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First things first... I took last week off because I had a really hard time with the episode. On the one hand, I absolutely loved Episode 3's personal interactions, but I had some significant problems with the episode overall. This week... NOT SO MUCH. This week's episode is easily the best episode of the season thus far, definitely a Top 5 episode for me, possibly my favorite episode of the series. Let's get into it.
Jaime's nabbing some gold for Bronn, who just can't be happy with his cut. Jaime doesn't really care, though, because he's obviously still reeling from finding out why Olenna is called the Queen of Thorns at the end of last week's episode. He rewards Bronn by shipping him off to flog farmers with Randyll and Dickon (chortle) Tarly. Meanwhile, in King's Landing, Cersei and Iron Bank Guy continue their conversation about how much they really like gold. Cersei can't decide which she loves more: gold or repressing the masses. Iron Bank Guy just can't wait to get back to Braavos so that he can go swimming in his gold vault. Really, they're probably only in this episode for the Golden Company* reference.
BOOK LORE NOTE: The Golden Company is one of the most famed sellsword companies in Free Cities. Formed by a Targaryen bastard in support of one of the Blackfyre pretenders, the Golden Company is comprised largely of Westerosi exiles and is famed for never breaking their contracts.
Meanwhile, Littlefinger is giving Dr. Branhattan the Valyrian steel dagger that the catspaw used to try to kill him... The dagger that Littlefinger claimed he lost to Tyrion Lannister in a bet. Littlefinger tries to offer his support and protection, but at the mention of chaos in the world, Dr. Branhattan responds, "Chaos is a ladder." And, for the first time, Littlefinger is stunned to silence. You can see the fear behind his eyes as Meera Reed enters to say her goodbyes. Dr. Branhattan just stares at her, and she departs Winterfell for Greywater Watch, where her father HOWLAND REED THE ONLY PERSON ALIVE WHO KNOWS THAT JON SNOW IS THE SON OF RHAEGAR AND LYANNA (besides Dr. Branhattan, of course) resides. Have we seen the last of Meera Reed, or will she return with her father to confirm/reveal the truth of Jon's parentage to everyone?
We shift to a shot I've been looking forward to since Season 1: Arya has come home. Though her journey took a bit of a detour through Braavos, she's been trying to get back to her family since Yoren mercifully prevented her from seeing her father's beheading in Episode 9 of Season 1. After some verbal sparring with the new guards of Winterfell, she sneaks down into the crypts. Sansa meets her in front of their father's statue and they embrace somewhat awkwardly. The two discuss the death of Joffrey, and Sansa doesn't really believe that Arya has a Kill List. After some warming up, the two embrace more fully. They head to the godswood to meet up with Bran, who's only slightly less of a robot in this scene. He knows about her heading to King's Landing to kill Cersei, and confirms the existence of Arya's Kill List to Sansa. He gives Arya the Valyrian Steel dagger since he has no use for it. They push Bran across the courtyard as Brienne looks on. Pod says that she fulfilled her oath to Lady Cat; after some resistance, Brienne thanks Pod for his kind words.
Meanwhile, on Dragonstone, Daenerys wants the full details about what happened between Grey Worm and Missandei, but Jon interrupts them before Missandei can spill the details. Jon leads Dany into the dragonglass cave, showing her more dragonglass in one place than we've ever seen before. Dany is visibly impressed, and there's a good bit of chemistry between the two before the talk turns back to the wars at hand. Jon then shows her carvings made by the Children of the Forest that show that not only did the Children and Men stand together, but they fought their common enemy the White Walkers. Dany pledges to fight for Jon, for the North, when Jon bends the knee. Jon responds by saying that he doesn't believe that his people will accept another outsider as ruler. Dany challenges his assertion as an expression of his pride. This time we don't see an outright rejection or continuation of the debate, but shift outside where Tyrion and Varys wait to deliver news of the taking of Casterly Rock. Dany is understandably frustrated at having lost all of her newfound allies, and having taken a castle with "little strategic significance" (a point, btw, that I find completely absurd). She wants to fly to King's Landing with her dragons and raze the Red Keep, but everyone counsels against this move, including Jon. Burning cities and innocent civilians will prove she's just like the rest that have played the Game, only with dragons.
