Monday, August 7, 2017

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Spoils of War

Well that was pretty good. Or as my brother said, this show should win awards for this episode alone if nothing else. It was a little higher on action than normal, but the story also moved forward with the "talky" portions. There were few wasted words in this episode. There were a number of reunions. The Lannisters (and evidently some remains of the Bolton forces) are marching to King's Landing from Highgarden, having looted it. Jaime's intention is to use the booty to pay off the Lannister debt to the Iron Bank. Bronn can tell that something is bothering Jaime but as Jaime is not really a sensitive new age type of guy he declines to share Olenna Tyrell's last words with his employee. Flipping the script, Jaime notices that even when he gives Bronn a generous portion of the gold Bronn is not super happy. Care to share. Well Bronn is not sensitive and talky either but he is quite the honest mercenary. He wants a castle. He was promised a castle. He thinks Highgarden looks appropriate. Jaime chides him for being greedy but says that after the war is won Bronn will have his pick of castles, though probably not Highgarden. Randyll Tarly and his son Dickon report. They need some help "convincing" people of the Reach to turn over their harvests. Jaime volunteers Bronn to help in that endeavor.

In King's Landing, the Iron Bank representative, Tycho, is meeting with Cersei. He is both pleased and a little irritated that Cersei intends to pay the debt back in full in one payment. The Iron Bank likes interest payments because that's where the profit is. Still they want their money back. They will be be pleased to work with Cersei on all sorts of future projects just as soon as they have their money back. Cersei has sent Qyburn to inquire about hiring the Golden Company, a famous mercenary group with former links to Westeros.


Littlefinger is meeting with Bran, who finally has a wheelchair now. Littlefinger gives a dagger to Bran, the same dagger which was used in the attempt to kill Bran and was supposedly used in the murder of Catelyn. Littlefinger claims (correctly in all likelihood) that he loved Catelyn and (almost certainly lying) that he would have given up his own life to protect Catelyn. But since he can't do that now he hopes that Bran just thinks of him as friendly old uncle Peter. And all this chaos at Winterfell must be confusing to Bran. Bran, who looks and sounds like he's coming down from a LSD trip looks through Littlefinger and says "Chaos is a ladder". These are of course Littlefinger's own words spoken in private. This shocks Littlefinger. Meera tells Bran that she's leaving. She needs to get back home to her family. Bran is like "Ok bye." Meera is a little put out by Bran's emotionless state and reminds him of the wolf and the people who died for him, including her own brother. That ought to rate something besides the 1-2 brushoff. Bran says that sorry but he's not really Bran any more though he can still remember what it felt like to be Bran. Meera says that Bran died in that cave.


Arya finally arrives at Winterfell. In what feels like a shoutout to the first season the guards at the gate do not believe that she is Arya Stark. They believe that Arya Stark is dead. And in a less believable moment, Arya doesn't know that Maester Luwin and Rodrik Cassel are also dead. The guards get annoyed and look like they will lay hands on her but Arya is nothing if not supremely confident. She tells them that Sansa (like Ned before her) will be greatly annoyed if she finds out that the guards turned away a Stark. The men squabble and bicker when it looks like Arya is gone but an irritated Sansa knows where Arya went. Arya is in the crypts looking at the statue of Ned. The sisters embrace. Sansa is a little taken aback by Arya's directness, initial coldness and mentioning of a hit list. The sisters agree that they each have some long unpleasant stories about what happened after their trip south with their father but their stories aren't over yet. They go see Bran who's hanging out at the weirwood tree. Bran knows about Arya's list of names. He says he saw her at the crossroads. Bran shows his sisters the dagger which Littlefinger gave him. Arya is po'd to hear that Littlefinger is at Winterfell. Sansa says that Littlefinger doesn't do anything that is not in his interest. His gifts are poisonous. Bran says that he has no use for the dagger and gives it to Arya.

Brienne and Podrick watch the Stark sibling reunion as does Littlefinger. Podrick says that Lady Stark (Catelyn) would be proud. Brienne is self-effacing (correctly) and points out that she had nothing to do with it. Littlefinger is inscrutable.


