SPOILER ALERT - It's the shortest episode of the show so far, but still managed to cram more in then the average season finale
Things really got going in this week’s Game Of Thrones , as plans which have been seven seasons in the making finally kicked into gear.
Revealed to be the shortest episode of the show so far, at a mere 45-ish minutes, it still crammed in more action than the average season finale has managed.
So let’s get right into it. Don’t read on unless you’ve seen Season 7, episode 4.
Seriously, this time.
There’s big spoilers and you’ll regret it...
The ‘Spoils of War’ of the episode title is the gold which the Lannisters have looted from Casterly Rock to pay their debts to the Iron Bank.
And bank manager Tycho Nestoris (played brilliantly by Sherlock’s Mark Gatiss) is already trying to get Cersei to take out another hefty loan to help with the reconquest of Westeros.
We’re told Qyburn has been in touch with sellswords the Golden Company in Essos to help on that front. Does this mean that rival mercs The Second Sons and Dany’s ditched lover Daario Naharis might make a comeback to warn her of the Lannister plan?
Even though her presence in the episode is short, Cersei’s shadow is cast long over it. Bronn even sarcastically quips to Jaime: ‘I’m sure Queen Cersei’s reign will be quiet and peaceable’. His response ‘Stranger things have happened’ suggests his confrontation with Olenna Tyrell last week has dented his confidence in his sister somewhat.
Up in Winterfell Arya has finally arrived home, and after a frosty reception (geddit, coz it’s winter…?) from the gate guards she finally gets reunited with Sansa and Brandon.
Sansa’s relationship with her sister looks strained already, and there’s a more than a hint of jealousy when she sees Arya training with Brienne. It certainly seems that Sansa is resentful of all her siblings now - Jon for being made king, Arya for emerging from her trials as a fighter, and even Brandon for becoming a seer. Quite how this will develop in the future remains to be seen. Are we looking at a Cersei of the North?
The more interesting of the Stark interactions is Bran’s meeting with Littlefinger. Baelish is still desperate to get his claws into the Stark children, and has now turned his attention to the last of the boys after his return from north of the Wall. He offers Bran the dagger which almost killed him waaaay back in Season One, but the lad does not seem impressed.
Aidan Gillen has done a great job of portraying Littlefinger this season, as his control over both Sansa and the wider situation starts to unravel. He’s clearly shaken when Brandon says “chaos is a ladder”. If the new Three-Eyed-Raven has seen elements of his scheming, how far will he go to keep his plans hidden?
I’m also starting to enjoy Bran’s story arc more, as he becomes more and more distant from the tedious power games of mortals. As the Three Eyed Raven he has grander visions to look upon - as Meera says, he “died in that cave” when he took over his new mantle. Here’s hoping we get a few more flashbacks in the coming weeks.
And so we come to the blossoming relationship between Daenerys and Jon. He takes her on a stroll through a cave (he takes all his hot dates to caves, but it didn’t end up working out with Ygritte) and looks like he’s managed to impress her with some drawings of the White Walkers. He almost has her convinced to help him defend the North, but she again demands that he bends the knee and recognise her as Queen. She hits him with the sucker punch though: “Isn’t their survival worth more than your pride”. It’s the same line Jon gave to Mance Rayder in Season Five - and Mance got burned to death by Stannis when he refused. Probably one to remember Jon.
Worth noting that Jon does manage to calm Dany down later though. When she learns that her Unsullied are trapped at Casterly Rock and is raging at Tyrion and Varys, she asks for Jon’s advice over whether she should just use the dragons to burn the Red Keep to the ground. He manages to get through to her about “building a world that’s different”. Really, a marriage match is the best solution for all concerned here. Just ignore the fact they’re probably auntie and nephew - only Bran knows that at the minute and he’s a thousand miles away.
On to THAT battle then.
We FINALLY see Daenerys take to the skies for a proper fight - and see what kind of a game-changer dragons are at war, both in the show, and out.
Make no mistake, the design and execution of the CGI Drogon in this fight scene, coupled with the real-life stunt work, direction and camerawork make this one of the best battle scenes in television history.
Showrunner David Benioff has claimed one scene this year involved more stuntmen set on fire than have ever been simultaneously set on fire before. You have to assume it’s this battle (unless there’s an even bigger fight to come), and it pays off in spades. The sheer spectacle of the battle is jaw-dropping.
Following Bronn through the fog of war was a great move. It would be easy to show this battle from above, as Drogon flies around and burns everyone to a crisp. But instead we are mired in the fear and confusion of the battle itself with screaming Dothraki and screeching dragons all around.
And it seems that while Qyburn’s Big Crossbow O Doom (™) can hurt the dragons a bit, they’re a lot more resilient than he’s given them credit for. Hopefully he’s built a few more, but you’d think that now Dany is aware they have giant spear chuckers she’ll be a little more cautious than flying around with no armour on.
It was also great to see Tyrion overlooking the battle, and his horror at the destruction wrought by Drogon and the Dothraki. He urges Jaime to flee and calls him a “f**king idiot” for charging at Daenerys (dude’s got a point, she’s stood next to a dragon the size of a 747). He clearly still has a great deal of love for his brother, and it’ll be interesting to see how that pans out in the future. That brother did stab Dany’s dad in the back after all, she might not be all that willing to grant a pardon.
There’s a few quibbles with the scene. Earlier in the episode, Dany was concerned about feeding her armies if all of the food from the Reach was taken by Cersei. But then in the heat of battle she sets fire to all the wagons.
Also there’s that ever-present speedy transport that has been an issue all season. Exactly when she needs to be, Daenerys is half way across the continent ready to do battle when mere minutes earlier in the episode she was moaning about still being on Dragonstone. It’s starting to feel like the showrunners wanted to cram so much into this shortened season that they’ve glossed over some of the logistics of moving massive armies around a map. On second viewing you can sort of see where the time jump might be, but it's poorly signposted and it still feels jarring to have her reappear hundreds of miles away almost instantly.
But overall, this was the stand-out episode of the year so far. It had everything we could want - battles involving dragon, Starks reunited, and not a hint of Sam Tarley in a library. Quite where we go from here I don’t know. Even if Jaime survives, his army is in ruins and the morale effects of facing off against dragons will be huge. Even with her foreign sellswords coming in, Cersei is going to be up against it now.
This series is shaping up to be my favourite of them all - and I’m expecting more battles to come.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK : “King Snow, isn’t it? No, that doesn’t sound right. King Jon?” Ser Davos bringing the comic relief
DEATH OF THE WEEK : Pretty much the whole Lannister army is toast now isn’t it?
GENDRY WATCH : Still rowing his boat (34 episodes and counting)Read more at mirror.co.uk