Meanwhile, back at Winterfell, poor Pod is getting his rump handed to him by Brienne, as per usual. I really hope that kid improves. He's a good lad. Arya interrupts, asking to train with the woman who beat The Hound. In a callback to their first meeting in Season 4, Brienne again compliments Arya on her sword. She agrees to train, and a spectacular sparring session commences. Arya gets some licks in, Brienne gets some kicks in, and the session ends in a stalemate, with Brienne's sword point at Arya's face and Arya's Valyrian steel dagger at Brienne's throat. Sansa and Littlefinger look on, and I think Sansa comes to the full realization that Arya wasn't kidding about her list. She's realizing that her sister is a stone cold assassin. Littlefinger's expression, on the other hand, is a bit less clear... He seems to interpret Sansa's look as a possible rift between Arya and Sansa to exploit, possibly? We shall see.
Pinballing back over to Dragonstone, Davos is teasing Jon about getting mushy for Dany. Jon, in true new-to-this-teenage-boy style, tries to play it off by talking about bigger fish to fry. Davos continues his good-natured friendliness towards Missandei, who explains to the pair that she follows Dany not because Dany freed her, but because she chose to; Missandei believes in Dany. Both Jon and Davos are impressed, but the parallels between her reasons for following Dany and Jon's entire kingship can't be ignored. But, speaking of fish to fry, Theon makes landfall with his Ironborn and immediately walks into the chokehold of Jon. Theon wants help rescuing Yara, but Dany's already gone.
The episode comes full circle as we return to the Reach. Randyll informs Jaime and Bronn that the last of the wagons carrying the gold have crossed into King's Landing. The rest of the train carrying the grain should hurry up and get across the Blackwater Rush* before nightfall. Reinforcement is difficult when the wagons are so spread out. Randyll wants to flog people, because he's all about flogging people for any given reason whatsoever. As he rides off, Jaime and Bronn engage with Dickon (chortle). Jaime once again thinks his name is Rickon, but no, it's Dickon, and Bronn bursts out laughing. So do I.
*IMPORTANT GEOGRAPHY NOTE: If you recall from season 2 and Stannis' failed invasion of King's Landing, the Blackwater Rush is the name of the river that runs right next to the walls of King's Landing. It dumps into Blackwater Bay, which is where Dragonstone is located. So, this is an indication that the supply train has moved up from Highgarden and is fairly close to King's Landing.
Bronn abruptly stops the conversation because he feels a tremor in the earth... The Dothraki have come. Jaime and Randyll hastily organize spears and shields to meet the oncoming horde... And just as they get into position, Drogon emerges from the cloud cover, bearing down on the stunned Lannister/Tarly forces. Dany vengefully shouts, "Dracarys," and Drogon instantly punches a hole in the defender's front line with dragon fire. It's a testament to Jaime's leadership that the entire army doesn't collapse in that one moment. Jaime watches with horror as his troops are completely overwhelmed by Drogon and the Dothraki. He spots Dany riding atop Drogon and has his archers try and hit her, but Drogon's scales neatly deflect the incoming arrows. But Jaime brought a far more powerful weapon: Qyburn's scorpion. He dispatches Bronn to fire the giant crossbow at Drogon. After being pursued by one of the Dothraki, Bronn reaches the scorpion and prepares to fire it at Drogon. The first shot sails high and alerts dragon and rider alike to its existence. The second shot is true to the mark, though, striking Drogon in his shoulder area. Drogon begins to plummet to the earth, but quickly regains control and engulfs the scorpion in flames. Bronn leaps to the ground and is saved from burnination only by extremely thick plot armor.
Dany dismounts and attempts to remove the giant arrow that wounded Drogon. Jaime, sensing a Hail Mary-type opportunity, grabs a lance and charges at Dany, hoping to eliminate the Mother of Dragons once and for all. Tyrion, helpless to do anything, watches from a distance, muttering about his idiot brother. Of course, Drogon senses the imminent peril to his mama. He squares up and prepares to end Jaime with a blast of dragon breath, but Bronn dives in at the last second, unhorsing Jaime and sending him into the water. Jaime descends slowly in the deceptively deep water and we fade to black at the end of the episode.
