Chaos Is a Ladder: Game of Thrones, ‘The Spoils of War’

Your regular GoT reviewer, Cindy is enjoying some well-earned relaxation, so Craig is doing his best to fill her shoes.

“The Spoils of War” may be the shortest Game of Thrones episode on record, but there are few episodes in the series that were as eventful or satisfying.

There were so many memorable scenes throughout –- and we’ll hit the highlights down the page a bit -– but the most remarkable facet of this chapter of the epic saga was how much heart and humor permeated just about everything, I mean who doesn’t love a good Dickon joke?

It’s helpful that Bronn played a major part in this episode, because his devil may care way of going through life always managed to bring levity, no matter which Lannister brother he happened to be paired with. But there were  also nice character moments with the Stark sisters,and Missandei kissing and telling.

Many would point out that this episode needed a healthy dash of lightheartedness given the barbecue that Drogon and the Dothraki horde were having on the road between Highgarden and King’s Landing in the closing moments of the show.

Part of what makes this series so compelling to watch is that it offers a little something for everyone, so if you don’t like the palace intrigue going on in the Red Keep, there is something at The Wall or in Winterfell to keep your attention. As the cast of players has gotten smaller, the variety that was a trademark of the show also went by the wayside, however, “Spoils of War” felt like one of those well-rounded Season 1 or 2 episodes.

Of course there’s nothing that gives you that vintage Thrones feeling like the Stark kids in the hustle and bustle of Winterfell. With Bran and Sansa already back, it was Arya’s turn to return to her ancestral home. She encounters some idiot guards, who weren’t played by Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington, but very well could have been.

It was interesting to see Arya take in the activity at Winterfell as she was waiting for the guards to do their Abbott and Costello bit. It appeared that she wasn’t basking in the sights and sound of home so much as assessing the tactical situation. When she and Sansa do finally reunite in the crypts, it’s amazing that Arya is the more optimistic of the two, even after the shit that each one of them has seen in the years since they separated in King’s Landing.

Meanwhile, Littlefinger was trying to make inroads with “Lord” Bran by presenting the Catspaw Dagger that was nearly used to assassinate Bran. Littlefinger immediately regrets giving Bran this prize once Bran spits one of his own lines back at him, signaling he’s hip to Littlefinger’s games.

Bran later passes the dagger to Arya, which means there is a very important reason down the road for her to have such a significant weapon. As happy as Sansa is to have her siblings back at home, she’s also troubled by their presence. Life outside of Winterfell hasn’t been kind to any of them. Arya is a bona fide assassin who revels battle and Bran pretty much admits he’s just a Three-Eyed Raven in an Edgar Suit.

Down in Dragonstone, Jon has found the deposit of dragonglass and a little something extra. It seems the Children of the Forest mined some dragonglass way back in the day, and told their story in cave drawings deep in the mine. It makes for a wonderful allegory for Jon to tell Dany why they need to team up. There were a few sparks between the two as they were alone in the cave, and they almost worked out a peace until Dany remembered she really needs Jon to bend the knee. Those sparks may prove to be important, as a marriage might be the only way each get what they want from this alliance without giving up too much of what makes them who they are.

When word of the situation at Casterly Rock reaches Dragonstone, Dany takes her frustration out on Tyrion, and consults Jon for strategic advice. Jon learned earlier that Dany has these followers because they trust and believe in her, so he told Dany she is never going earn the love of the people of Westeros by turning the Red Keep into a smoldering crater. So, Dany takes a page out of Jon’s book of military strategy — and a huge army — all by herself (ok maybe with some Dothraki too, but you get the picture).

While it appears that Cersei got the gold to cover her debts with the Iron Bank, the raided food stores of Highgarden weren’t so lucky. I didn’t get this particular facet of Dany’s plan. In one scene she’s lamenting that she lost the Reach and all its provisions, but when the supplies and the Lannister army are both nearly lined up for her, Dany decided to blow up all the damn food. Sure a few Lannister soldiers were turned to ash in the bargain, but with the Long Night coming and an army of soldier and horses to feed, that food would was worth its weight in gold.

This scene was brilliantly shot with the Dothraki putting the Charge of the Rohirrim to shame. Somehow both Bronn, Dickon and Jaime manage to dodge the enemy forces and the dragon fire to set up this week’s cliffhanger ending. With brother Tyrion looking on from a nearby hill, Jaime sees Dany on the ground tending to the spear in Drogon’s shoulder that came courtesy of the Scorpion and Bronn’s good aim. He takes up a spear and charges toward Dany, hoping to end the war right then and there. Unfortunately for him, Drogon notices the charge and lines Jaime up for flame broiling. Bronn jumps in at the last minute, knocks Jaime off his horse and into the river, which is a good news/bad news situation. Good news is that Jaime isn’t on fire. Bad news is that Jaime might drown because he fell in deep water wearing heavy armor. We’ll see how it all shakes out next week.

Deep Thoughts

Mere hours after the airing of this episode, there’s already raging debate on where this episode fits into the pantheon of best episodes in the series’ history. Don’t get me wrong, this was a solid episode top to bottom, the scene with Theon was really the only “Yeah, whatever” moment in the whole fifty minutes.

As much as I liked “Spoils of War,” it didn’t surpass episodes like “Rains of Castamere,” “Hardhome,” or the final two episodes of last season: “Battle of the Bastards” and “The Winds of Winter.” And as good as this hour was, it might not even best episode of the season before all is said and done. However, hats off to director Matt Shakman and writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss for making a damn fine hour of TV that left everybody wanting more.


Craig Wack

For a weekly discussion of comic book TV shows please join Craig Wack and Tatiana Torres for the Agents of GEEK podcast updated every Friday and now on iTunes

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