We open on the Lannister army marching through the fields of the Reach. Jaime opens a wagon crammed full of gold bars, and pulls out a bag of coins to hand to Bronn.
Apparently, Bronn is still relevant. Who knew?
Bronn comments on Jaime’s sulky face. “You just won the biggest prize in the world. What could you possibly have to be upset about?”
IDK, Bronn, maybe his crappy writing and lack of character development?
And oh my god, Jaime is wearing that lion shoulder armor again. Let’s pause to appreciate it one more time.
WHY IS IT SO FUNNY??
Bronn asks Jaime for his prize for helping, and Jaime points out that he just handed him a crapload of money. “It’s not a castle,” Bronn says. Maybe he could have Highgarden! But Jaime disagrees. He says Dany could show up to take it back at any time. “Besides,” he adds. “Think of the upkeep. The more you own, the more it weighs you down.” After Game of Thrones finishes, Jaime is going to get his own spin-off show, teaching people the value of minimalism. Marie Kondo is quaking in her boots.
Bronn is still insistent that Highgarden sparks joy for him, so he wants to keep it, but they’re interrupted by the Tarlys riding up. They’re collecting the current harvest from all the farms in the Reach, which is an effective way of hampering an army marching against them, but might be something of a problem if, say, someone were to attack the convoy, for example with fire. Just a thought.
Meanwhile, in Winterfell, Littlefinger is bothering someone other than Sansa for once. He hands Bran the dagger the assassin tried to kill him with all the way back in season one. Littlefinger somehow manages to make it all about Catelyn, and so all about him, saying he would have stopped the dagger that killed Catelyn with his own heart if he could. Believe me, Littlefinger, I wish you could have done that as well. “I wasn’t there for her when she needed me most,” he says. “But I am here for her now.”
Which makes me wonder — was Littlefinger involved in the Red Wedding? Did he know it was happening?
Either way, Littlefinger is here now, and he’s going to do what Catelyn can’t, and protect her children. Sure, dude. He might as well have saved his speech-making breath, because Bran just stares at the dagger, ignoring him. “Do you know who this belonged to?” he asks. That’s the question that started the war, Littlefinger says, and starts expositioning his way through Bran’s backstory, while Bran just stares and stares at the dagger.
Littlefinger either doesn’t notice that Bran is ignoring him, or is desperately trying not to care. Trust me, he says, to the psychic Stark. And what exactly is he trying to do here? Is he trying to get in with Bran because he thinks Bran’s the power in Winterfell now? Or is he somehow trying to drive a wedge between Bran and Sansa for his own creepy ends? “To go through all that and make your way home again,” he says, “only to find such chaos…”
Bran looks up, straight into the camera. “Chaos is a ladder,” he says. YES, Bran! Freak him out! Use your powers of creepiness for good! Unfortunately, we don’t get even get a chance for Littlefinger to fully realize what Bran is doing, because they’re interrupted by Meera.
After Littlefinger leaves, Meera struggles to speak, but Bran has no such problems. “You’re leaving,” he says. Meera says she doesn’t want to, but she needs to be with her family, and since Bran doesn’t need her any more…
“No,” he says, “I don’t.”
“That’s all you’ve got to say?” Meera asks. “Thank you,” he adds, in his emotionless monotone. “For helping me.”
She steps closer. “My brother died for you,” she says. “Hodor and Summer died for you. I almost died for you. Bran–” But he interrupts her. He’s not really Bran, he says. Not any more.
Well, the three-eyed raven is too long to type every other sentence, Bran, so I’m going to stick with your original name for now.
“I remember what it felt like to be Brandon Stark,” he says. “But I remember so much else now.” On the one hand, that’s really sad. Bran’s newfound creepiness isn’t his fault, even if some of the creepy things he did last season (*cough*warging into Hodor*cough*) were. But on the other hand, if he can see all of time, shouldn’t he understand people better? He’s superior to pesky human things like emotions now, but this could easily have been done another way, with him being sympathetic and understanding, instead of distant and creepy.
“You died in that cave,” Meera says, crying. Bran’s face remains blank. He says nothing as she leaves. But when he finally looks away, there’s more emotion in his expression than we’ve seen all season. He looks almost teary, like he would have tears in his eyes if he was physically capable of feeling an emotion that strong. And that’s pretty heartbreaking too.
Outside Winterfell, Arya approaches through the snow. She stops at a distance, looking at the home she hasn’t seen for so many years. The last living Stark, finally returned. But when she gets to the gates, the guards tell her to get lost. They laugh at the idea that she could be Arya Stark, since Arya is dead and all. Arya eventually convinces them to let her wait in the courtyard, and she takes it all in, the castle, the direwolf banners, before vanishing from sight.
