Tuesday, August 08, 2017
      ( 2:05 PM ) posted by Setsuled  

Sunday's new Game of Thrones, "The Spoils of War", was the most satisfying in quite a while for me and my favourite Event Battle episode since "Blackwater". It was a vivid exercise of one of the best, distinguishing qualities of Game of Thrones--a portrayal of a conflict where there are reasons to like both sides.

Spoilers after the screenshot

Hey, is that Monument Valley? I can't seem to find any site that directly states what filming locations were used but there are plenty of articles comparing Daenerys' (Emilia Clarke) and her Dothrakis' surprise attack to a Western. Including this interview with the episode's director, Miguel Sapochnik, who says he drew inspiration in part from John Ford's Stagecoach. It makes sense--maybe Fort Apache would make even more sense--the Dothraki versus a wagon train of Lannister soldiers is kind of like Apaches versus a group of out-of-their-depth U.S. army.

This is the third surprise attack this season, the first one to benefit Daenerys. I would send a memo to both sides stressing the usefulness of scouts and lookouts, there's no reason a massive army of Dothraki shouldn't have been spotted sooner. How Daenerys knew to attack this group and when she decided to is another question that most reviews seem to be skipping over. The initial reactions I saw weren't about how it seemed like a Western but about how Daenerys is finally kicking ass now that she's stopped listening to Tyrion's (Peter Dinklage) clever plans. Is attacking the soldiers conducting spoils back to King's Landing not clever?

Daenerys mentions on the beach earlier in the episode that Lannisters are looting the granaries in the Reach. But the only idea we hear Daenerys put forward is attacking the Red Keep. There are a lot of strategic advantages to attacking the loot train--Daenerys gets to demonstrate the power of her dragons with minimal risk to civilians, also dispatching men who'd been terrorising farmers in the process. She also undercuts Cersei's (Lena Headey) standing with Tycho Nestoris (Mark Gatiss) and the Iron Bank. It's so clearly a good idea that if Tyrion didn't see it it wasn't because he was being clever. Possibly we'll find out next week he was blinded by his lingering affection for Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) as Daenerys seemed to be implying.

Certainly this was one of the highlights of the season so far, watching poor Tyrion watching Jaime being a fucking, tragic idiot. At least Tyrion has good dramatic material even if this isn't turning out to be the season where he'll finally be useful. Still, we don't technically know whose idea this attack was, it would be kind of fascinating if it turned out to be his.

It was also a good idea to have Bronn (Jerome Flynn) be the one who fires off that anti-dragon ballista. It was good to see Bronn again, everyone's favourite amoral, merry man and seeing him against other characters we like is a nice, sobering highlight of the basic ugliness of conflict, if all those roasting soldiers wasn't enough. It would have been nice to have another scene like Arya's (Maisie Williams) encounter with the regular joe Lannister soldiers from a few episodes back but the juxtaposition is still there. Aside from Ed Sheeran, whom I think few of us would mind seeing roasted, it was a nice way of showing these guys have little understanding of the lofty games of conquest and politics played by their superiors. This makes Jaime, and his reluctance to let his men be flogged, all the more effective a counterpoint to Daenerys. Yes, Daenerys avoided civilian casualties, but in the end, slaughter is never pretty.

It might be a pyrrhic victory, too, if it turns out to mean the death of Drogon Dragon, though it really doesn't look like a mortal wound to me.

Meanwhile, at Winterfell, in the drastically less interesting part of the episode, the Starks continue to be dull. The reunion of Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya was diminished by the bad writing both characters have been victims of for the past couple seasons. I can just imagine the conversation:

ARYA: "So how've you been?"

SANSA: "Well, I was still the same idealistic, foolish girl you remember until I was raped, then people started acting like I was a genius, though the only thing I've done so far is ask Littlefinger for help winning the Battle of the Bastards without telling Jon. You?"

ARYA: "I went to train to be a master assassin but I got impatient and stole their magic and came home. I'm now a master assassin who rides openly through Lannister territory."

Nevertheless, the sparring match between Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Arya was pretty cool and well choreographed. And the two have the beginnings of some nice chemistry.

I'm still not sure why everyone's being so openly rude to Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen). Apart from not being very grateful to the man who saved them in the Battle of the Bastards, what is it exactly they blame Littlefinger for? He didn't force Sansa to marry Ramsey and for all we know he really didn't know he was a psychopath. Do they know he betrayed Ned in season one?

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