Thoughts on Game of Thrones, Season 7 Episode 4, “Spoils of War”

So that was an explosive episode…so let’s get into the episode:

Overall:

This episode did feel a bit more cohesive than last week’s episode, in part because we have more characters coming together, which means more characters interacting in fewer sets, which means a lot less cutting between sets, and so the virtuous cycle continues.

Certainly, compared to last week, there was a lot less “well, this isn’t happening in the books” and more “well, I think stuff like this is happening in the books, although probably done better than this.”

On the Road to/King’s Landing:

Don’t have much to say here, because the end of the episode makes this all a bit irrelevant. I actually liked them giving Dickon Tarly (recast, unless I’ve missed my guess) some moral nuance, although I thought his father’s “whip the stragglers!” thing was a bit cartoonish. (Incidentally, why the hell has the stolen Valyrian sword thing NEVER come up since last season?)

As for Cersei’s scene with the Iron Bank, well it was less offensive than last week, but only because Cersei is seriously going in a Doctor Klaw direction, what with “control of the whole of the continent and every person on it.”

Winterfell:

Arya’s reunion with her sister and brother was quite heartwarming (although everyone’s lack of curiousity/forthcomingness about what they were up to when everyone thought they were dead stretches credulity a bit), her duel with Brienne was nicely choreographed for a change, but yeesh I’m starting to lose my patience with Littlefinger altogether. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that they’re going to kill him off, but rather than it happening b/c he makes any sort of sensible power play and then comes a cropper, he’s just been hanging around Winterfell with no real purpose having conversations with people where he does nothing but remind them of the many reasons they have to have him killed.

And this episode they went to the most ridiculous extent of having him gift Bran with the dagger that was sent to kill him, the dagger that Bran knows Littlefinger lied about to his mother to start the War of Five Kings, the dagger Bran knows Littlefinger slid under his father’s chin when he betrayed him in the throne room. It’s thuddingly obvious.

While I’m at it, really starting to lose patience with Bran’s storyline this season. Clearly, the direction he’s getting is to not emote at all and be very aloof (shades of Leto II Atreides from the Dune series), but just quoting back people’s lines from previous seasons isn’t the same thing as plot development. If Bran’s the Three Eyed Raven, he should be about the Night’s King and being extremely vocal about it while he’s at it…which would nicely raise stakes/tension for that plotline going forward.

Also, as much as Brienne getting a pat on the back is nice, I actually think it’s rather undeserved. Brienne failed to rescue Arya and then straight-up ignored Sansa in order to kill Stannis, and it feels odd to have her rewarded verbally for what is charitably a D+.

Dragonstone:

For a change of pace, I found Dragonstone the most annoying part of the episode, largely due to how little character development there actually was. Jon taking Dany to the caves to show her the pictograms of the Children of the Forest and the White Walkers was a cool visual, but it didn’t actually change anyone’s position: Dany still wants Jon to bend the knee before she’ll help him, and he’s still not willing to do that.

As for the rest, well Jon/Dany’s eventual romantic connection is becoming even more thuddingly obvious, Davos is funny (I liked his awkward bid to get out of Dany’s argument with Tyrion) but increasingly just a functional character as opposed to someone who actually has character arcs, the scene with Jon, Davos, and Missandei was largely pointless and just there to remind the audience that everyone thinks Jon Snow is Ned Stark’s bastard and that Dany is super, and the whole scene with Theon was a really clumsy way to distract us from the fact that it’s damn odd how Dany and the Dothraki’s departure was staged.

The Battle:

Was damn well done. I have a few quibbles – why does no one have scouts in Game of Thrones? How did the gold get from Highgarden to King’s Landing past a Dothraki horde but the rest of the army was still in the Reach when the horde and the dragon arrived? Why do Benioff and Weiss hate horses? – but overall it was a brilliantly staged bit of combat that, as many people have noted, did a great job of making you feel for people on both sides. (Hence why Tyrion showed up all of the sudden to have feels despite that making not a lick of sense.)

So well done, and here’s hoping they didn’t blow the whole VFX budget on the midpoint episode of the season!

 

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80 thoughts on “Thoughts on Game of Thrones, Season 7 Episode 4, “Spoils of War”

  1. apolotresse says:

    So Arya got to Winterfell before Sandor and the BWB. Does that mean that Sandor et al are heading directly to Eastwatch?

  2. apolotresse says:

    And what is that tension they’re trying to build between Sansa and her siblings? Are they suggesting that Sansa does not trust them and is going to do something that will hurt the Stark family position influenced by LF? I have to say that at this point, I find LF in the North irrelevant. I’m sure Sansa would be better at manipulating Robin than LF by using that attractive older sister figure.

    • Dan says:

      I’m pretty sure where Littlefinger currently is is so different than where he’s going to be in the books, they didn’t have anything logical for him to do. So he’s just sitting around waiting to die. But whatever he’s doing this season is not the action of the effective schemer of the first four seasons. It all started going downhill when he just gave Sansa to the Boltons.

      • Diego says:

        I dare say that it went downhill when he was confronted by the lords of the Vale and Sansa rescued him telling more or less the thruth, if I remember correctly, I could be wrong. I mean, Littlefinger? Without a plan? Or at least a good reaction? That was the start of the Stannisation of Littlefinger.

      • Indeed, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that LF might actually be dead by this point in the books, so there’s nothing for him to do period.

    • They’ve been trying to sell us on a power struggle between Sansa and Jon for a while now, and honestly we’re not really seeing LF get so much as the thin end of the wedge in here, because none of these people have any reason to trust him and he’s doing a TERRIBLE job actually trying to persuade anyone of anything but that he’s a creep.

      So basically I’m just saying D&D are doing a bad job of selling this storyline.

