Before we begin, a bit of business:
1) Last week, after my deep dive, we received an email from a reader who identified some concerns about my writing, and with a very thoughtful email, sent out of disappointment more than anything, brought our attention to it. This reader could have flamed me in disqus or on FB, but they chose not to. Instead, they took the time to write a very honest, intelligent, and frankly 100% correct email.
Here’s where it happened — When I was describing the night of Sansa’s wedding, I wrote this:
“Sansa walks away when Bran casually mentions the evening of her wedding. He has seen what happened to her. It’s…heartbreaking. To know your little brother watched that. To know that he saw you in your weakest hour. God.”
And our reader pointed out that Sansa’s rape happened that evening, and by intimating that it was her weakest hour, I was suggesting that her “weakest hour” was when she was sexually assaulted. To continue the thought-line, a woman is weak when she’s assaulted and strong when she isn’t.
That’s sickening. It’s sickening to read and it’s sickening to write.
When I was constructing that paragraph, I originally came at it focusing on the wedding itself, and from the point of view of thinking of my own daughter. How would she feel having to marry a psychopath in her own home, after both of her own parents were dead?
How would she feel having actually escaped Joffrey and then a sham marriage to the family that killed her own, only to have a brief taste of freedom before…what? Marrying this …monster?
In my first drafts, this is where my attention was directed. To Sansa’s state of mind at the wedding, which took place at night. She has no parents there to support her. She had no family anywhere. She was alone in the world.
After subsequent (albeit hasty) drafts, I arrived at the version I put on the page, which, as printed, is callous and hurtful, and furthers an insidious, intimated-but-not-said rape-culture mentality that I know we are all nauseated by.
I apologize. I didn’t approach it the way it eventually came out, but these are my words and I’m responsible for them. I’m sorry for not being more mindful and thorough. I desperately want to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. This isn’t the first mistake I’ve made, nor will it likely be the last, but I agonize over issues like this, and I hope that, (in no small part because of kind-hearted emails like the one I received), I will continue to improve and to earn back your trust. Please always feel free to email me about things like this. A fish can’t see the water it’s swimming in, and I appreciate the help in identifying tendencies or weaknesses in my language which make me an inadvertent contributor to a mindset that needs to be eliminated in entirety.
2) I’m personally acquainted with the director of this week’s deep dive episode, Matt Shakman. I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a friend, but I know and like him. Matt’s wife and Lady C have been great friends for a long time. I don’t know what that technically makes Matt and I, but he’s a great guy. Just fun and smart and awesome to be around. I’m going to try to put most of that aside as I write this deep dive, but I’ll be honest about the fact that I’ve always rooted for him, and this week was no different.
3) A friend of mine in the industry asked me if I even liked ‘Game of Thrones’ this week. That question floored me. He called these deep dives ‘nasty’ and said that he didn’t like that I was so ‘nasty’ to his favorite show. Huh! I thought I’d been pretty clear about my affection for GOT and how it’s my favorite show of all time. I spend a ridiculous amount of my time working on these deep dives and I hope most of you know that they come straight from a place of unapologetic adoration. I try to poke fun, and hopefully weave in enough comedy to get people all the way through such a long-ass take, but again, the intention is that it comes from a place of admiration. That conversation really bummed me out, but hey, it’s not for everyone.
With business out of the way, let’s dive in! Whoooooo hooooooo!
This week I wrote a piece asking people what their ideal Game of Thrones endgame was. The responses were…varied.
And it got me to thinking that there are going to be a lot of disappointed people when all is said and done. There were people who just hope their favorite character survives. There were people who just want Sansa to die. There were people who will be pissed if Brienne doesn’t suddenly start to make a taste for men with the musky aroma of sour goat’s milk in their Wildling face beavers.
If people are truly connected to those lists of demands, lots of us are going to come away…somewhat unfulfilled.
In the word of the Rolling Stones, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”
This week, in episode four, I feel like we all, magically, somehow, got a taste of what we needed.
If you remember, we ended last week with the departure of GOT Grande Dame Olenna Tyrell, requesting that Jaime inform Cersie that it was her who poisoned their son, the then King Joffrey Baratheon.
What a prick he was! I remember before the Battle of Blackwater, in the Red Keep, making Sansa kiss his fucking sword. You remember that?
That’s not a euphemism. He actually made her kiss it. ‘Hearteater,’ he called it.
God, what a pestilent little tit he was. Joff had two swords, one he named ‘Hearteater’ and the other he named ‘Widow’s Wail’. Heart eater. I remember being outside this bar in Thessaloniki years ago and these two macked out Greek dudes were in each other’s face and a crowd was forming. And they were both Greek, but they were yelling at each other in English, which was so weird. I don’t know what the confrontation was about, possibly who had the best hair gel cum leather jacket cum Girbauds ensemble, but I remember one guy yelling
Fuck you, bro! I’ll eat your heart, bro!
…and the other dude, who was not in the running to be named Poet Laureate of Greece responded:
No! I’ll eat your heart, bro!
And I was with this drunk friend who said “if nothing else, there’s a lot of symmetry in this conflict.”
Also, the roll their R’s in Greece, and I’m pretty sure saying bro with a rolled R makes unicorns die. Of laughter. It’s fucking amazing.
Anyway, that seems to be the level of intellect required to come up with the moniker ‘Hearteater.’ But that was just a regular-schmegular blade.
‘Widow’s Wail’ (charming name, as Olenna pointed out) is made of Valyrian Steel. Specifically from the blade of Ned Stark, a huge sword known as ‘Ice’. When Ned Was killed, a few things happened.
His possessions, including ‘Ice’, were taken by the Lannister family. ‘Ice’ was melted down to make two swords. One was for Jaime Lannister and the other for King Joff. Joff’s, as we know, was named ‘Widow’s Wail’. Because he’s a knob. Jaime never named his because he immediately gave it to Brienne of Tarth.
Before the Lannisters were able to grab all of Ned’s things, however, a very enterprising charleton known as Littlefinger was able to sneak into Ned’s office, we presume, and abscond with a certain Valyrian steel dagger.
The dagger was originally Littlefinger’s, or it came to him in some way. It’s old, with a dragonbone handle, and was found in the hand of an assassin who was trying to kill Brandon Stark as he lay in a coma in Winterfell.
Luckily, Cat Stark was able to hold the assassin off long enough for Bran’s Dire Wolf, Summer, to rush in and kill the assassin.
When the Starks inquired about the blade, Littlefinger said he had lost it in a bet with Tyrion Lannister.
So began the War of the Five Kings.
Once Ned was…ahem…handled, Littlefinger must have beaten the Lannisters to that particular prize, if they even knew about it. That was season one. And he’s successfully kept it hidden for years.
Brienne named her sword ‘Oathkeeper’. Jedi much Brienne? God I love her.
So what other Valyrian Steel weapons are there in Westeros?
We have ‘Huntsbane’, which is the House Tarly sword stolen by Sam.
And we have ‘Longclaw’, the sword Jon received from Lord Commander Mormont, which saved his life in Hardhome.
There are also, apparently, in the books, at least a couple more. One of them is named ‘Dark Sister’, which I wish would show up on TV because damn, that’s a kick-ass name.
But that’s it! Only four swords and one dagger.
Anyway, before Lady Olenna passes to that eternal salon of snark in the sky, she tells Jaime to tell his sister. And that’s where we find Jaime and the Lannisters.
And of course, the Tarlys.
Whoopee ti yi yo, git along little Tarlydicks! It’s your high treason and none of my own. Whoopie ti yi yo, git along little Tarlydicks! You know that Dracarys will be your new home.