Very. Little. I wasn't a huge fan of the scene between Tycho and Cersei... It felt like it was superfluous and a bit rushed, but was present to remind us that Cersei is paying off her debts with the gold won in the sack of Highgarden. Tycho Nestoris seems eager to lend Cersei even more gold now that she's paid off the Iron Throne's debt, but this seems somewhat shortsighted to me, for two reasons. First, Cersei had to sack Highgarden, the wealthiest castle in the Seven Kingdoms (now that Casterly Rock is bankrupt), just to be able to pay off the debt. If he's going to loan her additional money, how's he going to get it back? Second, it's like he's forgetting that the other side has dragons. Sure, Dany hasn't used them at this point in the episode, but it was only a matter of time, right? It'll be really interesting to see how cooperative the Iron Bank is with Cersei's plans going forward. That said, the mention of the Golden Company raises an entirely new specter that hasn't been seen in the show universe thus far. That's a Chekov's Army that I can't imagine was thrown in there as lip service.
Littlefinger seems to have seriously painted himself into a corner. He's just taking L's left and right from the Stark kids. You have to think that he's going to rally and make a last-ditch effort at reacquiring power, but how?
Uh, Theon's sequence, I guess? His scene last week was solely to show us that he got on a ship. HIs scene this week was present for the sole purpose of telling us that Jon ain't happy with him (well duh) and that Dany had left Dragonstone at some point during Brienne and Arya's sparring sequence. It was short and didn't really bother me overmuch, though.
I personally loved Arya's reunion with Sansa in the crypts. I've read some criticisms that the scene didn't resonate emotionally in the way that folks were hoping, but I found it entirely in character for the sisters. They've both been through an absurd amount of junk to get there, and they weren't exactly close before Ned's head went flying. Arya doesn't exactly warmly embrace Sansa, but she spontaneously hugs Sansa at the end of their conversation in the crypts. They simply needed some time to warm up to one another again, and found it.
Speaking of Arya, I absolutely loved the sparring sequence between Brienne and Arya. At first, Brienne underestimates Arya, and Arya seems to be simply toying with Brienne. But once Brienne kicks Arya to the ground and Arya backspins up, it's fully on. Each matches the other's blows and the duel ends in a stalemate. Both seem to be highly enjoying themselves, and I'm over here completely geeking out. Arya and Brienne are perfect training partners. I thoroughly enjoyed their one scene in Season 4, and I'm really excited to see more interaction between the two.
Jon and Dany's story is progressing really nicely; I am really enjoying the chemistry between the pair. While I am starting to tire of the phrase "bend the knee," I think that both monarchs have valid points in their arguments, and I appreciate that they're not being made with venom, but mutual respect. Davos's jovial friendliness is serving as an inroad with Missandei which is providing a deeper insight into Dany's character for Jon, which is really intriguing. It seems logical to me that Davos is going to eventually broach the subject of a marriage alliance between Jon and Dany, though I don't know when it's going to happen or if they would go for it. I have to think that the revelation of Jon's parentage has to come at some point before that. We'll see.
Okay sorry, I had to get all of that out... Now we come to TROGDOR!!!!!! Before the "Battle of Fire" sequence in Episode 9 of last season, my favorite sequence in the show was Drogon roasting Kraznys mo Nakloz when Dany purchased the Unsullied in Season Three. I've been waiting for a dragon to be unleashed for seven seasons now, and finally. FINALLY, they give it to us... And it did not disappoint. They effectively humanized everyone but Randyll Tarly, I thought. I especially appreciated the look of dread/terror on Jaime and Bronn's faces as Drogon emerged from the clouds. For all the humanization, though, I had to cackle with glee as Drogon burninated the countryside and barbecued Lannister soldiers. It was one of the largest spectacles we've seen in Game of Thrones to date, and it was oh so satisfying.
The Bottom Line
Like I said, this was one of my favorite episodes of the entire show, possibly favorite. Well scripted, characterized, and acted. And TROGDOR! Can’t wait for next week.