  3. That battle scene literally had me screeching with joy, especially when I thought Bronn of the Blackwater was going to become Bronn the Dragonslayer. Too bad I had to ignore all the logistical bits and teleportation.

    Also, best actor was the Dothraki next to Tyrion. “Dude, do your people even war.”

  4. olisimpson88 says:

    Brienne is just one example of many characters on the show being awarded for stuff they didn’t earn. Tyrion being named the hand pf the queen for spending all of last season screwing up being the biggest.

    Its obvious that they are holding off killing Littlefinger until the final episode of the season. Which means they are dragging something out as usual with the show that doesn’t need dragging out. It will be the same with the wall i think at the rate they are going.

    As for why the dagger is onscreen at all, the old D&D quote “creativity we wanted it to happen” comes to mind. I’m assuming that Arya will kill Littlefinger with it while he’s on a ladder.

    Another Stark reunion that just felt so flat to me, the direction really doesn’t make you feel like Arya is feeling that emotion at being home for the first time since season one and that she’s just been at a mates for a weekend. The guards stuff is another one of those D&D things where they think by reacting a scene from earlier in the series, it makes for great writing. Expect they keep forgetting the context of those scenes of why they work and are just self indulging.

    Sansa saying she wished she killed Joffrey just made me wept for once again D&D missing the point of her character is not revenge!!! Nor for any of the STARKS!!!

    Boy how deflating was it for Mera this week for all of that trekking, suffering and losing her brother, seeing Hodor die and all she gets is a thanks from a robot that didn’t exist until returning to Winterfell. What a way for the show to make 4 seasons of bran stuff and character deaths feel so pointless.

    Dragonstone stuff, ugh their attempts to start the song of cardboard john and Dany begins. Boy the lack of chemistry is burdening to watch. Davos continuing to… do whatever it is with Missandei continues to just have no purpose at all. The show has 9 episodes to go and it still drags out scenes that don’t need it.

    Yeah you would think Randyll would have mentioned his sword by now. But of course they need to show everyone Sam is braver than he is and a real man. Another one of the shows mishandlings.

    As for the battle, done well despite the lapses in logistics again. I mean how did the Dothraki get to the reach so quickly and where exactly have they been kept all this time? Just a line or two would really make the difference. To be fair, horses stuff are difficult and dangerous to film. So i give D&D leeway there. Though they probably blew the budget needed for them on the dragon visuals and Euron scene in the previous episode. I hope they get Miguel back for next season. His expertise has really managed to make something out of the mess D&D writing often made in recent seasons.

    But Alan Taylor is doing episode six. So that should hopefully be something.

    I’m assuming Tyrion was put in the battle scene just to show how close he was to seeing his brother again and serving some sort of thingy to what Dany said.

    Despite the quick pacing of this episode, it still felt like we plodding until when D&D want all the big stuff happening in episodes 6 and 7. It really makes me wish HBO would just do what Netflix do and just release all episodes at once so we aren’t kept waiting for weeks for stuff to happen.

  5. DavidW says:

    I agree with Steven’s comment from last week where everyone has to pass around the idiot ball while they kill time to get to the end of the season.

    Dany started the season by dumping Daario so she could be free to marry in Westeros, but no one thinks to suggest a marriage between the Targaryen Queen and the King in the North so they don’t have to have the “Bend the knee” argument for three more episodes. A quick political marriage to secure alliances makes sense for everybody, but no one suggests it?

    Before the battle started, I wondered my the grounds south of the Blackwater Rush suddenly looked like Monument Valley, Arizona. Isn’t that supposed to be the Kingswood leading to the Blackwater river? Oh, that’s why there are weird Southwest Desert mountain formations – the Apache are attacking! Complete with bad 40s Western Indian war cries. I thought the Dothraki were the Mongol hordes, not the Comanches. But maybe I was thinking Southwest US, because the Dragonstone cave looked like they stole all the art from Petroglyph National Monument.

    I couldn’t figure out Littlefinger’s reaction to Arya/Brienne’s fight. He stood there mouth agape. Was he aroused by Arya? Batman gambit-ing some way to use her to kill someone? It was a mystery. Or was he just being his usual creepy self, following Sansa around. By the way, doesn’t he have a kingdom to go run? Who’s slowly poisoning Robin if he’s not there?

    I agree, Tarly should say something about the sword. Samwell should have given the sword to Jorah when he told him his Dad’s final wish was to join the Night’s Watch. While we’re complaining about missing stuff, shouldn’t Ghost be making a appearance by now?

    If Meera doesn’t do anything else but go home, it will be the most unsatisfying character arc in the show. I could make a meme for her modeling Despair.com: “BACKGROUND: It could be that the entire purpose of your screen time is to lug around someone more important that you.” Better than “SIDEKICK: Imagine if your whole purpose was for the hero to have somebody to avenge”

    • Thrasherlisk says:

      The Dothraki actually are based partly on the Comanches (or rather, somewhat cartoon versions thereof, along with theme park Mongols; same as the Ironborn being theme park Vikings).

    • I thought that Arya was irresponsible in an out of character way. Why demonstrate her prowess in parrying a knight/long sword with a rapier with an audience? It fails on multiple levels:

      1) I think her time house of black and white to keep her skills secret
      2) If she wants to train, this isn’t the way to get on Brienne’s good side.
      3) A reiteration of 1, why show LF that she’s a stone killer?

      • She’s safe and at home, she doesn’t really have any particular reason to hide IMO.

      • Captain Splendid says:

        Well, considering she started by complimenting Brienne, I thought she did just fine getting on her good side.

      • fjallstrom says:

        Her showing off is consistent with her skills at staking out targets in Bravoos by staring at them, hiding from other assassins by strolling around and showing the Frey women that she can change her appearance.

        My new headcanon is that when J’aqen told her she was no one, he really meant please go away.

    • Good point re the marriage thing.

