Game of Thrones Recap, Season 7 Episode 4: The Spoils of War
The Lannister army escorts the food and gold seized from the Tyrells to King's Landing. Bronn isn't satisfied with the large sack of gold Jaime gives him, reminding Jaime of the castle he was promised. Jaime assures him he'll have his pick at the end of the war and tasks him with shaking down smallfolk for food.
My take: Bronn correctly surmises the Queen of Thorns said something to shake Jaime up before dying, and Jaime's emotionless acknowledgment of the now-dead High Septon might suggest he's growing increasingly aware of the bodies stacking up at Cersei's feet.
Cersei informs the representative from the Iron Bank that enough gold was in Highgarden to pay off the Crown's debt. Impressed with her responsiveness, the banker suggests a continued relationship to fund Cersei's cause. She welcomes this possibility, saying Qyburn has already reached out to the Golden Company to discuss a partnership.
LORE: THE GOLDEN COMPANY
My take: Cersei's willingness to take on debt right after wiping the slate clean could prove dangerous; it's a classic Cersei movie, obliterating one obstacle in stunning fashion while another, more complex one springs up to take its place. Keep in mind, the Lannister mines which built the family's wealth have run dry, and it took the accumulated wealth of the next-richest house in Westeros to cover this debt. Where would the money come from next time? It reminds me of her alliance with the High Sparrow; it got her out of a wedding and Loras and Margaery imprisoned, but she had to detonate a cache of wildfire beneath the Sept of Baelor to get out of it, losing her last child in the fallout. She might be underestimating the Iron Bank's reach, and they have a saying much like her family's: "The Iron Bank always gets its due."
Littlefinger presents Bran with the Valyrian steel dagger used in the attempt on his life. Bran asks if Littlefinger knows who the blade belonged to, and Littlefinger responds weightily:
Bran interrupts him to say, "chaos is a ladder." Visibly unnerved, Littlefinger leaves the room and Meera enters. She tells Bran she's returning to her family, and he responds with a simple "thank you." Her attempts to remind him of his humanity have little effect.
LORE: THE CATSPAW BLADE
Arya returns to Winterfell, where she's met by two guards who don't believe she's Arya Stark. As they argue, she sneaks off.
Informed of her sister's return, Sansa finds Arya in the crypts near their father's tomb. After an initial awkwardness, they embrace and reminisce about Ned. Arya asks if Sansa killed Joffrey, and when she says no, mentions her list. Sansa laughs it off and suggests visiting Bran.
In the godswood, Bran receives Arya with his now-customary lack of emotion and says he saw her at the Crossroads but thought she was heading to King's Landing in pursuit of her list, confirming what Sansa thought was a joke. He then gives the catspaw blade to Arya.
Later, Arya approaches Brienne and Pod as they train. She reintroduces herself and explains she wants to be trained by the woman who beat the Hound. Brienne decides to entertain her, and takes a couple of hits from Needle before bearing down and fighting Arya to a draw, after which she agrees to help train her. Sansa and Littlefinger look on with a new understanding of Arya's abilities.
My take: Littlefinger HAS to stop telling Stark men he loved Catelyn and is now in love with Sansa. He's as old as their parents, he knew their parents, and for some reason he still leads with "I'd like to boink your sister." More importantly, Bran's line, taken directly from Littlefinger's private conversation with Varys in The Climb (S3E6), was a brilliant way to demonstrate the higher level at which he's playing the game.
Meera, we'll miss you. You fight, you never skip leg day, you put up with bizarre mystical happenings under a tree far north of the Wall, and you deserve some time off. I would ask one more favor: could you PLEASE ask your dad, Howland Reed, some important questions about the Tower of Joy? Do that, learn about Jon's true parentage, and do what Bran won't: send a raven to Jon before he hooks up with his aunt!!!
I'm a sucker for all Stark family reunions, so seeing Sansa and Arya together was wonderful. I'm sure Sansa is wondering how Jon Snow became the most "normal" of her siblings, but I thought she and Arya really bonded in their short time in the crypt. If they can effectively work together with Bran, they'll make a formidable trio; Sansa's statecraft, Arya's physical skills, and Bran's knowledge are all top-notch.
Speaking of Bran, I'm glad the show isn't dragging out a storyline in which his sisters don't believe him. His comments about Arya are particularly interesting. His incorrect assumption that she was headed for King's Landing means he can't truly see the future or that the future is fluid. It also raises some questions about how his visions work. We don't know the full extent of what he can see, but the fact that he didn't linger on Arya suggests to me that he's either 1) not fully in control of his visions, or 2) prioritizing his time for other causes. Arya, alone at the Crossroads, is insignificant in the fight against the White Walkers. Perhaps Bran moved on to something more critical to that fight.
Arya sparring with Brienne was the delightful appetizer to this episode's main course, but it was also our first view of Arya in "conventional" combat. The last time we saw her wielding Needle, she used it to extinguish a candle before taking out the Waif. She used her training as a Faceless Man to assassinate Lord Frey and his extended family. Here, she squares off with one of the greatest fighters in Westeros and comes out even, if not slightly ahead. With the catspaw blade, Arya and Brienne now both have Valyrian steel weapons; sounds like two people you'd want next to you fighting against the White Walkers.