At Dragonstone there is still no word from the Unsullied. Missandei is worried about this but more precisely concerned about Grey Worm. Daenerys picks up on this but before she and Missandei can have their feminine talk about how a man with no "worm" can get down Jon Snow interrupts. He wants to show Daenerys the mine of dragonglass (obsidian) and more importantly runes,carvings and drawings by the Children of the Forest depicting them and the First Men fighting together against the White Walkers. Deliberately being ham handed Jon says that he and Daenerys, really he and all humans need to learn from this and do the same. Since the First Men are not strictly speaking Daenerys' direct ancestors, she is less than impressed. Getting an admission from Jon that he needs her armies and her dragons to fight the White Walkers she tells Jon flatly that he can't have them unless he bends the knee to her. She tells him that it's the right thing to do if he doesn't want his people destroyed. Jon responds that with all that has happened there is no way he can do that. You can't get elected King of the North and promptly insult your constituents by accepting rulership from the South. Daenerys responds that in that case it must stink to be Jon and be willing to put his personal pride over the wellbeing of his people. Bend the knee. This blunt declaration appears to make an impact on Jon but we don't see what his decision is.


As the two unknowing relatives walk out of the mountain mines, Varys and Tyrion give their queen the bad news about the Unsullied and Highgarden. Daenerys channels Sonny Corleone and starts ranting about how if she had a real Valyrian Hand she wouldn't be in this position. All she has is dumb and dumber. But she doesn't repent and invite Tyrion to stay for dinner. Greatly angered, Daenerys calls out Tyrion for his year to date unsuccessful plans and underestimation of Cersei and Jaime. She muses that perhaps Tyrion doesn't want to win against his relatives. Tyrion objects but Daenerys tells him to know his role and shut his mouth. Daenerys is considering attacking King's Landing/The Red Keep right now. She asks Jon for his thoughts. Jon says that from what he's seen Daenerys has been successful because she's offering something different to people. But if she thinks she can just use her dragons to melt castles and intimidate people then that is just more of the same. Daenerys is not that impressed with Zen Buddhist Jon either.

Later on Davos and Jon are discussing things. More precisely an amused Davos is telling Jon that he's noticed Jon giving Daenerys the once over. Davos says that nobody has time for that sort of thing right this minute. Jon says no need to worry about that. He has more important things on his mind than THAT. They happen upon Missandei who is intrigued by Jon's bastard status and last name. Missandei says that she serves Daenerys by choice and could leave any time she wanted, something of which Jon and Davos are skeptical. Theon reaches Dragonstone in his ship or more precisely in his longboat. Theon explains that he came back to get help from Daenerys. There is a long staredown between the foster brothers. Jon breaks out of his mopey emo state and falls back into King of the North/Lord Commander mode. He grabs Theon and explains that Theon's rescue of Sansa is the only reason Jon is letting Theon live. But anyway Daenerys is no longer at Dragonstone.


At Winterfell Brienne and Podrick are involved in yet another sparring match. They are using real weapons. As usual Podrick is getting his behind kicked. Brienne is not exactly fighting fair but then again there is no such thing as a fair fight is there. Utterly self-assured Arya enters the courtyard. She wants to train with Brienne because Brienne beat The Hound, which means something in Arya's book. Brienne is dismissive of sparring with Arya, the daughter of her liege lady, but Arya insists. Arya uses the Valyrian dagger and of course Needle. 

Brienne points out that Arya can't possibly use a rapier against Brienne's broadsword and armor but Arya coolly replies that she will promise not to hurt Brienne. And then it's on. What Arya lacks in mass and strength she makes up for in speed and agility. She is able to dodge most of Brienne's lumbering attacks and launch her own, from positions that Brienne didn't expect. During the fight it becomes very apparent to Brienne that Arya is much more than she seems. Podrick, Sansa and Littlefinger watch in silent awe. Eventually the duel ends in a draw. When Brienne asks who taught Arya those moves Arya responds "No one."


