THE AMBLE IN RAMBLE
GAME OF THRONES: SEASON 7 EPISODE 4: THE SPOILS OF WAR.
SPOILERS AHEAD. If you haven’t watched the fourth episode of the seventh season, leave now.
I have never written a review of any television series / episode or movie before. I like reflecting quietly, watching it over and over, seeing what I missed, gathering this data into a slowly forming opinion, and then the final image sinks in. And nothing beats that feeling. But this episode had such an impact on me, this is by far one of the best episodes (yet). Anyway, without wasting any more time…
Oh, my. What an episode it was.
Here’s a recapitulation:
The episode begins with the Lannister + Southern lords’ army marching back after taking Highgarden. Jamie has gold and food. The Tarlys are collecting harvests and off they go.
In King’s Landing, Cersei speaks to Tycho Nestoris, a representative of the Iron Bank, about ventures. (“My only venture at this moment is re-establishing control over this continent and ever person on it,” Cersei says.)
Back in Winterfell, Petyr Baelish (aka Littlefinger) hands Brandon Stark (who is now the three-eyed raven) the Valyrian-steel dagger. (“The last man who wielded it meant to cut your throat, but your mother fought him off,” says Baelish, “In a way, that dagger made you what you are today.”) Petyr offers more words and leaves. Meera and Brandon part, but not on very good terms. (“You died in that cave,” are Meera’s last words.) Arya returns home, reunites with Sansa and Bran.
In Dragonstone… “I wanted you to see it before we start hacking it to bits.” Jon shows Dany the mountain of dragonglass and the ‘cave paintings.’ Varys and Tyrion bring Dany the bad news about Casterly rock. Dany takes Jon’s counsel (kind of).
The scene shifts to Winterfell, Arya spars with Brienne. (“Who taught you how to do that?” asks Brienne. “No one,” Arya replies with a smile.)
Theon Greyjoy arrives at Dragonstone with the other survivors. He comes to face Jon. (“Jon. I didn’t know you were here.”) And a brief conversation after, Jon says, “The queen is gone.”
Jamie and his ‘people’ are enjoying their victory, when they’re taken by surprise with Dany’s Dothraki horde, and Dany herself riding on Drogon. Battle ensues.
Now that we’re caught up:
Absolutely gripping episode. I would have to say, it is one of the most epic battles I’ve seen on Game of Thrones (my top favourite battles being the ones with dragons in it. I know, we’re not supposed to play favourites, but we’re only humans. *smiles*) They have obviously been building it up to this. Like a gentle tide, gaining momentum as it reared.
Now in the beginning of the episode, we see Jamie is upset over Olenna’s confession (One question: why didn’t Olenna take Littlefinger down with her? She had threatened to do so, once. He was involved in the plotting too), although reluctant to speak to Bronn about it. “Queen of Thorns give you one last prick in the balls before saying goodbye?” asks Bronn. That sounds about right. Jamie doesn’t say much and hands Bronn his gold. Anyway, Jamie’s forces have been emptying the food, the harvest; lots of gold in Highgarden too. Makes sense. It’s just like with Casterly Rock. You don’t want to leave anything behind in case somebody (being Dany) came back for it. Also explains Jamie’s reaction to Bronn asking for the castle. And while Bronn is pining away after castles, Jamie says “When we win this war, all the castles in the Seven Kingdoms will be yours to choose from with no one left to take them away from you,” for which Bronn says “Yes, I’m sure Queen Cersei’s reign will be quiet and peaceful.” Have stranger things happened? No. This is really interesting, because neither of them seem excited by the prospect of Cersei continuing on as queen. They see a chance for a better realm, a prosperous realm, knowing deep down that Dany is the one chance they have who will liberate them all from, well, Cersei and to something far better. This also provides a platform for Jamie’s growing distance from his twin, we see the reluctance in his eyes; he seems to lack conviction when rallying for Cersei.
Back to King’s Landing, Cersei is speaking with Tycho. I have a vague feeling he’s only telling her what she wants to hear. In the previous episode, he says “Your father didn’t mince words either,” or “Your father’s daughter, indeed.” Cersei deeply admired her father, so, this would understandably be a sweet compliment. Even her choice of clothing somewhat resembles his; a utilitarian, minimalistic sense of dressing. Clothes aside, Cersei is paying off the debts (so to speak), which means the bank is dismissed, in a way. Cersei wants to expand her army and he is insistent on funding her ‘ventures.’ Every time I see Cersei playing at war, I hear Tywin Lannister’s voice “I don’t distrust you because you’re a woman, I distrust you because you’re not as clever as you think you are.” Will Tywin finally be proved wrong? We’ll see. She seems to be doing well, so far. (Too well, to be honest. More on that later).
