The power balance for this week’s episode of Game of Thrones is decidedly uneven, but considering a ranking of “HOLY SHIT WTF YOU GUYS” moments would have taken me ages to determine, here we are. Power rankings for “The Spoils of War”!
16. The Winterfell Guards – last week: not listed
Who is doing the hiring at Winterfell?! That HR department needs to up its staffing game. Last week Maester Wolkan proved how much he sucked (though we learn this week that he made Bran a wheelchair, so some bonus points there) and this week we find that the so-called guards are incompetent even as babysitters. I do get their hesitance to believe that some rando showing up to the gates without notice is the Arya Stark, but they don’t have to be such dicks about it.
15. Theon – last week: #17 (aka last)
Theon had even less to do this episode than last episode, and somehow he came off as even more pathetic. It’d be more impressive if not for who we’re talking about. His reunion with Jon could’ve gone worse, though that’s because of Jon, not Theon. I need some serious Theon redemption one of these days because it’s getting real hard to remember why we started liking him in the first place.
14. Littlefinger – last week: #6
What a drop. But then, his fatal flaw will likely be his hubris. See number four for more on Littlefinger’s drop in rankings.
13. Meera – last week: not listed
This poor thing. Meera spent the entirety of her time on the show protecting and dragging around a helpless Bran, only to find her many sacrifices gone totally unacknowledged. To be fair, she had to have known that what she was doing was larger than herself, even if we’re not sure what role Bran will play in the story as a whole. I can’t help but be reminded of this scene from Mad Men, basically:
Bran – That’s how it works! There are no credits on historical events!
Meera – But you get the glory!
Bran – It’s your job! I save the world and you cart me around for several years!
Meera – But you never say thank you!
Bran – That’s what saving the world is for!
Something like that.
12. Davos – last week: #13
Goddamnit, Davos, no one keeps you around for your jokes. It’s like if he’s anywhere south of Winterfell Davos considers himself on vacation. And STOP HITTING ON MISSANDEI. Seven hells.
11. Cersei – last week: #2
The biggest drop in rankings this week goes to Queen Bitch herself, from second to eleventh. Now, to be fair, it’s not from anything she’s directly done, because all Cersei really did this episode was drink wine and chat with the rep from the Iron Bank. Then again, we can fault her for underestimating her enemy when her enemy has three freaking dragons. Sure, Jaime’s army was carting around that gigantic crossbow exactly for the position they found themselves in, but its usefulness was questionable. Regardless, Cersei was sitting pretty, working on that humble goal of ‘”establishing control over this continent and every person on it,” until she wasn’t.
10. Podrick – last week: not listed
Podrick. Poddie, Poddie, Podrick. You’d think that he’d be able to hold his own with a sword at least a little bit against Brienne, particularly when you consider how much time they’ve spent together. So he’s low for his fighting abilities but he gets a thousand bonus points for making Brienne feel good about herself: “Catelyn Stark would be proud. You kept your vow.” (Pause for a tear!) And that’s why we keep Pod around.
9. Tyrion – last week: #11
Tyrion’s having a shitty time of it, guys. He’s fully aware of how badly he screwed up with his ill-considered plans, and it’s worse for him knowing that if he hadn’t screwed up, Daenerys wouldn’t have gone full Targaryen in this episode. Dany’s already feeling antsy, and three defeats in short succession has him feeling the brunt of her wrath. It’s clear that he also seems to be torn between picking Daenerys as his queen and still feeling some loyalty towards Jaime, who is the commander of his ostensible enemy. Tyrion wants Dany to win, but he doesn’t want her to win by using her dragons and burning Westeros alive. And he wants Jaime to live, but Jaime living means Cersei wins. It’s quite a pickle!
8. Sansa – last week: #7
Sure, Sansa’s in control of the North, and that’s some feat when you consider the myriad of ways everyone used her as a pawn up until recently. But this episode is the first time since the literal first episode of the series that Sansa’s seeing herself in relation to her siblings. Bran is an all-knowing seer. Arya’s a skilled swordswoman with a lot of practical knowledge. Jon’s freaking KING. Sansa, while capable in her own right, is just playing the diplomat, and that’s a pretty boring role to play comparatively. That look she’s giving Arya and Brienne’s tussle is hard to decipher, but to me it seems like she feels that she’s no more important now than she was after Ned died: inconsequential and unremarkable.
7. Missandei – last week: not listed
So Missandei had about four lines in this episode (let’s be real, that’s about all she’s got in most episodes) but there’s something to be said for how earnest she was in her speech about how she and others chose Daenerys as their leader. “She’s our queen not because she’s the daughter of some king we never knew,” she says. “She’s the queen we chose.” That sentiment is particularly poignant for an episode where we see up-close so much of what happens when Dany is allowed to do whatever she wants, which is some pretty morally questionable stuff. One wonders if Missandei’s loyalty will be so steadfast if Dany continues down the path she’s currently on.
