Usually, Game of Thrones has had a massive battle in the 9th episode of the season that takes up a large majority of the episode. Since this season is a short one, and there are a lot of battles coming leading up to what I’m assuming will be a massive battle against the White Walkers, I was wondering how the show would handle the different pacing of the fights. This episode, The Spoils of War, ended in one of the most visually spectacular battle sequences I’ve ever seen, if not the most. Not only was the battle sequence great, there were also some really amazing character moments at Winterfell. In short, I loved this episode. Let’s dive in closer, shall we?
Before really getting into the meat of the episode, there were some almost housekeeping type things that needed to be taken care of. We had to see that Jamie and his army were on their way back from Highgarden, and Lord Tarly got the lovely job of saying aloud that the gold had reached Kings Landing, but they were spread out so much because they were having trouble getting the grain from the farmers on their way back. He also suggested flogging to motivate the men to move faster, just in case we were confused if we liked him or not. He’s now officially a Bad Guy. Dickon got to be the Tarly that we sympathize with, which was definitely a change from the character last season. Bronn bantered with Jamie, who had promised him a castle in exchange for his loyalty in battle. He’s vying for Highgarden, but Jamie understandably seems reluctant to pass over the most valuable castle in the Seven Kingdoms.
In Kings Landing, Cersei intends to use the gold to fully pay back the Iron Bank. Although the banker says she’s like her father, I think she’s too short sighted. It seems like Cersei is going to pay off her father’s debt just in time to begin one of her own, as the Iron Bank agrees to lend financial support to fund her future army and the future war.
Up north, Littlefinger is attempting to hold a conversation with Bran and, in a move that surprised me, gives him the danger that was used in his assassination attempt back in Season One. Bran seems unimpressed, and stops Littlefinger’s speech by saying “Chaos is a ladder”. This is a callback to an earlier season and a line that Littlefinger said himself when speaking in private to Lord Varys. He seems quite shaken to find out that Bran apparently knows what was said in that conversation. As Littlefinger leaves, Meera enters the room. She’s there to say goodbye to Bran as she’s going home to be with her family, and is pretty unsatisfied with his simple “thank you”. As she points out, she’s spent years of her life literally carrying him, keeping him alive, and that Hodor and her brother both died for him. Bran remains unemotional. According to him, he remembers what it was like to be Bran, but he’s “more” now. Meera sadly tells him that he died in the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave, and leaves.
This farewell was very sad, and I wish that there was more time for it to play out properly. Bran’s entire transformation seems to have happened much too suddenly, and the goodbye felt rushed. Meera deserved a better send off.
I didn’t have much time to be disappointed though, because this episode also featured my favorite Stark homecoming thus far, Arya! As she walks up to the front gate, her exchange with the soldiers mirrors a similar conversation she had at Kings Landing in Season One. They too do not believe that she lives there, and as they argue Arya looks around the courtyard and comes to terms that although she is home, most of the people who made it so are dead. I think Maisie Williams nailed this. As the guards eventually decide to get Sansa, Arya slips off. Sansa is understandably not pleased with the guards but knows exactly where to look.
The two sisters meet in the crypt. Their hug was simply the best. They briefly born their father, and Arya mentions her list of names. Sansa seems to almost brush it off, but I’m guessing that the full details of Arya’s assassin past will come up sooner than later. The sisters then head over to the Weirwood tree, where Bran is sitting. He reveals that he already knows about Arya’s list, and gives her Littlefinger’s dagger. This alarms Sansa. Littlefinger never gives unless he knows he is going to get something in return, and I honestly have no idea what he could get out of this exchange.
This entire scene was bittersweet. I kept thinking about when they were all younger and shooting arrows in the courtyard in Season One.
On a happier note, as the three remaining Stark children cross the courtyard, Pod reassures Brienne that she kept her vow. Lady Stark would be happy. Later on in the episode, we got to check in with these two again when Arya shows up at their sword practice. Brienne and Arya spar in one of the most exciting fights I’ve seen in this show. They’re both masters, and this is the first time that we’ve really gotten to see the full display of Arya’s training. I guess being beaten silly with all those sticks paid off. While I was overjoyed, Sansa was not. Watching from a walkway above the practice area, she looked pretty concerned. I wonder how long it will take before the sisters come clean about what they’ve been up to the past few years.
Also, a genius over at the YouTube channel Omid G added lightsabers to their fight. Enjoy.
At Dragonstone, Dany and Missande are interrupted from their gossip by John. Apparently, John is all ready to start mining the dragon glass but wants to show something to Dany before they tear it up. In a pretty underwhelming sequence, he reveals carvings made centuries ago by the Children of the Forrest that depict the Children and the First Men joining forces against the White Walkers. This seems to halfway convince Dany, but she still insists on John bending the knee, and John still refuses.
They exit the cave to be greeted by Tyrion, who begrudgingly shares the news about Casterly Rock and Highgarden. Dany is understandably furious. Her allies are gone, and she has been told to sit and wait. Accusing Tyrion of not wanting to harm his brother, she turns to ask John his opinion (although my favorite awkward buddies John and Davos would really rather be anywhere else) John advises her not to fly her dragons to wreck havoc on innocent people. If she insists on building a better world, she’s not going to be able to do that through fear. In his words, the people who follow her know that she made something impossible happen, so maybe she can make other things happen too. But the way to do that is not through raining fire upon anyone who frustrates her.
Later, following a brief exchange that reveals Missande doesn’t know what a bastard is (which I find very hard to believe as she’s one of the smartest characters on the show) Theon shows up with the lone boat that rescued him to beg Dany’s help rescuing his sister. This moment between John and Theon was fantastic. Alfie Allen nailed it, he conveyed the shame, hope, and vulnerability perfectly. John stops himself from killing Theon because of what he did for Sansa, but informs his father’s former ward that an audience with his queen will have to wait. Dany is not at Dragonstone.
Back on the road from Highgarden, we learn that the gold has reached Kingslanding. As Jamie talks about battles with Dickon, Bronn interrupts and tells them to listen. In a truly beautiful shot, the Dothraki horde appears over the horizon and charges at the Lannister troops, followed by Dany riding Drogon. The Lannister forces know instantly that they’re screwed and what follows is a series of amazing fight and stunt choreography. From the Dothraki stunt riders, to the fire, to the dragon, I didn’t know where to look because everything was executed so well. Apparently, this production broke the record for the number of stunt performers who were lit on fire at the same time. I highly recommend you take a look at the making of this episode feature, it’s fascinating to see how everything came together.
Luckily, it seems that Jamie has packed the big crossbow we saw in the last episode, and even more lucky still Bronn appears to know how to operate it. After a few tries, he manages to clip Drogon, and Dany lands to remove the spear from her child. Tyrion is watching the battle from above and looks on in horror as Jamie charges at Dany with a lance. Luckily he is knocked off his horse before Drogon spits fire at him, and the episode ends with him slowly sinking in a lake that I could have sworn was more of a large puddle in the previous shot.
The cliffhanger was super annoying; I seriously doubt that this is the last we will see of Jamie. However, the battle sequence was stunning. It is the first time we have seen the damage that a fully grown dragon can do, and Dany just brought the one!
As much as I enjoyed watching The Spoils of War, a lot of the “housekeeping” felt like the writers checking items off a list of things they had to mention. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the show is moving things along much too quickly for my liking and I think the storytelling is suffering as a result. It is still enjoyable, the acting is fantastic, and the effects are obviously visually spectacular, but the nuance is gone.