Game of Thrones season 7 episode 4 is being labeled the shortest in history, with the total run time clocking in at around 50 minutes. Yet, it actually feels like one of the most jam-packed stories that we’ve seen — it wasn’t short for the sake of being short. So many characters are now consolidated, and plans are starting to become increasingly specific as the battle for the Iron Throne escalates.
Tonight, the show presented in “Spoils of War” arguably one of the most horrific battles to date, one that reminded you that there may not be such a thing as heroes and villains; instead, there are only two sides. We do not know how else you describe watching Daenerys, while riding Drogon, burning countless Lannister soldiers alive. The show presented the battle, which came shortly after the Lannister invasion of Highgarden, as little other than garish and visceral. She used her Dothraki soldiers to overtake the Lannisters on the ground, and then Drogon through the air to strike in a more terrible, violent way than we’ve seen to date.
The Lannisters did have still a secret weapon in their harpoon device, which Bronn (after a pretty intense sequence in which he stumbled through dying soldiers) fired in Drogon’s direction. The dragon doesn’t appear to be dying, but is severely wounded and was grounded at the end of the episode. Jaime then, in the closing seconds, made the idiotic move of charging towards it as though he was going to be this big hero, but Bronn managed to knock him off course before he was burned alive. Somehow, all of the major players made it through the battle in one piece.
It was hard to root for anyone in this battle, given that what Daenerys did was violent and terrible … and also went against much of what Jon Snow and Tyrion told her. She conquered rather than influenced, and did nothing that was in any way better than what her predecessors did before. She just terrified everyone using a giant dragon and an enormous army. Did she also promise to help Jon against the White Walkers after seeing the etchings from the Children of the Forest? Sure, provided that he bend the knee … and Jon is still too prideful to do that. (Can’t he just bend the knee while also crossing his fingers behind his back?)
What seemed to prompt this move from Daenerys was twofold: Seeing Theon Greyjoy turn back up to Dragonstone after the battle at sea, and then learning of the Lannister’s conquest of Highgarden. They had won two phases of the battle, and she could not stand to see a third. It was powerful stuff, but just because it was powerful doesn’t mean that it was right.
Reunions in the north
Seeing Daenerys and Jaime face off was not the only jaw-dropping moment. We now have Arya Stark back in Winterfell! She trained against Brienne, bonded with her sister Sansa, and saw how much Bran has changed. Sansa witnessed first-hand just how violent and different her sister now is, but they do all seem to have the same goals of turning things around for the north and better ensuring their future from the Lannisters.
Now that these members of the Starks are all reunited, we do hope that they get to be a bit more involved in the action. For the first four episodes, they’ve mostly just chilled out in Winterfell and further discussed the world while Littlefinger watches them like a creep. It’s fascinating stuff, but easily forgotten when you think about the battle at the end of the hour.
What we didn’t see
There was no King’s Landing in this episode, so Cersei’s reaction to winning Highgarden still is not clear. Meanwhile, it was all quiet with Euron and Yara Greyjoy, Samwell is still working on his punishment (though we did see Dickon Tarly at Highgarden), Ser Jorah is still making his journey to Dragonstone, and it’s still hard to know for certain when The Hound is going to be a part of the story again. Him joining up with Arya and Brienne, though, could be a moment for the ages.
The overall sentiment that we have on this episode is that it was excellent and superbly-done … even if also a tad depressing given that much of it was a reminder of just how terrible war can be and how it feels, despite a partial victory, that Daenerys made the wrong choice. Maybe the Mother of Dragons felt this was the only way she could rule, but for now this moment feels about power and less about creating a noble legacy that lasts many lifetimes. Grade: A-.
Remember that if you head over here, you can acquire some further news on Game of Thrones season 7! That includes a preview for what is coming up next week. (Photo: HBO.)