With the battles heating up in more ways than one, Game of Thrones unleashes all hell.
With last week’s episode bringing us the first meeting of two major characters, the once expansive world of Westeros is starting to feel much smaller as the focus is now primarily on Daenerys Targaryen’s attempts at taking the Iron Throne, and the Lannisters who stand in her way.
Warning: spoilers throughout this review.
Little time is spent with Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) this week, save for one scene of her conversing with Tycho (Mark Gatiss), the representative of the Iron Bank. Cersei reassures him that the Lannister’s will repay their debts, citing the familiar motto of the family in question once again. Once the debt is paid in full, Tycho says the bank will be willing to issue a new loan in order to help Cersei expand her armies. There isn’t too much in this scene, but it is perhaps hinted at that the Lannister’s are not as strong as they pretend to be, and will heavily rely on others if their claim to the throne is to gain any momentum.
Up to his usual creepy ways, Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) presents the equally austere Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) with the Valyrian steel dagger that was used in an attempt to kill him. Whilst the other Starks might not fully see Littlefinger’s motives at present, the three eyes of Bran see all, and there is a wonderful call-back to an earlier remark made by Baelish to Varys way back in season 3, that “chaos is a ladder”. Whilst there is a reason to Bran being so aloof, his scenes in this season so far have been a little frustrating. The Stark reunion has been devoid of the emotion that perhaps we wanted, but Bran’s part to play is still an important one.
There is however more joy to be had with other Starks as Arya (Maisie Williams) arrives back home to be reunited with her sister, Sansa (Sophie Turner). They share a touching moment in the tombs beneath Winterfell, and kudos to the score used when Arya first sees Winterfell as well; it’s a really lovely moment. The inevitable Bran and Arya first meeting is as frosty as the perpetual snow of Winterfell, and she is particularly alarmed to find out he knows about her kill list. He gives her the Valyrian steel dagger however, believing it will be of more use to her than it is to him.
It’s not long before we get to see this dagger in action, as Arya requests to spar with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie). Despite an almost comical difference in size, Arya is not to be messed with and her many years out in the wilds have made her a worthy opponent to Brienne. The fight choreography has to be commended in this scene as it is absolutely fantastic. Whilst you know (or at least hope) that neither will get hurt, it’s nevertheless thrilling to watch.
Fans hoping for “Jonerys” in this episode might be a little disappointed, but regardless there is still a definite spark there, despite the vast differences between Jon (Kit Harington) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). Jon shows her the mine of Dragonglass underneath the castle, and the carvings on the walls, showing the Children of the Forest and the First Men uniting to fight together against the White Walkers. Daenerys vows to fight for the North, but still on the condition that Jon bends the knee.
The highlight at Dragonstone this week was arguably the subtle call-back to Stannis correcting Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham) on the proper use of “less” and “fewer” way back in Season 2, as the tables turn and Ser Davos corrects Jon Snow on his improper use of the phrase. Subtle but brilliant, and the interactions between these two characters continue to be great.
Upon hearing that the Unsullied’s attempts at taking Casterly Rock had not been too successful, Daenerys asks Jon for his counsel. Remarking that burning King’s Landing would make her no different to previous rulers of the Seven Kingdoms, there is still that overriding sense of the differences between the two and their styles of leadership, plus that quiet, nagging thought that perhaps Daenerys isn’t too different from her “Mad King” Father.
Later, we see Theon (Alfie Allen) and some of the Greyjoy survivors wash up at Dragonstone. Far from a happy reunion, Jon confronts Theon and insists the only reason he is still alive is that he helped to save Sansa. Hopefully we’ll see some more interesting scenes for Theon as this season progresses, as his arc has been a bit of a damp squib recently…in more ways than one! Theon requests the help of the Queen to rescue Yara but is informed that she is no longer at Dragonstone.
On the Roseroad
The Lannisters are on the move from Highgarden back to King’s Landing, having taken their supplies of gold and food. It’s great to see Bronn (Jerome Flynn) back on the screen, and his bickering with Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), plus his mockery of a soldier with the name of “Dickon” is a delight.
As they approach King’s Landing however, there is a rumble in the distance and dark clouds forming. Game of Thrones always does foreshadowing excellently, although not exactly subtly, and the armies get into formation accordingly. The Dothraki horde appear over the horizon and lead the charge, closely followed by Daenerys astride Drogon. Despite the fact we as the audience can see this attack coming a mile away, it is still utterly thrilling to see the huge dragon emerge from the clouds, and effects wise the beast looks fantastic as well. Uttering those immortal words “Dracarys”, Daenerys and Drogon torch the Lannister armies and wreak general havoc. Game of Thrones has given us a plethora of incredible battle scenes over the last seven seasons, and this one is easily able to stand up there with “Hardhome” and “The Battle of the Bastards” in terms of its visual spectacle. There is a shot of the dragon torching a long line of Lannister wagons that is perhaps one of the most stunning the series has ever given us.
Failing to bring Drogon down, Jaime instructs Bronn to find Qyburn’s weapon that he had previously unveiled to Cersei in the depths of King’s Landing. Bronn is able to wound Drogon with the weapon, and Daenerys is forced to dismount. Seeing his opportunity to kill her, Jaime rides towards her, however Drogon shields her and Jaime is almost burnt to a crisp before Bronn dives in at the last minute. The episode ends with Jaime sinking to the bottom of the river, his armour weighing him down, and his fate in the balance.
Despite being the shortest Game of Thrones episode ever, there is so much action and development packed into it that you’ll barely stop for breath. That final battle warrants a second viewing as well, as it really is quite something!