      Did you know, btw, that the Apache were generally not hugely into horses, being a rather mountainous tribe?

      • DavidW says:

        Yeah, I knew I was stereotyping when I said Apaches, but they’re more famous than Comanche, and since the Apache are the stereotype, that’s what I was going for since the show was going for the stereotype. Most people think Geronimo was Apache, but he was Comanche. Like I said bad 40s Western movie Indian war cries. (And I say Indian because I need the stereotype word, not the PC term).

        I was trying to remember what tribe is attacking in the old Westerns when the settlers do the “circle the wagons” moments. I thought about name-dropping some plains tribes like Sioux, Lakota, or Dakota, but I don’t think of them as doing cavalry charges, although they would be meeting the wagons. They were definitely into horses. But since the background in the episode made me think of the SW US, I went with SW tribes. However, the land in the show was grassy, so we may have been looking at the scene on the Nebraska state quarter, and I could have used some Plains tribes. I think the Cheyenne and Crow are too mountain-y tribes.

        After the show the creators said the cave was supposed to be something like the French caves discovered with early human art, but I was still flashing on the art I’ve seen in Pueblo tribe caves. Petroglyph National Monument, Bernalillo, Sky City, all from New Mexico have art that looked very similar to the show.

        • Haplo-6 says:

          Yes, the Comanches were the unparalleled horse warriors. They were also far more brutal than other Native American tribes. They largely used bows, however, as the Mongols did. I suppose it makes for more compelling viewing to see the Dothraki horde crash a shield/spear wall then have them circle around cutting down dudes with arrows.

          • fjallstrom says:

            IIRC, the Dothraki in the books primarily uses bows against armed opponents. In a better show, they could have done something interesting with the mobile, lightly armoured riding bowmen versus a mixed force of infantry, archers and heavy cavalry. And then have a dragon offset that. But in that better show, they would probably have scouts, consistent distances and character motivations, etc. So it would be a completely different show.

            *Shrug*

            The Dragon was cool though.

    • Hedrigal says:

      George RR Martin has actually said that Dothraki have a complexion we would think of as native american.

  6. Keith B says:

    The Lannister army looked like it was capable of holding off the Dothraki, even though it was greatly outnumbered, if it hadn’t been for the dragon. They got into formation quickly, appeared well disciplined, and seemed to be prepared to repel the cavalry charge. The dragon gives Daenerys too big an advantage. It makes her a bully, and everyone who opposes her is an underdog.

    • Murc says:

      The dragon gives Daenerys too big an advantage. It makes her a bully, and everyone who opposes her is an underdog.

      So just like Aegon the Conqueror, then.

      Of course Daenerys is bullying her foes. That’s how you win a war. She has giant flying magic dinosaurs who breath fire, if I were her I’d be using them early and often.

      • Keith B says:

        Yeah, like Aegon. The difference is that Aegon didn’t pretend to have any claim other than right of conquest, while Daenerys is positive that she’s the rightful ruler of Westeros, and anyone who’s against her has wicked or unworthy motives. She’s full of so much self-righteous certainty it’s a miracle her eyes are still blue. But the truth is that she is the usurper, and has no more right to the throne than Cersei.

        For some reason nobody attempts to undeceive her. That’s understandable in the case of Jorah, Barristan, Tyrion, and Varys, who are all opportunists of one sort or another and are attempting to use her for their own purposes. But consider her statement that Torrhen Stark acknowledged Aegon as King “in perpetuity”, in exchange for “his life and the lives of his people.” For some reason Jon fails to give the obvious reply, that the person who broke that contract was the tyrant who murdered Jon’s grandfather, uncle, and many others, and attempted to kill his father as well.

        At least for the Baratheons, Arryns, Starks, Tullys, Lannisters and their loyal bannermen, Aerys lost the right to rule before Daenerys was born when he became a tyrant, and left her nothing to inherit. To take any other position is to say that obligations go only one way and that Robert had no right to rebel even to defend his own life. But the show seemingly endorses the notion that of course she’s the rightful Queen, and is tiptoeing towards the idea that Jon is the rightful King.

        On top of that she has three virtually indestructible fire breathing weapons of mass destruction. Usually we’re on the side of the underdog. Do we cheer for Goliath, or David? Bluto, or Popeye? Mr. Fee-Fie-Foe-Fum, or Jack? Big Brother, or Winston Smith? Darth Vader, or Luke Skywalker? Russia, or Finland? The Young Dragon, or Dorne? Should I go on? Which side of those comparisons is Daenerys on?

        If I were her I’d stay in Essos and build a kingdom there. Sure things weren’t going as smoothly there as she might have hoped, but what she was trying to do was extremely difficult. And she had a worthy cause, freeing the slaves. Who is she freeing in Westeros?

        • Andy says:

          While I agree with everything you said, I’m still on Team Daenerys on this one.

          First off, it was pretty obvious the Lannisters were 100% not holding off that Dothraki horde. A couple thousand men outnumbers twenty to one? The Dothraki have arrows and horses. The Lannisters were doomed; their lines were breaking even before Drogon showed up.

          Plus, while Daenerys is absurdly entitled about all this, and Benioff and Weiss don’t trust their audience to have the intelligence of a 5 year old when it comes to the concept of the feudal contract, Cersei and Jaime are still worse. Both in terms of their characterization and their degenerating moral standards.

          I mean, why even bother having Jaime in the show anymore? He is entirely redundant. Randyll Tarly is a general (though his asinine orders continually give the lie that he’s one of the finest living battle commanders), and Cersei is doing just fine chewing the scenery and going insane on her own. Jaime’s ENTIRE PURPOSE should have been to kill Cersei when she blew the Sept of Baelor. You know, the very same way that the Mad King tried to, which led to the formative moment of Jaime’s entire life?

          Next to that, the way they’re handling Dany makes perfect sense.