I thought the Tarlys were like the Gurkhas! Look at these pissants. They strike zero fear into my heart. I still can’t believe that scumbag asshole Randyll Tarly betrayed his oath. One wonders how many Tyrell bannermen followed him. It looked like a hell of a host marching on Highgarden last week.
We open this week on a rolling plain, with the recently sacked castle of Highgarden in the background.
Man, for those of us who watched with awe the way Margaery Tyrell, later Queen Margaery Baratheon, studied her whole life and then played the Game of Thrones, we never thought we’d live to see Highgarden laid low.
It’s a reminder, as many plot lines are, about how quickly a falcon gets shot out of the sky.
As we watch the great loot train roll across the terrain, we can mentally imagine a thick, weight belt of sorts, wrapped around the middle of Westeros. By eliminating the Tyrells, the Lannisters and their allies have bought themselves a little cushion.
In Dorne, where no Game of Thrones camera crew should ever go again, we have no idea what’s happening. We don’t know who’s in charge or if they’re still part of the Holy Dragon Alliance. It’s just a black hole. Ellaria Sand, somehow their former ruler, is chained to a wall six inches from the remains of her beautiful daughter. God, that’s depressing.
I know some people thought it was a boss move at the time, but as we sit here reading this, a mother is looking at a corpse.
How cool is Cersei now?
Death is such an eraser, and there’s never been a show that captures that reality more acutely than this one. Think of what a force Oberyn was, just an absolute powerhouse. A living, breathing threat to the Lannisters. One second this titan, this avenging warrior, and a second later, nothing.
Think of Ned Stark, this force, this powerful, wise, lordly man of the North, and with one command from the mouth of a spiteful tween, whoosh, he’s gone.
Robb Stark was winning battles over larger, better equipped armies when he was fifteen, a rising star, a terrifying opponent and then poof. Nothing.
Bobby-B! King Robert himself brought an entire empire to its knees, and then got killed by a pig. And then there was nothing. Like he never even existed. The very day of his death, his words meant fuck all.
Mance Rayder united every clan north of the Wall, even the disgusting Thenns and the one day, he was gone.
Stannis Baratheon was a serious man who took his claim seriously. He protected the Wall like a true king, and then whoosh, gone.
Roose Bolton, a devil from the North, feared for his House’s Sigil, was like a Nazgul for a while, and then, bled out on the floor somewhere.
Tywin Lannister held everything in Westeros together for nearly a half century until he caught a couple of bolts with his chest while on the shitter. And all that power, just gone.
When a power player vanishes, you never know who’s going to fill that void, and if this story (so far) is any indication, it’ll be a lesser person. So who knows what the stakes are in Dorne. Who knows what Ramsay Sand or Robyn Arryn-ish ponce has his finger on the pulse of the people, or merely fails upward?
But for now anyway, Dorne seems to be out of the great game.
So we don’t officially know if there’s any threat to the Lannisters from the South, but they don’t seem worried at all at the start of the show. It’s a milk run back home along the yellow brick road from Highgarden to King’s Landing.
Here’s where the scene opens, close enough to Highgarden that you can see it in the background.
We also get a shot of the money wagon that has all the gold in it. Enough gold, presumably, to pay back the Iron Bank in one installment, as we’ll come to find later.
Three things occurred to me about the Lannisters in Highgarden since last week.
1) Their intel is insane, and that feels like they have a spy on Dany’s team. That’s how good it is. We’ll dish about that later. But there’s this moment back in season two when Ser Davos is heading in to Blackwater Bay with Stannis’ fleet and they see no enemy fleet there. His son asks if maybe they surprised the enemy and Davos says “Lord Varys knows what you had for breakfast three days ago.” If that’s the breadth of Varys’ spies, how are the Lannisters in the know about every move without Varys knowing why? How the hell does a team with Cersei and Jaime Lannister as its two High Septons make itself better informed than a team with Varys and Tyrion as it’s intel brokers? It doesn’t make sense! And don’t tell me Qyburn, because unless he’s managed to clone himself like the warlocks in the House of the Undying, I’m pretty sure he’s busy.
2) The battle for Highgarden was won, for all intents and purposes, in the Red Keep when Jaime offered Randyll “Fuckhead” Tarly the wardenship of the South. Tarly, presumably, convinced the other bannermen of House Tyrell to turn on Olenna with him. If you think about it, it would have been a choice between fighting alongside the most feared general in the Reach or basically be killed by him. Knowing that, why wouldn’t Jaime have sent Tarly to take Highgarden and stayed to wipe out the Unsullied at Casterly Rock? If Euron’s fleet can be anywhere, anytime, why not attack the Greyjoy ships when they were full of Unsullied? Why let them land? Even with Tyrion’s little whore’s ascent gambit, there’s no guarantee that it would have worked with the full Lannister force there.
3) I don’t buy the shot where Grey Verm looks out at his fleet being destroyed and Euron is using fire. Sailors are terrified of fire. They’re not rolling in to a battle with deck mounted catapults dripping with lit tar pitch. It’s fucking nutty. But okay.
Jaime starts by handing Bronn a sack of gold as big as a potbellied pig. Bronn is bullshit that he’s not getting the castle he was promised, but Jaime is quick to point out the plain facts of their arrangement.
“Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, formerly of whatever nameless shitheap you’re from, with a saddlebag full of gold, complaining about not getting paid.”
That shuts Bronn up, for the time being.
But not before he needles Jaime a bit about why he’s in such a pissy mood. This is a really good thing for those us rooting for the Jaime and Cersei fallout. The words of the Queen of Thorns did get to Jaime. They did land in the soil of his worry and they have taken root.
Are you scared of me?
GRUBBEBEBEBEBBABABDBBEBEB. That’s me shaking off the willies from Cersei asking that, when you learn that you’re somehow marked for death.
Bronn recognizes that despite bagging the biggest goose in the land, Jaime isn’t happy.
And that’s a start.
Randyll and Dickon ride up. I’ve always been really hard on Dickon because, well, he’s Dickon, and when Sam returned to Horn Hill for dinner with Gilly, Dickon had this air of penile entitlement about him. You’ll remember at the time that Dickon was played by Harry Potter alum, Freddie Stroma.
Stroma brought something to the role for sure, a self-important, yet idiot-based aloofness that really showed his connection to his father. But just like Daario Naharis, when the original cast member got a better gig and walked away from Westeros, we ended up with an unscheduled upgrade.
That’s right, Ed Skrein fans! You’ve been roundly hoisted by your own petard on this one. Yes, I know, I know. The original book Daario was captured more by the original. But this isn’t the book, is it? In the book, Lady Stoneheart comes out of the river but in the show The Hound literally pisses in the river to signify that Lady Stonehands isn’t coming.
But don’t take my word for it, here’s what your peers said:
I think what they’re responding to is the alternate version. Likewise with Dickon. Since the recast, we’ve gone from kind of an elitist weenie who isn’t self-aware to this sort of gentle side of beef.
When Jaime calls him Rickon at Cersei’s Treason party, he politely responds that his name is Dickon.
He knows it’s a shit name. But it’s his name, and every time someone gets it wrong, its his duty to redirect them to the shit name that’s really his.
The last version of Dickon wore Dickon like a badge of honor. This version bears it like a yoke of shame. It’s a different sort of Dickon Tarly, one who appears to have a softer disposition, more inwardly thoughtful and dare-I-say, Sam-like.
The new Dickon Tarly looks like the kid who’s father is his hockey coach, and the father has him eating, sleeping and breathing hockey 24/7 because that’s what the father wants, but you know in his heart the kid just wants to paint. That’s the vibe we get from the new Dickon Tarly played by Tom Hopper.
