The Spoils of War starts with Jamie and Bronn at Highgarden gathering supplies and the treasures in preparation for a drawn out war with Daenerys’ army. Although the Lannisters were victorious, Jamie is clearly perturbed about how things went down as indicated by Bronn’s acumen. In the meantime, Bronn starts talking about what Jamie now owes him, which is a full castle. Bronn points out that Highgarden seems available but the upkeep and Daenerys’ invasion would make him think otherwise, according to Jamie.
The debate between Jamie and Bronn illustrates what seems to be Jamie’s ever present inner turmoil about the decisions he’s had to live with. With the last episode in Jamie learning the truth about Joffrey’s death, it seems that he’s clearly being unsettled and pushed into boundaries that perhaps, as a King’s Guard, cannot abide by any longer. Although he’s still flip, there is a sense of compassion and honor to him as he “rewards” the people marching in getting a fair warning before being flogged to a hard march as Randall Tarly suggests.
Essentially though, the debate boils down to the idea of duty. Unwavering duty and loyalty have a definitive cost and Jamie often is forced to choose the side that puts his conscious in jeopardy. But his real loyalty at the end of the day lies with his sister and the question becomes for how long?
Next, we have Cersei continuing her talks with the Iron Bank representative. He notes that she’s taken after her father rather well, if not better in some respects. The main topic goes into the further ventures between the Iron Bank and the Lannisters where Cersei mentions that she wants to expand her forces. Cersei makes a huge revelation on how Qyburn is making a bid to the Golden Company in Essos, which is considered one of the top mercenary groups in the land.
Up North, we see Littlefinger handing his Valyrian dagger, Catspaw, to Bran. It seems that Littlefinger is attempting to coax Bran towards him as Bran is essentially next in line when it comes to the legal lord of Winterfell. However, as the Three-Eyed Raven now, Bran declares that he cannot be lord and disturbs Littlefinger in repeating the line “chaos is a ladder” which Littlefinger told Varys a few seasons ago.
As Littlefinger ponders over how Bran might know that bit of information, Meera interrupts, allowing Littlefinger to slink away. Meera wants to say her farewell but Bran coldly thanks her. Meera is upset that Bran fails to acknowledge any feelings towards her after all she and the other fallen companions had endured in aiding the cripple but she realizes that the real Bran had died in the cave where he gained his power.
What wasn’t truly developed in the series was Bran’s own feelings towards Meera. In the books, he begins feeling closer towards her, although he doesn’t say much. So Meera’s emotional distress towards Bran’s apathy towards her might seem mysterious to someone not intimately familiar with the book version of Bran. Of course, book Bran is still a child whereas TV Bran has him as a teenager so there could be some level of physical attraction between the two now.
Bran looks in the distance as if detecting a familiar presence. He’s not wrong as Arya Stark approaches on the horizon seeing her home at last. Unfortunately, she’s not greeted with the warmth she would expect but her entrance mirrors the time she tried to enter King’s Landing as a homeless looking girl. The two guards themselves mention how Arya Stark is dead.
The scene shows just how much time has passed since Arya fatefully traveled to King’s Landing with her father. Wiser to the ways of the world, Arya has changed in a great deal. You can see the emotion of being back and her own realization of what it means to be a Stark of Winterfell, especially when the camera pans to the banner with the house symbol.
The guards report their findings to Sansa, who now calls herself the Lady of Winterfell. Correctly, Sansa guesses where Arya is hiding, which is the crypts of Winterfell to pay respects to their departed father. Both give each other a hug and briefly talk about their own journey, hinting at the long, harsh roads they traveled to become whom they are.
Although both sisters seem close, there is a little distance with Arya seeming suspicious about Sansa with her newfound power. The play she witnessed in Braavos where the actress portraying her sister attempted to assassinate the innocent Lady Crane may have created a warning in Arya’s heart to be wary of Sansa. In addition, Arya’s eyes have been opened to the world in a literal and figurative manner from her days with the House of Black and White, so she is able to discern people’s motivations better. It remains to be seen of their relationship going forward in the series.