          • thatrabidpotato says:

            I don’t think it’s that D&D don’t trust the audience to have the intelligence of a 5 year old, so much as it is that they don’t have the intelligence of a 5 year old between them and honestly think their version is better than the books.

          • I think Jaime is there b/c this is his moment where he throws in the towel on the Lannister regime vs. Cersei’s bitter dead-ending.

          • Keith B says:

            That’s not what it looked like to me. The dragon tore a hole in the Lannister lines just before the Dothraki struck; the cavalry then poured into the gap. I admit that I know little about military tactics, and less about horses, and the show doesn’t pay too much attention to military accuracy anyway, but I got the impression, and I think the show was trying to give the impression, that the lines would have held had it not been for Drogon. Why else would it show all those shields in a straight line, with the solid bank of spears pointed outward in a precise formation? From the Scottish schiltron to the Swiss pike to the British square, disciplined and properly equipped infantry have had no trouble holding off cavalry charges.

        • artihcus022 says:

          The difference is that Aegon didn’t pretend to have any claim other than right of conquest, while Daenerys is positive that she’s the rightful ruler of Westeros, and anyone who’s against her has wicked or unworthy motives.

          Stannis was the same…and people love Stannis for that. He was all about the Westerosi Centralized State, “One King means peace”. I don’t know why Dany is judged for feeling differently.

          But the truth is that she is the usurper, and has no more right to the throne than Cersei.

          This is the most bizarre false equivalency I have come across. It can only be defensible in the “A King must be tried for the crime of having been king” by which Jon Snow would also be declared unworthy. But if you accept Robb Stark or Jon Snow as King, or if you accept Stannis as King then I don’t know how you can claim Cersei and Dany are equivalent usurpers.

          Usually we’re on the side of the underdog. Do we cheer for Goliath, or David? Bluto, or Popeye? Mr. Fee-Fie-Foe-Fum, or Jack? Big Brother, or Winston Smith? Darth Vader, or Luke Skywalker? Russia, or Finland? The Young Dragon, or Dorne? Should I go on? Which side of those comparisons is Daenerys on?

          Well do you root for Superman or Luthor? Batman or Joker? Avengers or Zemo, The Hulk or General Ross? Because it’s not always the case that the underdogs will be the heroes. Heck in the real world, between USA and Al Qaeda, Bush or Sadaam or Bin laden, it’s pretty obvious who the underdogs are. And the Darth Vader–Luke analogy falls apart because people ”do” like Vader more than Luke and in that case, Vader ultimately came to rescue Luke. As for Dorne and Daeron Young Dragon, Steven Attewell’s First Blackfyre Rebellion essay punctured some holes in that narrative by pointing out that Dorne had a history for attacking and raiding its enemies and some very cruel bannermen too, so it’s not as simple.

          • artihcus022 says:

            Heck if we want to do the underdog game…the Ironborn are also the underdogs of Westeros. Theon Greyjoy taking Winterfell was an underdog success, Euron Greyjoy sacking and burning the Lannister fleet at anchor was also an underdog success.

            Nobody’s rooting for them…

          • Keith B says:

            Stannis was legitimately Robert’s heir and the next in line to the throne. Daenerys only believes she’s the rightful Queen. Now you may have another theory of legitimacy, and so might she; but the point is that nobody has ever informed her that there’s any question about it. Not even Jon. So she continues to think that the only valid reason for opposing her is fear that she might be as mad as her father, and she is completely mistaken.

            I don’t understand what you think is bizarre about it. You have a legitimate claim to the throne if you are next in line according to the laws of royal inheritance. If you aren’t next in line, you have no legitimate claim whatever. Neither Daenerys nor Cersei are in the line of inheritance. Thus they have exactly the same right: none.

            Of course you can become King (or Queen) some other way. By conquest, for example. Or if the lawful succession is in dispute, you can call a Great Council. Or you can just cheat, like Cersei, and pass your bastard son off as the King’s trueborn son. But they don’t give you an automatic, undisputed succession. Daenerys is convinced she has it, because Robert was a usurper and the successors of Aerys are the lawful heirs. Everybody has led her to believe that. But she’s wrong as can be.

            The fictional villains you mention aren’t underdogs. Lex Luthor and the Joker are at least evenly matched with Superman and Batman. They always have a plan that’s only defeated by the hero’s luck or cleverness or friends or spinach or some other meritorious attribute, not by superior power.

            Vader rescued Luke after doing a heel-face turn when Luke was the clear underdog against the Emperor. It’s underdogs all the way down.

          • artihcus022 says:

            ”Neither Daenerys nor Cersei are in the line of inheritance.”

            Dany is the last known legitimate Targaryen, publicly validated and irrefutable with no other male heirs. That means she is very much in the line of inheritance. And you say that Aegon I had no right to the throne…well that ignores the small fact that Aegon I invented the throne to begin with. You cannot usurp what never existed before you. The Iron Throne, the concept of a unitary westeros, the city of KL, all of them were invented by Aegon I and the blood of the dragon and the reason why Robert, Stannis et al. are Kings is because they are a quasi-cadet branch of the Targaryens. In the show, all the Baratheons are dead…so that still means Dany’s claim is legitimate. And by the way, in the show, nobody disputes her claim to the throne…both Varys, Jorah and Tyrion say she has the claim. So there’s no legal dispute within the fiction of the show at all.

            The fictional villains you mention aren’t underdogs. Lex Luthor and the Joker are at least evenly matched with Superman and Batman.