We saw our first shot of him last week, riding toward the castle which his family had pledged their sword, and he looked glum. Not a smile on his face. And he was riding with the generals right off the bat, which ticked off an inner growl of Ivanka Trump nepotism inside me. And he’s wearing armor matched to his father’s that seems designed to make him look all swole. There’s zero doubt in my mind that his father demanded it, and gave it to him as a gift and now he has to sigh every time some squire has to help him buckle on those watermelon shoulders.
You know that, when the armor was bestowed on him, he probably mentioned the fit, and politely suggested that he just be able to wear his training armor.
“Nonsense!” The elder Tarly would have roared at him, “you’re a Tarly and my heir and I won’t have you on the field of battle looking like a three-penny sellsword with no name! You’re a Tarly, damnit!”
And that would have been it. Dickon would know that until his father died, he’d have to go into battle with fruit shoulders.
Dickon rides up with his father to the place where Ser Jaime and Bronn are arguing about Bronn’s right to a castle, and they inform him that they’re rounding up all the food from The Reach.
So the heist on The Reach has a dual purpose.
First, as the wealthiest house in the Seven Kingdoms, they have all the gold. So that was job #1. Take all the gold.
Job #2 is to take all the food, because winter, as we know, is here. And the Lannisters have a lot of mouths to feed. Primarily their armies, but secondarily the festering human trash of King’s Landing. Don’t want those maniacs going from blowing Euron kisses to massing around the Red Keep.
This will become more important later.
Jaime asks Bronn to escort the Tarlys and speed up the process. Jaime thinks he’ll have a particular knack for
“motivating reluctant farmers to hand over their harvest.”
I thought about that line, probably more than should have this week.
That’s a doozy.
So imagine: you’re a farmer in The Reach. You’ve spent weeks and weeks working your fucking asshole off on your farm. You and your whole family. It’s exhausting. And yeah, the crop wasn’t amazing this year, but at least you’ll have enough to pay the Lords that own your land with enough left over to feed yourself and your family.
And then in ride a bunch of Lannisters.
What the? And they have an empty wagon and they’re demanding that you fill it. They tell you that Highgarden has fallen and they own your land now, and you better start filling that goddamn wagon. Your brother is head of the Highgarden city guard, and you hope he’s somehow okay.
He isn’t. He died three hours ago in the brief fighting that marked the fall of Highgarden. His body was dragged onto a pile with the other Tyrell loyalists.
A junior maester from the Lannister army will spend the next three days identifying the corpses, and once that’s done, and the dead have been labeled traitors to the crown, their heads will be severed and adorned on spikes outside the castle, and a contingent of armed sellswords will go to each of the traitors’ houses and confiscate all of their worldly possessions.
But you don’t know that, and the Lannisters here on your farm, are serious looking, and they have swords. So you you lead them to your barn and help them load the wheat you planned to send to Lady Olenna into the Lannisters wagon.
Down the road comes a friendly face, finally! It’s Lord Tarly of Horn Hill. He’s a Tyrell bannerman, and a war hero! The only man to ever beat Robert Baratheon on the field of battle. Your heart jumps. There’s a contingent of soldiers riding behind him! You’re saved!
Tarly and two others stop at the stone wall of your farm and…they’re discussing something. Tarly is wearing red. What’s going on here?
The contingent of soldiers cantering up behind him is a bunch of Lannisters.
Next to Tarly, there’s a man in black. He nods at Tarly and turns his horse toward you and rides up, slowly.
Tarly and another, younger man, watch from the road.
The man in black rides over to you. He’s like the Guy of Gisbourne. All in dark leather. Lines on his face are deep and foreboding. His eyes aren’t quite dead, but they’re cold and businesslike as he rides up next to you and leans over on his knee to get a look at you. There’s no warmth in the smile he gives you as he says “where’s the rest of it, then?” Lowborn.
But there is no ‘rest of it.’ The rest is just what you have for your family. You have four children to feed. Children who spend every day working to help you tend the crops. They need to eat. You all need to eat. Surely this man will understand that.
“There is no more.” You say. It’s true. “My fam-“
The man on the horse kicks you in the chest and you fly backward onto the ground. For a second, you see nothing. Everything is out of balance, but when you finally shake it off and sit up, your oldest boy, all of fifteen, is standing over you, protecting you with a pitchfork.
The man is now off his horse and telling your boy to put down the pitchfork before he gets hurt. What’s happening? How did this get so bad so quickly? You see that Lord Tarly is on the road, watching.
“My lord!” You call. “My lord, help us!”
But with that, Tarly and the younger man turn the heads of their horses and ride away. You see the younger man look back, if only for a second, with a look of profound worry on his face. And then they’re gone.
This man, this black soul, is to be your judge.
You try to shake the cobwebs out of your head. What’s going on?
The man in black moves so quickly that you barely see it. He snatches the pitchfork out of your boy’s hand, spins it around and clubs your son on the head with it. The boy goes down and a line of blood appears on his forehead.
Now everyone comes rushing out. Your wife, your two sons and your daughter.
The man in black spins the pitchfork again and gently places one of the tines on your son’s throat. Not hard enough to break the skin, but hard enough to keep the boy from moving. Your son looks up at him defiantly. Your wife is screaming at the man.
“Not one step closer.” The man says and presses the pitchfork ever so slightly. Everyone stops. “Now I’m gonna ask you one more time, and then you’re gonna have to bury this lad. Where’s the rest of it?”
“In the hut by the river!” Your wife yells.
“There now, was that so difficult?” The man asks with a smile. Again, no warmth in it. He removes the pitchfork from your child’s neck and tosses it casually aside.
“I can show them.” Your daughter offers. She’s twelve. She’s trying to help. She’s a good girl. You don’t like how the man looks at her.
“No” you say, summoning all of the resonance in your voice. You have no control, but perhaps you can make this just be the day when your family lost all its food, rather than the day it lost everything. “I’ll show them. The rest of you in the house. Now.”
Your family knows that tone in your voice. They rarely hear it. Even your son jumps up, still bleeding from his hairline, and follows the rest into the house.
The man lets them go.
It won’t truly be over until all of the soldiers are gone, but for now, it seems the man has bigger fish to fry.
He instructs the soldiers to follow you and get the food.
The man gets on his horse and looks at you.
“Pretty girl you’ve got there. Best take care of her.”
And with that he kicks his horse and heads on after Lord Tarly. Probably down to the Clancy’s farm down the street. Old man Clancy had worse of a harvest than you did. You worry for him.
“Let’s go!” One of the Lannister soldiers barks at you. You have no idea how you’ll make it through the next month alive, but right now you have to get your family through the next few minutes and then you’ll figure it out.
Your midsection is on fire and something feels somehow out of whack with your spine, but you nod and say “right this way.”
And not long after that, you watch as all of your food rolls slowly away in a Lannister wagon. At least your family is safe, but you’re having trouble breathing. As the last Lannisters disappear down the dirt road, you wonder if Highgarden has really fallen. If so that means no county watch and no rule of law. That means thieves and marauders. You have no food. Your entire source of annual income just rolled away in a Lannister wagon, so you have no money. And bandits will be coming.
It’s your job to keep your family safe. Goddamn it hurts to breathe.
With a wince, you sit on your porch to think.
I don’t know why that scene was so resonant for me, where Jaime highlights Bronn’s ability to park his conscience, but I kept wondering how many people would be affected by it. How many people would be harmed because of Bronn’s unique skill set. I’ve always loved me some Bronn, but man. War is some miserable shit.
We’re back with Cersei and Tycho. That sounds like an alt-rock twosome you hear at open mic nights.
“Hey y’all, one love! I’m Tycho and she’s Cersei and this is a little ditty we wrote about keeping love real.”
But not in this scene.
