All seems to be going well for the Lannisters – the grain stores of Highgarden are being emptied and the contents shipped off to King’s Landing, and the gold is on its way to Cersei so she can repay the Iron Bank – but neither of our protaganists in this scene are pleased.
As you’ll recall our last scene of episode 3 was Lady Olenna giving Jaime the middle finger, finally confessing that she murdered Joffrey and subsequently dying herself. Bronn takes offense to Jaime looking so forlorn after such a big success, and badgers him about the castle he was promised 3 or 4 seasons ago. There’s a bit of tension between the two of them, with Jaime thinking his companion ungrateful for the huge bag of gold he just handed him. He sends the sellsword away with the Tarlys to continue collecting the grain. Cersei is eagerly awaiting their return, growing tired of having to put up with the somewhat impatient representative of the Iron Bank.
Meanwhile in the North, Littlefinger has his eyes set on a new target. He’s drawn his Valyrian steel dagger we last saw a couple of episodes ago in Samwell’s book, and hands it to Bran. He’s replaying an almost exact replica of the conversation he’s had with both Sansa and Jon already – that he loved Cat and that he’s here to protect her children now.
“Do you know who this belonged to?” asks the young Stark. It doesn’t sound like Bran is searching for an answer – it sounds like he knows something, which may be the reason it was in Sam’s book. Expect an answer soon!
Littlefinger feigns sympathy for what he expects Bran has been through in the north. He doesn’t know the half of it.
“To go through all of that and make your way home again, only to find such chaos…” Bran cuts him off, looking up sharply as though he’s just remembered something.
“Chaos is a ladder.”
Bran is directly quoting something Littlefinger said in one of my favourite scenes in Game of Thrones. He privately reveals to Varys that causing chaos creates a means for him to rise to power. There’s a lot going on under the surface too, but the main relevance here is that Bran knows what Littlefinger is and almost certainly has the means to out him. You can almost feel him squirm.
They’re interrupted by Meera arriving at the door, and Littlefinger takes his chance to exit. Meera tells her friend that she’s making her way home to be with her family when the White Walkers come, because Bran doesn’t need her anymore.
“No, I don’t.” he replies. Blunt to say the least. Meera is understandably upset – her brother, Hodor, Summer the direwolf, all dead for Bran. Deadpan, the young man explains to Meera, he’s not Brandon Stark anymore, he’s the three eyed raven. And with that she leaves, heartbroken and knowing that she lost her friend the moment the Night King killed the previous three eyed raven.
To me, this doesn’t feel like much of an ending for Meera. We’ve seen Meera’s father once before in one of Bran’s flashbacks, right before we discover Jon’s true parentage. His name is Howland Reed – he’s the man who saved Ned from a grizzly death by stabbing his attacker in the back, allowing Ned to go and find his sister and her newborn baby, Jon. It’s reasonable to assume that he knows who Jon’s parents were, which may be relevant at some stage. Whatever happens, I’m sure they still have a part to play.
As Arya reaches the peak of a hill, she finally lays eyes upon her home once more. She strolls up the gate expecting a warm welcome, but instead is chided by two of the least competent guards in the 7 kingdoms. After being told to fuck off not once, not twice but THRICE, she deftly sidesteps an attempt to shove her to the ground and disappears inside as the guards argue amongst themselves.
The guards confess their mistake to Sansa.
“She was asking for Ser Rodrik and Maester Luwin.” The guards may not have ever known those men, but any Stark would. Following her intuition, Sansa finds her sister in the crypts by the memorial to their father.
It’s been years since the sisters saw each other. They were always chalk and cheese but it looks like they might get on a little better now they’ve both grown up a bit. Sansa rightly points out that considering how happy Jon was to see her, he’s going to be ecstatic when he sees Arya. We nearly have the whole family back together now, fingers crossed!
It doesn’t take long until Arya starts thinking about killing people, saying that she was angry when she heard that someone else had killed Joffrey before she got the chance, as he was always first on her list. Sansa laughs at the idea; she has a lot to learn about her long lost sister!
They find their brother in the Godswood. He tells Arya that he saw her at the Inn at the Crossroads in a vision, and thought she might go to King’s Landing.
