-SPOILERS! Thoughts on Season 7, Episode 4.
Finally! We see some dragon combat!
In The North:
We saw Bran arrive back last week, showcasing the emotional complexity and personal skills of a sleepy koala bear. One of the first things we see this episode is actually Littlefinger trying to bribe Bran by giving him the Valyrian Steel dagger that was used by the unnamed assassin to try to kill him back in Season One during his coma. We’re still unsure whether the Lannisters ordered the assassination, or if Littlefinger ordered it under the guise of convincing the Starks that it was the Lannisters. While Jaime did push Bran out of the window in the first episode of the show, Littlefinger’s motto of “chaos is a ladder” was directly evidenced by how the first season unfolded.
Remember, the show starts with Jon Arryn’s murder, which necessitates Ned Stark heading to King’s Landing as Hand of the King to Robert, also using his new position to investigate the mysterious circumstances around Arryn’s death. The show points us in the wrong direction, having Jaime and Cersei whisper to each other next to his body, and having Lysa Arryn write a letter to the Starks accusing the Lannisters of his murder. Plus, Arryn was investigating the incestual relationship between Cersei and Jaime in finding out that Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen are bastards. We later find out, though, that Littlefinger had Arryn poisoned by Hugh of the Vale, had Ser Hugh killed by an armor defect, told Lysa to write the letter accusing the Lannisters, and Bran’s discovery plus Arryn’s investigation were merely coincidences that only inflamed a long-term grudge held between the Stark and Lannister families. Littlefinger did rise in rank from what he had done, getting a Lordship (of Castle Harrenhal in the Riverlands) for betraying Ned Stark, and then eventually becoming the Protector of the Vale as Regent once marrying and eventually murdering Lysa Arryn. What we never found out, however, was whether Littlefinger was being honest in saying that the dagger was lost to Tyrion Lannister (probably given by one his siblings to the assassin) or the more likely scenario, that Littlefinger called for the assassination to further implicate the Lannisters and armed the assassin with the blade himself. The only other thing I can think is that when Bran gives this dagger to Arya later in the episode, that he has somehow controlled its path through using his 3-eyed Raven powers. Either way, when Bran spits Littlefinger’s “chaos is a ladder” phrase back at him, it clearly messes him up. We also Meera Reed say her goodbyes to the Bran-bot, and he predictably does not return any of her affections. I get that Bran is important, but I’m sick of him.
Arya’s return to Winterfell was fantastic, both by her messing with the Winterfell guards and in her duel with Brienne. That sword battle has been talked about as much as the crazy finale in this episode, but it really is used to establish a really interesting piece of exposition without any dialogue. When Sansa and Arya meet, amidst tentative feelings after their tough relationship earlier in the show, they slowly begin to bond again and each have lines about how tough it was for them to get to where they are now. Rather than have the obligatory “guess what’s happened to me” scene, Sansa witnesses Arya’s combat skills through her battle with Brienne and clearly sees her growth. When Arya sees a grown-up, mature Sansa as Lady of Winterfell, it’s likely that she witnesses a similar growth, just in less of an obvious way. I said before that Arya having that dagger is important, and I still believe so. It may actually be the way Littlefinger finally dies. He made his first nine correct bets in climbing his ladder, but he’s reached a spot where between Jon, Sansa, Bran, and Arya, there just is too much intellect, experience, and honor for Littlefinger to continue to rise. He’ll make his next move, sure, but it could be his last.
In King’s Landing:
Cersei’s meeting with the Iron Bank continues, this time with Cersei reaffirming the fact that they have taken the Tyrell’s gold in order to pay back any debt that the Crown owes. The Iron Bank representative says that nothing is confirmed until he has the gold in his hand, but I’m not sure that anything can happen to it. Even after the final battle in this episode, which I’ll get to, Randyll Tarly explicitly states that the gold was secured. It’s possible Dany’s forces make a play for it, but it appears that this conversation leads the door open for Cersei to also bring in a foreign army through a purchase, like a covenant of sellswords. Perhaps the Iron Bank will facilitate this, but I doubt they will side with Cersei to the end, as I still think Dany’s side is the winning one.
