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Game of Thrones season 7, episode 4: The Spoils of War recap

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Holy shit, everyone

Game of Thrones 704 - Jaime and Bronn on horseback
Is that what we think it is?
Macall B. Polay/HBO

The Lannisters always pay their debts. That’s what this is all about, right? Casterly Rock was sacrificed so Jaime could take Highgarden, and all the gold that comes with it. Cersei was able to repay the Iron Bank “in a single installment,” which is quite the feat for a debt of that size.

It’s too bad about those interest payments, though. The Iron Bank, Cersei is told, will miss them. But she has a lot of ruling to do, and ruling is expensive. The Iron Bank is ready to support her ... but first, all that gold has to actually show up. This isn’t a world where you can just wire a few bucks out of the country. Gold on the move is a target.

As for Winterfell, Littlefinger tries to work his magic on Bran, but that’s hard to do when your target seems to be in control of actual, you know, actual magic. Hearing Bran quote one of Littlefinger’s signature lines — one that Petyr originally said to Varys — is enough to change the tone of the meeting immediately.

Bran may not be in control at Winterfell, but he’s certainly not one to be fucked with. He’s also not Lord Stark, as he points out when Littlefinger tries to use the title.

The Bran Stark that used to exist is certainly still a part of him, but it’s a small part. The rest of the Three-Eyed Raven is crowding out the parts of him that are human. This may be lonely for those who knew him before, but he seems to be at peace. He also may be one of the few people left on the show who is (outside of Cersei’s Tywin-like control and will).

So Bran may be able to see through time and space, but let’s leave that aside for a bit and deal with what a complete and utter badass Arya has become and how well she engineered her way back into Winterfell. She was kind, if you ask me, and if you clicked on this you kind of did. She could easily have torn those two guards apart, but confidence is always more deadly than a sword.

Maisie Williams delivered a wonderful performance in the scene where Arya took stock of her home after so much time away from it. One look at that direwolf, and she knew where she had to go: the crypts.

Game of Thrones 704 - Sansa Stark in Godswood Helen Sloan/HBO

And for the love of Cleganebowl, can someone return one of Sansa’s hugs with a little more enthusiasm? Arya has seen some shit, sure, but it’s not like Sansa hasn’t been put through a ridiculous amount of trauma, and she’s still happy to see her family. Her soul hasn’t been crushed. Everyone else seems to be above hugs these days.

Here’s a piece of advice: Even if you’re a trained assassin hunting down everyone who has wronged your family, save some space in your heart for a nice hug. At least for one moment they are able to laugh at and with each other like two young ladies … one in charge of the North and the other hunting Lannisters, but two young ladies nonetheless. It’s enough to make Arya go back in for a second attempt at that hug, and d’awwwww.

Bran’s knowledge of Arya’s list of names instantly changes Sansa’s estimation of just what her sister is capable of. This isn’t a joke anymore.

“Who else is on your list?” she asks. “Most of them are dead already,” Arya tells her. And let’s take a second to unpack that: It’s not an answer at all, but it conveys a lot of information. Arya is a killer. And she is by no means done.

Sansa’s estimation of Littlefinger — that he doesn’t give anything without expecting anything in return — is accurate, and it shows once again just how formidable she’s become. Bran giving the dagger to Arya felt less like a character beat and more like a dungeon master offering a player an epic piece of loot.

Meanwhile, in the part of the story where people are preparing for the end of the world, Jon Snow has found enough dragonglass for a literal army. He found something more important, too: physical evidence that not only do the White Walkers exist, but they were terrifying enough that the First Men and the Children of the Forest worked together to fight them off. Suddenly, this is about more than just winning Westeros for Daenerys; this is about survival. For everyone.

That’s also a good way for Dany to once again convince Jon to bend the knee, so we’re back here. She’s just a girl. Looking at a boy. Saying I’m queen, dammit. But for now, Dany has gotten the bad news that Cersei has all the money she needs to do whatever she wants, along with the food necessary to feed any army that comes through.

But Dany has dragons, and when you have dragons, you can ram them down the throat of your enemies. It’s an option that’s always there. It’s why one has dragons to begin with — once they get beyond the cuddle phase of their lives.

But whatever tool you’re using to destroy people and gain power, you’re just another tyrant causing suffering for the sake of your ego. Or at least, that’s Jon’s argument. And when people give Daenerys good advice, that means shit’s about to go down. One way or the other.

I have to catch my breath for a second, because of all the damned fights we’ve been waiting for or thinking about in this show, Arya versus Brienne of Tarth wasn’t even a matchup most of us had considered. And watching Arya tear Brienne apart until the duel became more or less “real” was one of the most satisfying things the show has ever done.

“What you did for [Sansa] is the only reason I’m not killing you,” Jon tells Theon when they meet, in a moment that’s excruciatingly awkward. But everyone gets over it pretty quickly, which I guess is easier when the queen is off murdering shit with dragons.

And it has all been leading to this. This is the moment. This is the shit right here. Daenerys has taken her dragons into battle before, but never in Westeros. Winning the battle is one thing, but the more important message may be that she can do things people once believed were impossible. That if you mess with her kingdom, she will find you and she will destroy you. Dracarys.

Bronn knew the battle was lost before it began, although Jaime thought there was still hope. But that dragon changed everything. An army that can weaken you from the skies before rushing through the flames with no fear? This is how legends begin. To Jaime’s credit, he moved past his fear and kept fighting. Take cover? There is no cover to take.

But we do learn that Qyburn’s weapon can and does hurt dragons, even if we’ll have to wait until next week to see how badly.

And that last scene pulled off what Game of Thrones does very well: You don’t know who to root for.

I didn’t want the dragon to get hurt, but I wanted Daenerys to learn from her mistake of taking such a direct approach. I didn’t want Tyrion to watch his brother die, although Jaime being killed in this battle would have changed the board significantly (even if the knowledge of who caused Joffrey’s death would have more or less died with him).

All of those feelings took place at once, and that’s where we’ll have to leave it, with Jaime Lannister falling into the abyss as Dany tries to save her dragon ... or at least remove the spear.

It’s going to be a long week until next Sunday.

Odds and ends

  • “I imagine you’ve seen things most men wouldn’t believe.”
  • “Our stories aren’t over yet.” I mean. We’re still probably years away from the next book, so you’re not wrong.
  • “I see quite a lot now.” Yeah, and Sansa just saw how out of it you looked when she hugged you when you hugged Arya, and that’s uncomfortable.
  • “Many things?” Daenerys’ face during that repetition is just amazing. For a moment they’re just two ladies, talking about some really good loving.
  • “That’s good to hear ... isn’t it?”
  • “He didn’t beat the Hound. You did.”
  • “Fewer.” I love how fun this season has gotten.
  • “Jon … didn’t know you were here.”
  • Have you ever seen anyone so disappointed they didn’t get to flog people? That dude was really looking forward to flogging some people.
  • “Men shit themselves when they die. Didn’t they teach you that at fancy lad school?” This section is going to get longer than the recap at this rate.
  • “Flee, you idiot. You fucking idiot.”