Sunday, April 15, 2018

THE BATTLE OF FIRE AND GOLD.  It was the shortest episode in the entire series, but last Sunday’s  Game of Thrones  episode, “The Spoils ...

Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 4 "The Spoils of War" Review


It was the shortest episode in the entire series, but last Sunday’s Game of Thrones episode, “The Spoils of War”was enough to leave your jaw hanging for the entire week. Dany’s arrival in Westeros was only a few episodes ago, but she’s already begun to make a charred impression on the warring nations of the land. It was an episode of character reunions and veiled foreshadowing for the dark days ahead, all wrapped up nicely with a battle sequence that’ll go down in Game of Thrones history.
Probably one of the most prominent strands of the whole seventh season of Game of Thrones is how the Stark clan is slowly becoming whole again. Well, as whole as they’re ever going to get. It’s taken seven years, but every remaining Stark has returned to Winterfell, with Arya making her way through the gates in this last episode.
It’s the first time Sansa and Arya have interacted since season one, and their reunion is tender and sweet, especially as they ruminate over their own journeys to make it home. For each of them, a “hard road home” doesn’t even begin to explain it. But they’re here now, and the Northern Kingdom has a solid, complete house to unite under once more.

Baelish and Brienne have made their allegiances under the Stark banner, at least for now. Brienne has a special place in her heart for Jaime Lannister that could pull her away and, well, Baelish, we all know Baelish only goes where it suits him. For now, they occupy Winterfell, giving gifts of daggers and sparring with the youngest Stark. Things are relatively peaceful in the North, but it’s full of foreboding murmurs by way of Bran. He’s, uh, still pretty weird.
Dragonstone is hopping with activity as well. Jon Snow has reached a tenuous agreement with the Queen of Dragons to begin mining the dragonglass beneath the keep. They’re set to begin digging immediately, but not before Jon shows Dany just what’s written on the wall--quite literally. Cave paintings litter the caverns beneath the island. They’re made by the Children of the Forest and they depict the first time the White Walkers rose against the living. Together, the Children banded with the first men to overcome the undead. As Jon and Dany reflect on the story the walls tell, it’s clear that this foreshadows their cooperation for the battles ahead.

But Dany’s appearance in “The Spoils of War” wasn’t just pensive musings at a cave painting, and neither was Jon’s. Just as the Starks reunited in Winterfell, the two half-Starks have a chance to meet once more on the shores of Dragonstone. Theon returns to the island with what survived of his forces in the battle against his uncle only to come face-to-face with his once-brother, Jon Snow. As you can guess, the meeting wasn’t filled with hugs. Theon is a character that’s gone through a lot, and most of it he’s brought it on himself. One has to wonder if he’ll see the end of the series with a beating heart. Has he paid for his sins enough by now?
Dany herself is dealing with a much larger issue than the internal conflicts of her allies. Around the time Theon makes his defeated return to Dragonstone, word is received that Black Worm’s victory at Casterly Rock was ill-earned. The castle was relatively empty, on account for the Lannister attack on Highgarden, and Euron Greyjoy’s ambush has left Grey Worm’s fate unknown.
This means that the Queen of Dragons has suffered two losses at the hands of the Lannisters, and she’s quick to point the finger at the sole Lannister that’s within her ranks. Has Tyrion’s plan led her to her own demise? We don’t think so, but it’s not impossible to imagine that Tyrion’s planning around the deaths of his family in one way or another.
And on that note, no episode of Game of Thrones would be complete without a nice tasting of what the Lannisters are serving. In “Spoils of War”, it’s some venom filled debt-paying, as well as a genuine ass kicking.

Queen Cersei is in the middle of dealing with the Iron Bank, the lenders who’ve been funding the crown for what feels like forever. And as lenders tend to do, they’ve come to collect. With Highgarden completely sacked, the payment is en-route back to King's Landing, where it will be promptly placed on the boats of the Iron Bank so they can kindly sail back to where they come from. The plan seemed foolproof, but so many things in Game of Thrones seem foolproof before they come crashing down.
While the loot train is making its way back to King's Landing, Dany takes her first victory from the Lannisters. Riding on the back of Drogon, she incinerates the loot train and any Lannister force too close to the fiery hose of death.

The major players involved on the Lannister side of the ball are Jaime and Bronn. Both, over time, have become fan favorites and therein lies a big dilemma of this episode--we don’t know who to root for. It’s fair to say that Jaime has some ill will stacked against him from the viewer's side, but he’s been paying that off ever since he lost his hand. And Bronn? Who doesn’t love Bronn. It should also be noted that the Tarlys are there as well, serving as bannermen to the Lannisters.
But we’re talking about Dany here. We have to root for her, right?
Either way, the battle that takes place between the Lannister forces and Dany’s Drogo/Dothraki combo was incredible. It was visual, visceral, and technically astounding. But, in the end, it felt a little empty. Of the major players named above, nobody was removed from the game board. I’m not encouraging death for the sake of death, but this fight had no major consequence. Jaime’s plot armor is one of the thickest, as is Dany’s, but Bronn? He’s a sacrifice that may need to be made at some point. This may have been the time to do it. Hell, even all the Tarlys survived!

It’s true that the episode ended with Jaime sinking to the depths of a lake, his fate up in the air, but not really. Jaime’s plunge to the depths was a perfect metaphorical showing of one man’s duty to family and love conflicting with doing what’s right. Right now, Jaime’s willing to give his life for his sister’s reign, but as he sinks ever further, we may be witnessing his rebirth into someone else--someone driven by humanity, not loyalty.
But there is a consequence of the battle that we may see in the next episode. While it was noted that all the gold made it to King’s Landing, this battle sequence was called the “Loot Train Battle.” The caravan that was destroyed was hauling prizes from Highgarden back to the capital city. Is the gold alone enough to pay off the Iron Bank, or will they fall short of their payment now that their loot train is in ruin? Will this, in turn, mean that Queen Cersei will become the first Lannister to not pay her debt? We’ll definitely find out very soon.
It isn’t a new reality to have so many moving pieces take place in an episode of Game of Thrones, but the seventh season has relieved the viewers of having to jump from one side of the globe to the other. As whole groups have been annihilated and Essos has nothing left to offer, we’re dealing with three or four factions that are relatively close to one another. 
This keeps the action tight and intimate, as character’s we’ve known for years are being put on the chopping block. “The Spoils of War” was a great example of intimate action, but without the inevitable sacrifice that’s needed to be made. Though, the previous battles have taken their toll, so it’s not to say that this season has been without sacrifice. All in all, this episode of Game of Thrones was beautiful storytelling and exactly how to keep fans wanting for more.

Overall Score: 9/10
Review written by Henry Kulick

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