            The joke among comics fans for a long time was that Superman’s arch-enemy was a bald-headed mad scientist with no powers while Superman is a godlike being. Batman is an overeducated billionaire with infinite resources while Joker is a poor criminal psychopath who makes gadgets out of cheaper rundown stuff. In ”The Dark Knight”, Joker explicitly boasts about how he brought the city down with cheap explosives. And comics creators like Alan Moore, among others, have noted that superheroes are about America’s love for the unfair fight: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/jul/13/watchmen-alan-moore

            About the only reason for putting down Dany on such flimsy logic as underdogs, or she having no claim and so on…is more or less because as a female character with power and agency, she’s judged on a double standard. Fire is glorious and awesome when Tyrion does it, but bad when Dany does it. Ironborn are also underdogs but they win but nobody roots for them…but suddenly Dany acts against the lannisters, who are acting like Ironborn in the episode, and it’s like “heroes are always underdogs” which is patently not true.

          • Hedrigal says:

            Keith, that statement entirely relies on a viewpoint where you believe that Robert himself was a legitimate king. Which Danny so clearly rejects on its face. As far as she is concerned, Stannis being the heir of his brother is an irrelevant point because Robert had no right to that throne in the first place. His whole line is illegitimate, and while technically the throne cannot pass to or through a woman, that isn’t a precedent that has been tested where the only viable heir of the old king is a woman.

          • Keith B says:

            I explained the justification for the claim that Robert and his heirs are the rightful rulers of Westeros, and the descendants of Aerys are not. Daenerys might reject that justification for some reason or another. But she doesn’t. She doesn’t know it exists, because nobody, including Jon, has ever tried to inform her. As far as she knows, being the daughter of Aerys makes her the lawful Queen of Westeros. She believes that Robert was a usurper and those who followed him were traitors. The difference is that Stannis justly believed that those who knew that Cersei’s children were illegitimate and followed Joffrey anyway actually were traitors. Daenerys has spent her entire life under an illusion that nobody has ever attempted to correct. She might conquer Westeros and force everyone to submit, as Aegon did. But then there’s no good reason for her to invade Westeros instead of continuing to build her own kingdom in Essos. And unlike Stannis, she cannot properly regard those who oppose her as traitors.

          • artihcus022 says:

            None of this is relevant to the show. In the show, Varys, Tyrion and others consider Daenerys’ claim valid. Nobody disputes that at all.

            And you know, the idea that the descendants of Aerys II are not legitimate is an absurd idea in the books and invalid by Robert’s own actions. When Dany was married to the Dothraki, Robert tried to assassinate her, giving both her and the Dothraki a casus belli no less righteous than the one Aerys II gave the Arryn-Stark-Baratheon coalition.

            Likewise, there were allies within Westeros who supported and backed Aerys II and Rhaegar among others.

            And let’s not forget that Robert was made king because his ancestor was a Targaryen. In the context of Dany’s invasion, there are no more legit. baratheons, and she’s the only publicly known Targaryen, so in that context, her claim is incontestable.

            You may project all your dislike on Dany and see her as an usurper on weird ideas but within the show, within the context, she is a legitimate claimant on the throne, no less than Stannis.

    • Sean C. says:

      The Dothraki punch through the Lannister line at multiple points without the dragon. A two-man-deep shield wall could not withstand a cavalry horde of that size.

    • No, I don’t agree with that. As Sean C. pointed out, that last-minute formation was already buckling before the dragon showed up.

      • Keith B says:

        For you and Sean: as mentioned above, that’s not the way I saw it. But I’m not an expert on medieval tactics and I’m guessing the episode’s director isn’t either. So it more or less boils down to what impression you think the show intended to give. For me, the emphasis on the neatly aligned rows of shields and pikes, and the fact that the dragon tore a hole in the lines just before the Dothraki struck them, is a good indication.

        • Rufus Leek says:

          I was a little surprised that the Dothraki charged right through the flames as opposed to going around them. I’d think the horses would be afraid to go near the flames. I suppose it’s possible that they practiced that tactic at some point on Essos or Westeros, but there was never a scene showing this.

  7. sandorcleganes_lostidealism says:

    I really wished Bronn did kill the dragon. Here’s hoping that the bolt was covered in poison. The sooner Dany loses a dragon the better. they need to be shown to be vulnerable.

    The battle was great. I really enjoyed it even if the Jamie/Bronn escapes were a little ott.

    Fully agree with the Arya/Brienne choreography. really well done. Littlefinger could be better served by having him actually plot/do something. They really have just left him hanging. Still maybe he’s waiting for the chips to fall before making his power play.

    I’m not surprised the little bit of movement towards sexual tension in the Dany/Jon saga. I’m only surprised no one has mentioned the idea of a marriage as the solution to their predicament yet.

    I’m still holding out that they agree to marriage and ally against the white walkers. Jon finds out R+L=J pulls out. Dany reneges on helping against the white walkers but Jon beats them anyway through knowledge from Sam, dragonglass and Bran warg jacking a dragon. then the end game is Jon Targ-Stark v the mad queen Dany for the iron throne.

    Probably not going to happen I know…

    • thatrabidpotato says:

      Why would finding out R+L=J make him pull out? You realize that Starks have married their aunts and uncles many times before, let alone Targaryens?

      • sandorcleganes_lostidealism says:

        Yes but show!Jon at least seems rather moralistic and the show seems to portray incest along our real world social mores. Also didnt Jon (can’t remember exactly when) mention being afraid to get in romantic entanglements cos he didn’t know his parentage (or now that I think of was it that he just didn’t want to create any bastards like him?)

        Anyway, while the books have gone even further with the feudal incest the show has held back. I think there has to be something that splits them up and puts them in conflict. otherwise, the whole Jon/Dany unite defeat everyone bad and live happily ever after or one dies heroically saving the world is basically every corny fantasy cliche ever which I hope ASOIAF is upsetting.

        My end game would be Jon defeating the white walkers gaining some kind of magic from it then fighting Dany and the dragons for the Iron throne. I would find that bittersweet as GRRM has described his ending. The world is saved but the good guys just keep fighting and the wheel keeps on turning.

