Missed Game of Thrones this week? Here are the top 3 revelations you need to know about season 7, episode 4. USA TODAY
Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers from Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 4, “The Spoils of War.” Read our recap of Episode 3 here.
Some rulers are loved. Others are feared. Daenerys Targaryen is either, depending on who you ask.
The fourth episode of Game of Thrones Season 7, “The Spoils of War” started with a whisper and ended with a bang, as Dany brought a dragon into battle in Westeros for the first time, and Jaime possibly lost his life in the fiery battle. It’s the forward momentum we’ve been waiting for all season.
The battle sequence was Game of Thrones at its very best. Not only was it an exciting and superbly shot sequence, but the character arcs made the stakes, both large and small, vital and thrilling all on their own. Jaime, as redeemed as he can be after entering the show a villain, never gives up. Dany comes one step closer to losing her humanity. Tyrion reveals he has not completely forsaken his family. Bronn is forced to choose between life and riches. Even scared Dickon Tarly gets his moment.
“The Spoils of War” made exactly the kind of big impact the series needed at this point. And now, with Jaime’s life hanging in the balance, more Starks in Winterfell than there have been since Season 1, and only three episodes remaining in Season 7, the ramifications should be swift and decisive. There are those pesky White Walkers to deal with.
However, as Thrones begins its inevitable sprint towards the finish line of both the season and the series, it’s worth remembering that dragon battles and cliffhanger endings aren’t the only things that make the show great. Good plotting, strong character work and smart writing are all necessary, and while “The Spoils of War” was bombastic and well-paced, all that dragonfire distracts from some of its messier elements, be it clumsy dialogue (Bran and Arya deserve better) or inconsistent rules (Dany and the Dothraki are using that same teleport to get around Westeros that Littlefinger and Varys used, it seems).
If we’re flying at dragonspeed towards a conclusion, it’s worth paying attention to details. Here’s to hoping there will be more moments like Tyrion watching Jaime on the battlefield, and fewer awkward conversations between Bran and Littlefinger.
The game is all about the players, after all.
Dragons of mass destruction
Was there ever really any doubt about Daenerys Targaryen?
The first half of the season (can you believe we’re already more than halfway through?) attempted to show weakness in the Mother of Dragons, but what we actually saw were weaknesses in her allies and advisors. The tactical failures were entirely Tyrion’s fault and the battles were lost by other commanders. They were the weak ones.
Dany’s strength has never derived from her assets, but rather entirely from her inner confidence. She was weak only at the very beginning of the series, abused by her brother and hopeless about her life.
So it shouldn’t have been a shock that she gave up on Tyrion’s big game of Risk and jumped into the fray herself, although we all probably wished she had listened to Jon and avoided such devastating bloodshed. One of the best aspects of the battle sequence was the way it played with our expectations about who to root for. The Lannisters have long antagonized the “good” characters on the show, and we’ve cheered their losses before. But the series worked hard to redeem Jaime, who now stands out as one of the more moral characters. With him leading the red-caped soldiers, one of whom might be Ed Sheeran, and with the Dothraki and the dragonfire annihilating them, it’s hard not to see a bit of villainy in Dany.
Dany is a leader because she is loved, and indeed, Missandei, as she helpfully explained to Jon, is one of the best examples of the adoration she inspires. But Jon was wrong that she’d win by only being loved. Dany maintains her power by balancing that adoration with fear. The Dothraki who followed her are awed by the dragons, sure, but she also burned all their former leaders alive. The fear as she lay waste to the Lannister army was palpable. And, most disturbing of all, Drogon’s fire seemed to target the food being brought into King’s Landing. Sure, it would have helped in a long siege, but it also would have helped in the long winter.
No Game of Thrones fan asked for a Jon and Theon reunion, but it’s potentially the most satisfying so far. You’ll recall in Season 1, Theon loved nothing more than lording over Jon the bastard, and now their roles are reversed and then some. Good thing Theon helped Sansa last season because the series seems to be keeping him around for some reason, and Jon killing him would have been so anticlimactic.
But before Theon arrived and Dany left to kill Lannisters, Jon made another case to her to bring her armies and her dragons northward to fight the White Walkers, and he has some handy help in his argument from cave carvings the Children of the Forest left in the Dragonstone cavern where the dragonglass store sits.
It’s a nice story about the COTF and the First Men joining together to fight the White Walkers, but it’s moral about coming together against a common enemy is muddled by the fact that the COTF made the White Walkers in the first place, according to Bran’s vision last season. They made them to fight the men that were encroaching on their lands and ended up joining those men once their creations got out of control. Considering how Dany used her dragons for destruction and became “more of the same” kind of ruler that Jon warned against, that parable might indicate something more complicated than Jon and Dany allying to fight the White Walkers.
Is the Dany that rode into battle really a queen Jon Snow can bend the knee to?
Family matters (sort of)
The parade of Starks showing up at Winterfell is slowly starting to resemble a rendition of He Is Not Dead Yet from Spamalot. No matter how many times the world hits these kids, you just can’t keep them down (well, except for Robb and Rickon, RIP).
The separation of the Stark family at the beginning of Season 1 was as much a driver of the series as the murder plots and executions. Bringing them back together is bound to feel awkward, not just because of how much they’ve changed, but because how much the show relied upon their separation for its tension.
It’s fitting that Aryadidn’t truly reintroduce herself to Sansa until her sparring match with Brienne (also, hi Brienne, we’ve missed you). Every move she made was an indication of the people who have influenced her and the places she’s been since she parted with her sister. She has the quick style of Syrio (her teacher from Season 1), the common sense of the Hound and the tactics of the Faceless Men. Something about the new Arya, though, troubled Sansa. Maybe it was the realization that not only was her little sister serious about wanting to kill people, but she could actually do it.
And then there’s Bran. Oh Bran. Listen we get that he has lost his identity as a Stark by becoming the Three-Eyed Raven, but, much as he may try, young Isaac Hempstead Wright does not have the gravitas that Max Von Sydow brought to the role, and his disaffected manner is more annoying than wise.
But hey, at least he helped Arya get her hands on a Valyrian steel weapon! Littlefinger gave Bran the dagger that was used by an assassin in Season 1 to try to kill him as he lay in a coma after Jaime pushed him off the tower. He mentions that it started the War of the Five Kings, and he’s not wrong. What he fails to mention is that he lied to Catelyn about Tyrion being its owner, while he was trying to set the Starks and Lannisters against each other. It played out almost like Littlefinger wanted to know if Bran caught him in that lie, or if he knew who the dagger truly belonged to. After his words about the nature of time last week, we wonder if he’s trying to suss out Bran’s powers.
If only Bran could suss out Littlefinger’s true intentions.
Also of note…
- Arya’s interaction with the gate guards echoes one from Season 1 where, the guards at the Red Keep don’t believe she’s Arya either when she shows up in pants and covered in dirt.
- The pass-off of the Valyrian dagger means, by our count, that wielders of these all-important White Walker-killing weapons are: Jon, Jaime, Brienne, Sam and now Arya.
- The show may not have named the dagger’s owner, but the books (mild spoilers follow) imply that Joffrey took it from King Robert’s collection and sent an assassin after Bran, because he shouldn’t live as a cripple.