Now Petyr Baelish. What is he up to? We don’t really see his thought process (just like we never saw Tywin’s. Keeps things interesting). But at this point, you just wonder. Him, and Varys, honestly. They were such power players, smug and proud; intelligent and cunning, outwitting each other, the people who ‘make it happen.’ Anyway, back to Winterfell, we see Petyr talking to Bran. “The last man who wielded it meant to cut your throat, but your mother fought him off. The other dagger, the one that took her life, I would have stopped that dagger with my own heart if I could have.” Okay, Petyr, humility doesn’t suit you. I still am hesitant to believe he truly loved Catelyn. Or perhaps he did, but that doesn’t mean it’s a priority to him. And now, he’s channelising those feelings through Sansa. Yeah, Baelish being Baelish aside, why is Bran saying “Do you know who this belonged to?” Is this a test? Does he really not know what Petyr did to Ned, and thereby House Stark, and what happened in that timeline? He is the three-eyed raven after all, I don’t want to believe that. I like to think he was testing Baelish. The ‘Chaos is a ladder’ line points to that, and also, it was such a slap to Baelish’s face. We don’t usually see Baelish run out of words. I’m sure Baelish is already planning something now, but I doubt he can keep playing ‘lone wolf’ much longer, not with Bran and his ‘powers’.
Anyway, Arya’s coming home and reunion with Sansa was certainly a delight. I’m glad Sansa has finally gotten her wish (‘to be a lady’). The pack is gathering. (“The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.” Could it be a hint that the Starks will remain standing in the end? That Baelish, the lone wolf, might die? We’ll find out soon enough.) Although, Cersei will have to reward Hot Pie for saving her life, seeing as it was his information that made Arya abandon her killing spree. That would’ve would been too easy though, the war has to happen, dynamics to be explored, so… Arya is in Winterfell. Her at the door of Winterfell brings memories from Season One when Arya was chasing a cat in King’s landing, learnt about the plotting of Varys and Illyrio, and ended up in the front gate. Similar scenarios: she has explored (the world, this time), learnt a lot, the guards at the gates don’t believe it’s her, she warns them about what will happen if they turn her away, except this time, it’s at home. I like how she has come a full circle. What is the meaning of this? Is this a hint? Sansa and Arya finally meet. “You shouldn’t have run from the guards,” Sansa says. “I didn’t run. You need better guards.” Does this mean Arya will side with Brienne to protect Sansa like the Kingsguard do? Seeing as she also trains with Brienne later, I should hope to see that happen. Anyway, Sansa says, “When he sees you, his heart will probably stop.” That, for some reason, stuck with me. Jon is now in Dragonstone, we don’t know when he’ll return. So, we don’t know when the reunion will happen, and if it does. Does this mean Arya will only get to see him when he dies? Or that death is near after their reconciliation? The world of GOT can be ruthless (Remember Rickon dying and Jon rushing to him?) But here, Jon has a great role to play (song of ‘ice’ and ‘fire,’ so I doubt this is the case). I really want the whole pack to be together, and defeat the long winter and what comes with it.
Now, Arya, Bran, and Sansa, all together, their relationship is so different now. There’s a silent strength about them, a mutual understanding, all the hardship they faced. Anyway, Sansa is learning (well, in all honesty, she was cleverer than she let on). “He’s not a generous man. He wouldn’t give you anything unless he thought he was getting something back.” I wonder why Petyr did this, too. Why give him the dagger? It might be symbolic, seeing as this strange dagger is what started it all in the first place. Also, in Ned’s room, we see Baelish spin the dagger on the table when reasoning with him. I’d like to know the origins of the dagger, though (as in who made it, if it really is his etc). Might shed some insight into the meaning of it all. Although, Bran giving it to Arya seems like it’s leading somewhere – Arya killing Baelish with the dagger. Bit obvious, perhaps? I don’t know. But Bran has visions, so.. is he in the future, anticipating Arya needing it? Or is it for the long night? Time will tell. Also, Sansa is now taking Arya seriously, especially about the list. “Who else is on your list?” asks Sansa, to which Arya replies “Most of them are dead already.” Is there a chance that the sisters might plot something on the side to eliminate Cersei? Will Arya kill Jamie, take his face, and kill Cersei? Arya could pose as kitchen-maid and poison Jamie (rather than actually fighting him). But I always wonder, where does Arya keep all the faces? Folded in a rucksack somewhere? And how does she change her voice, her height, build? GOT is going too fast. I wish they made ten seasons, at the least, giving the stories time to grow, blossom, and flourish, unfurling gradually, as opposed to giving us jabs of shock and retreating, like some kind of furious snake.