        • thatrabidpotato says:

          I actually think a “Cycle Begins Again” end is where this is heading, but not in the way you are.
          I think Jon and Dany are BOTH dead when the books finish, Jon in battle against the Others, Dany giving birth to their sole child.
          The Others aren’t going to be permanently defeated, they’re going to retreat back north of the Wall, and we’ll have to do all this over again in another eight thousand years.
          And yea, in the books Jon just doesn’t want to father a bastard.

          • sandorcleganes_lostidealism says:

            Yes I can see them both dying although I have to admit I would really hate Dany dying giving birth to her and Jon’s sole child. I can’t see anything where they are seriously romantically involved being anything but complete fantasy cliche.

            Agree the others won’t be defeated but here’s where Jon’s bittersweet ending comes in. He beats the Night’s King but whatever magic he gains turns him into a benevolent version. After the battle of Ice v Fire (Jon v Dany) he retreats back beyond the wall.

            I know my end game probably wont come anywhere close to happening as the books have gone to a lot of details on histories and prophecies and what not but with the end fast approaching I like speculating with the pieces the show has put out there.

        • thatrabidpotato says:

          “Complete fantasy cliche” is just so subjective, I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have any problem at all with them falling for one another, and I find it far more plausible than a crazy scenario like Jon becoming a benevolent Night’s King that is the usual fluff come up with by people who are bending over backwards to avoid the inevitability of Jon/Dany when it’s staring them in the face.
          End of the day, I can provide any number of indicators that they are destined to wed as part of fulfilling the prophecy to beat the Others, quite a few indicators that say they’ll be quite happy with each other (as long as they’re actually together which thanks to the Others may not be long), and all the opponents of this match can ever seem to offer is “But I don’t want it to happen so it won’t”.

          • sandorcleganes_lostidealism says:

            ‘just so subjective’ is not much of a criticism really. It will be a complete cliche the show is showing that once all the prophesy is stripped away there is nothing there between the two. The prophesy just adds fantasy cliches to it. It would be much better story telling to pull a swerve on the prophecies and let a dose of real politic put them in conflict.

            The children of the forest created the white walkers once. there is nothing to suggest that it couldn’t happen again with Jon Snow who has already risen from the dead.

            I can see your heavily invested in your theories and are getting upset. I’ll leave you be and bow out.

          • thatrabidpotato says:

            It absolutely is a criticism. What you view as an overused cliche, I don’t see as that. Your entire criticism of Jon/Dany is that it’s a cliche, and I’m pointing out that not everyone sees it like that.

            I’m not getting upset, just baffled at the lengths people will go to deny something that’s staring them in the face.

        • I disagree about the show strongly, they’ve been leaning real hard on the “you don’t choose who you love” thing with Jaime since Season 3.

  8. thatrabidpotato says:

    I realize that people might not necessarily want a Jon-Dany match (though I wrote a very long post on Westeros.org several years ago on why they’d be a great fit for each other), but if you haven’t seen that one coming since Clash, where Dany sees a blue rose on the Wall in the Bride of Fire category of her prophecies, I don’t know what to tell you.
    If the actors don’t have chemistry, that’s their fault. I can promise you the characters will if and when Martin ever releases the relevant books.

    • artihcus022 says:

      The problem is the relationship on screen isn’t compelling because the show has more or less made both of them caricaturish in their interactions. Jon Snow broods, knows nothing, talks like a peasant about the North and its traditions. Dany gives pompous speeches and moves like she’s posing for a portrait at all times. I blame the writing and direction for this not the actors. They’re not getting good material.

      And of course there’s the unintentional comedy…like Jon Snow’s whole stupid speech about the children and the first men teaming up is ruined because he’s wrong, the children created the white walkers and then turned to the first men to bail them and everyone else out…it’s the “asshole-getting-hit-by-the-truck” kind of twist that Steven talks about because it ruins the grandeur of the threat and makes such sappy but true sentiments factually incorrect. Jon Snow could talk about being in the Night’s Watch, about serving with Maester Aemon, stuff that we have seen and known…that’s an organic work to work in both the personal/political/fantasy dimension but instead the showrunners have decided to go for high school teen romance. She’s the smug rich girl and he’s the earthy true-to-life guy who keeps it real which really cheapens both characters in my view.

      And I don’t know ,I just don’t like the essentialism they are going for…that is the North is the true and the pure and the virtuous. Jon Snow says that the North won’t bow to a Southern ruler, when a Southern ruler by the name of Stannis Baratheon bailed out the Night’s Watch and died to liberate it and the Southern Kingdom of the Vale saved his ass at the Battle of the Bastards (and yeah why is the Vale not mentioned). It was a Southern Queen by the name of Alysanne Targaryen who protected the dignity of Northern women and Aegon V who gave food to them during winter. The North is not inherently more pure or virtuous than the rest of Westeros, and the Starks are not better than Targaryens, at least not inherently as a family or dynasty. This is of course not the same as wanting for independence (there is a case for that but it needs to be a better one)…but the argument is kind of vulnerable to that kind of Nordic-tribalism.

      On poorquentyn’s blog there was a post about how LOTR is truly the story of Middle Earth, while ASOIAF paradoxically feels like it’s about the North…I mean LOTR is not Gondor and Friends, and Boromir and Denethor’s sense of entitlement about how they are holding the line against Mordor is carefully qualified and criticized, and the story emphasizes Hobbits from Shire, Elves, Dwarves, Rohirrim et al. fight alongside Gondor. The novels had that problem because 1) The White Walkers will hit the North first, 2) Most of the POV are Starks. But it avoided it by making Stannis the Mannis come to liberate the North from the Boltons, and emphasizing the Immigrant patriotism of the Manderlys.