In this scene we’re back to banking. One of the sexiest professions in the world, after butcher, car wash attendant and taxidermist.
Tycho is pleased that the Iron Bank is getting paid! He showers Cersei with compliments. She’s even more impressive than her father.
Cersei isn’t phased by it.
She knows that she could never be her father on her best day. It’s all just words.
“You’re too kind, my lord.”
“I am neither kind nor a lord, Your Grace. I am merely an instrument of the institution I represent.”
I know the Iron Bank is a thing in the books. We’ve seen them before on the show, most notably when Ser Davos convinced them to back Stannis. And I know that there’s whispers that Tycho may not be all that he seems. That the Iron Bank is possibly in some sort of arrangement with the Faceless Men, which is why they tend to see their investments pay off or else. There’s also the sense that Tycho himself is either a Faceless Man, or perhaps some sort of magic entity, seemingly moving through warring lands with nary a hiccup.
The language Tycho uses in this scene is weirdly similar to something you would have heard out of the High Sparrow. That he is merely an ‘instrument’ of a greater thing. In that sense, it’s equally creepy.
And with the ledger entry about to be set back to zero, nullifying the rather large interest payments, Tycho is eager to re-up with the Lannister financial machine.
But wouldn’t he know, by now, that the gold mines are tapped? Remember Tywin confiding in Cersei about this? That the mines in the Westerlands were dry? He also reflects the same similarities between bank and temple that I suggested above.
“That’s what the Iron Bank is, a temple. We all live in it’s shadow and almost none of us know it. You can’t run from them, you can’t cheat them, you can’t sway them with excuses.”
Looking back, it’s interesting to see Tywin, the most powerful man in Westeros, in absolute awe of The Iron Bank.
The show, I think, hasn’t really painted us much of a picture of this dynamic. And when Tycho is eager to help Cersei bring all of Westeros under her dominion, I kept wondering why.
It’s not like, to my knowledge, there are any other banks.
Unlike religion in the Known World, where a number of varied and culturally-relevant gods vie for the love of the common man, there’s only one bank.
It’s not like Cersei can say “the hell with you! I’m talking my business to the Grass Bank of Meereen or the Wooden Bank of Asshai. They just posted amazing interest rates on Naval Loans.”
There’s only the Iron Bank.
So, why the hard sell, Tycho?
“My Hand, Qyburn, has made overtures to the Golden Company in Essos.”
This is the biggest thing to happen in this scene.
First of all, book readers have long talked about the Golden Company. An army of single minded mercenaries, ten thousand in total, who never break a deal. Their word is “good as gold”, hence the name. They have a reputation for being thorough and ruthless.
The Golden Company, though it’s in Essos, has its roots in Westeros. It originated when the Blackfyres, a contending family for the Targaryen throne, tried to oust the seated Targaryen ruler. When they lost, they were forced to flee to Essos, and rather than see all of their loyal followers join other mercenary groups like the Second Sons, they formed their own. One of the founders, reportedly, carried a Valyrian dagger. Hmmm.
More old birds come home to roost when you realize that in that talk about the Iron Bank with Stannis, Ser Davos mentioned the Golden Company.
If you have the time to watch that clip, you’ll see Stannis say things like:
“I’m running out of time, Ser Davos…which means you’re running out of time.”
What a dick.
Nevertheless, Cersei mentions to Tycho that she’d like the Golden Company to “recover some things that belong to [her].”
Huh. No idea what that is. Casterly Rock?
Tycho assures her that she can count on the Iron Bank’s support, “…as soon as the gold arrives.”
A blade is unsheathed. A Valyrian blade. We’re in tight on the shot of it before hearing the gravelly voice of Littlefinger.
“This is for you.”
Somehow, bizarrely, Littlefinger is in Bran’s room at night, drawing a blade on him. Or rather, near him.
Boy, they sure need better guards in Winterfell, don’t they? I wonder if anyone will notice that.
Littlefinger is doing what Littlefinger does best, or more specifically, what Littlefinger does compulsively: probes for access to power.
Bran Stark reappearing makes Bran Stark, and not that neck-grabbing barbarian Jon Snow, the Lord of Winterfell. Bran is the true-born son of Ned Stark. Hence the claim.
Now, to be clear, that doesn’t mean Jon Snow is out of a job. John Snow is King in the North, put there by the unanimous request of all the lords. But Bran has the rights to Winterfell, if he wants it.
Obviously, he’s going to want it, in the eyes of Littlefinger. Hello! Free Lordship! No duh!
So Littlefinger approaches him.
With Sansa his move was I loved your mother and now I see her in you so I want to get all up in them gams. On the surface, it’s preposterous. But way back when, when Sansa was a foolish little butterfly in King’s Landing, it was Littlefinger who arranged her escape by manipulating the foolish Ser Dontos. So she owed him. Under most circumstances that aren’t online pornography, the “I have a sexual attraction to both you and your mum” doesn’t often pay dividends.
With Jon, Littlefinger was trying to curry favor by letting the King in the North know that he was the one who brought his father’s bones back to Winterfell, or arranged for it. Something like that might impress a man like Jon, for whom loyalty is important. That doesn’t land though, so Littlefinger tries plan B: I saved your life. Jon isn’t having that one, either. So now Littlefinger, the king of knowing all scenarios at all times, plays his last card: gosh darnit, I just love your sister, so I’m just going to put that on the table. Aaaand that worked least well of all.
With Arya, the strategy will be very different. They didn’t interact when they were both in King’s Landing, years ago. Littlefinger saw her alive at Harrenhal, as Tywin’s cup maiden. There’s a question about whether or not he recognized her, but at least one person in the cast has weighed in on this, Aiden Gillen himself:
“It was unclear if he recognized her or not, but I have my own thoughts on that. Yes, I did recognize her — I just didn’t say anything or do anything about it.”
So we can debate this forever, whether he saw her or not. If he did why wouldn’t he turn her over to gain more favor with the Lannisters? Or was he merely hoping that more of a chaos ladder would be made if Arya managed to kill Tywin? Who knows. What we, as the viewing audience, know, is that Littlefinger actively betrayed Ned Stark and none of the Stark children currently know.*
*Except for Bran, who knows everything about everything, but we’re not sure how or when or if he’ll convey this type of information.
So how would they ever find out?
Well, we have to take a look at who was in the throne room that day when Baelish put a knife to Ned’s throat. There are a bunch of gold cloaks and then these people:
Cersei - and she’s not going to say boo about it.
Merry old King Joff - is dead
Ser Barristan Selmy - is dead
Ned Stark - is dead
Meryn Trant - is dead, killed by Arya in Braavos, oddly enough
Janos Slynt - is dead, removed from his own medulla by Jon, oddly enough
The Hound - roaming the Riverlands, readin’ fires
Lord Varys - is with Jon, in Dragonstone…could he let Jon know about what really happened to his father before he died?
In any case, Littlefinger will likely have to proceed more cautiously with Arya, especially after what happens later in the episode.
Bran, though? This is a perfect mark for Littlefinger. A reputation of a softer, non-warlike, nature. Had a difficult life. There’s a certain type of predator that loves to prey upon people with emotional weaknesses. Littlefinger is their emperor. That’s how he leads with Bran.
Life has given you shit, but I will give you a priceless gift.
And I will tell you how I would have given my life for your mother, and so I will take over her role, to protect her children like the selfless mensch that I am. Baelish tells Bran that he would do anything for him, all he need to do is ask.
At this point, as Bran takes the offered dagger, it’s important to remember that Bran knows everything. He knows that Littlefinger tried to kill him, or was involved. He knows every conversation Littlefinger has ever had.
Imagine that: a gollum-like creature who hides in darkness and masters the arts of secrecy, having all of his lies, somehow, known.
