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Game of Thrones “The Spoils of War” 

Game of Thrones “The Spoils of War”
Photo Credit: HBO

Now that was a battle scene.

Photo Credit: HBO

We knew Daenerys was approaching her breaking point. Cersei has been pushing and pushing, and Daenerys has been itching to actually fight; much to Tyrion’s chagrin. But we’ve all known Dany’s a ruler of the people. She prefers to be hands on. So it was really just a matter of time before she got fed up with being told to stay safe at Dragonstone while others fought her battles and unleashed a major attack like this. In terms of pure entertainment, “The Spoils of War” felt like peak Game of Thrones. From the ominous hum of the approaching sea of Dothraki, to dragons making their first major appearance in Westeros, it felt like an earned event. We’ve spent years with Daenerys as she built her following, the first of them being the Dothraki. Since then, we haven’t seen the them do much of anything. The battle scene in “The Spoils of War” was a welcome reminder how badass the Dothraki are and how completely dominant Daenerys and her army can be if they want to. Thematically, the emphasis on the Dothraki is another call back to the early seasons, which has happened again and again this season. Visually, this battle was one of the more sickening ones (in a good way), with plenty of blood, but with an extra healthy dose of horrifically charred figures and horses getting their legs cut off.

There were some questions about timelines that popped up, but the key is that for better or worse, we’ve abandoned the days of Bran spending three seasons traveling north of The Wall. Instead, Daenerys’ army of Dothraki can meet Jaime’s slew of Lannister men traveling from Highgarden in what feels like mere moments. I want to be more frustrated by this, after all, I frequently ramble about the need for time and space for proper storyline development. But it just hasn’t been that necessary. Was it a little silly for Daenerys to just peace out of Dragonstone out of nowhere and appear near Highgarden? Absolutely. Did we get an excellent and motivationally sound battle out of it? Without question.

But the most compelling piece of all of this and what gives this episode emotional heft, is how Tyrion fits in. It starts with Daenerys accusing him of giving her shoddy advice because he doesn’t actually want to hurt his family. It’s unclear if he’s the one who suggests ambushing Jaime’s troops as they are in transit to King’s Landing, but he’s there with Dany, and seems more conflicted than he ever has been. After all, he certainly hates Cersei, but Tyrion and Jaime are another story. They legitimately care about each other, and Tyrion’s face as he watches the battle is enough to explain the internal struggle he is facing, not to mention his quiet muttering of advice while Jaime charges at Daenerys. This tiny piece of storytelling makes the battle in “The Spoils of War” one of the best of the series, because the consequences are not just regarding the war—they clearly affect specific people.

Photo Credit: Macall B. Polay/HBO

I know we should be concerned about Jaime, maybe even consider him dead, but I can’t help but think he will be rescued. Hell, Bronn pushed him into the water to save him from the fire; Jaime drowning would feel pointless. It has been a long time since a main character has died, but at this point in Game of Thrones, it’s more refreshing for characters to live. And so, I prefer to assume Jaime lives, until we find out otherwise. I also suspect we’re at a point where the small number of characters we have left are critical to our story and until they serve their purpose, they aren’t going anywhere. I don’t think Jaime’s purpose is done.

Although Daenerys attacking the Lannisters was the main even in “The Spoils of War,” the first half the episode had some great moments in Winterfell. Arya finally made it back to her home and had a slightly awkward (I mean, with mystical Bran around, the most awkward thing you could do is nothing compared to his lack of social skills), but mostly sweet reunion with Sansa. Of course, there’s more of people, namely Sansa, no realizing Arya is basically a ultra skilled sword-fighting assassin, but that’s rectified in short order. What’s most enjoyable about this is that Sansa and Brienne, the two that initially doubt Arya’s abilities are quick to be impressed by her, if not a little proud. Even when Arya admits that most of the people on her kill list are dead, Sansa’s reaction is a smirk. The Arya-Brienne sword fight was also perfectly choreographed, incredibly fun to watch, and a great contrast to images of young Arya’s days learning how to fight with Syria Forel.

On Jon Snow’s front, prior to her leaving for battle, he finally convinces Daenerys of the existence of White Walkers through some conveniently placed cave drawings and made some significant headway in gaining Daenerys’s trust. Although it’s clear Dany is still too headstrong to agree to all of Jon’s terms (or term, I suppose) her moment of frustration where she asks him what to do felt significant. Whether or not she took the advice is irrelevant. Asking suggests she finally respects him.

Way back in my reviews of last season’s “Blood of My Blood,” I finally began warming up to Daenerys as a competent leader, someone we could root for. Word for word I wrote “…can you imagine how insane it’ll be if Dany rolls into Westeros with her dragons and her thousand ships and her zillion Dothraki warriors? At this point, can anyone compete? My answer is a quick ‘no.’”

And “The Spoils of War” showed exactly that: Daenerys can crush the competition if she wants to, making this incremental build up worth its weight. But Daenerys isn’t safe; she’s literally with an injured dragon at the end of the episode and Qyburn has figured out a way to take a dragon down, but she’s proved herself in a way we’ve been needing her to for a long time.

Other thoughts:

-The cave drawings were pretty cheesy, but they served to solidify the role of mythology in an episode generally light on lore.

-Bran whispering “Chaos is a ladder,” to Littlefinger was perfection. Creepy Bran is the only one with the power to completely turn this around.

-On that note, poor Meera. You deserve better, girl.

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.

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