Sansa finds Arya down in the crypts, staring at the statue of their father. “Do I have to call you Lady Stark now?” Arya asks, which… awkward. “Yes,” Sansa says. They look at each other for a long moment, and then Sansa runs up and hugs Arya close. Sansa looks overjoyed, while Arya… well, Arya looks like my cat looks when I give her a hug.
Sansa and Arya talk, but it’s full of long, awkward pauses. Sansa hopes Jon returns soon, and I can’t help thinking that’s partly because he’d be able to fill the silences. “I remember how happy he was to see me. When he sees you, his heart will probably stop.” I kind of love how this scene combines Sansa’s genuine joy at seeing her sister alive with the fact that they never got along at all, and Sansa and Arya have grown even more different since they last saw one another. They’re not exactly going to have an easy rapport.
Arya looks back at the statue. “It doesn’t look like him,” she says. “It should have been carved by someone who knew his face.” “Everyone who knew his face is dead,” Sansa points out, which is pretty bleak. Arya notes that they’re not dead, but neither of them have any skill as sculptors, so I’m not sure that helps.
Arya asks Sansa if she really killed Joffrey. I guess she thinks murder might be the one thing they can bond over. “I wish I had,” Sansa says.
“I was angry when I heard someone else had done it,” Arya says. “However long my list got, he was always first.” Arya, your creepiness is showing. “Your list?” Sansa asks, and Arya happily replies: “Of people I’m going to kill,” she says.
I’m watching this on Amazon Video, and it’s kind enough to have a pop-up here to remind me of who’s left on that list: Cersei, Melissandre, Thoros of Myr, Beric Dondarrion, Ilyn Payne, The Hound and the Mountain. TV Arya is way more bloodthirsy than book Arya. I can’t even remember why the Brotherhood are on there.
Sansa laughs at Arya’s statement, because of course it has to be a joke, and Arya laughs too, like she did with the Lannister soldiers, when she told them she was going to kill Cersei. Arya jumps forward and hugs Sansa properly, and I have to wonder if this is acting, like Sansa failed a test by laughing and so now she gets what Arya thinks she wants to see while Arya privately schemes.
Sansa tells Arya that Bran is home too, and now Arya really does grin, but her smile fades when she sees the expression on Sansa’s face.
Sansa and Arya approach Bran in the godswood. “You came home,” he says to Arya, and she runs up and hugs him super tight. “I saw you at the crossroads,” he says. “I see quite a lot now.” Sansa explains that he has visions, because you can’t possibly expect Bran to explain anything to anyone. “I thought you might go to King’s Landing,” Bran says, and Sansa wonders why on earth Arya would ever go back there. “Cersei’s on her list of names,” Bran says, and Sansa pauses as she realizes her sister wasn’t even slightly kidding, and god knows what Arya has become. “Who else is on your list?” she asks her sister. “Most of them are dead already,” Arya replies, which is not that comforting.
Together, they head back into Winterfell, and Brienne spots them. “Catelyn Stark would be proud,” Podrick unnaturally expositions. “You kept your vow.” Brienne insists she did next to nothing, but then thanks him.
To Dragonstone! Dany still hasn’t had any updates on the Unsullied. She walks along the beach with Jon Snow, towards a huge split in the rock. “I wanted you to see it before we started hacking it to bits,” Jon says. He leads her through, and Dany gasps at the cavern of dragonglass. “There’s something else I want to show you, Your Grace,” Jon says. I bet you would, Jon.
He leads her deeper into the caverns and shows her etchings on the stone, made by the Children of the Forest, a very long time again. She gapes at them. “They were right here,” she says, “standing where we’re standing.” And this is the Dany I like, the Dany that has been missing from her strategy meetings and encounters with potential allies. This is a Dany with actual, honest emotion and vulnerability. “Before there were Targaryens or Starks or Lannisters,” she says. “Maybe even before there were men.”
But that’s where she’s wrong. Jon shows her some more cave drawings, these ones of people. “They were here together, the Children and the First Men.” Dany wonders what they were doing, and Jon gives her this look, like, “I know what I want to be doing, if you know what I mean.” He smoothly reaches over and grabs her wrist, leading her elsewhere. “They fought together,” he says, “against their common enemy.”
This time, he shows her etchings of White Walkers. Dany looks distressed, like… shit, man, they must be real, even though she doesn’t actually know what White Walkers are supposed to look like. “Despite their differences,” Jon continues, “despite their suspicions. Together.” She looks at him like you are so unsubtle, and Jon says this proves the enemy has always been real.