Not only that, but Bran knows this dagger. He saw when, how, and by whom it was manufactured and every place it’s ever been and every owner it’s ever had. The thing about knowing everything, is that you know everything.
“Do you know who this belonged to?”
“No.” Admits Littlefinger.
I’m raising my hand like Horseshack on Welcome Back Kotter. OH OH OH OH I KNOW THIS ONE!
Was it perhaps, the dude that founded the Golden Company? No idea. They don’t actually say.
But Baelish continues, faking empathy for Bran, all of his hardships in the wild. This is the dance he does. Oh, poor Bran, to come home to such…chaos.
“Chaos is a ladder.” Says Bran.
Now this is a huge plot point and while no one can be certain about it, I feel like many people have gotten it wrong.
Baelish, is, obviously, fucking ASTOUNDED.
And lots of people are like “in that moment, he realizes that Bran is a greenseer” or whatever they’re called.
I don’t think so.
Baelish is like the guy in your fantasy baseball league that knows every stat. His superpower isn’t some magical knowledge of baseball. It’s that he can remember all that shit and apply it. He doesn’t believe in Angels in the Outfield. He believes in Moneyball.
So does Petyr Baelish.
He doesn’t believe in wights or sorcery or dragons. Magic to him would basically be tricks — warlock magic. When people succeed it’s because of information, plain and simple. And the only person he ever said Chaos is a Ladder to is Varys.
So he’s like: How does Bran know Varys?
Because he’s not going to jump to greenseer. This is basically a teenager. He’s not the most powerful visionary in world history! He’s a fucking cripple in a chair designed by the gods themselves to be the perfect patsy for him! So HOW DID VARYS GET TO HIM FIRST?
Anyway, we’ll see how this all plays out. We don’t get to see more because Meera pops in and interrupts the gifting ceremony of one of the most important weapons in the world. Nuts.
Littlefinger is like, okay, later Lord Stark.
And Bran is like “I’m not Lord Stark.”
He could never, in a billion billion years imagine someone having access to power and not wanting it. Just like he can’t imagine how much magic has come back into the world since Dany parboiled flying reptiles into the sky.
But Baelish heads out, ostensibly to wink at himself in the mirror to calm his nerves, and now it’s Meera time.
Bran knows she’s leaving, aaaaaaand he’s not emotional about it.
But Meera is. They’ve been to the wars together. Jojen laid down his very life for Bran. So did Hodor and Leaf.
R.I.P. Hodor. It’ll always be too soon. Goddamn, what a scene that was.
Bran tries to summon some humanity, to thank Meera for her help, but it’s empty. Not intentionally, more like an old man remembering manners he learned in his childhood. Perfunctory rather than heartfelt. Then Bran says my favorite Bran line in two minutes.
That’s the thing we all need to keep in mind before we toss Bran’s acting style into the community trash compactor. He’s not really even Bran anymore.
With that revelation, the fact that the Bran she knew and did this for ‘died in that cave’, Meera departs.
A moment that it seems we’ve waited years for.
A moment that almost didn’t come, had Hot Pie not been stationed at the crossroads of the world.
And, by god will you look at the tail on that horse?
The Duck Dynasty superfans are amazing casting.
Arya, of course, manages to get inside. I love how matter of fact she is, and how quick she is when one of the donkeys tries to push her.
I know she’s quick, but it’s not like that guy is exactly Dash from The Incredibles, either.
So she gets inside and the idiots are being idiots. But then we get this amazing shot.
Holy emotions, Batman! I remember when those Bolton banners fell. Arya wasn’t around for that, but we all know what it took to get those direwolf sigils back on the wall, and how many men died to put them there.
Now we have the reunion in the family crypt. I know it was hard for many people to see. They wanted to witness a real tearjerker, sister-love at it’s zenith family reunion. But that was never these two.
Remember, if you can, that Sansa and Arya weren’t close. Arya was close with Jon. Arya thought Sansa was a self-important ass. Kind of the Stark’s own original Dickon Tarly. When Robert Baratheon visited Winterfell in season one, remember that all Sansa cared about was getting to marry that handsome Joffrey and being pretty for him. And Arya literally launched food at her and hit Sansa in the face with it. Sansa was mortified and resented Arya for that.
Later on, the stakes got much higher.
In King’s Landing, Sansa was promised to Joff. Ned was still alive at that point. Sansa and Joff were walking and they came upon Arya practicing fencing with the butcher’s boy. One thing led to another, Joff challenged the butcher boy, who had a stick, to fight him. Joff took out his blade and mercilessly cut the face of the butcher boy, who ran. Arya was yelling the whole time for him to stop it. After Arya attacked Joff to save the butcher boy, Joff turned to attack Arya with a real sword, and out of nowhere, Nymeria bit Joff on the wrist. Arya picked up his sword and threw it into a nearby lake, thus, presumably, setting the stage for the arrival of Hearteater. (Bro).
Now here’s where shit got super ugly between Arya and Sansa.
Arya runs off into the woods to hide. She chases Nymeria away so they don’t kill her. The Starks are out looking for Arya when word comes to Ned that the Lannisters have found her first.
Ned rushes in to find Arya getting the third degree from Robert and Cersei. Joff is making wild and ridiculous accusations. Lying like a fucking rug.
The only person there who saw what actually happened and wasn’t involved was Sansa.
Cersei has already been working on her. Ned thinks she’s in bed, but no. She’s there in the hall.
And when they ask her what happened, she cares more about maintaining her ability to marry Joffrey than having her sister’s back.
That’s the big rift between them. Sansa just screams “I don’t know!”
Now Sansa apologists will point to the fact that she was young, and had been scared by Cersei and it was obviously too much pressure. Anyone can understand that. It was a sticky situation.
We’re in a tight spot!
But let’s just do a super-quick exercise of listing all of Ned’s ‘children’ (except Rickon) and asking them one question:
WOULD YOU EVER TELL A LIE THAT WOULD HURT YOUR OWN FAMILY MEMBER TO PROTECT A MEMBER OF ANOTHER FAMILY OR MAKE SURE YOU COULD MARRY SOMEONE?
Bran: I’m not Brandon Stark anymore. Not really.
Robb: I don’t think so. But love is a powerful thing…
Okay, so no. I’m reading that as a preposterous no.
Dare I even ask Jon?
Ho! Okay there! Whoa! Settle down. I won’t even bother asking.
But that was the last time Sansa and Arya saw each other. It was a betrayal. Season 1 episode 8 if you can believe it’s been that long.
So as we see the sisters meet in the crypt, we’re like STARKS! But they’re a bit more guarded, and I thought the show did an excellent job of capturing that. And after some very light jabs, we get the embrace we wanted.
This is also the place where we get to see a bit of their true nature.
Arya is just really open about killing. She really wanted Joff’s scalp on her belt. Sansa’s like, for a minute there I thought you were serious about killing people! Oh ho ho ho!
And Arya just laughs along with it.
It’s not in Sansa’s character to be a murderer, (except where Ramsay is concerned, it’s been pointed out). And it’s not necessarily in Arya’s character to stand back and get a view of the room before lunging in. Interesting difference between them.
Sansa tells Arya that Bran’s home too.
We cut to the Godswood, where Bran is trying to become a tree.
When he sees Arya, he’s not quite emotional, but not as distant as usual. He sounds…pleased.
“You came home.”
Arya rushes to hug him and this time we clearly see his Isotoner Men’s Medium on her back. Maybe Sansa got a pat too, and we just couldn’t see it? Anyway, Arya gets as close to affection as we’ll expect to see from the Three Eyed Raven.
Bran mentions that he saw Arya at the Crossroads.
“You saw me?”
