Game of Thrones is the greatest show ever to grace your TV screen. If you doubted that before now, I’d like to admit The Spoils of War into evidence. This mid-season episode was one of the most spectacular hours of television I have ever seen. From start to finish, this episode was an encapsulation of everything that makes this show great: Brilliant performances, great political machinations, and, of course, an unbelievably intense battle.
This episode, like the others from this season, jumped around Westeros and followed many plotlines throughout. This one had major moments at Winterfell, with the Stark children reuniting at Dragonstone with Jon and Dany, and, of course, on the road between High Garden and Kings Landing. It was an incredibly complete episode that encapsulated everything we wanted to see and primed us effectively to press forward into the back half of the season.
What really stood out to me here were the performances, especially by everyone at Winterfell. What felt strange and off-putting with the reunion between Bran and Sansa last week was explained and redeemed by the brilliant work the three Stark children, Bran, Sansa, and Arya, do in this episode. This is the first time I really started to feel the emotional excitement of seeing these three kids back together after they each went through hell. We also see brilliant reactions from everyone else about these kids. Aiden Gillen’s Littlefinger is especially focal in this respect as he tries to dig his talons into Bran and Sansa and gets nowhere, and then has a brilliant reaction to seeing how powerful and deadly Arya is when she is training with Brienne. It seems like he is doing some recalculations and I can’t wait to see where his machinations go.
On top of the performance work, this episode showed off the intelligence of this show. The politicking in this episode was clever, purposeful, and interesting. Even if we didn’t get the battle at the end, this episode had so much great drama to chew on that it would still have been an excellent episode. Whether it was the tense machinations going on at Winterfell, the earnest attempts of Jon and Dany to convince each other to serve the other’s cause, or Cersei’s manipulation of the representative of the Iron Bank, there are levels in this episode in the on-screen occurrences. Off-screen, however, the events of the episode also raise a lot of questions about next steps and, as a viewer who doesn’t enjoy speculation, I found myself drawn to it because it was impossible to not think about.
Now that I’ve sufficiently buried the lead, I have to discuss the majesty that was the battle at the end. Seeing the Lannister army fight the Dothraki for the first time in seven seasons would have been sufficient. Really, any clash between the Lannisters and Dany’s forces would have been enough. But, to see the Dothraki and a dragon decimate the opposing Lannister army was more than I could have ever hoped or asked for. We finally get to understand the power that the dragons have and the devastation Dany could really reap upon Westeros if she chooses to use her weapons of mass destruction. There were many elements of this battle that were great, and we definitely haven’t seen the end of the fallout from this as we not only saw a massive destruction of food, but also the wounding of a dragon and the narrow, possible, escape of Jaime and Bronn. This battle, like the Battle of the Bastards, was cinematic in every possible way. We’re getting movie quality work on TV every week and that needs to be appreciated more than it is.
There is basically nothing bad I have to say about this episode. As a geography nerd, I suppose it was bothersome that the Targaryen army reached the Lannister army as fast as they did. Perhaps I could also complain about the forced romantic angle between Dany and Jon. But those are small, insignificant nitpicks in what was a spectacular episode in every sense of that word. Game of Thrones is must watch television and this episode is a perfect example of why.
Ryan’s Score: 10/10