Or maybe Jon is just a dab hand with some cave paints.
Dany and Jon stare at each other for a long moment. “And you say you can’t defeat them without my armies and my dragons?” she says. “No,” he agrees. “I don’t think I can.” She walks slowly towards him. “I will fight for you,” she says. “I will fight for the North.” And for a moment, it looks like Jon might grab her and kiss her, until she adds, “When you bend the knee.”
Jon insists that the North won’t accept a southern ruler, and Dany steps closer still. “They will if their king does,” she says, in a trembling voice, and I’m left wondering how we got from all that weird politicking to this kinda tension in the space of an episode? What has been going on off-screen?? I feel like we missed too much development here.
Either way, the two of them walk out together, so close they could be holding hands. Tyrion and Varys are waiting for them. We don’t see them explain to Dany what happened in Highgarden. We just see her storming off down the beach, all fury. Davos tries to give her some good advice, but Dany is too angry to listen. “All my allies are gone. They’ve been taken from me while I’ve been sitting on this island.” I guess her cautious approach is over.
Tyrion tells her to commit to blockading King’s Landing, and she turns her fury on him. “Your strategy lost us Dorne, the Iron Islands and the Reach.” And again, even though I know this is a version of Dany some people find unlikeable, I really love this version of her. Sure, she’s fiery and vindictive and possibly acting irrationally, but we’re seeing real emotion from her.
Dany looks out over the sea, at her dragons. “Enough with the clever plans,” she says, and I wonder if she’s remembering Olenna Tyrell from two episodes ago, who said she survived so long by ignoring clever men, and who is now dead because Dany listened one. “I have three large dragons. I’m going to fly them to the Red Keep.”
“We’ve discussed this,” Tyrion says, but she interrupts him again. “My enemies are in the Red Keep. What kind of queen am I if I’m not willing to risk my life to fight them?” Tyrion says she’d be a smart one, so she turns to Jon instead, and asks him what he thinks she should do.
Jon goes back to his awkward foot shuffling from last week for a moment, before giving her a dose of honesty. “The people that follow you know you made something impossible happen. Maybe that helps them believe that you can make other impossible things happen. Build a world that’s different from the shit one they’ve always known. But if you use them to melt castles and burn cities, you’re not different. You’re just more of the same.”
Dany takes that in, looking out at her dragons again.
And we jump back to Winterfell, where Brienne and Podrick are sparring. Arya approaches, wearing her own new badass Winterfell-style coat.
On the ramparts above, Sansa pauses, looking down at them.
“It’s been a while since I trained,” Arya says to Brienne. Brienne offers to fetch the master of arms, but Arya stops her. “He didn’t beat the Hound,” she says. “You did.” She points out that Brienne swore to serve both of Catelyn’s daughters, and Sansa still stands above them, looking stricken. Stricken because… Brienne is talking to Arya and might fight for her too?? That doesn’t make any sense.
Arya and Brienne fight, and Arya dodges every blow. Brienne finally gets a hit in, kicking Arya in the chest and sending her flying. Brienne looks concerned for a moment, until Arya flips to her feet, sword ready. And so they fight on, while pirate-y music plays.
They get their blades to each other’s throats at the same moment, both grinning. “Who taught you how to do that?” Brienne wonders. “No one,” Arya says.
Brienne looks up at Sansa, and Sansa looks troubled and walks off. And still I’m confused. Is she troubled by Arya’s skill, wondering where she learned to be such a murder machine? Or is she supposed to be jealous of Brienne? Arya looks up too and stares straight at Littlefinger. He gives her his little head-nod-bow, but she just narrows her eyes at him.
Back on Dragonstone, Davos and Jon are walking the walls. “What do you think of her?” Davos asks him. Jon pretends he doesn’t know who he’s talking about, but Davos won’t take that BS. “I believe you know of whom I speak,” he says. Jon says she has a good heart. “I’ve noticed you staring at her good heart,” Davos says, and YES, Davos is the best!
Jon tries to act like Davos is so off-base. He’s way too busy thinking about the Night King to possibly think about Dany like that! “How many men do we have in the North to fight him? 10,000? Less?”
“Fewer,” Davos corrects, because Davos is truly a gift this season. They approach Missandei. She asks Jon to clarify why his surname is Snow instead of Stark, telling them that the concept of marriage doesn’t exist where she’s from.