“I see quite a lot now.”
“Bran has…visions.” Explains Sansa.
“I thought you might go to King’s Landing.”
“So did I.” Arya admits.
Sansa is surprised. “Why would you go there?”
“Cersei is on her list of names.” Explains Bran.
This is an amazing scene. It’s so small and so tight, but we learn so much. Sansa is fucking shocked that Arya’s list is real. She thought it was a joke. Why would Arya ever do this? Why would she risk putting herself in harm’s way? The thought of returning to King’s Landing, and to Queen Cersei? That would put Sansa into a hospital bed. That’s straight-up nervous breakdown material.
Arya also is accepted for who she is for the very first time by a family member since she became a killer.
Granted, it’s not wholesale acceptance. It’s not a ‘let’s toast once for every one of Arya’s glorious kills!’ But it’s a brother, who knows she has a list and understands what that list means, and just mentions it casually. Like everyone knows. Of course little Arry has a list.
IT’S WHO SHE IS.
Arya only gets a split second to enjoy that before she turns to face the inevitable confusion and apprehension of a sister she’s never liked all that much and certainly never understood.
Sansa asks who else is on the list and Arya says most of them are dead already.
Sansa smiles and looks down.
Now, we have no idea how to take this. It’s shot intentionally vague to make us wonder. Is she proud of Arya? Is she psyched that Arya is a badass? Is it that she thinks it’s funny the the people Arya wanted to kill got dead before Arya could get to them? We don’t know.
Then Bran whips out the dagger. This is also a really good scene because we see that Sansa is not fooled at all by Littlefinger.
“He’s not a generous man. He’d never give you that unless he thought he was getting something in return.”
But it doesn’t matter to Bran, he gives the dagger to Arya.
“It’s wasted on a cripple,” he says.
Another intentionally vague shot of Sansa, reacting to the priceless gift. Is she envious? Is she apprehensive about Littlefinger seeing that his gift was regifted? We don’t know. Like Jon with Ygritte. We knoo noothin.
Back in the yard at Winterfell, we see a beautiful shot of Brienne seeing the Stark sisters together for the first time since Cat passed. Her mission is complete. Pod lets her know, and even though she has a hard time taking a compliment, she allows it.
She kept her vow. A proud milestone for the noble wielder of ‘Oathkeeper’.
Nothing makes the snowy north look like an endless tapestry of grey more than cutting to Daenerys’ fair hair in the South.
There’s a bit of awful daytime TV banter and then we’re off to Jon Snoo’s cave.
No, no. Not a chance of that. Women only ever talk about men. We’re just so damn INTERESTING! (See the prolapsed anus joke above)
So yeah, The Kingindanorf walks them like a country mile across sand to a dragonglass cave. Nobody works a fucking cave like Jon Snoo. Can I get a what what?
He knows. He gets it.
So Jon walks through the cave and he’s like look! Banksy was here! And then they look like they’re going to kiss but they don’t.
She just keeps telling him to bend the knee. But this time, she at least commits something. If he does, she’ll protect the North.
We don’t see him answer.
Let’s review their relationship:
Dany: Hello. Bend the fucking knee.
Jon: What? Are you daft?
Dany: Go eat some dinner.
Jon: We’re children. I’m not your enemy.
Dany: I’ll eat your heart, bro.
Jon: Nice dragons.
Dany: Fine, you can mine the dragonglass.
Dany: Cool. I might wear your ass as a hat.
Jon: So you believe me?
Dany: That dragonglass ain’t gonna mine itself!
Jon: You ever been in a cave? They’re super chill.
Dany: Did you draw those?
Jon: No, they were drawn in the language of love. Do you speak it?
Dany: I will if you bend the fucking knee.
Jon: We should hold hands. I give great cave.
Dany: I like your ponytail. Should I burn the Red Keep with dragons?
Dany: Shit. Okay you stay here, maybe you’ll catch a Cersie-esque power trip bone session when I return.
Aaaaaand scene. Not a lot of subtlety these days. Snappity snap! Vite vite!
The cave is just kind of whatever. The fireworks happen outside when Dany tees off on Tyrion and suggests that he’s not fighting his family properly.
This, unfortunately, has been a lightning rod for the anti-Tyrion crowd. Because he’s fucking 0 for 2 as a Hand.
Let’s just check the Hand Olympics, sponsored by Palmolive.
Raised champion from dead.
Figured out and reverse engineered deadly potion and antidote.
Repurposed little birds.
Designed dragon killing weapon.
Exploded ruling class of King’s Landing.
Never, ever sick at sea.
Davos: (not officially named hand, but de facto)
Took a boat ride.
Forgot to announce his King.
Almost spilled the beans about his king’s ressurection.
Never got any mutton after really claiming to like mutton.
Gave his king the hairy eyeball when he was about to murder an Ironborn traitor.
Got barked at by Daenerys when he wanted to give them privacy.
Attributes his own quotes to fictitious philosophers.
Has no idea about the North.
Invites a lunatic from the Sixth Sense to visit.
Lost a vast fleet, the armies of Dorne and the Reach, and had allies captured and killed.
Isn’t funny or cool or witty anymore.
Doesn’t drink. Doesn’t know things.
Soooooo…where are we with that tally? Roughly? Qyburn by a trillion light years? Which Hand is making life easier for their monarch? Yeah.
In fairness to Davos, he’s just probably so happy that he’s not working for someone who might just arbitrarily burn him alive that he’s kind of taking it all in and enjoying it. There’s no doubt Jon is the best boss he’s ever worked for. Isn’t it great when that happens? One second you’re like “I’m definitely getting fired.” And the next second you’re on top of the world. And all you did was not die.
It’s a hell of a thing, surviving.
One thing I really enjoyed about this scene is that when Dany spins EVERYONE BACKS AWAY FROM TYRION. Check this out:
The King in the North is like “whoa whoa! Back me the F outta here.”
That’s hard core.
But that’s why cliches are cliches. Hell hath no fury like a woman who carried the Dothraki across the narrow sea only to see a bunch of her well laid plans get randomly destroyed by a make believe plot buccaneer.
I think that’s how that goes.
Which brings me back to the fact that, y’know, Tyrion’s plan was good. The problem was that the enemy knew about them. But how?
Dany looks out to sea. If I can’t burn cities…what CAN I burn?
I don’t know what’s slower, Gendry’s rowing, the White Walkers marching or Pod improving at swordsmanship class. I’m just hoping that the show has a blind spot about training montages and one day Pod will be a Barristan Selmy style painter: an artist who only paints in red.
Barristan Selmy was killed by like beggars in masks, you’ll remember.
Weaksauce. Loved that old dude.
So Pod is getting his bung pushed in by the most bored version of Brienne ever. Don’t lunge. Yawn. Don’t follow. Stretch. Don’t bite your nails mid battle, oh that’s me, sorry I’m so bloody bored.
And in walks Arya Stark.
I wish I could explain how much I’ve wanted to see this version of Arya. This supremely confidant combatant. We absolutely did not see any of this training in the House of Sand and Fog.
Yes, she did learn to staff-fight while blind, like Luke with a blasting shield down, but we never saw edged weapons. We never say different fighting techniques! She mixes it up with Lady Bree and what am I seeing? She’s as amazing as the Dread Pirate Roberts in his prime.
Arya is fucking amazeballs.
I don’t care that it’s noots. I don’t care that this isn’t the person who got garotted by the Waif and dumped into a latrine canal and didn’t contract sepsis immediately. This plot line is chock full of holes and I don’t care a whit.
The Arya / Brienne duel is one of my all-time favorite moments of the show and I never knew I needed it.
