrior. We see Tyrion emerge from the side-lines to helplessly watch his brother in the turmoil below. We see Jamie recklessly decide to charge down and try and murder Dany. We have two sets of characters both beloved by fans, on two separate sides. It is, as creator DB Weiss has put it, ‘impossible to really want any one of them to win, and impossible to want any one of them to lose.’ It was a battle that I would describe in two words: fire and blood. Those words sound familiar? They’re the Targaryen House motto.
The last shot of the episode is a slow motion shot of Jamie falling through the water, having been saved by Bronn from the fire of Drogon, weighed down by his armour and gold hand. It is a shot that is heavily reminiscent of Bran’s fall at the end of the first ever episode, having been pushed by Jamie himself. This could be a coincidence, but perhaps not. I suspect, like Bran, Jamie will survive his fall, but I doubt he will be the same person for it.
‘’My only venture at this moment is re-establishing control over this Continent and every person on it.’ – Cersei speaks plainly to the Iron Bank.
‘Who taught you how to do that?’ ‘No one.’ – Brienne is in awe of Arya’s skills, that she gained at the tuition of the Faceless Assassins.
‘I think she has a good heart’ ‘A good heart? I’ve noticed you staring at her good heart’ – Davos is not the only one to notice the lingering, brooding stares between Jon and Dany.
‘Flee you idiot… you f***ing idiot’ – Tyrion watches hopelessly as his brother runs into the fire of Drogon.
Most random plot line/character appearance:
On Dragonstone in this episode, we see Dany and Jon longingly gazing at one another in a cave of dragonglass, before she agrees to ally with him against the White Walkers, if he bends the knee. This is no surprise, but it’s the cave that has me intrigued. It’s covered in ominous markings depicting the alliance of the Children of the Forest and the First Men, despite their differences, against their common enemy, the White Walkers. Pretending that Jon couldn’t have just decided to freestyle some cave drawings, this usefully illustrates everything that he has been trying to make Dany believe for the last few episodes. As Al Murray put it on Thronecast, this was the ‘Cave of Convenience.’
Easiest moment to overlook:
‘Chaos is a ladder.’ The simple line that lets Baelish know that Bran knows. Bran knows everything that Baelish has done, from betraying his father, to seducing his sister. This line is a direct reference to a scene in season one where Baelish tells Varys the exact same. The acting is incredibly subtle from Aiden Gillen (Baelish) who only briefly betrays his alarm at Bran’s knowledge, before quickly composing himself.
Drogon going down in the battle, having been shot by Bronn with Qyburn’s giant crossbow. What if the arrows are poisoned? He better not be dead. Actually, isn’t it slightly worrying that we watch hundreds of characters burnt alive in this episode and that’s just a shame, but when a dragon might die, the internet goes crazy? You can count on Thrones to skew your priorities.
Based on Next Week’s Trailer:
Dany lays down the law; Tyrion looks uncomfortable; Varys worries Dany is out of control; Jon meets Drogon; Cersei sounds confident; Bran sees the next move of the White Walkers; Jon takes action. No sign of Gendry yet, but he will be here soon. I feel it in my bones.