6. Jon – last week: #8
Who else can’t wait for an episode in which Jon isn’t exploring a goddamn cave or resisting Daenerys’ command to bend the knee? In the meantime, we have Jon as reluctant leader and insistent dragonglass miner. But mostly he’s so high on the list because even though he’s clearly smitten with Dany (which would be gross, when you consider she’s his aunt, however unconfirmed. But then again, this is Game of Thrones) he still has the integrity to tell her what’s what when it comes to her dragons: “If you use them to melt castles and burn cities then you’re not different. You’re just more of the same.” So she didn’t listen, he’s still right.
5. Arya and Brienne – last week: not listed
Arya and Brienne’s reunion is probably the most satisfying in a season full of them. The last time they saw each other, Arya was with the Hound and refused to go with Brienne, who was trying to fulfill her oath to Catelyn to bring the Stark girls home to Winterfell. Everything worked out for the best, as Pod pointed out, and the two most capable female fighters this side of Westeros (particularly now that the women of Dorne are dead or incapacitated) have an opportunity to spar together. The both of them seem to have always been looking for a worthy opponent, and they found it in each other, and that was awesome to watch.
4. Bran – last week: #10
Unpopular opinion time: I love New Bran. New, Three-Eyed Raven Bran is a goddamn delight. If we break down what’s made Game of Thrones as great as it is, tits and dragons aside, it’s been the barbs and jabs and burns. Two of my favorite characters on the series were Tywin and Olenna, people who could decimate populations with only words and wit. Three-Eyed Raven Bran has gotten so listless with knowledge that his mere presence drains the bullshit from every interaction. He sees and remembers so much now that he literally doesn’t even have the energy to put up with banter. His scene with Littlefinger clinched it, really. Littlefinger’s wordplay, the Great Tool of Great Manipulator of the Great Game, is completely neutralized when up against Bran’s pragmatism. It’s also a clever indicator of where the show has come in its seventh season. Game of Thrones has been moving so quickly and efficiently this season that where it used to be one hell of a slow-burning drama, now doesn’t even have time for itself.
3. Jaime – last week: #4
It’s hard to blame Jaime for letting the circumstances get the better of him in this surprise battle, being one of the first people in Westeros not on Daenerys’ side to see full-grown dragons breathing fire all over town and all. Little could prepare a commander for that kind of military tactic, but he stood his ground surprisingly well. But he gets the most points for the SUPER ballsy move of charging at Dany with a spear, knowing full well Drogon’s fire could get him before he got within 20 feet of her.
2. Bronn – last week: not listed
And yet it didn’t, because of this guy! Bronn stepped it the hell up, even after the sellsword lost his enormous bag of gold, which is basically the only thing keeping him at Jaime’s side. He still fought, still defended Jaime, and very nearly killed a dragon. Bronn under pressure is a sight to see. Also, I thought he was going to go at any minute. There’s something to be said for when the most surprising thing about an episode of Game of Thrones is who doesn’t die. And his survival makes the loyalty waters that much muddier: if Bronn sticks around, Tyrion’s bound to run into him, and their history runs deeper than his and Jaime’s. Conflict!
1. Daenerys & Drogon & The Dothraki – last week: #12
I mean, duh. No contest that Dany, with the help of Drogon and her Dothraki army, won the day. But it’s pretty clear we’re not supposed to be completely happy with it. The battle was thrilling, of course, probably the best mini-battle of the series, and in theory we want Dany to win. But she’s actively ignoring all of her counselors’ advice on how to use her dragons, even Jon’s and they barely know each other! It’s not a coincidence that she was fighting against two sympathetic characters (Jaime and Bronn) and that so many shots showed the Lannister armies being burned alive, or immediately turned to ash where they stood.
Extreme violence has been used on Game of Thrones very often, but in deft enough ways that it draws a moral line that manipulates make us feel a certain way. Up until recently battles have consisted of definitive Good Guys and Bad Guys against each other (the possible exception being “The Wall,” in which Ygritte was involved), but with this episode we’re confronted with the idea that that line that was drawn is getting very blurry. Jaime’s been on a sympathetic track for a while, even considering his alliance with Cersei. Bronn can’t not be a fan favorite. And Dany’s reaching a point where her lust for power is getting the better of her judgment and turning her into a tyrant. It’s beginning to feel like it’s only a matter of time before she becomes the main Bad Guy.