Jon leads Dany into the cave with the dragonglass and then deeper through a narrow passage. On the other end is a series of cave drawings left by the Children of the Forest, depicting their alliance with the First Men to fight the White Walkers during the Long Night. Presented with this new evidence, Dany offers to help Jon and the North in their war...but only if Jon bends the knee.
Outside the cave, Tyrion and Varys update Dany on Casterly Rock and Highgarden. Furious, Dany wants to press the attack and take her dragons to King's Landing. Tyrion tries to get her to stick to their plan, but she's understandably unimpressed with his results to-date, and instead turns to Jon for advice:
Theon is delivered by an ironborn ship. Jon allows him to live for what he did for Sansa, and Theon tells them about Yara's capture.
My take: The events at Dragonstone deeply upset me, because the show seems to be inching ever closer to an incestuous hookup between the story's two central characters. If this show ends with Dany and Jon ruling as their little incest baby demonstrates a fondness for burning things, I'm going to re-watch the first four seasons on fast forward and play our Game of Thrones drinking game until I can't remember how the story ends. Bran!!! Send a raven! Send all of the ravens in Winterfell! Tell your cousin he's part Targaryen and Dany is his aunt! Blargh.
As for bending the knee, it's reasonable for Jon to be hesitant, but I don't know what choice he ultimately has. Dany is determined to rule all seven of the Seven Kingdoms in her long-winded title, and the North is one of them. Even if she loses some strength in her war against Cersei, three grown dragons can do enough damage to make Jon and the North submit eventually, and he NEEDS her dragons to fight the White Walkers. He probably knows it's only a matter of time, but wants to get as beneficial a deal as he can before kneeling.
Dany turning to Jon suggests a great deal of respect, and his advice was spot on. Westeros has been at war for years now, and food is running short while the sitting ruler is blowing up buildings. Burning down more of King's Landing won't endear Dany to anyone, and she hasn't forged a successful alliance with anyone who hasn't been captured since she arrived at Dragonstone.
Theon still sucks, but I guess it was sort of nice of Jon not to kill him.
The Goldroad (near King's Landing)
Dickon Tarly expresses remorse over killing some of the Tyrell men he knew, but neither Bronn nor Jaime can sympathize. Randyll Tarly tells Jaime the gold has made it to King's Landing, and, shortly after, Bronn notices a distant rumbling. The noise grows louder and is soon joined by battle cries, and Jaime and Randyll form up the lines of the Lannister army. Jaime is hopeful watching the rapidly approaching Dothraki until they're joined by Dany and Drogon, who sets fire to the center of their line. The battlefield is consumed in flames as Dany makes repeated passes overhead. Jaime fights well with his left hand, and Dickon helps rescue him from a Dothraki. Jaime trains archers on Drogon, who turns his belly towards the arrows, which bounce off harmlessly. Jaime tells Bronn to man the scorpion; after a bloody chase, he punches a bolt through a Dothraki pursuer and turns the sights skyward. Bronn's next shot nearly misses, and Dany seems to register it as a threat, circling around before approaching from the same angle. Bronn fires again and hits Drogon's shoulder. He and Dany tumble towards the ground, but he stabilizes before landing safely. As Dany struggles to remove the scorpion bolt from Drogon's shoulder, Jaime sees an opening and begins to charge, picking up a spear along the way. Before he can reach his target, first Dany and then Drogon turn to face him. Before Drogon can spout another burst of flame, Bronn tackles Jaime off his horse and into the water, where he begins to sink rapidly in his armor.
My take: This. Was. Awesome. We've waited years to see Dany unleash her dragons on Westerosi soil, and it didn't disappoint. As soon as Jon told Theon "she's gone," Kat and I both sat up in anticipation and didn't sit back again until the episode had ended, we had finished talking about it at hyper-speed, and the "next week on" segment had wrapped up.
In book terms, it's unlikely the scorpion bolt would injure Drogon so severely, but it was important to show that Dany's dragons aren't invincible. I would definitely advise her to go a little less Rickon Stark next time and try some evasive maneuvers, because Cersei will likely have scorpions all over the Red Keep soon.
Some people I've talked to are concerned that Dany's actions here suggest she's turning towards her darker, pyromaniac ways and following in her father's footsteps. Personally, I think her tactics were entirely fair. She engaged a mobilized army in an open field, away from civilians, and used the tools at her disposal. We'll see how she treats the prisoners next week, but this was fair play.
Seeing Tyrion watch his brother's ill-advised attempt to end the war before it could truly begin was difficult. His love for the one family member who treated him well might mean the difference between life and death after they fish him out of the oddly deep body of water he's sinking in. The charge was pure Jaime, though; he's been a soldier since he was a teenager, and prior to losing his hand he had a well-deserved invincibility complex because he was so skilled. Choosing the path ending in glorious victory or heroic death was an easy one for him.
As a pet theory, I think Dickon is going to end up bending the knee to Dany and continuing to play a role. He's been getting a lot of screen time, and I think there's more to it than laughing at his name. If he survives this battle, he could reunite with Sam and end up wielding his family's Valyrian steel sword, Heartsbane, in the eventual war against the White Walkers.
Dragonflame Burn of the Week
Thanks for checking out our recap! If you need some more historical context for what you're seeing, you can check out our Game of Thrones Lore series, which details the history of Westeros and some of what we know of Essos. Check back for another recap next week, and until then, remember: "Everything before the word 'but' is horseshit."