Randyll Tarly, his son Dickon, Jaime and Bronn are overseeing the wagon train to King's Landing. The men think they need to move more quickly. They've gotten the payment for the Iron Bank to the city but they have a lot more men, gold and food to move. Their army is too spread out. Bronn and Jaime question Dickon about his first battle at Highgarden. Dickon was taken aback to be fighting and killing men with whom he had grown up. He was also shocked by all the horrors of battle-the smells of blood and waste. But before they can discuss this more, Bronn hears something. He's surprised everyone doesn't hear it but eventually they do. Randyll and Jaime start ordering everyone to get in formation now dammit! It's a Dothraki attack. And they appear to outnumber the Lannister/Tarly army. Bronn suggests that Jaime leave for King's Landing now but Jaime says he's no coward. He will stay with his men. And then we see where Daenerys went when she left Dragonstone. She's on her dragon, Drogon. And she's got bad intentions for her enemies. They want to play rough eh? Well they can say hello to her little friend. Just as the Lannisters and Tarlys form up, she orders Drogon to incinerate them. This the dragon can do. Everything burns

Jaime orders the archers to take Drogon out but the arrows bounce off harmlessly. And then Drogon incinerates the archers. In fact just as you can say "Hulk SMASH!" you can say "Drogon BURN!". It's what he does. The line breaks. The Dothraki sweep thru the Westerosi like a German army thru France in 1940. Tyrion watches this with what appears to be somewhat mixed emotions. In somewhat bad taste one of his Dothraki bodyguards tells Tyrion that his Westerosi people can't fight for s***. Well maybe, maybe not. Getting burned alive from a distance doesn't really allow for a fair test of martial abilities does it. Also in real life horses usually won't make direct charges against massed men armed with sharp implements of death. You wouldn't run into a wall either would you? I guess we can explain this by the crumbling of the line from the aerial fire attacks and the fact that most of the lines were only two or three men deep.  


Dickon saves Jaime from being burned alive. Bronn makes a run for the anti-dragon ballista which they have brought with them. Jaime watches his army die. Those who haven't yet been burned to ash are being ridden down by the Dothraki. Bronn makes it to the ballista. His first shot misses. Daenerys notices this and wheels Drogon around to deal with this man who has the audacity to shoot at her. Bronn reloads and waits and waits for Drogon to get closer. And then. Boom. Well look at that. Humans can reach out and touch dragons too. Drogon is wounded. It's not a fatal wound but it does cause him to fall from the sky, but not before he burns up the rest of the wagon train and that ballista. Bronn escapes. It looks like Randyll Tarly might be dead but I would have to watch again. Tyrion is shocked to see Drogon fall but as he doesn't have a radio or anything he can't order the Dothraki to go protect their queen. It's not clear that the Dothraki have even noticed since they are busy mopping up. Daenerys is unhurt. She is trying to remove the bolt from her wounded "child" Drogon. 

But Jaime has noticed. He picks up a lance and makes one last run at Daenerys, determined to take her out. Daenerys doesn't see him. But Drogon does. He's not going to let anyone backstab his Mommy. He opens his mouth to burn Jaime to a crispy crust. And at the very last minute Bronn knocks Jaime off his horse. They fall into the lake. It looks like Jaime, weighed down by his armor is sinking and drowning.

What I liked
  • The Arya/Brienne duel was very reminiscent of a certain Mr. Inigo Montoya. There were a few moves that seemed almost directly lifted from The Princess Bride. Loved this duel. And I also liked what seemed like Littlefinger's and Sansa's discomfort watching Arya though it was almost certainly for different reasons. I can't wait until Arya and Sansa and Bran all compare notes about Littlefinger.
  • The battle at the end of the episode. The dragon.
  • Jaime's bravery. Whatever else he is no one ever said he didn't have guts.
  • Tyrion's mostly unspoken worry that Daenerys is becoming too similar to her father.
  • Hopefully Littlefinger's realization that he can't play Bran.
  • The awkwardness and pathos of the Stark sibling reunion.
  • Pacing of this episode was very good. Things moved. No low points.
  • Did I mention the Arya/Brienne duel? Did I? Did I?
  • Dickon giving us a realistic exposition about war. It stinks. Killing is not fun. 
  • Arya asking if she will have to call Sansa Lady Stark.
  • Daenerys' self-centered expectation that everyone should bend the knee to her.


What I didn't like
  • Bronn should be dead. You can't just avoid a living flamethrower by rolling off the wagon that was just firebombed. And fire sucks out the oxygen in an area. Even if he wasn't burned alive Bronn should have suffocated. 
  • I know that the writers are wrapping things up but I am getting a little weary of teleporting armies and navies. Dragonstone is an island. You can't get from there to the mainland without someone noticing. Riders and ravens would have been sent. One week Jaime is smart enough to fake out Tyrion and Daenerys but the next he doesn't have any outriders or scouts telling him that there's a biga$$ Dothraki army that's headed his way?
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