After a flirtatious conversation between Dany and Missandei about the sex scene with Grey Worm in the last episode, Dany follows Jon into the cave that he’s been mining for dragonglass. He’s going to make use of the glass, sure, but what he finds is a ton of ancient carvings made by the Children of the Forest. This eventually leads them to a carving of the White Walkers, with Jon desperately trying to prove to her that Westerosi politics are unimportant compared to the pending threat, and that Jon cannot defeat them on his own, he needs Dany, her dragons, and her weapons. Daenerys continues to state that Jon must bend the knee, and then she will help him without issue, as it’s obvious that she trusts Jon but wants all Seven Kingdoms. She’s being a bit thick-headed about this point, especially after Jon makes the point that the Northern men do not want to accept a Southern leader after all that they’ve been through. I think the way around this may be a marriage pact. Remember, Daenerys left Daario behind in Essos because allies are made by marriage quite frequently in Westeros. Also, they are the last two Targaryens, who have a history of inbreeding. Although they’d be aunt and nephew who just happen to be the same age and share about as much blood as a second cousin would, I wonder if the show will refuse to start a romance due to the clear taboo around a relationship that is even slightly incestual. Either way, them getting together would make sense, because the Northern men wouldn’t be submitting to a Southern Queen, they’d be occupying equal footing with the King and the Queen. If the King of the North and Queen of the South are also lovers, why would there be any dispute. Any political unrest at Winterfell can be handled by the even hands of Sansa, Arya, Bran, and even Jon himself. Frankly, all you need to do is meet Daenerys and you’ll be convinced, the problem is just the negativity around the Targaryen name. They clearly play up the possibility of a romance, such as their chemistry in the cave, Davos asking about Jon checking her out, etc.
After the cave, we are thrust back to modern military strategy, where Dany’s patience with Tyrion’s inconsistent performance as a battle tactics expert has worn thin, prompting her to ask Jon. Rather than blowing apart King’s Landing and all of the citizens, they decide to target the food carts and men in The Reach. When Theon finally washes up on shore and meets a furious Jon, Dany has already left with her men.
In the Reach:
Jaime Lannister and Bronn have a bit of an argument about what Bronn’s purpose is going to be, after going through a lot with the Lannisters and still not having any property or a rich wife to thank him for it. Jaime is clearly on the negative side after Olenna’s barbs about Cersei’s true nature in the previous episode, and then Jaime is forced to settle a bloodthirsty Randyll Tarly down by reminding him not to torture his own men. Yet, Jaime is still too pompous to really explain to Bronn how much his services have meant to Jaime, who isn’t nearly the fighter he used to be before losing his hand. We also meet Randyll’s son Dickon Tarly again, and outside of making fun of his name, his purpose is really only to show a summer-born teenager get used to war. He’s not happy about the war, but is a capable soldier.
As the supplies are being transported, thousands of Dothraki soldiers race across the plains and meet the Lannister guard head on, a losing effort for the Lannisters against a well-trained, ferocious, and monstrous army of Dothraki. Even if they were a 1-1 ratio in terms of skill, the Lannister battalion would still lose to the Dothraki. As the soldiers are about to meet, Dany flies out on top of Drogon and melting away their supply carts and soldiers into ashy dust. The special effects on this scene are fantastic, and it serves as fan service until we get the final ten seconds of the episode.
Jaime grabs a spear, rides toward Dany after Drogon is hit with one of those crossbow arrows that he had designed, and wants to end the War in one fell swoop. Drogon nearly roasts him before Bronn, again, saves his life. The episode ends with Jaime sinking because of his heavy armor. We even see the big crossbow in action for a few minutes, but Drogon lights it up fairly easily. Bronn could always try to bring him to sure, or Tyrion could dive in without him, which would make Dany question his motives again. This is the first real time that we have a rooting interest on both sides. It’s Dany and Drogon against Jaime and Bronn, and although Jaime and Bronn both almost die, they both survive for the wrong reasons. Capturing them would be great, because you’d get the General and a Knight, but the same isnt’ easy in the Court house. This final scene was so tense and just completely awesome.
This was a great episode with a transcendent finale.
Episode Score: A