To say things have been going against Daenerys Targaryen in recent weeks would be somewhat of an understatement. This is not only a disappointment to her but to the viewers. The eagerly anticipated battle for King’s Landing seems increasingly unlikely. But as Season 7 of Game of Thrones reaches the halfway point there comes a battle worthy of a Season finale which reignites the supense for that Westeros-shattering conflict.
For all the political manoeuvring and battle sequences it is odd how the series ventures into perhaps the greatest ill in our modern world; money. Last week we saw Mark Gatiss’ emissary from the Iron Bank, Tycho Nestoris, remind Cersei of the Lannister debts. Her response was swift, taking High Garden and acquiring the Tyrell wealth. It all sounds like a done deal but as Nestoris is quick to remind Cersei and the audience, the gold needs to reach King’s Landing first. But more of that later.
Finally Arya returns to Winterfell. After what has been a tortuous expedition, accentuated by the execution of her father, Arya returns home. The reaction from Sansa however is lukewarm to say the least. Instead of a grand, emotional family reunion beneath heartstring-tugging incidental music the scenes are tepid. Actually they are as cold as Winterfell itself. This is not a criticism but merely a reflection of the arduous journeys endured by the trio of Starks to get to this point. The scale of death and madness that both Sansa and Arya have seen would turn anyone cold. Bran Stark however takes icy to another level.
Bran, who is as exciting as a Bran Flake (other cereals are available), has a new set of wheels. But his emotionless and robotic farewell to Meera Reed emphasizes his aloofness to the real world. She quite rightly has a go at him, listing the people who have sacrificed themselves for his protection. Whilst the Stark offspring have been turned steely in their resolve borne out of their experiences, it is good that at least someone still has emotions. The payoff for Bran becoming the ‘three-eyed raven’ needs to be worthwhile. What was an enjoyable watch however was the duelling sequence between Arya and Brienne of Tarth. Choreographed swordplay of this style and speed is so skillful that it is impossible not to be impressed.
Daenerys fights back
The conclusion of this episode will comfortably sit alongside the previous great battles of Game of Thrones history. As stated previously it is an epic spectacle which would normally be reserved for the penultimate episode of the season. Instead we are right in the middle of Season 7 with another three installments still to go. As Daenerys herself phrases it, “enough with the clever plans”. Riding a dragon and unleashing the Dothraki hordes results in utter carnage. Although probably unintentional, attacking the transportation of Tyrell gold is actually very clever. Capturing the money so desperately required by the Lannisters to pay off debts severely weakens Cersei’s hold on the Iron Throne. Plus much of the Lannister Army is now also ablaze. As offensive manoeuvres go this is a stroke of tactical genius.
The trio of dragons have thus far been a little underutilised. For all their armour, shields and weapons an army can’t defend themselves from the flame throwing power of a dragon. This leads to some spectacular sequences. My only criticism was the graphic wounding of a horse which I could have done without. It’s odd how violence on an animal can be more disturbing. Anyway, no animals would’ve been harmed in the making of this show, no matter how realistic it all looks. As the onslaught unfolds Tyrion watches on. He is helpless as his brother charges at Daenerys in a bold attempt to try to end the war. It is a decision which will leave lasting consequences.
A Game of Thrones cliffhanger
Jaime Lannister has demonstrated a move away from the violent style of rule that his sister prefers. For instance, he afforded a more dignified death for Olenna Tyrell last week. His recent change was accentuated early on with an order that fair warning should be given instead of leading with a flogging of his men. However, the dramatic conclusion casts doubt over his ongoing involvement in the show and poses significant questions. Imagine the bloodbath which a heartbroken Cersei will unleash in search of retribution. As Season 7 moves towards a conclusion there is no doubt that it is the events of this episode which have the most significant impact on the drama still to follow.