Game of Thrones hits a new high in the season’s best episode yet

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This week’s episode of Game of Thrones was called “The Spoils of War,” and there are quite a few thematic connections to that line. The episode had two parallel timelines so I’ll address each in turn.

The first is at Winterfell, where we see a few interesting bits of conversation. Newly appointed creep of Westeros Brandon (Bran) Stark reminds us that he himself is a spoil of war, the war that ended the lives of Jojen Reed, Hodor, Summer the direwolf, some children of the forest, and the original Three Eyed Raven. Bran refers to himself as Brandon, just as Littlefinger does, while Arya and Sansa use the less formal Bran. It’s hardly a coincidence.

It was a joy to see Littlefinger discomfited by Bran’s “Chaos is a ladder” reminder from three seasons ago when Baelish proclaimed this aphorism to Varys. But the motivations and plans of Littlefinger are as muddled as ever. Why give the dagger to Bran, which could easily cause him trouble? Why give Arya a creepy smile? Who knows, really.

And the way Bran said nothing when Meera proclaimed him dead in spirit, if not body, was indeed sad. Meera has gotten short shrift for a while, but this was a decent send off for a character who’s sacrificed a helluva lot.

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The reunion of sisters felt honest, a reminder of how far they’ve both come in so many ways. Sansa very nearly killed Joffrey herself, almost pushing him off a balcony way back in season one before the Hound stopped her. So it’s not so crazy to imagine Sansa saying she wishes she had killed Joffrey — she also essentially killed Ramsay Bolton last season, so it’s more about how the show has pushed Sansa to this point. But she’s not the sociopath Arya has become. Or has she been lost?

Arya and Brienne’s battle was fascinating, because it showed a rare time of Brienne losing her temper, kicking Arya to the ground. A mirror image of how the Hound did the same thing when Arya tried to stab him back in the day. The choreography was quite good, and if they used stunt people, I couldn’t tell. The fight was full of spoils of wars lost and won, the totality of Arya’s many struggles. In this case, what didn’t kill her really did make her stronger.

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The other timeline consisted of a few pieces, the road near King’s Landing, the Red Keep, and Dragonstone. I had a feeling the episode was teasing me last week about Bronn, and of course he’s front and center. Everything Bronn did worked, and I felt his “heroic” turns weren’t entirely unearned. Bronn in the first part of the episode was pushed by Jaime to harass some innocent farmers about grain, yet in the end, he abandons his gold to try and kill a dragon. And he got closer than anyone else had.

I think it’s pretty clear Bronn was the one to tackle Jaime in the last minute, as we saw a bit earlier him noticing Jaime’s distinctive white horse. As for Dickon, I’m not sure I can really care, despite the episode trying to make me think of him as a person. We know he’s not an asshole like his father Randyll, but is that the point? That Samwell will have his kinder brother as a Lord of Horn Hill instead?

In this case, the spoils of war were all hard lessons learned, as Dickon explained how battle was awful to Jaime and Bronn, who are already aware of that lesson.

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I’ll get back to the battle in a moment, but first: the Iron Bank and Cersei was a bit of a yawner, a moment that seems like a metaphorical “snooze button.” Get ready for the next plan of Cersei, I suppose. It’s fine, but a weaker moment in the episode.

On Dragonstone, there was a lot of pushing things forward slowly. The show seems to be heavily invested in getting interested in watching Daenerys and Jon Snow bone. When the two were in the caves staring at drawings, the music and the camerawork ramped up the sexual tension. Dany moving forward, the other moving back, a light touch, lips opened slightly, and actual respect growing between them. If you can imagine.

I think some people are squicked out by the concept, but far more people are the opposite of disgusted, so I have to imagine they’ll have either a terrible or grand or tragic hookup. The sense of tension in those scenes in the caves did legitimately hit me, I will admit, and it was one of a few points in the episode like that.

It’s interesting that Tyrion’s greatest work so far hasn’t been military strategy but getting Jon and Dany closer to each other. Interesting. Another reunion we saw was the brief one between Jon and Theon, which also felt quite honest. We’ll have to see how that impacts things going forward.

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Finally getting to the battle, I can ignore many of the little minor logical issues because it was a very well shot and constructed battle. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a more “realistic” take on dragons if they were involved in a major battle. It’s good story writing when you aren’t sure who you’re rooting for. I didn’t want Bronn to die, but I knew Dany’s story was far from over, and if Drogon died from a single arrow hit, it’s a bit too easy.

The spoils of war are spread throughout the final moments, connecting everything together. Jaime sees everything on fire, reminded of the Mad King and seeing his daughter seemingly all about fire and madness as well. It’s no wonder in his current state of confusion and despair he plans a final suicidal charge. Did it make no sense that Tyrion was anywhere near the battle? Of course, but getting Tyrion’s reaction to seeing his brother’s actions was worth the illogic.

Game of Thrones often tries to balance narrative device against story logic, and sometimes that doesn’t work. This episode, it worked.

What did you think of this episode? Tell us in the comments below!


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  1. I very much enjoyed Arya’s sword fighting scene and thought it was well done. Finally a payoff for all that abuse she took learning from the man with no name. I found myself initially disappointed the Jamie wasn’t fried to death as he deserved at that moment, but after a bit realized I’ll be glad he’s still on the show.