Game of Thrones was lit this week. Pun intended. Pacing problems aside, the writers gave us exactly what we’ve been waiting for for seven years: Stark reunions and Fire and Blood. The closer we move to the end of the series, the more stark contrasts we get between the show’s primary theme: Ice and Fire. We see it in the characters Jon and Dany, and in this particular episode we see the contrast between Winterfell and the snows of the North and the second Field of Fire. This episode was everything, so much so that I watched it twice on Sunday, just because I needed to revel in it’s glory again.
We start the episode off with a short scene near Highgarden, where the Lannister host is transporting Tyrell gold and provisions to King’s Landing. It seems like things are going well for the Lannisters at this point. They’re on track to pay their debts (both big and small), and have now solidified two more of the seven kingdoms under their dominion. Bronn is fed up as usual, and probably regretting his volunteering to be Tyrion’s champion all those years ago. He’s been fighting for the Lannisters for the occasional bag of gold, some titles, and the promise of a castle and a lady for a long time now, and he’s clearly tired of fighting for them without reaping his full reward.
The Iron Bank is happy that they’re getting paid back and are willing to loan Cersei more money to help in her endeavors, which doesn’t make sense to me but also I don’t understand money so that’s not the show’s fault. Cersei mentions something about Qyburn reaching out to the Golden Company - a squad of sellswords like Daario’s Second Sons only more badass - so we’ll see if that comes to fruition soon. Either way, we see Cersei feeling more triumphant than she has in a while, a feeling that won’t last long because DRAGONS.
Up in the North, Littlefinger is still useless. When he’s not staring down at various Starks from balconies with a smirk on his face, he’s trying to manipulate one Stark or another for some reason still unknown and unnecessary given that they’re all preparing for winter and the impending invasion from the whitewalkers. This time, he goes to Bran, the newest Stark back in Winterfell. He gives Bran the Knife That Started It All, proclaims his love for Catelyn, and swears to protect him and Sansa. It’s cute that he thinks this will work, and Bran clearly thinks so, as he quotes something Littlefinger said seasons ago and which Bran shouldn’t know given that this is the first time they’ve met. Littlefinger is clearly shook, which is wonderful. Right now Bran holds a lot of information about Littlefinger, and I can’t wait for him to reveal some stuff - especially the fact that it was Littlefinger who doublecrossed Ned for Cersei and Joffrey. It would be great if that was revealed so that we can get him out of here. Right now it isn’t clear why he’s still around - again his goal seems really insignificant in comparison to the larger things going on.
Meera decides to go back home to The Neck to be with her family when winter comes. All of the sudden, Bran is bad at social skills and barely says thank you to Meera after all she and Jojen have done for him. Meera is rightfully upset, but Bran tells her that he’s not really Bran anymore. While he remembers his life, he also remembers so much more. While I like this explanation and do like it as character development for him, it still feels abrupt when we didn’t see the beginnings of these changes after Bran and Meera left the cave - including all that time they were with Benjen. I also think that it would’ve been nice to see Bran struggling with this - he seems too fine with losing his identity, with seemingly living hundreds of thousands of lives at once, and I would have loved to see some internal struggle to further his character development within the larger plot.
This abrupt development feels like a symptom of this season’s pacing issues and the forcing of these characters into plot but I’m over it for now because ARYA ARRIVES AT WINTERFELL! There’s a scene similar to one in season 1 when the guards wouldn’t let her back into the Red Keep because they thought she was some common person from Flea Bottom. This time, guards who have no institutional memory (which, to be fair, isn’t their fault) don’t believe her, but luckily she’s able to sneak past them to the crypts. Sansa meets her there and we get a better moment than Bran gave us last episode. What’s really interesting about their interaction is that we see how opposite they still are - while they have both been through a lot of horrible things, at this moment they are at the peak of who they always wanted to be - Sansa a lady and Arya a fighter. It’s great to see them bond, but we do see where things could potentially get complicated, for example when Arya mentions her list, and Sansa laughs in disbelief.
We then get more STARK PARTY when Sansa and Arya go to see Bran in the godswood. Sansa has warned Arya that he’s different now, and Arya sees it firsthand when he tells her that he saw her “at the crossroads,” deciding whether to come home or to go to King’s Landing to kill Cersei. Bran’s mention of the List is Sansa’s hint that it’s not a joke, and when she asks Arya who is on the list, Arya tells her that most of the people are dead. Bran then gives Arya the blade given to him by Littlefinger, which means that Arya now has Valyrian steel and can fight whitewalkers! We then get to see some of Arya’s skills when she trains with Brienne. By this point, I was already ridiculously giddy about this episode, and seeing Arya’s skills made it even better. This is the moment that solidifies for Sansa that in a way she’s lost both Bran and Arya. They are no longer the children she saw in her mind. She still hasn’t heard Arya’s story - about her traveling with the Hound, her time in Braavos, her murdering of the Freys - but at this point she doesn’t even really need to hear it. While Sansa seems slightly unsettled, Littlefinger looks downright shooketh at the fact that he now has to deal with two powerful and unpredictable Starks. All his strategizing and weird ass soliloquies will be for naught if Bran and Arya decide he needs to go.
