This is the fourth in a series of recaps of the seventh season of Game of Thrones. We assume you have seen the episodes if you are reading this. - editor
Game of Thrones has always been primarily about the story, but historically there have also been some pretty interesting themes woven throughout. However, now that we’re closing in on the final episodes of this season and the series, it’s time to move the plot forward at breakneck speed. Both the audience and, I have to imagine, the storytellers, are interested in the outcomes of the storylines that have been slowly plodding along across the seasons. So if it seems each episode is getting more and more intense, that’s because they are. While at times it can get unrealistic—Dany and the Dothraki got to the Lannisters a little too quickly—it feels right, doesn’t it, to get to the main point of the story rather than draw it out for the sake of a theme? This week’s episode centered around two main storylines, that of Arya and her homecoming to Winterfell, and that of Daenerys, dragonglass, and war.
We start off with Jaime Lannister and Bronn (hurray, he’s back!), who were sent by Cersei to repay the Lannister’s debt to the Iron Bank. She needs the financial support of the Bank to keep funding her war, and using the strongest part of her army to do it (and to confuse Dany, busy attacking Casterly Rock) was the easiest way to do it. It seems that Cersei is planning something large, and she is not going to go down without a massive effort on her part.
Arya finally arrives at Winterfell. After so many years on the run, being kept prisoner, masking her identity, learning to fight and to kill, she is home. The same old tensions between her and Sansa are still felt, and her meeting with Bran goes about as well as Sansa’s did last episode, but ultimately it’s clear that the Starks are happy to finally be together once again, in their own home. The question though, is how safe they are there. Littlefinger has only ever looked out for his own interests, which Sansa knows, so when he gives Bran the dagger that was used to try to kill him years ago, Sansa grows even more suspicious.
Meanwhile, on Dragonstone, Jon shows Daenerys the cave, filled not only with the dragonglass, but with ancient drawings and stone carvings, depicting the Children of the Forest and the First Men fighting their common enemy, the Night King and his White Walkers. Jon tries once again to ask Dany to put aside her pride and fight with him, as their ancestors once did on that very island, and Dany agrees…if he will bend the knee. A look is exchanged, and it is clear that there is more than just pride lingering between them in that moment.
They leave the cave to be greeted by Tyrion and Varys, with the news that they have been deceived in their attack on Casterly Rock. Cersei had taken the majority of the Lannister army to fight at Highgarden (as we saw last week), and so the attack was useless. Now all of Dany’s allies are either captured or dead, and she is angry. She wants to use her dragons and fight herself, to get her hands dirty. She is tired of playing a chess game; she wants to take action. Her frustration with Tyrion’s plan keeps her from turning to him for advice so instead she asks Jon what he would do. But he agrees with Tyrion: “The people who follow you know that you made something impossible happen. Maybe that helps them believe that you can make other impossible things happen—build a world that’s different from the shit one they’ve always known. But if you use [the dragons] to melt castles and burn cities, you’re not different. You’re just more of the same.” And Jon is right; being different is what has gotten Dany this far. She has built a kingdom on compassion, justice, and mercy. And even Jon can see that while those traits might not get her as far in Westeros, it is the type of ruler that Westeros needs.
Back at Winterfell, Arya asks Brienne to train her, and they proceed to have quite the battle between them, with Arya ultimately coming out on top. Sansa is watching, and realizes that Arya’s talk of her list, and her desire to kill people is not just a fancy; she means it, and she’s capable of doing it. While Brienne is clearly impressed by Arya’s skill, it's evident that Sansa is disconcerted. Her sister is still a stranger to her, and she is beginning to see the darkness that has been eating at Arya for the last five years.
Theon has washed ashore of Dragonstone, where he meets Jon, telling him that he has come to ask Daenerys’ help in getting back his sister Yara from Cersei and Euron. But Jon tells him that the Queen is gone. Cut to the Lannisters, who have finished moving the gold where it needed to go, and are packing up their infantrymen, when Bronn hears thundering hoofbeats in the distance. Scarcely before Jaime can gather up his army into fighting position, they hear the screams of the Dothraki as they descend, in massive number, upon the Lannisters. The sight of the Dothraki, who have never in the entire history of Westors, stepped foot or hoof on this continent, would be a sight in and of itself, and Jaime is completely stunned. But just when he thinks he can fight them off, he sees yet another impossible thing: Daenerys, riding in on her dragon Drogon, who lets loose his flame, wiping out everything in its path. It is truly a harrowing sight: the impossibility of the Dothraki and the dragon, the surprise attack and the Lannisters’ unpreparedness, the sheer force of Dany’s army.
All of these things are enough to take the viewer’s breath away, but what makes this battle scene so intense is not just how destructive and violent it is, but who is fighting in it. At this point, viewers are at the very least sympathetic to Jaime, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t like Bronn, or isn’t rooting for Dany. To see them actively trying to kill each other is extremely difficult to watch. We don’t want any one of these people to die! In the final moment, after Bronn has unleashed The Scorpion, Cersei’s giant crossbow, at Drogon and injured him, Jaime sees his chance to kill the dragon and the Queen, and rushes at them in full gallop. Tyrion, watching this whole thing (oh, to see brother fighting against brother, it hurts!), knows what will happen. He can see it all coming. Just as Jaime charges, Drogon turns around and unleashes a massive stream of fire. At the last second, we see Bronn gallop towards Jaime and throw him into the sea, where we watch them both sink to the bottom.
What can we take away from this week, besides a rollercoaster of intense emotions? While the plot is narrowing to a handful of stories, it is the unexpected that continues to play a primary role. Like last week, we are still being asked to challenge what we think we know, not just about the world of Westeros, but about its people, the characters we have grown to love (and hate). From here on out, nothing will be as it has been before. New people are in new places, and old friends and family members are reunited, but changed from their time apart. Who can be trusted? That is a question to which we will have to wait and find out.