Just before the scene cuts away, Sansa mentions that Bran is back as well. Although Arya appears elated, Sansa’s own face shows her own concerns for his condition. The exchange between Arya and Bran has Bran revealing his mystic forces to Arya, which bothers her slightly in how he manages to uncover her motivation to go to King’s Landing in targeting Cersei.
While they discuss their homecoming, Bran hands Arya Littlefinger’s dagger as it serves him little good. Sansa is perturbed that Littlefinger would give up such a valuable treasure to anyone. Bran doesn’t discuss the details outside of how a rich person wanted to see him dead. Nonetheless, it shows that the three Stark children are onto Littlefinger’s schemes collectively, even though they haven’t pieced together the whole picture.
What I’m curious about though is just how much Bran knows at this point. His actions are all hidden in mystery as if he’s holding back the truth. The way he dismissed Meera and handed Arya the dagger aren’t actions someone with his level of knowledge would take lightly. It’s as if he’s quietly placing the pieces of the puzzle into motion to set the next action up very carefully.
With the three linked up, Podrick comments to Brienne, who watch from the distance, how she managed to fulfill her vows to Catelyn Stark. Brienne repudiates Podrick in denying that she had anything to do with the three returning. However, Podrick tempers her in telling her that she’s too harsh on herself, which receives a gracious thank you. Still, of the people in Winterfell, naturally Littlefinger finds the reunion both unnerving and a possible opportunity.
Next, Missandei worries openly to Daenerys about Greyworm’s status. Daenerys wonders what Missandei and Greyworm did together like two school teenagers giggling over the aftermath of prom night. Not ironically, the secret boycrush appears, which causes Daenerys to look more stern, although the pair do exchange a small knowing glance.
Their talk is interrupted by Jon Snow as he takes Daenerys to the mine containing Dragonglass. He mentions that the amount is more than enough and he wants Daenerys to see for herself ancient drawings further inside from the Children of the Forest.
Jon Snow narrates how both people came together at one point in time to fight together against the White Walkers. His interpretation of the drawings is that the illustrations show how people must band up in facing their common foe in order for survival. He wants Daenerys to do the same and she would pledge her services…on the condition of Jon Snow bending the knee.
It’s decision that he cannot take lightly because of how his people refuse to trust a southern lord, much less a Targaryen, who is a direct descendant from the Mad King himself. However, Daenerys counters that the Northerners chose him because they trust him in making the right choices for them and that pride should not be what stands in the way of survival. Not ironically, Jon Snow gave the same speech to Mance Rayder and is now facing the same issue with Daenerys.
As they leave the caves, the group is greeted by Tyrion and Varys who bring half good and bad news. They start with the so-called good news of overtaking Casterly Rock. However, the value of that castle has diminished for the Lannisters as Jamie decided to make a sacrifice play in both trapping the Unsullied forces there while sending his main army to pillage Highgarden.
At this point, Daenerys has suddenly lost her chief Westeros allies that were to do the invasion of King’s Landing. She finds Tyrion’s plans to be useless and ignores his advice for sticking with the original plan. Instead, she wants to use brute force with her dragons to march against the Red Keep itself and set the inhabitants afire.
Tyrion wants to avoid bloodshed which makes her suspicious of his motives. So she defers her plan to Jon Snow, who is a military commander. In turn, Jon tells her that using dragons to burn innocents would make her an equal despot as the people of this world have come to expect. All her work to inspire people would fall into ash as people would be reminded of her lineage to the Mad King.
Back up north, Podrick and Brienne continue sparing. Podrick has little luck with the skilled lady warrior. They are interrupted by Arya who wants to challenge Brienne to a dual. Brienne, at first, does not take the smaller lady seriously but Arya immediately shows her ability to parry and dangerously aim the pointy end of Needle in front of Brienne’s face. Eventually, Brienne has to resort to a few dirtier tactics to beat back the smaller, feisty Stark who even manages a kip up after getting a brutal kick. Both end in a stalemate with Arya pulling out her new dagger and Brienne ready to thrust her sword at Arya.
