As it turns out, not everyone looked up the illegally leaked Game of Thrones (Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO Canada) episode, “The Spoils of War,” and those who waited for the fully finished version on Sunday night were rewarded with one of the most expensively produced and visually jarring episodes of all time.
The installment — which also served as this second-to-last season’s official midpoint — followed the same format as others this season. There was a lot of talking, a lot of bargaining and a lot of setup. And then it was all blown up by a bloody (or in this case fiery) scene involving all of the worst parts of war.
And while it was pretty rewarding for viewers to finally see Dany riding over Westeros warriors on Drogon and burning Jamie Lannister’s army to a crisp, this battle in particular contained some of the most graphic and unsettling images of the show to date. Like that burnt-up body’s ashes blowing away in the wind, for starters.
It wasn’t all fire and brimstone, though. Let’s go back and break down all of Sunday night’s game-changing moments in this constantly game-changing show, shall we?
1. Littlefinger’s Manipulation
There is no character more shady than Petyr Baelish, but it isn’t often that his selfish motives are called out in front of him. But Bran did exactly that when Petyr presented him with the Valyrian steel dagger that an assassin tried to kill him with all the way back in season one. “Chaos is a ladder,” Bran responded as Petyr claimed to have no idea who owned the dagger, throwing the man’s own motto back in his face and unsettling him. Sure, Littlefinger may have no idea who owned the dagger, but he did tell Catelyn back in the first season that it was his, and that he had lost it to Tyrion in a bet. The implication was that Tyrion had tried to have Bran killed following the intimacy he witnessed between Jamie and Cersei, and it set Catelyn off on a quest for revenge.
So what was Littlefinger’s motive in giving Bran the dagger and lying about it now? We still don’t know for sure. But we can bet that now that this story has been brought back to the forefront, this mystery may finally be solved. And now that Bran has passed the dagger on to Arya, it’s important to note that she now owns a valuable blade made of Valyrian steel, a.k.a. the only thing other than dragon glass that’s known to kill White Walkers.
2. Arya’s Homecoming
Speaking of Arya, she finally returned to Winterfell only to be accosted and told to eff off by two lowly guards. It was another throwback to the first season when she was denied entrance as Ned Stark’s daughter by another set of guards, but it also reminded us that one of Arya’s most powerful weapons is the fact that everyone assumes she’s worthless. We all know better, of course.
Arya is starting to prove that to others, too. While Sansa initially laughed off the idea of Arya’s hit list, Bran confirmed it later on in the episode when he casually dropped word of its existence. Later, when Arya and Brienne “trained” together, it became quite clear to Sansa that her little, annoying sister had also been through some unspeakable hardships, and that she had developed quite the set of special skills. Liam Neeson, eat your heart out.
3. Jon’s Discovery
Over on Dragonstone, Jon finally found his cave full of dragon glass, but that wasn’t all he found. He led Dany through the dark passages until they came to some etchings by the children of the forest… and the adults who fought with them against the Night King. The creepy etchings of the undead and their piercing, blue eyes were enough to finally convince Dany that they were real and that maybe she should fight with Jon in the North… if he bends the knee.
This ongoing dispute with this knee-bending business may seem ridiculous, but we figure there has to be a reason why the writers keep throwing it in our faces. And it goes beyond Jon’s “pride” or Dany’s obsession. Obviously we now know that Dany is Jon’s aunt, but they don’t know that (hence Davos’ creepy suggestions of them shacking up). When that revelation eventually comes out, it will be a pretty big game changer. For now, it just makes us nervous. We want both of these characters to walk away unscathed, but on a show like this with minimal happy endings, we aren’t holding our breath.
4. Dany’s Anger
We’ve seen Dany’s anger before, but on Sunday night we saw her anger paired with a lack of composure, and that’s a dangerous thing. As soon as she learned about the fall of the Tyrells and the fact that the Lannisters were able to repay their debt as a result (because, don’t they always?), she wanted to soar into the Red Keep and burn everyone down. Despite Tyrion’s pleading, it was actually Jon who convinced her not to do that, but Dany still needed to show everyone who was boss. Which is exactly why she hopped onto Drogon’s back, grabbed her Dothraki army and found Jamie’s peeps as they were celebrating victory and joking about men pooping when they died. We all know what happened next, but it’s worth pointing out that the Mad King may have transferred some of his irrational behaviours onto his daughter… and we’re just starting to see them now.
5. The Return of Bronn
Oh Bronn, how we’ve missed you. The sly-tongued fighter has always been a little two-faced, and we have to admit we hate that he’s still fighting for the Lannisters and their promise of land and titles. However, it seems like he’s always surfacing just when it matters most. Like when Jamie needed him to unleash a powerful anti-dragon weapon. Thankfully, Drogon just suffered a scratch thanks to Bronn’s poor aim, but the moment that Bronn hit the beast was a wake-up call for us all. We should have taken that dumb-looking weapon a lot more seriously, because it can certainly do some pretty serious damage to Dany’s most precious resource.
6. Tyrion’s Realizations
Earlier in the episode Dany accused Tyrion of not wanting his family to fall. And while we all know just how deep Tyrion’s hatred for Cersei runs, we also know that Jamie and Tyrion have always had a special relationship. He doesn’t want his brother to die as he witnesses him rushing upon Dany and Drogon on the battlefield, nor does he want to witness the awful image of hundreds of men being obliterated in mere seconds by a flying dragon. Knowing and seeing are two separate things, and you can bet that witnessing this battle is going to send Tyrion into a serious moral tailspin. Or, back to the bottle, as we saw from the previews for next week.
7. A Potential Death
In an episode full of powerful images, the one of Jamie Lannister sinking to the bottom of the water, his gear serving as an anchor, is one of the most memorable. Is he dead? We doubt it. Tyrion would probably never let that happen, plus Jamie would make for a powerful prisoner. All that aside, Jamie still needs to tell Cersei the truth behind Joffrey’s death. Because if you thought Cersei was cruel and unforgiving now, just wait and see how she reacts to knowing that one of her then-allies was responsible for her son’s death. Now that’s what we call a dragon unleashed.