And yes, there were a few more vague looks from Sansa. We still don’t know what they mean. And yes, Littlefinger is going to have to rethink his strategy, especially as he saw his gift to Bran tucked into Arya’s britches, but let’s just think about how badass this is.
Brienne beat the Hound, making her unequivocally one of the top badasses in Westeros.
Arya absolutely whupped her. At least before Brienne picked up steam. It was reminiscent of one of my favorite filmed sword fights, the duel in the movie Rob Roy where one dude has a fucking heavy ass claymore and the other dude has a Needle-like rapier. If you haven’t ever seen it, it’s worth a watch, but fair warning, it spoils the end of the movie.
So now, let’s think about who the top sword fighters left in the Known World are.
#1) Euron Greyjoy
#2) The Mountain
#3) Randyll Tarly, maybe?
#4) Jaime Lannister, maybe?
Who am I forgetting? I can’t even think of a #5. I guess nameless White Walker dudes, maybe?
Neutral or Gone:
#1) Daario Naharis
I don’t count Bronn on team Cersei because next week he could very easily be team Tyrion.
#1) Arya Stark
#2) Jon Snow
#3) Brienne of Tarth
#4) The Hound
#5) Tormund Giantsbane
#6) Grey Worm
#7) Yohn Royce?
#8) Davos Seaworth, maybe?
And probably above Ser Davos, who admits to never getting the hang of a sword, any number of Northern Lords. And I guess every Dothraki is probably better than Yohn Royce. And also that Ironborn captain who fished Theon out of the drink. I bet he can carve some fools. And maybe Dolorous Edd is in there, somewhere, too.
The point is, the Aurors have more bladecraft right now than the Death Eaters. Much more.
Side note: Maisie Williams is a righty. But Arya in the books is a lefty and so Maisie trained to hold a sword in her left hand. That’s amazing. I can’t crack a goddamn egg with my left hand and Arya is flipping Valyrian daggers from hand to hand mid-duel? Unreal.
A girl has mad skills now, and I’m fucking pumped about it. I can’t wait to see who she plays ‘hide the dagger blade’ with.
Now we have a super duper crappy scene with Jon and Davos walking and talking. I’ve never seen Davos this happy. He’s joking and laughing and poking fun at Jon for liking Dany. We’ve never really had a formal joining of the House Snoo and House Seaworth. Davos guarded Jon’s dead body when Alister Thorne came to get it and since then, he hasn’t left Jon’s side. It’s a bit odd. You would have liked to have seen what made Jon choose him over someone else, but we never really have had that beat. This is probably as close as we’ll ever get.
Now just from a structural standpoint, when you have an episode THIS good and THIS full and THIS powerful and then all of a sudden there’s a random walk n’ talk I ask: why.
And the answer is usually: because the writers 100% absolutely must have it.
What information is important in this scene?
So important that it just couldn’t have been snipped onto the cutting room floor?
I’m guessing it’s something with Missandei. Just happening on her there is so…weird.
So I start to think…wait is that really Missandei? Or is that like a Faceless Man? Is Missandei really from whatever island she says she is? Maybe when she was being coy last week with Davos it’s because she honestly didn’t know about the palm trees and butterflies he mentioned and any answer, either in the affirmative or negative, would have outed her?
I don’t know. I don’t think you wedge this bad boy in to just convey that Jon likes Dany! Oooooh Davos says yer gonna kiss! Yes, you can slot a scene in from time to time because you need a time gap and you have nothing to fill that, but I don’t know. The whole thing is fishy.
It gets even more fishy when the Ironborn ship arrives and Theon turns to see Jon.
First of all, how did Jon get to be the King of Dragonstone, and the ambassador of new guests? Isn’t he a prisoner? Or a miner? Why is he at the point of the spear on the beach and why aren’t they armed? What if these were the naughty Ironborn? How can everyone identify the other kind of Ironborn except for me? When Euron’s Ironborn attacked Yara’s Ironborn, how did they know who to kill? The whole thing is nuts.
But anyway, Jon rolls up, top down and then he sees the man who sacked Winterfell.
I hate the Theon character, but Alfie Allen should get thirty Emmy’s for what he’s done with that role. It’s amazing.
Side note: I urge you, if you have time, to go back and watch the series from the beginning. It’ll blow your fucking mind. Even if you can just do the first three episodes, you’ll see pipe they were laying for a payoff now, seven seasons later. I don’t think there’s a show in the world that’s ever done that.
In those early days, Theon was Ned’s steward and he thought he was such a hot shit.
And we’ve seen him as Reek, of course.
When he gets off the boat and sees Jon, he says “Jon.”
And I’m like, OH MY GOD, HE’S A DEAD MAN. DOES JON THINK HE TORCHED HIS LITTLE BROTHERS?
Then Theon approaches Jon and starts to stutter. “S—-ssss—-Sansa.”
Jon grabs him and says the only reason he’s a live is what he did for Sansa. So thank god. Because Theon, you may remember, told Sansa that he hadn’t in fact, killed her brothers.
So Jon must know.
Davos watches Jon like a hawk. He tries to diffuse the energy.
“Whoose for soome lingonberry crepes? My Treat!”
But Jon is too intense.
Theon is there to see the queen. But she’s gone. Is she off somewhere being bratty and kind of a little shit?
NO, DECIDEDLY, FINALLY NO.
“Where did she go?” Asks Theon.
We don’t know for sure where the treasure train is when we cut to it, but music is already rolling, so Jaime and Bronn are in trouble.
Randyll Tarly rides up with a piece of key information:
“All the gold is safely through the gates at King’s Landing.”
Tycho getting them benjamins.
We’re at the rear guard of the Lannister line. Dudes are dog-tired. They’ve been marching for like a week straight, but Tarly is a strategist and he doesn’y like it. They’re too exposed. He wants to rush the soldiers.
Tarly: Permission to begin summary executions, my Lord?
Jaime: Uh…let’s hold off on that for a bit.
Tarly: Well then may I at least just find the slowest soldier and turn him inside out in front of the others to make a point?
Jaime: Perhaps just a friendly word instead?
ATTITUDE. TEENAGE SCOWL.
Tarly: At least let me whip them! I mean my gawd!
Jaime: These men fought well, let’s choose not to whip them alive at this juncture.
Tarly rides off with a scowl. That’s why this pricks could have never beat Robert. Too soft.
Jaime and Bronn share a look. God he’s a fuckhead. Let’s go check on his boy.
They canter over to Dickon. Jaime calls him Rickon and Dickon is forced to correct him. Such is his burden.
Bronn laughs out loud, which is pretty much the Bronniest Bronn moment ever Bronned.
But I’m getting a MAJOR crush on Dickon Tarly.
He starts with a bullshit answer, how glorious war is, and they’re like your dad isn’t here.
And he’s honest. He hates being a traitor. He knew those men. He hunted with him. Don’t try to make him a fucking Draco Malfoy!
And the smell!
“Men shit themselves when they die.”
A fact, Bronn is quick to point out, that Dickon didn’t learn in Fancy Lad School. Bronn learned it when he was five.
Like 25 million people learned it when this episode aired. And I’m guessing 90% of them chose to decide it’s fiction.
While they’re talking, Bronn stops…he hears something.
Hooves. Riders. Jaime hears it. They spring to action.
It’s a bit odd that for the first two battles they have 100% impeccable intel and then they magically get caught by surprise. Ranks are hastily formed as the mighty army of the Dothraki crest the hill.
Bronn, wisely, tries to get Jaime out of there. They’re about to get swamped.
Jaime’s like “we can hold them off.”
And then, a dragon appears.
It’s one of the most visually spectacular things I ever remember seeing on the small screen, and even though we’ve seen Drogon before and we’ve seen Dany on him, this time feels somehow, way way better.