Despite Brienne and Arya’s mutual respect, one person who is not seemingly satisfied is Sansa Stark. Littlefinger does note Sansa’s perturbed stance and seems to gloat to himself. It’s hard to say what Sansa is actually angry about though, perhaps her own jealousy of Arya being able to defend herself? Or perhaps the fact that Arya isn’t the little girl sewing alongside her back before they traveled to King’s Landing?
Afterwards at Dragonstone, Ser Davos nudges Jon Snow about how he has been staring at Daenerys’ “good heart.” They come across Missandei and converse more about Missandei’s background. She admits that she does not understand the concept of bastards because Narth does not hold the custom of marriage. Also, she talks about her own loyalty to Daenerys and what she believes in, which in a way affirms Jon Snow’s intuition about Daenerys, despite her occasional childish outburst.
One more reunion we have in this show is a less than warm welcome between Jon Snow and Theon. Theon inquires about Sansa which sets Jon off. He admits that Theon is only alive because of how he saved Sansa. You can hear Theon whimpering as if his Reek personality took over again. He asks about where Daenerys is as his fleet had lost to Euron and wants to request aid to save his sister. Yet Daenerys has flown off.
Before switching over to the next scene, I wanted to talk a bit about this reunion between Jon and Theon. On the one hand, you have to feel sorry for the cockless coward as his life has been nothing but mishaps. On the other, you have to realize that his life is unsympathetic mishaps due to a bunch of poor choices he made, which has led him down this path. It reminds me of Ramsay’s words early on, “If you believe this has a happy ending, then you haven’t been paying attention.”
In the case of Theon, I think that his ending will certainly not be happy. Perhaps, it’s just a tale of someone who is perpetually unlucky and wrought with bad decision making as a curse. He’s forever stuck with the name Reek because he’s a stinker underneath his flesh and bones and he lacks a characteristic that can truly inspire people.
And it’s funny because he has the good speeches and basic smarts. But for whatever reason, life keeps throwing him these curve balls that derail any attempt for him to gain a rung up the ladder. If and when he does go after Yara, one must ask if he will cower up for the final time in facing danger. Also, how will Yara respond to him? Will she be equally dead inside similar to how he denied her rescue of him in his servitude for the Boltons?
Next, we end up where we started in the episode with the Lannisters making their way towards King’s Landing. They seem to be lagging a bit as Randall Tarly urges that they move faster. However, the gold itself has reached the keep, which means that Cersei can pay back some of the Iron Bank.
Next, we get the best line in the show:
Bronn: “Bwahahahahahahahahahaahah.” 4Head
After that, we get some pretty fucking epic battle scenes.
The Dothraki charge in mass.
The Lannisters under orders form a line but are clearly afraid of the enemy on horseback. Most are probably young men or even boys.
Although Bronn warns Jamie to escape, Jamie believes that they can hold them off until Daenerys appears. With Daenerys leading the way on Drogon the Dothraki are inspired and charge with a bloodlust. It’s a move that Jamie cannot fathom as he until this moment has not seen the dragons and probably even believes that they are myth still. Daenerys though wants to draw blood before anyone else and breaks the line with her dragon torching the infantry.
From there the blood riders ram directly into the spearmen without mercy nor fear. A few leap from their horses into the men, even being outnumbered. A few are speared to death but it’s clear that the Lannisters are outmatched.
The Dothraki are formidable being able to ride and fire arrows simultaneously.
On the other hand, the Lannister’s arrows hardly damage the incoming forces. Jamie calculates that their archers might have a chance against Drogon but his thick hide provides a natural armor against the puny projectiles which bounce harmlessly away.
As the field of battle ensues in chaos, Bronn is ordered to handle the Scorpion as Jamie cannot fire it with only one good hand. Reluctantly, Bronn rides away but is soon chased by a Dothraki who cuts his mount’s leg and coerces Bronn to flee on foot. There’s a nice long tracking shot on Bronn similar to Jon Snow in Hardhome and the Battle of the Bastards. The scene seems quite grim for the Lannisters, indeed.
However, Bronn hides behind a flaming wagon and dodges into another as his enemy is also forced to chase on foot. The blood rider narrows the chase down to a unhampered wagon where Bronn hides and fires a massive bolt into the guy. At that point, he unveils this crucial weapon and begins to hunt Drogon.
