Beware! The night is dark and full of terrors, and this review will have spoilers. Which could be a scarier prospect. If you need a briefing for this season, DO NOT READ ON. But go here instead.
This week: She is the Mother of Dragons, and she brings you... fire!
We're starting to detect a distinct pattern to the episodes of Season Seven – a lot of tactical talk, a few initial meetings or reunions sprinkled here and there and then some measure of a battle towards the end. But while The Spoils Of War kept to that concept, it delivered some much-needed scenes of Stark emotion and such a devastating, high-stakes clash as its big finish that we can overlook the chafing format. But before we get to the flame-boiled finale, let's unpack everything else that happened, because a lot went down. And we don't just mean Jaime... (wait!)
If you were hoping for more Bronn after his brief, wordless cameo last week, raise a glass (and a cheer), because this episode was a veritable Bronngasm, with Jerome Flynn handed some typically snarky lines about getting his promised castle. His chemistry with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau remains a delight, and it gives what happens later that much more power. And as the Lannisters consolidate their power and transport the rich pickings from their sacking of Highgarden, you just know there will have to be consequences.
All we really got of Cersei this week was another chat with Tycho Nestoris from the Iron Bank, who expressed his delight that the Lannisters were paying their debts (drink!) in record time. Mark Gatiss really does have the slightly slimy character nailed at this point, and offers a great performance with just a few lines.
Over in Winterfell, there was some dagger-handing business between Littlefinger and Bran (or Three-Eyed-Rave-Bran?) before we got to the meat of the scenes up north: Arya is back, people! Despite some stupid guards not believing her (we knew it wouldn't end well for them), she's soon back with Sansa and then Bran. Seeing the Stark kids reunited is a real treat, and it throws their various evolution into a stark (yeah, we went there), light. While Bran's "visions" – fantastic delivery of the line by Sophie Turner about that, like a sister telling another that their brother is into fidget spinners in a big way – are an unexpected development, the show cannily pointed to Sansa and Arya's destiny's almost from the moment we met them. There's an enormous feeling of payoff here, and yet earned and rooted in character.
There was also the fun "training" session between Arya and Brienne, as the former got to show off just how accomplished she has become with the blade. Plus: "Who taught you to do that?" "No one..." Sneaky!
At Dragonstone, Dany had to deal with the fact that her luck since she arrived has been singularly dreadful, with all of her attempts to battle the Lannisters (and Euron) leading to failure. But before she can act, she also has to spend time with Jon in her caves (not a euphemism), where the burning sexual tension between the two meant they probably didn't need torches to see in the dark (a euphemism). Kudos to the show for finding another way to explain to Dany that she needs to take the White Walker threat seriously, but also showing that she won't let go of her own ruling priorities: she still demands that Jon bend the knee.
Reunions also played a part in these scenes, though a lot less pleasant or demanded: Theon finally arrived back, and sadly was left un-punched. Jon did grab him and explain that his helping Sansa is the only reason Theon is alive, but we can't imagine poor TG will have a fun time of it given how Jon hates him and he let Dany down. Maybe he'll get his hero moment down the line, but we'd figure it'll come with sacrifice.
But Dany's need for victory – tempered by Tyrion's wise counsel – led to the show-stopping, chaotic and eerily beautiful battle that ended the episode. The sort of clash you can almost imagine the producers devoting an entire episode to (such things may not be possible given the short order), the grain train clash was one for the ages. Dothraki! Dany and her dragon! Jaime trying to fight on two sides at once! Bronn stepping up as always and firing an arrow into Drogon. A lot of Lannister soldiers discovered that their armour makes for a very good cooking tin, and the Dothraki got the chance to prove how good they are, even against a well-trained army. It was brutal, it was punishing... It was fantastic.
As for Jaime's final splashdown... Anyone else start to hear this in their head?
The Spoils Of War represented the show firing (pun intended) on all cylinders, both emotionally and on the action front. Dany got to use her special weapon on someone we actually care about, there was significant (and well-written) plot movement on several fronts and the quality of the show's effects and choreography remains sky high. With just three episodes left this season, things are really heating up. Sorry, Lannisters.
Highlight: The final battle.
Lowlight: If only because it didn't have the power of the rest of the episode, Littlefinger's scene.
Kill of the week: Lots of Lannisters!
Quote of the week: "Come on, you fucker!" – Bronn takes aim.
MVP: Bronn. Just 'cos. Though points for the Starks too.
Random thought: Couldn't Dany have directed Drogon from the same hill that Tyrion was standing on? She's been shown to commanded the trio from afar before.
- Is Jaime dead?
We'd guess not, as he's the sort of character they'd want to kill definitively.
- Did Bronn survive?
HE'D DAMN WELL BETTER BE ALIVE. #SAVEBRONN
- Will that Valyrian Steel dagger come into play in the future?
Without a doubt.
---Season 7 Episode Review Guide
Game Of Thrones airs Sunday evenings on HBO in the States, with a simulcast on Sky Atlantic and Now TV in the early hours of Monday and a repeat Monday evenings at 9pm.