Jon asks why she left her homeland, and she says she was stolen away by slavers. Dany bought her from her master and set her free. “That was good of her,” Davos says. “Of course, you’re serving her now, aren’t you?” Missandei disagrees. “I serve my queen because I want to serve my queen,” she says. “Because I believe in her.”
“And if you wanted to sail home to Narth tomorrow…” Jon asks. “Then she would give me a ship and wish me good fortune,” Missandei says. Jon asks if she really believes that, and she says she knows it, in a tone that clearly says fight me, bitch. She says Dany is the queen they all chose.
They spot an approaching Greyjoy ship, and head down onto the beach in time to see Theon coming ashore. He and Jon approach each other slowly. “Sansa,” Theon asks. “Is she all right?” Jon grabs him by the throat and pulls him close. “What you did for her is the only reason I’m not killing you,” he says, which is pretty fair, tbh.
Theon says he came to ask the queen to help him get his sister back, but Jon says she’s gone. And…. wait. When did this happen?? When was it decided she was leaving? I thought Jon persuaded her to stay?
“Where did she go?” Theon asks, giving the show the perfect segue to the Reach, where Bronn and Jaime are all relaxed with their men. All the gold is safely through the gates in King’s Landing, and they comment that the army is spread too thin, before Jaime rides up to Dickon Tarly.
“I hear you fought valiantly at Highgarden,” Jaime says. “Your first battle?” Dickon nods. “And?” Jaime prompts. “It was glorious,” Dickon says, not at all convincingly. “Come on,” Bronn says. “Your father’s not here.” They convince Dickon to be honest — he knew some of those men, and he’s disturbed by the whole thing. Jaime agrees they didn’t deserve to die, but it was Lady Olenna’s fault, not his.
Bronn suddenly holds up a hand. “Listen,” he says. For a moment, I don’t hear it. Then it’s there — marching feet, or maybe… galloping horses? The Lannisters spring into action. They form a shield wall, while the camera lingers on the empty horizon, the hooffalls getting louder and louder. And slowly, they appear on the horizon, a huge long line of them, like this is The Lord of the Rings and King Theodin is about to give them a speech about the red dawn. It’s the screaming Dothraki, and they vastly outnumber the Lannisters.
Dickon looks terrified, and I kind of wish they hadn’t just spent time humanising him, because damn, now I’ll feel bad for him when he dies. He doesn’t have plot armor like Jaime does. He’s a goner for sure.
Bronn rides up to Jaime and tells him to get back to King’s Landing, which is a higher level of concern than I’d expect from Bronn, but I guess he’s still yet to get that castle. Jaime refuses to abandon his army. He insists they can hold them off.
And here’s Drogon again with that comedy timing. He interrupts Jaime with a roar, and Jaime turns and frowns at the horzion as a HUGE FUCKING DRAGON swoops into view.
I didn’t realize the dragons had got that big.
The music turns epic and Lords of the Rings-y AF, as we zoom in on Dany, riding on Drogon’s back, looking furious and determined.
I’ve got to say, we’re lucky to live in a TV age where they can make a dragon happen. Even if Drogon’s head is kind of comically small compared to the rest of his body.
Dany looks at the line of soldiers and says, “Dracarys.”
We get a close up of a trembling soldier’s face, before Drogon swoops down and lets loose with his fire, scorching the whole line of men away.
What was even the point of the Dothraki army, Dany? To give yourself some fanfare?
And holy shit, it is utter destruction. The camera really lingers on the Lannister men as they writhe and scream and fall to the ground. Dany does not come across as the good guy here. I guess this is another reason we had the Arya and Lannister interlude in episode one. Some of those characters are probably here, burning.
Then the Dothraki ride screaming through the flames, trampling over the charred bodies of Lannister men. The nearby Lannister army freaks out and runs for it, because of course they do.
Jaime is behind another group, yelling at them to hold the line. I feel really bad for this lot. It’s much harder for them to run and save themselves with Jaime standing right there. Holding the line is useless. They’re either going to die facing the Dothraki or die running, but if they run, at least some of them have a chance of surviving and avoiding dragon fire.
The Dothraki quickly break through the line, and it’s a bloody, fiery mess. I’m not really looking at the screen, because my stomach is too weak for this stuff, although I do notice that Jaime is just sitting there on his horse, doing nothing. And like, I guess there’s not much he can do. But then why didn’t he leave?
Dany looks down at them all from Drogon, her face still set in determination and anger. For someone who said she didn’t want to rule over the ashes, she certainly doesn’t look bothered by all the destruction. She rains down fire and death.