“Why would you go back there?” asks Sansa.
“Cersei is on her list of names.” … aaand the penny drops, we see Sansa think, ah she wasn’t joking about that, and she asks who else is on the list.
“Most of them are dead already.”
As well as Sansa starting to see that her sister has changed, we are also reminded that Bran isn’t very good at being the three eyed raven yet. He saw Arya, but he wasn’t sure what she was going to do. He still sees fragments, so he’s not necessarily as helpful as we might have hoped.
Bran draws the dagger that Littlefinger gave him. Sansa immediately knows that something is up – he doesn’t do things for people unless he gets something in return.
Regardless, Bran hands the dagger to Arya, saying that it’ll be much more useful to her than it is to him. So now we have two battle-capable members of the family wielding Valyrian steel. Take note.
On Dragonstone, the girls are catching up on their Greyworm gossip before Jon interrupts them.
Jon leads them underneath the mountain to where the dragonglass is. It’s enormous – more than enough for their armies to fight with – but the real reason they’re here is further in. Jon takes Dany by the arm, leading her deeper into the cave. Markings made by the Children of the Forest adorn the walls. Some depict familiar patterns, others, stories of the Children and the First Men fighting their common enemy – the White Walkers.
Amazed by this (and without even the slightest thought that Jon did a few quick scribbles on a wall to trick her) Daenerys agrees to join their fight… IF Jon bends the knee. It’s still a tricky subject and nothing is agreed just yet, but the pair are growing closer. Aside from the arm touching and the eye contact, when they leave the cave it’s like they’re coming out united. It almost looks like they’re holding hands!
Outside, Tyrion and Varys await their Queen with news of Highgarden’s defeat. Furious about Tyrion’s repeated failured plans, she questions her Hand’s loyalty. Perhaps he’s trying to even the odds for his family? Either way, she needs a win badly and she knows how she can defeat Cersei quickest. The dragons call across the seas, drawing nearer as she announces her intention to burn the Red Keep. Seeing that Tyrion won’t back down, she asks Jon what he thinks.
Last week, we heard Davos asking Missandei why she follows Daenerys. Jon draws on what he’s learnt in his time here to formulate his response – Dany’s people follow her because they’ve seen her do the impossible, and have faith in her to create something better. But if she burns the city to the ground, she’s no different to her tyrannical ancestors.
Tyrion looks to Jon with equal parts relief and admiration.
Podrick Payne (or ‘pain’ as he really ought to be known) is taking yet another beating from Brienne. In a bullish display of confidence Arya approaches and demands to fight Brienne herself, and Podrick is told to step aside.
Despite being roughly half her size, Arya quickly shatters any illusions that her sparring partner has of her, avoiding Brienne’s first overhead swing and thrusting Needle to her throat. Taking her more seriously, Brienne has to try pretty hard to keep up with Arya, taking glancing blows to her hand and leg as she draws back her powerful swing. They’re both masters in their respective arts but their fighting styles are at completely opposite ends of the scale. Arya’s blade (Needle) is aptly named compared to Brienne’s broadsword (Oathkeeper) and as it’s knocked from her hands she quickly switches to her new dagger, matching Brienne’s killing blow.
Watching above with Sansa, Littlefinger squirms a little more. Or is that the look of cogs turning in his head as he acquires a new target for his games? Hard to say.
There’s a lot of gossip going on in this episode, this time it’s Davos trying to coerce Jon into discussing Daenerys & Missendei’s ‘good hearts’. Thankfully, Jon has no time for that and stays focused on the ancient evil that is hunting them day and night. Probably a good idea. He asks his advisor, “How many men do we have in the north to fight him, 10,000? Less?”
“Fewer.” responds Davos, doing his best impression of Stannis.
They meet with Missandei and discuss her allegiance to Daenerys. Much to Missandei’s annoyance, Jon doesn’t quite believe that she could leave any time she wants, leading her to tell Jon that she’s the Queen they chose – they believe in her – they don’t follow her because of who her father was. Thats’s something Jon should understand.