Now moving on… Dragonstone. I see a growing attachment between Jon and Dany. How she trusts him enough to go down to the cave (base of the mountain?) with him. Alone. Judging by their conversation, she is moved by him, offering to fight the white walkers with him, if he bent the knee. I don’t understand why she is so insistent on it. If she sees how important this Great War is, will she not let this slide? And there’s also the fact about him being a Targaryean, so, will he be exempt? Will she give him autonomy on the grounds that he is family? Or will she honour the Targaryean tradition of marrying him and giving him the North? The latter seems to be wise, seeing as they’ll please all parties involved, not having to worry of nepotism. But for this, they need Bran telling him of his parentage, but it doesn’t look like it’ll happen soon. There’s the ongoing war, and Jon might join forces with Dany to free her from Cersei’s clutches, so they can face North, where the real threat is. Anyway, their conversation ends with Dany asking, “Isn’t their survival more important than your pride?” So we don’t know if he bends the knee or not. On one hand, we know Jon will do anything for his people’s survival, but on the other hand, he also has to fulfil his duties to his people, keep his word, live up to who he was appointed to be – a king. And a king who knelt? Err… might not fare well with people. Come on, Bran. Say something.
“Perhaps you don’t want to hurt them after all.” Dany hears about how the Unsullied are stranded in Casterly Rock; a large army but no survival measures (Cersei has taken all the food.) And she doubts if Tyrion is actually protecting his family in King’s Landing. I hope not, he knows he’s not welcome there. So, for what? Sentiments? And then the scene shifts to dragons screeching, flying over the water, so we know something is going to happen. Tyrion better come with something before he risks her wrath on him. She can be ruthless as she is kind. And her taking Jon’s counsel seems like she trusts him. Well, Jon riding a dragon doesn’t seem like a bad idea, now, does it? Anyway, she did take his advice. She didn’t hurt any civilians; just the Lannister and others’ army. It was an isolated incident anyway, although a huge blow.
Arya and Brienne spar. I love this scene. Here, we see all of Arya’s skills coming together. Right from Yorel’s kill list and coping mechanisms, Syrio Forel’s water dancing lessons, the ‘Tywin wisdom’ of gauging your enemy’s moves and motives, to the Hound’s cutthroat worldview, the faceless men’s invaluable lessons…yes, she has learnt so much. And I’m so glad we got to witness that. I’m hoping to see more from the young wolf. Also, Sansa and Baelish standing there, watching, reminds me of Season One when Catelyn and Ned stood watching Bran. Will Sansa perhaps marry Baelish? And the slight Petyr-isque bow he makes to Arya, there was a hint of some communication. Did she just add him to her kill-list? Will Bran say anything? It brings me back to the theory: will Arya use Baelish’s dagger on him? Somebody has to kill him, might as well be her. And she can use his face to get anywhere in the seven kingdoms. That face is an all-access pass, really. And also, if Sansa were to marry Baelish and then have him killed, Vale would be hers. But I’m not sure Sansa has turned that cruel yet.
And now, the battle. I debated not writing this scene, not wanting to strip it off its beauty with mere words, but I cannot leave the post incomplete. Whoa. What was that? When Bronn heard the hooves, I froze. Oh, is this is it? Yes, yes it is! I was stunned when Dany came riding on the dragon. She’s the dragon queen! (Yes, I am a little biased, but only with good reason). The thing I like about the Dothraki? The fearlessness coupled with pragmatic ruthlessness. It’s a strong survival instinct to have. They don’t wear armour, they don’t hold back, they fight with both hands, they shoot arrows from horseback (Bran would’ve loved to see this, or, did he?), they broke the line like knife through butter. And coupled with Dany’s dragon! I liked Dany riding her dragon, it was good for morale.
She’s ready to fight and die for her people; now that’s a good leader, that’s why they love her. And Bronn running away was classic. This highlights the Dothraki fear most people have. And to think that Bronn would look at gold and run? Yeah, you should be scared too. And, regarding Qyburn’s scorpion. At least, now Dany knows that her dragons are not invulnerable. She’ll be able to plan accordingly. But the word scorpion makes me shudder: is there a dragon-killing poison on the arrow? Is it going to be a ‘long farewell’ situation here too? Oh, god, I earnestly hope not. Drogon’s always been my favourite. He’s such an adorable thing, really. And I sincerely hope Tyrion comes up with a good plan, or he might lose Dany’s trust. I mean, it’s understandable that Jamie saved his life, and he owes him, but he has a duty now; he’s the Hand of the Queen. He can’t give in to brotherly sentiments. “Flee, you idiot.” I hope Tyrion wasn’t deliberately holding back. Unlikely, but this is GOT after all.