“Archers!!” Jaime yells, but what’s the point?? They shoot at Drogon, but the arrows just bounce off him, and Dany burns yet more men. Finally, Jaime remembers that special dragon-slaying weapon that Qyburn invented, the scorpion. He can’t shoot it with one hand, so Bronn will have to do it. Meanwhile, Jaime finally jumps into battle, despite his lack of skill fighting with his left hand. He gets into trouble almost immediately, and is saved by Dickon.
Yup, Dickon is so gonna die.
A Dothraki rider cuts the leg off Bronn’s galloping horse, which I shouldn’t focus on when all these people are dying horribly in dragon fire, but… poor horse. Bronn crashes to the ground, his gold going flying, and he considers going after it for a moment before realizing that he can’t spend it if he’s killed by dragon fire. He has to get to the scorpion. He crashes into someone who is literally engulfed in flames, as the Dothraki man chases him, although I have no idea why the Dothraki is fixated on him. He doesn’t know Bronn’s goal. He sees Bronn enter a cart, and he pulls open the material at the back, grinning, to find himself faced with the scorpion.
His resulting death is a little bit overkill, to say the least.
Bronn prepares the weapon, and suddenly I’m torn. On the one hand, this is carnage, but having watched the dragons grow from the beginning, along with Dany’s journey, I don’t want Drogon to get hurt.
From a distance, Tyrion watches the chaos, and you can see his face as he thinks that maybe, just maybe, he made a mistake supporting Dany and her dragons. He looks heartbroken and horrified as he takes in the destruction.
Jaime is still among the flames, and it’s a miracle he survived until now. He yells at his men to take cover as Drogon swoops past again, like hiding before a wooden cart will help protect anyone from dragon fire.
The scorpion is ready to fire. The first bolt flies past Drogon, and Dany looks pissed. She flies straight for him as Bronn reloads. “Dracarys,” she says, just as Bronn shoots. He hits Drogon in the neck, and Drogon squeals like an injured dog. Drogon falls, and Bronn laughs in triumph, but an injured dragon is still a dragon. Drogon pulls out of his dive directly in front of Bronn and his now-unarmed scorpion. The spear looks absolutely tiny compared to the rest of him. Bronn manages to dive away just in time, as Drogon dracarys-s this super special dragon slaying weapon into ash.
Then Drogon crashes to the ground. Dany jumps down to look at the spear as he struggles. Jaime watches as she tries to pull the spear free, and Drogon screams.
At a distance, Tyrion watches Jaime, still unburnt, on horseback. “Flee, you idiot,” he says. But Jaime’s sick of being mocked for his uselessness, so he does what any sane man would do. He grabs a spear and charges at a fucking dragon.
Oh, Jaime. You’re so dumb.
He charges, and I have to admit, this shot is gorgeous, with the horse reflected in the water and the fire burning behind him. “You fucking idiot,” Tyrion says, speaking for everyone. Dany turns around to look at him, before Drogon reaches his neck around her, roaring. You can see the exact moment Jaime goes “oh shit.”
Drogon wouldn’t even need his fire breath. Jaime’s going to gallop straight into his mouth. But at the last moment, someone — Bronn? — dives for Jaime, knocking him into the water just before Drogon’s fire is unleashed. RIP Jaime’s horse. You did not deserve to die because of his idiocy.
And that’s the end of the episode! WHAT A RIDE. That final sequence was amazing. GIVE ME EPISODE FIVE, RIGHT NOW!
But thinking about that last scene… Dany is the villain here, right? I mean, I empathise with her, because we’ve seen her journey since the beginning, and she thinks she’s using her dragons for a just cause, but… she just incinerated an entire army, and the show was eager to show us how brutal the reality of that is. She couldn’t be less in the right. She and Cersei both burned a mix of horrible people and innocent people in their quest for revenge and for the throne.
Meanwhile, we’ve got this weird set-up of tension between Arya and Sansa. I know vaguely how Littlefinger’s story ends this season, so it’s hard to comment on this based solely on this episode, but… there isn’t really a convincing setup of why Sansa would be jealous of Arya. Sansa has got way more important things to worry about. It’d be a huge change in her character for her to sulk cos Brienne is sparring with her. On the other hand, if she’s concerned about Arya’s murder skills and what must have happened for her to acquire her… I can get behind that. That’s an interesting thread, so we’ll see where it goes. But jealousy? Hmm.
Next week, we’ll find out if Jaime survived his dive into the lake (of course he did. He’s not going out by random drowning), and see if Littlefinger even dares to try and weasel his way in with Arya. I’d assume not, because she’s terrifying, but he’s pretty dumb. Join me next Sunday to find out!