Running shy of 55 minutes, ‘Game of Thrones’ clocks in with a surprisingly short episode this week. It nevertheless turns out to be a momentous one that won’t soon be forgotten.
The representative from the Iron Bank is very impressed with Cersei’s ability to promptly pay off all her debts, if disappointed at not being able to collect interest off them any longer. He pledges the bank’s support for her future endeavors… as soon as the gold arrives. This is good news for the queen.
Littlefinger offers Bran a gift of the dagger that almost killed him back in Season 1. He lies and says that he doesn’t know its original owner. (It was his, but he previously claimed that Tyrion won it off him in a bet.) Although he tries to ingratiate himself with Bran further by insisting that he feels an obligation to protect Catelyn’s children, Bran remains cold and dispassionate throughout their conversation. Littlefinger serves up a platitude about Bran surviving so much chaos, to which Bran tosses back “Chaos is a ladder,” a line which Baelish himself delivered in a private conversation with Varys back in Season 3.
Before Littlefinger can grasp the impact of that, their talk is interrupted by Meera. Now that Bran has a fancy new wheelchair and is probably as safe as he’s ever going to be, she needs to take her leave of him. She wants to be with her family before the really bad times come. Expecting some sort of tearful thank-yous and goodbyes, Meera is very frustrated that Bran displays no emotion, not even when she reminds him that her brother and Hodor died for him. All he can respond is that he’s changed since becoming the Three-Eyed Raven. “You died in that cave,” Meera laments.
Arya then returns home to Winterfell. The guards at the gate don’t believe her when she tells them who she is and instruct her to fuck off. They’re pretty dumb and it doesn’t take her much effort to slip past them. When one of the guards informs Sansa of this, she knows just where her sister will go and finds her at the family crypt, standing before their father’s grave. They have a warm but muted reunion. Each recognizes that the other has changed greatly since they last saw each other.
Sansa brings Arya to see Bran. He’s as cold to her as he was to Littlefinger. Bran offers her the dagger, saying that a cripple would have no use for it. The dagger, we learn, is made of Valyrian steel. This suggests that Arya will have to fight some White Walkers before the series is done.
Brienne continues to train Podrick at fighting, and he continues to stink at it. Arya interrupts and asks to train with the woman who defeated The Hound. As Sansa and Littlefinger watch, Arya spars with Brienne using only her pointy sword Needle and the dagger against Brienne’s Valyrian broadsword. Arya’s swordsmanship technique is superior even to the knight’s, but Brienne knocks her down with a forceful kick. Ultimately, the match ends in a hard-fought draw. Brienne asks who taught her to fight like that, and Arya slyly responds, “No One.”
In a brief moment of levity for the episode, Daenerys and Missandei have some girl talk about the latter’s night of passion with Grey Worm.
Before his mining operations begin, Jon Snow brings Daenerys into a cave beneath the castle and shows her the huge supply of dragonglass, as much as he’ll ever need. Deeper in, he shows her ancient cave drawings made by the Children of the Forest, depicting the Children and the First Men working together to fight a common enemy, the White Walkers. He says this is more proof that the Walkers are real, not a myth.
Believing him, Daenerys pledges to commit her army to join his and fight off this threat, but only if he bends the knee to her rule. Jon continues to hesitate, claiming that the people of the North will never accept a Southern ruler. Dany presses him, saying that they’ll follow his lead. The scene ends a little ambiguously as to how he responds to that.
As they exit the cave, Tyrion is waiting with news from Casterly Rock. Dany is furious that they’ve been outplayed again, and grows incredibly impatient with all of Tyrion’s overly-clever strategizing. She wants to take a dragon and lay waste to the Red Keep herself. Tyrion begs her to reconsider. Daenerys turns to Jon Snow and asks his opinion. He tells her that the people love her because she represents a change from the miserable tyranny they’re used to, but torching King’s Landing would make her just more of the same.
Later, Jon and Davos run into Missandei on the wall surrounding the castle. She’s puzzled as to why Jon Snow has a different last name than his father. Where she’s from, they have no concept of marriage or of bastards. As they speak, they see a ship sailing towards the castle – a Greyjoy ship.
