Need to refresh your Dornish wine? Check out the Episode 3 recap here.
Still stewing over Olenna Tyrell’s big reveal, the Kingslayer is busily, if not grumpily, getting down to the business of paying off Lannister debts with Highgarden gold. Wanting more than a saddlebag of gold coins (“it’s not a castle”), Ser Bronn makes a play for the home of the now extinct Tyrells, but is rebuffed with a terse “we’re at war.” They never let Ser Bronn rest. Will Ser Bronn ever get any rest?
We’re going to have to see.
As Jamie assigns Bronn to chivvy reluctant farmers to load up all the food stores of the Reach so it can be taken to King’s Landing, his sister is being complimented at the speed by which she has paid back the debt to the Iron Bank. Tycho Nestoris – Mark Gatt, always aces when it comes to splendid snarkiness – wastes no time offering Cersei their backing when he hears she plans to hire the Golden Company.
Also presumably making his own plans (as always) Littlefinger is busy trying to get some sort of handle on the Three Eyed Raven of Winterfell. Maybe he hopes to have the same hold on him as he already does on the unfortunate young Lord of the Eyrie as he offers Bran the dagger that would’ve killed him, but Bran gives him a quick flashback to Season 3 when he quotes Littlefinger word for word, murmuring “chaos is a ladder.” The right honourable Lord Baelish gets all kinds of shookt because the only person he was talking to at the time was Varys. (I finally used shook the wrong way. What have you done to me, internet?!?)
Thankfully his lapse in control is interrupted by Meera Reed, who’s come to bid goodbye to the boy she dragged past the Wall. Bran is all meh about it, and she leaves in tears. “You died in that cave,” is her assessment. Consider yourself lucky, Reed. Out of everyone in that ragtag band, you’re the only one who didn’t die. Anyway, she exits stage right, and try as I might, I can’t seem to summon up any feelings about the end of her time on the show. I guess I’m with Bran on this one.
Echoing my sort of mixed feelings, Arya Stark finally arrives at Winterfell, but because she’s not being dragged in on a cart the way Bran was, she doesn’t get quite the happy welcome she’s entitled to. But Arya’s never really been your typical girl, so after inhaling the familiar scent of home, she tells her guards to go get her sister, and disappears into the family crypt, where Sansa finds her.
I don’t have a sister, and the unique tensions that only sisters share with each other very often escapes me, but it’s clear that the love trumps all the antagonism between these two. The Stark sisters are still clearly uncomfortable with each other – they were never on the best of terms, even as children, but they’ve both had horrible childhoods, and while they probably won’t be fully able to understand each other, the sisters are now more united than they ever were. Apparently a lot of work went into filming this particular reunion, but you’d never know it and Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner play off each other beautifully.
Sansa wastes no time informing Arya that Bran is also home, and they meet him under the heart tree, completing the trifecta of tortured siblings. It’s amazing what a couple of seasons will do, because the last time all three shared the same space, they looked like this:
Now one is a politically astute leader of the North, another a deadly assassin, and still another a greenseeing warg. Starks Assemble! What a family. Lady Brienne is all of us as she watches the Stark siblings enter Winterfell, united once more.
“You kept your vow,” says Pod, congratulating his mistress. Both Lady and her Squire are content, but not Littlefinger, who hates anything that looks like unity. Chaos is a ladder, and without it, he has no ladder to climb. If that lingering shot of him on the balustrade, overlooking the touching scene has anything of portent to say, it’s that he’s going to find a way to banish all this sweetness and light.
Meanwhile, the remaining broody half-Stark leads Daenerys deep into the
Cave of Wonders Mines of Moria depths of Dragonstone, where a great haul of obsidian is waiting to be chipped off and made into weaponry. He shows her the wall art of the Children of the Forest – there’s a glyph that mirrors the arrangement of bodies in Season 1 and the arrangement of stones in Season 5 – and gives an impassioned speech about unity and survival. Dany promises to help, but only if Jon bends the knee.
Which he doesn’t, because both of them emerge from the caves looking all sorts of grim. Dany’s face takes on an even darker cast, as a very bedraggled Tyrion and Varys inform her of the goings on at Casterly Rock and the Reach. Furious, she accuses the Imp of not truly wanting to hurt his own family, dismissing his “clever plans.” Enraged at losing Dorne, the Iron Islands and Highgarden, she demands to know why she doesn’t just use her dragons to decimate everything in her path, while everyone pleads for her mercy and understanding. No one wants to see Westeros go up in flames. No one in the show, that is. The rest of us are primed for a crazy amount of combat – it’s mid-season and that naval battle two episodes ago was barely enough to go on. Let’s go, Dany!
Littlefinger sure is spending a lot of time on balustrades this episode (and I’m loving the word balustrade today), as he and Sansa come across Arya training with Lady Brienne. It’s an awesome display of strength versus guile, like a female callback to the duel between Oberyn Martell and the Mountain, only with a happier ending. There’s not much point to the scene if only to show Sansa that her sister is still a bloodthirsty little thing – only now she has the chops to enforce that list she mentioned – and to show Petyr Baelish of the Balustrade that maybe, just maybe, he might have the key to causing a little chaos, although how he’s going to do it only time will tell.
