This is the first episode in season seven that actually feels like a “Game of Thrones” episode. While the previous three meandered around like they had time to waste (We only have so much screentime left! Every moment is precious!), “The Spoils of War” was filled with fire and blood.
Before the violence, there’s a bit of unproductive sibling rivalry. Arya and Sansa are finally reunited in the most fitting setting—in front of their father’s statue in the Crypt of Winterfell. But splits in their relationship begin to emerge very quickly. “I remember how happy [Jon] was to see me. When he sees you, his heart will probably stop,” Sansa says to Arya, with a slight tinge of jealousy in her voice. Later: “Your list?” “Of people I’m going to kill,” Arya calmly replies. Nervous laughter ensues.
The Stark family’s happy reunion is marred by the fact that Bran and Arya are totally different—but highly skilled—people. Arya is no longer an aspiring master assassin—she is a master assassin. And Bran has visions and tells people weirdly personal details about their pasts. Sansa is slowly learning about these developments, and by the look on her face as she watches Arya dance around a master swordswoman like Brienne, she doesn’t seem to be liking these changes.
Turning Sansa into an unhappy, jealous teen though, seems like such a waste of her character arc. We know that Sansa is capable of more than sulking about her family’s newfound power in the midst of war. We’ve seen her survive Cersei and Joffrey, we’ve seen her escape Ramsay, and we’ve seen her tread carefully around Littlefinger as she fortifies Winterfell. So I hope that the writers don’t introduce a plotline where Sansa’s jealousy gets in the way of both her character growth and her family’s relationships. It would seem like unnecessary drama for a show like “Game of Thrones.”
The other Stark (Targaryen?) is unfortunately missing out. Jon Snow is still trying to persuade Daenerys to lend her dragons and army for the upcoming battle against the White Walkers. He finds a few cave paintings made by the Children of the Forest illustrating their previous battle with the dead. But aside from adding some ambience to whole situation, it’s pretty useless. Daenerys tells Jon to bend the knee, and he’s left with zero dragons.
And also an unfulfilled romance? It’s clear at this point that the writers are planning for Jon and Daenerys to fall in love, but I’m not sure if it will be for the good of the show. Minor incest subplot aside, Jon and Daenerys don’t have much chemistry. At least, not compared to Jon and Ygritte, who was killed in season four. All that’s happening between them right now are negotiations, which just aren’t that interesting.
Not according to Ser Davos though, who clearly ships them. “I saw you staring at her good heart,” he teases. I hope that his character isn’t reduced to a shipper who occasionally offers comedic relief, because Ser Davos has gone through too much grief with the Baratheons for his character to suffer like that.
But while Ser Davos’s character development and the feeble romance between Jon and Daenerys falter, Theon’s arrival to Dragonstone presents a much more interesting arc. Jon clearly wants Theon dead but restrains himself. Theon’s actor, Alfie Allen, is perfect in this scene. His shoulders are stiff when he approaches Jon, and he stutters when he says Sansa’s name, capturing both the awkwardness and the emotional weight his guilt must be giving.
While this exchange goes on, Daenerys is flying west. She’s clearly tired of losing a war she was so well prepared for, and wreaks havoc on Jaime’s soldiers and stolen supplies with dragonfire and the Dothraki. “Game of Thrones” has always done their battle scenes well, each one a chaotic flurry of limbs and horses. This one is no exception. It’s so satisfying seeing the Dothraki riding through the fields, somewhat cheerfully yelling and swinging their weapons. They’re almost elegant compared to the Lannister army and their clunky armor.
Daenerys isn’t holding back in this ambush, and neither is Drogon. But they might have to when Bronn wheels out Qyburn’s overglorified crossbow. Drogon gets shot, adding another stake to the field—now strategy can’t be as simple as “Ride in with dragons and burn all enemies.” Now the war gets even more complicated.
Especially with two Lannister brothers on different sides of the same battlefield. As Jaime rides towards Daenerys with a spear in hand, intending to kill, Tyrion mutters “Flee, you idiot.” It’s difficult to know who to root for—and who the characters are rooting for. And that emotional complexity—the desperation for Daenerys to win, for Jaime to survive—is what makes this episode succeed.
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