They run down to the beach as Theon disembarks. Jon is far from pleased to see him, and Theon is both shocked and frightened to see Jon Snow there. Jon says that the fact Theon helped Sansa escape from Ramsay Bolton is the only reason he doesn’t beat him to death right on the spot.
Theon explains that Yara was taken prisoner by Euron and he’s come to beg for Daenerys’ help getting his sister back. Missandei informs him that the queen has already left for someplace else.
The Loot Train
Marching with his army, Jaime overseas the transfer of all the riches from Highgarden to King’s Landing. Bronn busts his balls a bit about wanting a castle, and Jaime sends him to go collect wheat from local farmers.
Jaime sends the gold ahead of the rest of the supply train and is later informed that it arrived safely in King’s Landing. (This is a plot point that will prove important to what happens next, but I have to question whether it would otherwise have been a smart idea.) He and Bronn find Dickon Tarly (Sam’s studlier younger brother) among the troops. Bronn laughs at his name. The boy seems shaken by his first battle; he’d only ever hunted before.
As they talk, they’re distracted by a loud rumbling coming from the hills in the distance. Jaime immediately recognizes the sound as an advancing army and orders his own exhausted troops to form a defensive line. As the sounds grow more terrifying and a Dothraki horde crests the hill charging toward them, even Jaime looks visibly scared. Bronn tells him to retreat, but he won’t be a coward.
Suddenly, the air is pierced by a deafening screech and the pants-shitting vision of a giant dragon swoops over the horizon, scorching the earth with a blast of fire breath. The horseback Dothraki leap through the flames, pressing onward.
The Lannister defensive line is quickly overrun. With Daenerys riding its back, the dragon (it’s Drogon, the largest one) torches the supply train. Archers helplessly fling arrows toward it, all bouncing off its thick, armored skin.
Jaime struggles to fight off a Dothraki warrior and is saved by Dickon. Bronn is thrown from his horse and hunted by another Dothraki, but makes his way to a wagon and kills the barbarian with a giant bolt from the oversized dragon-killer crossbow cannon.
Tyrion watches the battle from the hillside, dismayed at seeing so many of his own people (he may have even led some of these troops at the Battle of Blackwater) slaughtered by the Dothraki he’s now aligned with.
Bronn reloads the cannon, but his first shot flies wide and misses the dragon. His second shot, however, goes straight into Drogon’s shoulder. The dragon falls from the sky with Daenerys on its back. Tyrion holds his breath in terror. Is his queen about to die?
No. The dragon recovers in time to land safely. Its fire breath destroys the cannon, but Bronn leaps away. Daenerys dismounts and tries to dislodge the bolt from the gravely-injured dragon. In the midst of all this chaos, Jaime sees her and, thinking he could end the war right here, grabs a spear and charges at Daenerys on horseback. From the hillside, Tyrion mutters, “You fucking idiot.”
Before Jaime can reach Daenerys, the dragon looks up and unleashes another blast of fire. Bronn leaps again, knocking Jaime off the horse and plunging the both of them into a river. The episode ends with the sight of Jaime, weighted down by his armor (not to mention his metal hand!) sinking beneath the water.
This is certainly not the end of Jaime Lannister. He will no doubt pull himself out of the river. If the show’s writers had wanted to kill him off here, they’d have let him unambiguously die in the dragon’s fire. There’d be no point in having Bronn knock him into the river other than leaving an opening for him to survive. Whether that will be revealed in next week’s episode or held back for a surprise much later, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
The Loot Train Battle is filled with haunting, apocalyptic nightmare imagery that makes it a standout even among some of this show’s other major war set-pieces. It’s genuinely frightening, and given this show’s history, truly suspenseful as to whether major characters like Jaime and/or Daenerys might meet the end of their stories.
For Daenerys, the outcome is both a victory, in that she technically won the battle and took out a big chunk of the Lannister army, demonstrating how fearsome her Dothraki warriors are, but also a failure. One of her dragons is badly injured, perhaps even mortally so. Even more than the loss of one major weapon, her enemies now know that the dragons can be hurt or killed. That’s a blow to the image she’s built of having invincible beasts at her command.
I find it a little bit of a copout that Jaime sent the gold ahead to King’s Landing before the battle. I’d like to see Cersei’s desperation at not being able to pay off her debts as promised. That seems like a missed opportunity for drama.