This was one of the few Thrones episodes that literally left me emotionally and physically stirred. “The Spoils of War” was the best television I have seen since last season’s Battle of the Bastards. It is easily in the top five best Game of Thrones episodes of all time thanks to an epic battle and another Stark reunion.
Season seven continues to reference events and conversations from the early seasons of Thrones. And my god, there is so much to discuss.
Let’s start with the dagger. To recap: the dagger Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) gives to Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) in Sunday’s episode is the one that was meant to kill the youngest Stark, and has not been seen since season one. After an anonymous assassin tried to Kill Bran, Catelyn Stark brought the dagger to King’s Landing, where she gave it to Ned. Somehow, Littlefinger picked it up when Ned Stark met his demise. Now this isn’t just any old dagger. It’s Valerian steel and it may or may not have started the entire war of the five kings, plunging Westeros into chaos. Btw, chaos is a ladder.
Hardcore fans spotted the dagger on actress Maisie Williams’ hip in promotional photos that appeared in Entertainment Weekly. Now that the weapon is in the assassin’s hands, it’s easy to think that Arya will use it to cross the name Littlefinger off of her kill list. But something about that seems a bit obvious, no? I have a feeling a twist is on the way.
Three Starks (well…two-and-a-half) are together in Winterfell and I will never get sick of hearing the Stark-themed score that stirs up all the feels. Arya Stark’s arrival at Winterfell was much more satisfying than the last Stark reunion we saw. Mainly because there was actually emotion from both parties (cough, Bran, cough). It’s easy to forget that these characters have no idea what the other has been through. As the viewer, we know so much more than they do. Which is something that has really been coming into play this season as storylines intersect each episode.
I think that is important to keep in mind while watching Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya slowly warm-up to one another. The last time they were together at Winterfell, they weren’t all too fond of each other. Sansa had gooey-eyes for Joffrey (gross) and Arya wasn’t interested in anything becoming a proper lady and wife had to offer. Seeing the Stark children together again reminds us of all they have been through and how the people they have encountered along the way have influenced them. This is especially apparent in Arya this episode.
From the moment she arrives at the gates of Winterfell, Arya is the embodiment of everything she has learned and everyone she has learned from on the way. In her sword fight with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), she uses a combination of skills she had learned over the years. Her swift and nimble sword moves she got from Syrio Forel. She strikes at just the right places, knowledge she learned from the Hound. If that wasn’t enough, when Brienne asks, “Who taught you that?” Arya answers, “no one.” An ode to her training in the House of Black and White.
This scene was symbolic for multiple reasons. It showed off Arya’s general badass-ery. Secondly, it proved how good of a fighter she has become. However, the sequence’s main purpose was actually for Sansa, who was watching from the balcony above, looking troubled. Important details also lay in Arya’s appearance. Once she cleans up after arriving in Winterfell, she dons an outfit of leather and pulls her hair back into a tight half-up bun. A style her father, Ned Stark, was known to wear.
Meanwhile Bran continues to prove he is devoid of general human emotions, and cares not for status or titles. But he proves how dangerous the Three- Eyed Raven can be in his conversation with Littlefinger. If the Three-Eyed Raven can see Littlenger’s speech from four seasons past, then he can expose the vital role Petyr Baelish played in Ned Stark’s demise, something Sansa is not aware of.
On Dragonstone, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) discovers some cave drawings left by the Children of the Forrest. Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) continues to be the character with the best comedic timing. And Jon and Dany have a moment in the dragonglass cave (he’s really got a thing for caves, huh?)
Season seven continues the trend of freakishly fast travel when Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) arrives to the bastard he verbally abused way back in season one, who has grown into a big, bad, King in the North who is quite angry. While nothing monumental happened in this scene, I thought it was worth a mention because Allen continues to be one of the most underrated actors on the show.
Now for the big finale. And I mean BIG. Dany’s attack on Jaime Lannister’s army and wagon train. Using Drogon and her Dothraki screamers, Dany burns, slices, and dices her way through the Lannister army. Having watched six seasons of bloodshed, a large battle sequence isn’t anything new to Thrones fans. This battle was different because for the first time, we were seeing two main characters’ fight each other (Ramsay Bolton wasn’t a principle character).
Despite her desire not to be, Daenerys Targaryen literally becomes the Queen of the Ashes in “The Spoils of War.” Her attack illustrated that even though her allies and numbers have dwindled, she is a lethal force that is not to be underestimated.
I felt strangely conflicted during this battle – by the way, does it have a name yet? Jaime Lannister underwent one of the greatest character transformations over the course of the show, and has grown to be one of my favorites. I was rooting for Dany, Drogon, and the Dothraki, but I also didn’t want Jaime to die. Some part of me knew he wouldn’t (and didn’t) because he has too many loose ends to tie up before he can kick the bucket. Tyrion’s face pretty much summed up my emotions during the battle. And eventually his words too, “you fucking idiot.” If I feel conflicted, I can’t even imagine what Tyrion Lannister (portrayed by the brilliant Peter Dinklage) was feeling while watching the horrors he brought to Westeros unleash hell on his family. And rightly so. Tyrion may not want his sister on the Iron Throne, but that doesn’t mean he wants to see his brother – who helped him escape certain death – roasted alive by a dragon.
I predict that Jaime will live, despite his drop into the freakishly deep river. Bronn on the other, I’m not so sure about. As a minor book character that won the hearts of viewers with his wry comments and rugged looks, Bronn rose to become a mainstay in the Thrones universe. I couldn’t help but feel that the writers were trying to make him unlikable this episode, meaning his end could be just around the corner.
Ultimately, “The Spoils of War” was a premium cable masterpiece. It was action-packed and emotionally riveting. While it may have lacked the cinematic brilliance of episodes like The Battle of the Bastards, it is easily one of the best episodes of Game of Thrones ever made.