GoT S7E4 review | Sorry to spoil your heist, said War

Daenerys Targaryen has finally drawn some blood in the War for the Iron Throne against Cersei Lannister. | Dwarak Bharadwaj  

Yes, I know it’s annoying when a reviewer keeps trying to read between a TV show’s lines and harping on its subtextual morals and maxims. But you’re blaming the wrong guy. Please direct all your grievances to the showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who can’t seem to be able to shoot a single episode without packing it with meaning and fodder for analysis. Disclaimer issued. Although, this time, they said subtext be damned, let’s just make the characters speak the truth out loud.

They can’t even leave the episode title alone. ‘The Spoils of War’ is so tongue-in-cheek, it makes Ramsay Bolton look like a fool for trying. You’d think ‘the spoils’ are to be enjoyed and basked in. Think again; it’s GoT. That which is plundered is never safe, blares the subtext as Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) opens the door of a wagon filled with gold biscuits and dumps a saddlebag in Bronn’s (Jerome Flynn) hands as payment (a saddlebag that, by the end of the episode, is lying abandoned with its contents scattered across a bed of charred grass under a murky ash cloud). The air is thick with smoke and irony when, after telling Bronn “The more you own, the more it weighs you down”, Jaime goes on to sink to the bottom of a river under the weight of his own heavy armour. Bronn (who, I can’t tell if that’s his tongue in his cheek or a perennial bruise from being a sellsword under Lannister pay) retorts by asking Jaime if his newly plundered riches are why he’s been looking so glum lately. Moral delivered, character flaw called out.

But you’ve got to love the stone-faced ‘idiot’ Jaime. When he sees a Targaryen to impale when they aren’t looking, he just can’t help himself. Even if it means riding full pelt towards a fully-grown dragon. Or maybe he gets off on owing more and more of his life to Bronn, who I’m guessing is the flash valiant horseman that intervenes, in the last nanosecond, between Jaime’s insanity and his incineration. Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) can afford to lose the foodgrain wagons to dragonfire now that she’s got the gold from Highgarden, but she’d crumble without her brother, militarily and emotionally, no?

The whole Dothraki ambush of the Lannister army is a masterfully-shot sequence that rivals the Battle of the Bastards or Hardhome for the sheer number of filmmaking manoeuvres ticked — whether the reeling tracking-shot single take of Bronn staggering through utter wartime chaos, which was reminiscent of the confused brawl that almost suffocates Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) on Winterfell’s plains, or the wide-angles to capture Jaime’s flight path across the battlefield, or the head-to-torso-shots of Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) muttering admonishments to his lunging brother, or the swirling aerial shots of Drogon piercing his way through the skies and skimming the river’s surface on a low cruise, or the close-ups of Bronn’s crows-feet as he locks and loads Qyburn’s (Anton Lesser) ‘Scorpion’ ballista.

Give us more of Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) duelling, please, fans cry out as I try to tell them it’s not really a duel if a teenager is trouncing a giantess wielding a broadsword with a couple of clinical swishes of a ‘Needle’. Surely, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) ought to have been more open-mouthed and flabbergasted at Arya’s stupendous skill, parrying and striking with the fluidity of a water-demon, than a banal “Who taught you to fight like that?” And there’s something brewing in Sansa Stark's (Sophie Turner) head, though it isn’t clear why her face clouds over as she watches the duel from the balustrade. Is she getting a flashback of the insecurity she perhaps felt when Arya would eclipse her as kids? Or is that a hint of a threat she senses from Arya’s formidability in light of their lukewarm past relationship? Or is she worried of Littlefinger’s (Aiden Gillen) influence on her little tomboy sister?

Sansa certainly is concerned about Petyr Baelish’s influence on her little brother Brandon Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright), the new resident crippled zombie of Winterfell. The scenes between Bran and Littlefinger are going to be packed with intrigue, the latter trying to sidle up to the former and the former now no longer ‘the former’. See what I mean? That’s how annoying it is to hear Bran talk in three-eyed tongues these days. But he’s now officially the Oracle Sansa needs (and Peter needs to keep close, although how you corrupt an omniscient bloke is beyond me) to fight her her battles in his mind. She seems too unnerved by his glazed eyes at the moment, though. Arya, though, who has tasted (no, been stabbed by) the metaphysical herself, perhaps not so much.

You get a warm feeling when Arya on horseback surveys the ramparts of her home, finally within sight. From the start of the series, the Winterfell Wolves have forever been Fate’s scapegoat, always being made an example of for their stupid morality and rectitude. What has gone around, though, is now coming around. For all Stark fans, this episode is a sigh of relief and promise — Arya, Sansa and Bran are a formidable brood, combining stealth, statecraft, and Sight. And then there’s the strong-willed Jon, whose fundamental credo Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) wants to suppress in exchange for her support in the War with the Undead. Typical Stark scenario. No wonder he’s always staring off into the horizon.

But, I wish I could understand Dany’s newfound insistence on fealty from Jon. Has she succumbed to the notion that politics and feudalism are the only way to win the war in Westeros, after all her braggadocio about ‘breaking the wheel’? I mean, she looked pretty swayed by the ‘evidence’ Jon showed her of the Whitewalkers, as daubed on  the rocky walls of the Dragonglass cave by  the First Men. Or maybe it was just the background soundtrack that swayed her (Sidebar — Ramin Djawadi feels like an invisible character in the show, his presence suffusing the scenes, making the mundane feel momentous, the eventful feel exciting, the silences feel significant. Three heart-tugging mentions from this episode: the happily resigned chord as Brienne controls the urge to say “I’m not a Lady”, amid psychedelic floating sleet, for the seventeen-thousandth time; the python of a cello snaking its way through the Dragonglass cave under Jon’s torchlight; and the pulsating strings that hold Jaime, Tyrion, and the besieged Drogon in a pregnant suspended tension that is quite Hans Zimmer-ish).

Either way, Dany’s profound comprehending expression devolves once again into the firm demand that Jon ‘bend the knee’. That said, I think Jon will prove to be a useful ally and advisor, it appears, providing the pragmatic ice to Dany’s virulent fire. After all, it’s his single piece of moderation that has resulted in the Dragon Queen’s first success in the war since landing on the continent. Take that, Tyrion, you bona-fide Lannister subconsciously unwilling to cause harm to your family to the point that I suspect you’re having Dany on with all your deliberately ineffectual ‘clever plans’. And by the way, did I catch you egging Jaime on with a “Hurry, you idiot [kill Daenerys while she is still distracted by the spear lodged in Drogon]”, or was it just a poorly enunciated pitying “Oh, you idiot!”?

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