And Jamie charging to Dany was a bit stupid (can I just add here how vulnerable Dany looked, tending to her ‘baby’?); I love Jaime, I understand his instinct, but he shouldn’t have charged like that. Also, it would’ve been wiser to strike a deal, or hell, even surrender. Because, we know what happened when he charged, it was pretty obvious that Drogon would defend his mother. Reminds me of the Targaryean story from ‘the princess and the queen’ (if I remember correctly). I’d like to add here that if you enjoy the Targaryean timeline and the dragons etc, you must read ‘the Rogue Prince’ and ‘the Princess and the Queen’. I loved those.
Anyway, Bronn (assuming it is him) pushing Jamie into the water was rather stupid too (or was it?) I mean, Jamie was wearing armour – he cannot swim. But then Bronn didn’t have a choice, he was going to be roasted alive; and also, Bronn doesn’t wear armour so, probably he can pull Jamie out. But since the armour will be heavy, can he do it? He’s agile, but is he very strong? (Besides, what’s dead may never die. I’m sure Euron would approve.)
*I like how we don’t see Cersei’s decision making because that’d reveal her plans to us. The surprise factor kept it going. Which brings me to –
*How is it that Cersei has always managed to stay ahead? Yes, it does make sense that they’ll target Casterly Rock, and yes, it does make sense that Tyrells are a good source of their income, food etc, so it’s unsurprising that she’d target those first, but still, shouldn’t Tyrion have seen this? Rumour has it there might be a mole. Varys’ little converted birds?
*I’m team Dany because she is kind, compassionate, (a bit hot-headed and ruthless) but definitely concerned with people’s welfare. Cersei is simply being vicious, a little selfish. (‘I’m doing this for us,’ line of thinking.) Dany genuinely wants to help people. (Remember the slave liberation? It’s not like they joined her army. She didn’t have to do that, but she did.) I always liked Cersei, but as a queen for a king; a balance of good and evil that you saw with Robert Baratheon. Now, she’s gone berserk. And why not? She has nothing to lose. She’ll probably drink essence of nightshade if the castle falls. And also, where intelligent decisions are concerned, with Tycho praising her for being her father’s daughter, Tywin would never have antagonised Tyrells in the first place, waste time plotting ways to torture people; she could’ve had so many allies with Tywin’s name, as Tywin’s daughter. Ah, well. It’s in the past now.(:
*And for people who think Dany is being ruthless, Cersei is forcing her hand. There’s no ‘nice’ way of getting things done. Cersei made sure of that.
*And as for the Episode 5 promo: Why is Varys asking Tyrion to speak sense into Dany? Cersei blew up Sept of Baelor, wrecked the Greyjoy fleet, tortured (mostly mentally) the sand snakes… I’m saying, we know what she’s capable of. Peace doesn’t work now. Sacrifices have to be made. (She did try to avoid being ‘Queen of Ashes.’) Varys!
*Also, from the Episode 5 promo, Dany asks them to bend the knee or die: she did ask Dothraki to join her to. Force had to be used (not misused, like Cersei is doing lately). Leadership is not just about being right, but making people see that (thanks, Lex Luthor, for the lesson). And that’s what Dany is trying. You don’t get flowers handed to you for valour of resistance. Like Tywin said, when your own people hold you with impunity, that’s how kings fall. Same with Dany: Join me, I’ll forgive you. Disobey, and you’ll suffer the fate of your dead comrades. This is war, Varys.(:
*Also, I think Dany would look great on the Iron Throne, oh, with dragons around her throne of course.(:
Anyway, just a reminder of what Robert Baratheon had pointed at: One purpose, one army, united. That’s how you win a war. (I certainly hope this works out in Dany’s case).
Closing questions from the episode (because any more questions and the words will keep flowing):
-What will happen of the surviving Lannisters? What’s the casualty?
-Will Tyrion manage to rectify his mistakes and come up with a good plan for the season?
-How is it that Cersei has always managed to stay ahead?
-Glad to see the rift between Jamie and Cersei. Are they laying groundwork for the Queenslayer theory? Will he, can he, do it for the greater good?