Game of Thrones The Spoils of War Review
HBO‘s Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 4: The Spoils of War was the best episode so far this season in terms of exposition and action. The Spoils of War also ranks among the top ten episodes ever in the series. The last fifteen minutes of The Spoils of War were thrilling and epic, laced with dazzling moments of destruction and carnage. Not since the finale episode of Starz’s Black Sails has a large scale battle on television been realized so finely as the one in The Spoils of War.
Before the battle began, The Spoils of War‘s highlights had been emotionless Brandon “Bran” Stark / The Three-Eyed Raven (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and how he interacted with those that would call him friend and brother and Arya Stark (Maisie Williams)’s rousing duel with Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie).
All of those moments were quieted in the viewer’s mind and silenced when the ground began to shake and the Khalasar’s horse hooves became audible to all those on-screen. When the battle erupted, the viewer realized why the battle for High Garden in The Queen’s Justice had been skipped. All that production money and all of those visual resources had been reserved for The Spoils of War. The final conflict in The Spoils of War was a movie-grade battle, complete with point-of-view shots from atop a dragon as it carpet bombed its foes with concentrated flames.
Most Game of Thrones viewers have never thought of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) as a warrior before The Spoils of War. They will afterward because like any good warrior during the era of Game of Thrones, one learns to ride a beast into combat. For most, that beast is a well-trained war horse. In Daenerys Targaryen’s case, that beast was a dragon (presumably Drogon) and its fire was her lace, devastating whatever it was pointed at with precision. Bodies were incinerated in seconds as were men’s courage and resolve.
One can only imagine the fear and dread of seeing a mythical beast that you had only heard about in fairy tales come roaring at you. It wasn’t the fright that ran through the Knights of Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as the Nazgûl and their dragons screamed overhead, but the trepidation in the King’s Landing army was palpable.
Ser Jaime “Kingslayer” Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Ser Bronn of the Blackwater (Jerome Flynn) never showed more courage and bravery than they did standing their ground, surrounded by an inferno, in The Spoils of War. Ser Jaime and Ser Bronn each had their stand out scenes during those fantastic fiery moments but it was Bronn that had the lion’s share of them. The Dothraki were unlike any opponents that Bronn had previously faced and it showed – they easily countered his moves and out-thought him.
During The Spoils of War, was Bronn fighting for himself (his lost and promised riches) or for the Lannisters as he traversed that battlefield and mounted the gigantic crossbow? It wasn’t to save himself. If it was, Bronn would have deserted and run. Jamie Lannister had broken two promises to Bronn already, one broken promise resulted in the lose of Lollys Stokeworth, her home, and her wealth through marriage. Bronn owed the Lannisters nothing at that point and still he fought for their side and agenda. That decision was the moment when Bronn truly became a knight – fighting for a cause and not a pay day. Will Bronn still be expecting what he was promised long ago? Most-likely. Does Bronn ever expect to get it? Probably not. The Lannisters don’t want Bronn happy and married, not when he is so useful to them in the battlefield. When the Lannisters are truly done with Bronn (when the war is over), then they will fulfill their promise to Bronn (again). Cersei Lannister is probably calculating that Bronn will be dead long before that occurs.
The Kingslayer proved himself still to be a knight to be reckoned with in The Spoils of War. Director Matt Shakman pulled his camera back and the let the entire scene breath in beautifully filmed widescreen shots as Jamie picked up an improvised lance and charged The Mother of Dragons. The result of that charge begged the question: how can someone swim whom is covered in heavy platemail (most-likely with chainmail underneath) and has a metal hand attached to one of his arms? The answer to that quandary in Blood of the Dragon will hopefully be as interesting as what led up to it in The Spoils of War.
What needed no explanation in The Spoils of War was Arya Stark’s vast fighting ability. Her duel with Brienne of Tarth was choreographed marvelously with two strong women, whom in that time period, were seen as inferior to men, especially on the battlefield where a woman’s presence was virtually non-existent. Viewers have been waiting for seven long seasons to actually see Arya Stark use her sword Needle in a duel. There were a few teases last season but they amounted to nothing. That wasn’t the case in The Spoils of War. Arya’s water dancing was equal-to-if-not-better-than Brienne of Tarth’s standard Westerosi style.
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner)’s reaction to Arya’s fighting ability, how Arya was able to hold off and best an opponent of Brienne’s size and skill while men had fallen beneath Brienne’s sword, was the moment Sansa saw how far Ayra had progressed. Ayra Stark had become what she’d always wanted to be – a great swordswoman. In a world where most women needed men to protect them and fight for their causes, Ayra Stark didn’t. Ayra Stark could do her own fighting. Sansa Stark saw something else as she looked down upon her little sister – a reflection pool. Sansa saw how far she hadn’t progressed and everything that she lacked.
Arya Stark wasn’t the only character of evidenced evolvement in The Spoils of War. Brandon Stark had progressed mightily in his Three Eyed-Raven powers but had digressed in his connection to humanity. Brandon Stark’s lack of gratitude towards Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) in The Spoils of War was stunning. Starting in The Queen’s Justice and culminating in The Spoils of War, Brandon Stark had returned to Winterfell stripped of much his of emotions. He seemed neither pleased nor happy to be back at Winterfell. Bran’s emotional detachment was reminiscent of Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen and Scarlett Johansson in Lucy. Brandon was no longer a part of the world that his body existed in. He had become an ambivalent observer. Meera Reed was slapped in the face with that fact during The Spoils of War. Bran could have asked Meera to stay. Part of Meera probably wanted to be asked. She most-likely wanted to feel like she wasn’t just Bran’s babysitter but still a needed and wanted friend and ally. Someone that Bran had come to rely on, someone that he could not do without. I think Meera wanted to hear those words.
Bran could have suggested that Meera stay and that her family come to Winterfell. Instead, Bran had evolved to the point where he was incapable of showing appreciation for her and their companion’s sacrifices. Meera was right. The old Brandon Stark was dead but a being far more powerful sat in his place.
That being, the Three-Eyed Raven, surprised Arya and Sansa Stark during The Spoils of War with its talk of Arya’s list, Cersei Lannister, and Ayra’s decision on the crossroads. It was a wonderful moment where the new versions of Arya and Bran were revealed just a little more to Sansa. Through Sansa Stark’s trials and traumas, the veil of innocence had been ripped away from her eyes. Sansa was no longer naive or took things at face value. The romanticism in how Sansa viewed the world was gone. Sansa now saw the world in black and white terms. That is where Sansa Stark’s road had come to an end. Arya and the Three-Eyed Raven’s roads, on the other hand, outstretched without an end in sight, miles of which they had yet to traverse.
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