Over on Dragonstone, Dany finds out about #MissanGrey as she and Missandei go to meet Jon and Davos to see the dragonglass. Even though Jon shows her under the pretense of wanting her to see the paintings deeper in the cave, there were very clearly some romantic undertones to this scene. The two of them are clearly intrigued by each other (even Davos notices), and at this point the main thing holding them back is their stubbornness. Jon shows Dany the paintings made by the Children of the Forest, mainly of symbols (ones we’ve seen before north of the Wall), but one in particular of the Children and the First Men fighting the walkers. It serves to convince Dany that the whitewalkers are real, but it doesn’t convince her to give up her claim of the North. She tells Jon that she will fight the walkers when Jon bends the knee - which COME ON FAM THERE ARE CLEARLY MORE IMPORTANT THINGS YOU CAN’T RULE OVER THE NORTH IF THEY’RE ALL ZOMBIES. Jon declines again and Dany asks whether the North’s survival is more important than his pride, but honestly that applies to her too. As I’ve said before, Jon and Dany are at a moot and I’m surprised (mainly because of the pacing of this season) that the subject of marriage hasn’t been brought up yet. Dany knew she would have to marry a Westerosi lord in order to shore up her claim to the Iron Throne and even if she and Jon weren’t making subtle eyes at each other, that alliance seems like it would be stronger through marriage rather than another King Who Knelt.
Jon and Dany’s romantic cave walk turned demand for fealty turns sour when Tyrion and Varys arrive to tell them of their loss of the Reach. Dany is angry and no longer wants to listen to Tyrion’s council, which admittedly hasn’t gone so well lately. Dany wants very badly to fly to King’s Landing and burn the city and the Red Keep, and when Tyrion disagrees she calls his loyalty into question. She then turns to Jon, who also advises against it, telling her essentially what Tyrion has been telling her: if she melts castles and burns cities to the ground, she’s just the same as everyone else. She’s supposed to be a Queen of the people. As Missandei says later, it’s how she won the loyalty of the people who came with her from Essos (problematic writing and tropes aside). While she should take the fighting to Cersei, burning all of King’s Landing wouldn’t help her cause.
Later, Theon arrives at Dragonstone to ask for Dany’s help to save Yara from Euron. After not punching him in the face, Jon tells Theon that Dany left. Theon asks where she went and then, AND THEN...
But actually let me backtrack a bit since this is technically supposed to be a proper recap and not four pages of me typing “DRAGONS” over and over again. So we see the Lannister army on its way back to King’s Landing. Randyll Tarly makes a report to Jaime letting him - and us - know that the gold has made it safely to King’s Landing, but that they are spread too thin and need to hurry to get the rest of the provisions through the city gates ASAP. Then, showing us that he’s better at being the worst than show-Euron, he suggests flogging the stragglers. Jaime tells him to chill, but agrees that they need to hurry.
Jaime and Bronn then go to poke some fun at Dickon Tarly because they are twelve and we hear a bit about Dickon’s personal struggles with having to fight other men of the Reach. But then Bronn’s spidey-senses start tingling and at this point I’m honestly just trying to maintain coherency for the rest of this recap because HOLY CRAP.
The dothraki come charging at them from the horizon and the Lannisters are clearly outnumbered. Bronn tells Jaime to leave for King’s Landing but Jaime disagrees, saying that they can hold them off until DANY AND DROGON COME FLYING ABOVE ALL OMGOMGOMGFIREANDBLOODDDOMGOMGOMGOMGOMGDRACARYSD;KDJGHRIAJSLK;AHGJDGJEIJSS
I’m really trying y’all but as I told you I watched this twice in three hours (with an Insecure break in the middle) and just thinking about it makes me really happy and I may go watch it again as soon as I finish this recap. This show excels at battle scenes and I love how they’re able to make them feel new and different and exciting every single time. From the battle of Blackwater Bay to the Field of Fire Part 2, the only real difference is the budget. I have yet to be disappointed by a Big Battle Episode - I was stressed and worried and surprised, and this time it wasn’t just because of the dragon but because there were characters we know and love on both sides of the fighting. There’s a moment when Tyrion appears, overlooking the battlefield, and it seems like he’s there solely to be all of us, rooting for Daenerys to win but also for Jaime and Bronn to survive.
At least until Bronn started shooting the Scorpion at Drogon. Then I needed him to go. After Dany and Drogon burn up all of the provisions - meaning it’s going to be a harsh winter for the southern lords - he gets two shots out, the first one narrowly missing, and the second wounding Drogon. Luckily, Drogon destroys the Scorpion soon after (and hopefully it was the only one in Cersei’s possession). Drogon and Dany land and Dany tries to take the bolt out of Drogon’s shoulder. Of course, Jaime chooses this time to try and charge them, but Drogon sees him and Bronn saves him from being barbecued just in time. We end the episode with Jaime, and probably Bronn, sinking in the river.
Again, this episode was amazing and I only had one small, selfish gripe with the end scene - where were Viserion and Rhaegal? Obviously that would have probably done more damage than the writers were looking for, and we don’t have riders for the two of them yet, but I think that would’ve been the only thing to make my brain truly explode. As I’ve mentioned earlier in this review and the one before, I do think the pacing is a problem and I wish this season was a full 10 episodes - I think it really would have benefited from it - but at the same time this particular episode is already in my top 10 so it’s not an irredeemable fault. I can’t wait for the next episode and am sad that we only have three more weeks of this. We are hurtling so quickly towards the end and I am not ready.