This reminded me of that old Eddie Murphy stand up where people in movies go into a haunted house and they hear a ghost say “get out” and the black people immediately leave. But the white people stay.
That’s what this feels like.
Once you see a dragon in a Westerosi battle for the first time in centuries, it’s over.
Especially after Dany says Dracarys for the first time. I love how she said it. There was a lot of confidence in her voice when she said it. It wasn’t a reaction or a punishment. It was the Game of Thrones equivalent of Picard saying “engage” but with a smidge of attitude. She’s sick of sitting on the fucking sidelines with her nuclear arsenal. It’s time for someone to get sauteed.
That sound? My god that sound that happens when the dragon fire comes out? Like a 747 revving its engines. Good lord that’s amazing.
Dany roasts a hole in the shield wall. It’s preposterous how hot that fire is. She could destroy every soldier in Westeros with one dragon.
And she has three.
This initial fire, of course, sets off just an absolute fever dream of excitement. How long have we waited to see this? How worried were we that the CGI would be crappy and would kind of suck and pull us out of it?
This battle was amazing. Dany flies in and just starts aiming Drogon at the line of supply carts. The Dothraki ROAR down the hill to a hastily formed line and they power through it. Remember that Robert said only a fool would meet the Dothraki in an open field. It’s even worse when they get a little gravity boost and ride down a perfect incline toward you.
Man, I love the Dothraki! I always say that!
Bah, you guys know I can’t stand them. With apologies to Subutai, I’m not a horde warfare kind of guy. The Dothraki are charging and some dudes are ranged warriors standing on horses and some are heavier cav and it doesn’t appear to have any defining structure about which part of the cavalry hits where. It’s like the Dothraki military has one command: “go!”
The Lannister line held it’s own, considering it was a 1000 man rear guard with ninety seconds to get their shoes on and dig in, in the worst possible terrain, against a force that outnumbered them like 40 to 1.
One thing I loved about this battle was how easy it was to track. You really got a sense of where everything was and what people were trying to do. For example, we see Dany scanning the ground, then we get a subjective shot of the wagon train and then we see Drogon burning it. That’s good directing and editing and keeps viewers involved in the stakes of the battle.
God, the dragon. I’ve watched this scene so many times.
Jamie is on his horse, watching the dragon burn his supplies and he summons his archers, but the arrows just bounce harmlessly off Drogon’s chest.
The scorpion is the only way.
But Jaime can’t use it with his golden hand.
It has to be Bronn.
He gallops off.
Jaime is attacked by a dual-wielding Dothraki and barely can hold up his sword to defend himself when the horseman is stabbed from behind by whom? You guessed it: Dickon Tarly.
Then Jaime and Dickon share a nod and I hold my breath, because that’s when dudes get killed. While they’re nodding. It’s never the main guy, who would be Jaime in this case. It’s always the secondary guy. It happens all the time. But Dickon lives.
Bronn is on the way to the scorpion when he has to do a joust against a Dothraki psychopath who leans over at the last second and cleaves Bronn’s horse’s leg off. That was some bunk-ass shit. Is that book-true? Would a nomadic horseman attack a horse? No idea.
Then we get this amazing, real-time sequence of the disarray of battle, and Bronn running through everything, doing the best he can. It’s messy as hell but great. It felt so real.
Bronn finally makes it to the scorpion and gets rid of the bloodthirsty douche that has a line on him, and he loads up. The action on the scorpion is smooth. Bronn scans the sky for the dragon.
Meanwhile, Tyrion is on a nearby hill, being babysat by more Dothraki. It’s yet more great acting by Tyrion, as he watches his families men burn. You can see how torn he is.
“Your people can’t fight.” Says a guy I’d like to throw into a wheat thresher.
OH SORRY GUY! I’M SORRY THE LANNISTER REAR GUARD DIDN’T HAVE THEIR DRAGON-RESISTANT CLOTHING ON TODAY! SORRY THEY CAN’T OVERCOME EVERY ESSOSSIAN HORSELORD THAT RIDES THEM DOWN!
The Dothraki. Man.
Drogon glides in over the water with some slick water effects and Jaime sees him coming. Take cover! He yells to his men, but before they can react, Drogon lights them up and they are instantly turned to ash. It’s grisly.
Bronn, meanwhile, gets a shot off. It misses.
Daenerys sees it go by, and scans the ground, quickly identifying the scorpion. Again, another well shot, well directed, well-edited sequence that keeps us right in the thick of it.
She turns toward the scorpion and this would normally be the last thing Bronn ever sees, but as Daenerys says Dracarys, he looses the giant bolt and it flies true and NAILS Drogon in the shoulder.
At this very moment, the Game of Thrones world diverged.
Some people turned on Bronn forever and some didn’t.
People were forced, at that moment, to choose. Does Drogon die or does Bronn? Who’s your huckleberry?
I was just amazed that Bronn could work that scorpion like a pro. Qyburn must have written a sick mobile directions app for that puppy. Bronn shot a dragon on his second try. That has to be a record.
Drogon falls from the sky, dropping precipitously, and it’s kind of awful to see if you love the dragons and kind of awesome if you think they’re too much arsenal for one person to possess. Personally, I can’t believe that Dany holds on. Her hand strength is sick.
Drogon manages to right himself and hovers a few feet above the scorpion where Dany and Bronn lock eyes. Bronn gets the fuck out of dodge right before Drogon chars the scorpion forever. There’s no way Bronn could have cleared that burn radius, but there’s also no way the Red Woman could have navigated that hurricane and there’s no way Euron does any of the things he does including having ships and there’s no way Arya is that good of a fighter, and ye they all d and are, so okay! I’m with it!
Still in pain, Drogon lands, and then fucking tail-whips a wagon to death out of spite.
I loved that.
Now Drogon is on the ground and Daenerys dismounts. She starts to tug at the harpoon in Drogon’s shoulder. He’s dragon-screaming in frustration and pain.
Tyrion still has an elevated, if not quite bird’s-eye view of the battlefield, and he manages to locate his brother. Isolated, still on his white horse, studying the landed dragon.
Now I call your attention back to season one, episode three, where Robert Baratheon is talking with Ser Barristan about his first kill. It was “some Tarly boy”
“My horse took an arrow so I was on foot, slogging through the mud…he came running at me, this dim, high-boned lad, thinking he could end the rebellion with a single swing of his sword.”
And that’s where Jaime is, this dim, high-boned lad.
He sees Daenerys on the ground, and thinks he can end the war with one thrust of a spear.
It’s such an amazing callback that I almost with they could have rolled Robert’s voice over top.
“He was a stupid boy.”
And Tyrion watches as his stupid boy contemplates the impossible.
“Flee! You idiot!” Tyrion says, more to himself than to Jaime.
“Come on, boy!” Jaime cries and kicks his horse to a gallop. He yanks a long spear out of a dead body as he roars toward an unprotected Daenerys. That’s something I admire about Jaime: he’s looking to go out a hero.
Across the battlefield he rides, a golden god! Lance tucked under his arm. Half a league half a league half a league onward, all in the valley of Death rode the six hundred! He is a streaking, striding, stalking messenger of fate. They will sing his name forever!
Let all who would seek to challenge the Lannisters know what happened that fateful day by the Highgarden Loot Train!
“You fucking idiot!” Says Tyrion.
Jaime closes on Daenerys, who senses him and spins. Their eyes meet. She looks…scared.
And then, between them, the head of the dragon rolls around and opens its mouth.
Ser Bronn of the Blackwater comes flying out of nowhere and tackles Jaime off his horse and into the water as a geyser of flame from Drogon misses them by inches.
They hit the water and Jaime’s armor pulls him down to the depths.
And we’re out.
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