Game of Thrones: “The Spoils of War” Season 7 Episode 4 Review

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The most fascinating question season seven has asked thus far is what kind of leader is Daenerys Targaryen is going to be should she win the Iron Throne. For a person with so many names attributed to her character, this crisis of character in the heat of a desperate war plays a huge part in how Game of Thrones is retaining its intrigue while significantly upping its spectacle. The battle at the end of “The Spoils of War” is undeniably awesome, but it’s also emotionally complicated, which boils over into an incredible moment where Tyrion watches from afar in horror as his brother charges toward his new allegiance and he can do nothing about it. Jaime will be Jaime, Daenerys will be Daenerys, and a dragon will be a dragon. But Tyrion will be left to pick up the pieces and try to steer the ship once the fires go out. His own personal crisis of character is over, but he may have signed up for a journey on a much more dangerous one.

But back to Daenerys, who may have given up on listening to anyone else’s advice in light of the late Olenna Tyrell’s words. “You’re a dragon. Be a dragon.” Well, shit. The moment where Daenerys flies into battle on one of her dragons has been long anticipated since they hatched. In “Battle of the Bastards,” she fairly quickly fried those attacking Meereen, but that episode would later show the horror of war in Jon’s attempt to retake Winterfell. “The Spoils of War” shows the horrors of a war in which one side has fully grown dragons. The look on Jaime’s face as his men are blown to ashes says it all. Cersei is a monster, but from Jaime’s perspective, this is flat out uncivilized. If he gets to return to King’s Landing, it’s entirely understandable for him to keep fighting Daenerys and think he’s doing the right thing. Going into season seven, the fight seemed to be between good and evil. Don’t get me wrong, Cersei is still the villain of this story, no matter who’s telling it, but this war just got a hell of a lot more complicated. The war for Westeros is becoming the war for Daenerys’ soul, and while that’s a war she’ll fight quietly on her own, it’s undoubtedly the more interesting of the two.

Prior to the savage finale, “The Spoils of War” was already a great episode. Jon bringing Daenerys through the caverns, telling her the story of how the Children of the Forest and the first men fought the White Walkers, sent shivers down my spine. Here they are together, fire and ice, talking about the very beginnings of their world and how they’re going to stop it from ending. Daenerys agrees to help Jon fight his war in the North if he bends the knee. The scene smartly goes unresolved, as Dany’s actions later in the episode sure make bending the knee a lot more difficult.

Meanwhile, in Winterfell, it’s almost a full Stark reunion, as Arya arrives home and eventually gets greeted by her sister. With Bran having returned last week, the three young Stark siblings get to spend some much needed quality time together getting things back to happy normalcy, right? Nope! Everyone’s been through so much and changed so much through such formative years that good lord do these kids need to go to therapy. With Bran now an all-seeing tree god or whatever, and Arya talking about her kill list wearing a smile, Sansa just kind of has a hilarious face of “What the f*ck is going on?” the whole episode. Despite this, the reunion does get some time to be genuinely sweet. As the three young adults make there way through Winterfell for the first time together in years, Podrick tells Brienne that Catelyn would be proud. And she would.

This also leads to the best scene of levity this season yet, as Arya challenges Brienne to teach her to fight. Displaying two completely opposite fighting styles, Arya actually turns out to be quite a match for Brienne, which was honestly just a lot of fun to watch. I also have to commend Maisie Williams for her work this season so far. She’s leaning into Arya’s derangement, but still unafraid to display her heart. The result is a character who, despite being an awesome fan favorite all grown up, is still deeply complicated. The same fear for the soul exists as when Daenerys incarnates armies as when Arya a little too joyfully holds a knife to someone’s throat.

This is how Game of Thrones gets to have its cake and eat it too. Arya and Daenerys getting to be badass in season seven is hardly a shock, as both were teased since season one, but having the show deliver it and essentially say, “You wanted this. This is what this looks like. Do you still want this?” is emotionally brutal. Of course we want Arya to murder everyone who wronged her and her family. Of course we want Daenerys to fly her dragons into war. But we also want them to automatically return to the more innocent versions of themselves that came before. Season seven is about the impossibility of that, and the hugely important pieces of themselves these characters have to sacrifice to achieve their goals. With only three episodes left before Thrones disappears from the airwaves again, the question becomes when will it be too much for them? If ever. Grade: A

Some Other Notes:

  • Bronn facing off with Drogon was a really fun homage to the climax of Jaws, though one where I want Chief Brody and the shark to both survive and learn to live in the world with each other.
  • Bran’s omniscience and general dickishness really came out of nowhere, and it’s kind of frustrating. It feels like previous episodes just didn’t do their homework.
  • Dany getting excited to hear that Missandei and Grey Worm finally did it is all of us.
  • Brutal, brutal cliffhanger. Like achingly annoying/thrilling. That said, just nine episodes left…

By Matt Dougherty

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