There’s some disturbing footage of the Lannisters being utterly slaughtered. We see below them being cauterized and desperately attempting to use the river to extinguish the flames. But it’s useless as dragon fire pretty much melts away the flesh.
One of the most disturbing and sad scenes for me is when Jamie tells his men to take cover on a returning Daenerys. Drogon instantly roasts the soldiers futilely sitting behind their shields. In an instant, their ashes are blown away by Drogon’s powerful gust while Jamie ponders the cruelty of their demise.
However, Bronn manages to get a second shot off and nails Drogon just before Daenerys is able to fire back. It wounds Drogon in the shoulder, sending the massive Black Dragon into a spiral downward. However, Daenerys recovers her son and orders the destruction of the Scorpion, which means there’s virtually no defense left against the dragon.
However, Drogon is forced down so that Daenerys can dislodge the massive crossbow bolt. As she struggles with the bolt, Jamie sees his one opportunity to end this conflict. He picks up a spear and hoists in his good hand like a lance, and charges at the dragon queen.
But above them watches Tyrion who is utterly horrified at the display of attrition. Even though he detests his sister, he abhors violence even more and seeing both the Lannister army mercilessly slaughtered while Drogon being wounded seem to make him conflicted about his own role in all of this. It’s as if he represents the audience in these shots where there is no clear winner in selecting a side.
However, he spots his brother charging and begins cursing him for being a heroic fool.
Just as Jamie is about to spear Daenerys, Drogon swings his massive head and breathes at the one handed man. At the same time, Bronn knocks Jamie from his horse while the two horses are roasted and the two men fall into the water.
This episode was quite intense, especially the end. While it partly was about reunions, I feel that the bulk of the emphasis was on the end battle. Again, we are shown the horrors of war. Unlike the Battle of the Bastards or Hardhome, this battle is one where the audience is forced into their own conflict as the choice in rooting for someone isn’t as clear as it was before.
But that really is the point of the series (or at least one of them). We aren’t sympathetic to the White Walkers because they are not given speaking roles nor do we have any emotional investment in them outside of sheer apprehension. With Ramsay Bolton, he was practically a one dimensional villain towards the end where his acts of torture, murder and rape instantly would make the vast majority of people hate him.
Here, we have spent 7 seasons with both Jamie, Bronn, Daenerys and Drogon so our emotions are torn. Yet if you ask me, much of our sympathy was towards the Lannisters, even though they have their own faults. I feel that with Daenerys bringing in such a horde and a dragon into battle, we end up gravitating towards the Lannisters simply because their demise here was simply an act of war. The soldiers were just people following orders and they were certainly not prepared to take on a dragon.
Nonetheless, I think that Jamie and Tyrion understand the senseless of what was going on. Jamie probably feels it as he’s still the soldier following his duty, even though he is bitter about his actions. When he sees Daenerys, he realizes that like before during his slaying of the Mad King, Jamie can prevent further destruction by killing Daenerys. He doesn’t enjoy the killing but in his mind he’s forced to in order to maintain the stability of the realm.
The scenes with the soldiers becoming ash were the most horrifying to me. Not because it was gross but that it was sad. It reminded me of how Tyrion describes the finality of death. Here, it’s a very literal interpretation where people’s lives are snuffed out in a second. There have been comparisons between Daenerys’ dragons to nuclear weapons and it’s a very fair comparison. Napalm bombs in the Vietnam War would scorch villages and permanently scar people those in their proximity.
Yet all of this is done through the commands of a few. The people at the bottom are merely tools and a consequence, those without a voice because they signed up as a job of sorts, or in the case of a draft, out of force. So when you look at the picture of the whole, you can squarely pinpoint the higher up players as those that are at fault. Even the generals are still pawns forced into their position as a result of laws that they might at the heart disagree with (as in the case of Randall Tarly in marching against Highgarden).
At any rate, the point of this episode wasn’t to glorify war but the opposite of it. To horrify us and cement images of mindless and aimless destruction where the cause is the whims of butthurt cunts.