Lets stop for a second and think about why this conversation happened. Given that there’s only 7 episodes this season, EVERYTHING is relevant. There’s no time for benign conversation, and this one feels as though it should have happened BEFORE Jon told Daenerys that he could see the faith that her people have in her. So what else are we being told here? Is Missandei going somewhere?
They’re interrupted as a Greyjoy ship appears on the horizon.
Theon and the Ironborn drag their boat ashore.
“Jon? I didn’t know you were here.” No shit Theon.
A brief history of Theon Greyjoy
Jon violently grabs Theon and tells him that what he did for Sansa is the only reason he’s not killing him where he stands. Fair play really.
Eager to change the subject, Theon says he came to ask the Queen to help him save Yara, but Daenerys isn’t there right now.
“Where did she go?”
Cut back to the Lannister army. Randyll Tarly approaches Jaime and Bronn with news.
“All the gold is safely through the gates of King’s Landing.” Now it’s just the last of the wagons carrying food that need to get over the river before nightfall. “If the head of the line is ambushed, the tail will never be able to reinforce it in time.”
“We are stretched a bit thin.” Jaime replies. Tarly suggests whipping the men at the back to speed things up, but Jaime refuses, saying that they fought well at Highgarden and at least deserve a warning first. If anyone hadn’t realised yet, Jaime isn’t the worst kind of person you can find in Westeros as we suspected in season 1. That said, he may not be the most ruthlessly effective either.
Jaime and Bronn approach the general’s son.
“Rickon!” Jaime shouts to him as a greeting.
The Tarly boy corrects him, “Dickon.” As Bronn laughs at the unfortunate name, Jaime shoots him a look as if to say, “Yes we’re taking the piss out of him but play it cool, that’s not my style.”
Highgarden was the young man’s first battle. He knew some of the men they killed and he wasn’t expecting the smell that comes with death. Bronn mocks Dickon’s inexperience, “Men shit themselves when they die, didn’t they teach you that at fancy lad school?” Another look from Jaime.
The three of them are very different but have such an interesting dynamic – Jaime, the top dog but also a tortured soul with his goals always just out of reach. Bronn, an experienced man with simple desires who is essentially being blackmailed into being dragged deeper and deeper into the game. And Dickon, much more in common with Jaime as a highborn, but still an outsider – the butt of the joke since he’s so young and green.
His jovial attitude quickly disperses as Bronn hears something. The sound of hooves approaching. The three spring into action, calling the men to arms. They’re not in a strong defensive position; scattered in an open field there’s only enough men to form a couple of lines with their shields, their spears protruding through the gaps. The commanders look around for a few long seconds, waiting to see what comes over the hill. Screaming and hollering fills the air as the Dothraki approach.
“Get back to King’s Landing!” Bronn urges Jaime. “You’re their commander not an infantryman!” Jaime is undeterred, refusing to abandon the men who are literally shaking in their armour as the horde bears down on them.
“We can hold them off!” Just then, a thunderous roar rings out across the battlefield. Jaime looks on in horror as Daenerys calls her order to the beast.
A burst of flame obliterates the Lannister line, instantly incapacitating a group of 20 men or more. Shields are futile, arrows ineffective. Morale crumbles as flesh turns to dust, while others nearby burn inside their armour. The dothraki burst through the hole in the line, carving up their victims as they go.
Daenerys acquires another target, burning the line of Lannister wagons in one fell swoop. Jaime needs to do something fast. “Qyburn’s scorpion is over there” he tells Bronn. “Go get it then!” the sellswords replies defiantly.
“I can’t shoot with one hand!”
Begrudgingly, Bronn does as he’s told.
On his own now, Jaime is locked in battle with a dothraki swinging two of their signature curved swords. Not as strong in combat as he used to be, Jaime struggles to to avoid the blades before Dickon Tarly thrusts his sword through the attacker’s back. Perhaps Jaime will treat him with some respect now.
Crossing the battlefield in this chaos is no easy task for Bronn and he drops his bag of gold as a dothraki knocks him from his mount. Still, there’s more important things to think about right now. Daenerys takes aim at the scorpion as a huge bolt flies past her head.