At Dragonstone, Missandei of Naath has just wrapped up a persuasive speech about why they follow Daenerys of House Targaryen – I don’t blame Ser Davos for joking about switching sides at all, she’s really convincing – when Theon Greyjoy’s ship appears on the horizon. He’s surprised, and not a little ashamed, to find Jon on the shore, holding in his righteous anger. Poor Theon. Some Ironborns just can’t catch a break. He wants to see the Queen because his sister is being held captive by his complete dick of an uncle, but Dany isn’t there. “Where did she go?” he asks. Dun dun dunnnnnnnn.
Jamie Lannister, Ser Bronn and Dickon of House Tarly are having a bit of light banter about their first battle. “Didn’t think it’d smell like that,” admits Sam’s brother. Just then, an ominous rumble echoes through the plains of the Reach, and the dawning look of horror that breaks over the Kingslayer’s face is almost a joy to behold. The rumble is the thunder of horse’s hooves, and the bloodcurdling cries of the Dothraki horde, come to wreak vengeance over the Lannister army.
Telling Ser Bronn the Lannisters still have a fighting chance, Jamie’s confidence is shattered as Dany swoops in on Drogon. She’s clearly decided to ignore the words of her advisers, because the look of retribution on her face spells no good for anyone wearing the Lannister red and gold. Or the Tarlys.
Riding hell for leather, Dany wastes no time setting the Lannisters on fire (hopefully including that blasted Hobbit from the first episode), carving a fiery gap in their hastily assembled first line of defense, and her Dothraki surge through the breach as at long last the wrath of the last Targaryen washes over the Lannisters and I’m just screaming and clapping my hands at the sight of men dying and being burnt alive because it is freaking glorious and right now I’m Lady Brienne just soaking in everything.
Everything is pandemonium as the Dothraki mow down the Lannister soldiers without impunity and everyone just struggles to stay alive as fire rains down from the sky. Drogon sweeps through the battlefield wreaking havoc like he’s Smaug the Mighty descending from the Lonely Mountain. Dany is inciting him to burn everything in sight, including the food stores – not the food stores Dany! – but she’s too caught up in the battle to remember, or to care. It’s death and destruction, and just when everything seems lost, Jamie Lannister reminds Bronn of Qyburn’s scorpion, because archers and their measly arrows are not going to be enough to get past a dragon’s armour.
Bronn gets conscripted into having to go, by virtue of having two hands. As he ducks and weaves his way on horseback through a mass of burning flesh, burning wagons, everything burning, he’s initially somewhat reluctant to do anything that would make a dragon mad until a Dothraki screamer cuts off his horse’s leg, sending him to the ground, dropping his bag of gold into the process. Never get between a selsword and his payment. Now in a high dudgeon and summoning his inner Bard the Bowman, Bronn hauls ass to the scorpion of Qyburn, and uses the Dothraki as target practice, nailing him to the side of a burning wagon. The scorpion works!
Slapping another bolt into the giant crossbow, Bronn pivots and points it at the smoky skies. As he scans the skies, little Tyrion crests the hill and surveys the carnage on the plain. The Targaryen motto is unfolding before his very eyes: Fire and Blood. Lannisters dying, boiling in their armour, it’s pandemonium. He sees his brother, Jamie, also surveying the wreckage of their father’s army, and it seems Dany may have been right in her earlier assessment. Some part of Tyrion didn’t want to hurt his family this way. Peter Dinklage plays the myriad emotions running through the Imp perfectly, from anguish to shock to despair, the warring loyalties plain on his face, for the army his proud father built, for the brother he always loved, and the Queen he now adores.
Bronn, however, has no time for such sentiments, and as he sees Drogon coming in hot, aims, fires and…misses! The missile flies just past Dany, who sees the danger immediately. Angered, she wheels Drogon around and heads straight for the giant crossbow, but Ser Bronn of the Blackwater is nothing if not a fighter, and he quickly reloads another quarrel, aims, fires and… a hit! A very solid hit, as the bolt is buried in Smaug, I mean Drogon’s, shoulder and the great black dragon tumbles from the sky, writhing in pain. But it’s not enough to kill Drogon, and it just slows him down, giving Bronn just enough time to leap out of the way of impending incineration. Dany gives him a look of pure venom, and her dragon smashes the remains of the smoking scorpion with its tail, roaring with rage.
As Drogon settles down to let Dany try to pull the quarrel out of his shoulder, Jamie sees a chance to end the war altogether in one mad, quixotic ride for glory. Tyrion realizes his brother’s intentions, and also knows the chances of it ending well are not going to be likely. His heart in his throat, the dwarf watches as his brother makes a mad dash, spear extended, for the tiny figure of Daenerys Targaryen.
“Flee, you idiot,” he whispers as the Kingslayer rides straight to Daenerys, and the glowing maw of her dragon, to his certain death.
But it’s Ser Bronn once more, the hardest working character of this episode, who saves the day, pulling a flying tackle and taking Jamie Lannister out of harm’s way and into the depths of the river. As fire shoots out overhead, the selsword and the Kingslayer sink into the clutches of the water, into darkness. Is this the end for both of them? And what will happen to Drogon? How will Tyrion Lannister digest the decimation of his father’s legacy?
Three more episodes for us to likely find out. You can all argue for Hardhome and The Wall having the best battle scenes, I will take The Spoils of War and hold it closely to my heart.