      In the show that’s gone, and eventually it’s going to be resolved by the Southerners becoming sidekicks to the Starks, which has already happened with Davos, with Brienne and even with Littlefinger and the friggin’ Vale…that’s a fantasy Aryanism that GOT is heeding closer to than LOTR (books and film) ever did.

  9. Diego says:

    Do you think that the Dothraki are going to make stops here and there to rape and pillage when Daenerys is not looking? Or maybe D&D will handwave their culture…

    • Trevor says:

      Book!Dany is pretty anti-rape and anti-slavery. That’s kind of her thing. So I don’t think that it will be B&W “handwaving” anything: when you follow Daenerys Targaryen, cultural norms get rewritten.

      • With fire and blood, one might say.

      • Diego says:

        Well, that was the reason why I said: “when Daenerys is not looking”. When she is present it is probable that Dany will interfere, but she is not the Big Brother, she can’t be everywhere, on the other hand, the Dothraki are entering in unprotected regions, where the population is more or less under their will, are those Dothraki “officers” so eager or even capable of stopping their own warriors of abusing the local population?

        I side with Keith B: “Show Daenerys has transfigured the Dothraki into the moral equivalent of Unsullied with her sheer awesomeness.” I think that when Jaime talked about Daenerys bringing the Dothraki to Westeros he was spot on, they are dangerous and Daenerys can’t control them, the same way that Kings can’t get completely rid of common bandits. Well, maybe Bran could do it, but not Daenerys…

    • Keith B says:

      Show Daenerys has transfigured the Dothraki into the moral equivalent of Unsullied with her sheer awesomeness. They’d never dream of rape or plunder, although they remain as fierce warriors as ever.

      Book Dothraki are less likely to be so easily tamable. If they sack Volantis, which is quite possible, they may well slaughter slave owners and slaves alike, then set themselves up as the new masters to replace those they’ve killed. Like the Ironborn, they aren’t in the business of liberation. Sacking, slaving and slaughtering are more in their line.

  10. djinn says:

    Yes, isn’t Randyll a strange fellow: forces a son into the NW under threat of death, threatens with flogging any stragglers, hates wildings, takes public criticism from his wife and daughter and ignores the theft of one of his familes most prized possessions.He’s harsh and soft, strong and weak all at once.

    Winterfell is a mixture of Boringfinger scenes, curious Stark reunions, cheesy previous seasons scenes. The tradition of undeserved credit contines: Tyrion, Jon and now Brienne.
    I have to disagree on your opinion about the Brienne vs Arya scene, someone of Masie’s body proportions with a smallsword and dagger vs someone of Gwen’s body proportions with plate and arming sword, would result in a easy victory for Brienne(any other result has to be a massive display of incompetence on her part). And the coreography, with multiple slashes of smallsword, was Sand Snakes cringeworthy.

    Daenerys continues her absurd streak of wasting her resources. Are Tyrion and Jon purpusely sabbotaging her? I mean, Aegon burn down Harrenhal, Cersei did the same to the Great Sept, Tywin sacked KL and those turned out great for them, but she can’t? Davos continues his mission to hook up with Missandei and become best friend with the guy that had his son killed. Shireen was the one child that mattered!

    The battle was entertaining, if you ignore the whole logistics\sentries part, but theres two issues that are confusing: if Bronn’s tackle of Jaime push them only a few feet to the right why does Jaime sink like he’s the middle of the ocean? And could someone please give a example of a historical shield wall formation on which the first rank held only shields with spears(really short in this case) being held by the second rank? Thank you.

    • Andy says:

      Well, re: Dany burning stuff down. The point is that Aegon and Tywin and Cersei may have gotten away with it (and Cersei’s is a huge plot error, frankly), but they were perpetuating a system of violence and oppression, and given how entitled their lives had been, they were incapable of seeing that. Daenerys’ point is that she’s been sold, she’s been raped, she’s created her own power from essentially nothing. She knows what it’s like to be poor, to beg, to be hunted. And she doesn’t want that for the smallfolk, and her first step in that is her attempt to spare the innocent the horrors that the nobles usually inflict when they play their game of thrones.

      As much as it’s been poorly executed, that theme rings true to me. The fact that the Lannisters have been forced into victory in order to up the dramatic tension doesn’t mean Dany has the wrong idea – it’s that she should have won 15 seconds after getting to Westeros, and hasn’t, because the showrunners don’t know how to organically create dramatic tension.

      • djinn says:

        But that’s not what the presented argument is. Tyrion and Jon argue that Daenerys can’t attack KL with Dragons or foreign troops because the commonners will resent her for it, but all sucessful conquerors in Westeros did so, many were very popular. They don’t say:” Don’t burn the people of KL.” they say ”Starve them.”. When she declares that she wants to attack the Red Keep, they oppose that on the grounds that people will suffer, but removing Cersei will have always cause casulties. Doing quickly means fewer casualties.

        It’s basicly telling the US President not to drone strike the enemy leaders in favor of army sieges.

  11. EB says:

    I realize I’m in the minority here, but I disliked that battle scene. It was a basic curbstomp. One side was hopelessly outgunned, so there was no dramatic tension. There was never any doubt who would win, at all. The Lannisters forming up in a LINE against cavalry, and then only two people deep, is dumb as boiled gravel, but even still — horses DO NOT charge through massed formations head on. They are smart enough to not want to get themselves impaled on the sharp, pointy things. There were plenty of scenes where the Dothraki just plunged through, in addition to the scenes where they followed the dragon fire. The scorpion was a bust — it gave Drogon an owie for, like, ten seconds, then he’s back to being a flame-spitting murder dinosaur. And finally, it just showed that Daenerys’ side was so overwhelmingly superior, and that it outgunned Team Cersei so much, that the last three episodes were only wheel-spinning so that Team Targ didn’t win in the season’s first scene. If you have to contrive reasons why one side has a fighting chance, and then show that they never had a fighting chance, that’s just bad writing.