Jaime stands aghast as everything falls apart around him. The destruction, the screams, the smell of burning flesh as men desperately stagger towards the river. It’s horrific. Tyrion is watching from a distance as well, conflicted. As his Queen reigns down vengeance, the one member of his family he really cares about is suffering.
Bronn loads another bolt, taking aim again at the diving creature. He fires, narrowly missing its open mouth and striking the dragon in the shoulder, sending it spiralling down to earth.
Regaining control, Drogon lands, burns the crossbow and splinters the remains with its tail in a show of defiance. Bronn only just manages to jump aside in time. Daenerys dismounts to pull the bolt from her injured child. Jaime sees her vulnerable on the ground and glances toward a spear sticking out from the ground. This could be his chance to end it all. He could help create the great peace that he really wants, with Cersei on the throne. Without Daenerys, there is no war.
Tyrion looks down at his brother. “Flee you idiot!” Jaime spurs his horse on, grabbing the spear and aiming straight for the dragon queen.
“You fucking idiot!” Tyrion mutters in despair.
The dragon lowers its head and turns to face Jaime, opening its mouth wide to protect its mother. Bronn leaps from his horse and tackles Jaime into the river, both of them narrowly avoiding the huge fireball that engulfs the area and both of their horses.
With only one hand and full plate armour on, Jaime sinks, almost as if resigned to his fate.
This was an excellent battle scene, particularly exciting because it’s something we haven’t seen the likes of yet. The dragons have burned people before but it was nothing like the destruction we saw in this episode. The dragons are HUGE and this was just one of them, disintegrating dozens of men at a time.
However the battle raises some interesting points on morality. In Westeros, dragons are essentially the nukes of their world. They’ll destroy whole armies or even cities at the drop of a hat, and their use is controversial. Even if you’re an avid Daenerys supporter, having seen the horrors that Jaime does in this scene, you have to be asking questions about whether this is the right thing to be doing.
Let’s also not forget that this probably feels very familiar to Jaime. The Mad King burning people in their armour was the very reason he thrust his sword into his King’s back, forsaking his Kingsguard vows and earning him the eternal nickname Kingslayer. It was probably only his enduring love for his sister that stopped him doing the same to her after she blew up the Sept of Baelor with Wildfire, but now it’s happening again on the opposite side. He really is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
So what might happen next? Let’s speculate.
- Firstly let me allay some fears that some of you may have – this is not the end of Jaime. If he was going to die, they’d have let him be obliterated by Drogon, not be saved and then drown as a direct result. Seriously, imagine what an anticlimax it would be if in episode 5 Bronn pulls his lifeless corpse from the river and that’s that. Plus, he hasn’t fulfilled any long term storyline or character arc yet. More likely, this encounter with the Dragons is building to something else for his character.
- Is Drogon going to be ok after getting shot? I’d say so, he recovered enough to continue doing some serious damage. However, I’ve seen some theories flying around that the Scorpion bolts could be more sinister than they first appear. Think about it, the very name implies poison, and we have seen as recently as episode 3 that Qyburn is adept with all sorts of toxins.
- Now that the gold has arrived at King’s Landing, their debt to the Iron Bank has been repaid. Now they’re eager to fund Cersei’s future war effort, and she intends to hire the sellswords known as The Golden Company made up of 10,000 mercenaries. Adding this number to the rest of the Lannister forces (assuming that Dany has only destroyed a small section of their army) gives them a notable boost. A Dothraki attack on a prepared army at King’s Landing – without the force of the dragons to back them up – could be a costly mistake for Daenerys.
- What’s Daenerys’ next plan of action? Well, she’s shown no hesitation in using her Dragons, she needs Euron’s navy to be destroyed and Theon recently showed up to ask her to save Yara. They have an idea of where Euron might be since he destroyed the ships that ferried the Unsullied to Casterly Rock. It’s gotta happen at some stage!
- The next episode is entitled “Eastwatch”. Recap on what the relevance of this is here. It’s been a while since we’ve seen either Tormund or the Hound…
Is Littlefinger going to be undone? What’s next in the Hound’s journey? Where do Cersei and Daenerys go from here? Let me know what you think is going to happen in the remainder of the season!