08th Aug2017

‘Game of Thrones 7×04: The Spoils of War’ Review

by Steven Riley

game-of-thrones-spoils-of-war

SPOILERS: This recap contains key plot points from episode four of season seven, The Spoils of War. If you haven’t yet seen the episode then watch it now (and return here immediately after.

While fans of the books had no doubt been waiting for Jon Snow and Daenarys’ first meeting in The Queen’s Justice for years, there’s been one moment a lot of fans of the show have been excited for. As soon as Jon had informed Theon that Daenerys had left Dragonstone, avid watchers all around the world sat up in their seat, exchanged excited looks with their housemates and dusted off their ‘#TeamTargaryen’ t-shirts as they prepared for an intense episode finale.

Ever since her dragons decimated the slavers back in season three, we have been waiting to see Daenarys command her winged beasts on the battlefield. In The Spoils of War, we finally got our wish. It was shocking, visceral, dramatic and most importantly a decisive and critical turning point in the war for the Iron Throne as the Dragon Queen abandoned her keep to lay down the pain over the Lannister troops that had so far outwitted her and her entourage.

It will also go down as one of the highlights of the show along with the Red Wedding and Battle of the Bastards. From the first hints of hooves across the fields to the sight of Daenerys bearing down on thousands of Lannister troops from up high and Dothraki riding through a flaming battlefield, we knew we were in for something special as the audience almost was caught as off-guard as Jaime and his army were.

With the Greyjoys ruling over the seas as the Unsullied seemingly trapped at Casterly Rock while the Lannisters took Highgarden, Daenerys and co. needed a win and found it in emphatic fashion as Drogon decimated Lannister forces and resources and struck a huge blow for Cersei in Kings Landing.

As always with Game of Thrones however, the tale unfolding in the here and now was as important – if not more so for loyal fans – as the bigger picture as we found ourselves rooting for people on both sides.

While some will have been urging Drogon to wreak havoc for the pure entertainment value of hundreds of stuntmen set on fire and amazing shots of gold-filled carts being destroyed in sequence, some will have been holding their breath as Bronn stared death in the face firing the Scorpion to bring the dragon down, or as Jaime picked up a spear to try and end the war with a decisive action.

Others will have felt their heartstrings tugging as Tyrion saw his brother – the only member of his family he has any love left for – ride to almost certain doom rather than retreat to fight another day.

Therein lies the shows biggest strength – one you could be forgiven for worrying may have been overlooked in a slimmed down, action-packed season – the characters and emotions they invoke.

That we could be watching a man who in season one seemed too cocksure, too evil and – well -too infatuated with his own sister, riding at one of the favourites of the series spear-in-hand and still be rooting that he will somehow survive is testament to the character building the show presented in its early days.

Jaime’s character development has arguably stalled a lot over seasons four and five as he continues to pine over Cersei against all common sense and you could be forgiven for seeing what could be a last hurrah (his fate is unknown as he was last seen sinking in Blackwater Rush under his heavy armour and hand) as a foolish way to fight for his sister and lover.

But inside the incredible action, beautiful scoring (credit to Ramin Djawadi, whose telling of the battle through multiple variants of The Rains of Castemere as well as an emphatic orchestra brought the battle to a new level), there were arguably some subtle hints and callbacks which gave the battle more weight than we realise. The first and most obvious reference is to the ‘Field of Fire’; the battle in which Aegon and his sisters took to the battlefield with their dragons and set a dry field alight, decimating the opposition army which would made of many Lannister soldiers. It was a seminal battle in the war for the Throne so long ago, and this seems likely to have much the same effect.

You can also see echoes of the past in Tyrion as he looks over the ash-ridden battlefield and mutilated soldiers in horror – much in the way he did at the wildfire in the Battle of the Blackwater – or the heroism of Bronn who had been so important in the same battle.

But arguably the most poignant moment lies with Jaime. If he has indeed met his demise (and I for one hope he hasn’t as a character with so much more to offer) it should be that – rather than trying to win the war for Cersei – he was trying to end it after seeing the devastation dragon fire was bringing around him. Rather than a foolish act, it would be a selfless one after seeing what the Mad King had done with such poer, and a fitting finish for a man whose actions have always been far more noble than the stories told about him.

There are thousands of words you could write about that battle – ten minutes that brought out more emotion than some shows manage in a whole season. And that’s without touching on Arya and Sansa’s reunion at Winterfell or Jon’s discoveries in the caves of Dragonstone.

As in the show, these developments will have to wait to be elaborated on another time – because the fiery finale has once again stolen the show.

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