  12. The gold did not get to King’s Landing. The slave-happy banker said “when you pay us” or something to that effect. Meaning they’re expecting Cersei’s payment, but it hasn’t arrived yet. And won’t, now.

    • Lo Scrondo says:

      Yep. I read all comments to make sure that I did not miss this detail, which is NOT small. Cersei’s done now. 😀

  13. Andrew says:

    1. *After Bronn fires first shot*

    Dothraki 1: Do you think we should kill that guy and burn that thing before he fires another shot?
    Dothraki 2: Nah

    2. Agreed, regarding Littlefinger. He sold Sansa to Ramsay, and set up the Starks and Lannisters. He also doesn’t seem to be contributing anything. What possible reason could they (the Stark coalition) have for keeping around? They’d miss his witticisms?

    3. Back to the scorpion, call me crazy but I doubt a bolt at the spot where he was hit could have done a lot of damage to a creature his size with armored scales and steel-like bones.

    • Jim B says:

      1. I’m willing to chalk that up to the chaos of the battlefield. Not sure how many people, other than Dany herself and those watching from a distance like Tyrion, really saw what was going on with Bronn.

      2. Isn’t show-Littlefinger still Protector of the Vale? I’m assuming that at least some of the Vale’s forces are camped at Winterfell and that Jon and Sansa are counting on them for the battle against the dead. I agree that if he was sensible, Littlefinger would get out of there and return to the Eyrie and make sure that nobody is turning little Robin against him, but… he’s Littlefinger. He’s obsessed with Sansa, and obsessed with politicking, and there’s not much left for him in the Vale other than to hold on to what he’s got. I think he’s just reckless enough to think he still has a shot at turning Sansa against Jon, marrying her, and controlling the North and the Vale simultaneously.

      3. I don’t know that we can really rely on logic and common sense too much when it comes to dragons. If a creature that size had armored scales and steel-like bones, it probably shouldn’t be able to fly, so we’re already in “it’s magic” territory. As long as they’re consistent in the strengths and vulnerabilities of dragons, I don’t mind. I think the dramatic significance of this scene was to establish that (1) Qyburn’s ballista can injure dragons; but (2) it ain’t easy.

  14. John says:

    Hi Steven,

    Could you do a post (or at least a lengthy reply here or tumblr) of how you think the book will differ what has transpired in the show since it caught up by Season 5? Based on what you have seen what can we expect from WoW and DoS?

  15. Trevor says:

    They’ve been doing a great job of establishing how to fight whitewalkers (seriously, do not play a drinking game where you drink every time they say the word “dragonglass”), but not really setting the table for the wall to come down. At the beginning of the season, my money was on Cersei falling and Dany taking KL in the penultimate episode and then in the finale the wall comes down, cutting short the victory celebration. Not sure they’ve laid the ground work for that though. And it’s weird that they’ve had so much Euron time without mentioning the horn.

    • thatrabidpotato says:

      Maybe the wall won’t come down at all?
      Or maybe D&D just suck at their jobs. It’s probably the latter.

      • Keith B says:

        There was a horn in the show, shown here: http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Old_warhorn. But I can’t remember any mention in the show of a “Horn of Winter” or “Horn of Joramun” or any time that the horn was shown in Sam’s possession. The only hint of how the wall might come down is that Bran’s contact with the Night King let the wights through the cave’s magical protection, so it might let them through the Wall as well. But if so, it makes Bran criminally irresponsible.

  16. Sensfan90 says:

    For the show the battle was as good as can be expected. Given how the Starks were handled in Season Six, at this point most of the characters lack depth anyway. But four episodes in the problem with the Season Seven is obvious……..Cersei should have been abandoned and left with nothing but King’s Landing after Season Six.

    Quite simply the amount of ass-pulls, retcons, plot armor required has really hurt the show. This does not even account for the utter abandonment/ignorance of the feudal contract At no point does abandoning Casterly Rock/Lannisport and letting the Unsullied march through the Westerlands make any sense. Especially as the writers made a huge deal of it previously with Winterfell and Storm’s End. It is as if the writers took all the criticisms made over the Battle of the Bastards and made a point to do so again.

    • Matthew says:

      They could be setting up Cersei for the fall for breaking the feudal contract.

      The Casterly Rock gambit looks brilliant, but now that Cersei has A) Failed to protect home territory and B) Lost the Lannister Army anyway… (We’ll see how much), she’s going to be hard pressed to raise another one from the Westerlands.

      What she has now are Euron’s ships, seemingly the Golden Company, and whatever they have in King’s Landing.

      All of her moves so far have been to minimize Daenarys by removing Dorne, High Garden, and the loyal Greyjoys, but they haven’t built Cersei up.

      • Sensfan90 says:

        That would be a hilarious twist I admit. Say Dany head North to deal with the White Walkers and Cersei orders a betrayal only for no one to reply. Especially if it only dawns on Jamie that the realm has abandoned them.

    • Jim B says:

      It’s frustrating to me that this season feels like it is simultaneously rushing to get to the finish line (wiping out the Tyrells, arguably the most powerful House at this point, in a couple of scenes), yet also spinning its wheels (why did Bran come to Winterfell if all he’s going to do is make vague comments about how complicated it all is? Cersei is screwed, wait no she’s winning, oh wait she’s screwed again).

      This was a great episode for people who like battle scenes and dragons. I’m not immune to the appeal of either of those, but it’s not what I love about these stories. The things I do love — the subtle political machinations and character moments — are mostly gone.

  17. […] thing that Randyll Tarly is willing to be burned alive over it. Now, this is a case where I think something like this could happen in the books, but because Randyll has backed Aegon VI as a secret Blackfyre loyalist. Xenophobia is just not […]

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