Airing in the UK at 2am and 9pm Mondays on Sky Atlantic
Writers: David Benioff and D B Weiss
Director: Matt Shakman
Essential Plot Points:
- Jamie Lannister is on the march with the Tyrell gold. But he’s not happy. Bronn (Jerome Flynn) tries to find out why in his usual cheeky way. He’s also keen to know where his promised castle is if the Lannisters always pay their debts.
- The Iron Bank is impressed – it’s never had a debt this large repaid in one go. If the gold arrives, that is.
- Littlefinger hands Brandon Stark a present. It’s the dagger that was supposed to kill him. As the Lord Protector of the Vale tries to empathise with the plight of a journey home that ends with a return to chaos, Bran tells Littlefinger enigmatically: “Chaos is a ladder.”
- Brandon and Meera Reed have an awkward goodbye. Having told Petyr Baelish that he’s not Lord Stark, he now tells her that he’s not even Brandon Stark.
- Arya Stark arrives at Winterfell but it’s not a warm welcome. The guards try to turn her away. But they can’t halt a reunion for the Stark children – where Bran hands Arya the dagger Littlefinger gave him.
- Jon shows Daenerys the dragonglass before they start mining. But there’s more – proof that the Children of the Forest and the first men fought the Night King together. He asks her to do the same, and she repeats her request for him to bend the knee.
- News arrives from Casterly Rock. Daenerys realises she’s losing the war.
- Podrick and Brienne are training. Until Arya asks Brienne to school her and the two square off in an intense sparring match.
- The Onion Knight and Jon Snow discuss Daenerys. “There’s no time for that,” Jon says when Sir Davos quips that he’s seen how he looks at her.
- Reek – sorry, Theon Greyjoy – arrives at Dragonstone. Jon greets him on the beach with about as warm a welcome as Arya got at Winterfell. He’s come to ask for the queen’s help to rescue his sister from Euron. But the queen has gone…
- The gold may have been safely delivered to King’s Landing but the Dothraki hoard aren’t going to let the food play its part in this war. They attack. And their queen rides a dragon into battle alongside them.
- Close call for Jaime Lannister, after he spies a way to end the war in one fell swoop.
Brandon Stark’s arc has finally started to become as interesting as it has always threatened – but never actually managed – to be. Of all the Stark children, his was the least inspiring path in previous seasons, but his “visions”, as Sansa calls them, are starting to become more intuitive and more pertinent to those around him.
This is particularly true in his exchange with Littlefinger. When Bran says “Chaos is a ladder” he is actually quoting Littlefinger’s own words to Varys back to him – the surprise on Lord Baelish’s face comes from the fact that there’s no way Bran could have known he’d said that, as only Varys and himself were there at that moment in King’s Landing.
However, Bran’s transformation into the Three-eyed Raven appears to be stripping him of his humanity at an increasing pace. He might be able to see further than anyone else, but there are times he obviously can’t see what’s right in front of him. Meera’s clearly in love with him but all he can offer is a thank you. Sansa’s obvious worry (maybe a little bit of fear?) is also barely concealed, as she tells Arya that Brandon has returned home.
It’s a little on the money that they go from discussing Arya’s plans to kill Cersei, to Bran handing her the dagger that was meant to kill him. Littlefinger described that weapon as being the thing that started the War of the Five Kingdoms. Is this what Arya will use to kill Cersei? On the other hand, we know the value of a Valyrian steel weapon – it’s bane to White Walkers and as good as sticking them with dragonglass. Perhaps Thrones is simply making sure we’re aware that most of our main characters are carrying the necessary weapons to take the fight to the Night King and his army of the dead.
At Dragonstone, we’re not sure how much longer Jon Snow can hold out before he has to bend that knee. “Isn’t their survival more important than your pride?” Daenerys asks him, having told him she’ll fight for the North if he pledges to her. Only the realisation that he’s obviously taken with her beauty makes you think there might be a better joining on the cards.
Meanwhile, Podrick Payne and Brienne of Tarth continue their foreplay via sword training (seriously, does no-one else see this?). Until Arya appears and shows everyone just how deadly she’s become. The worried look from both Brianne and Arya when they realise Littlefinger is watching shows the pair share a level of distrust for him – but beyond that, it’s almost as if Arya never intended to reveal her skills. A little information can be a dangerous thing in this man’s hands.
And if Jon Snow has seen the devastation of the Night King, Jaime Lannister has now seen the same power that comes from dragons. The ordered, clinical, shield wall response to a Dothraki horde appearing over the hilltop soon disintegrates – literally – once that white-hot flame burns through its ranks. As he reels on his horse amid the battle, watching the men who had stood bravely beside him burn or have their ashen bodies swept away by the wind, he realises the true threat of what they’re up against.
We pondered last week if perhaps the shortened (in once case non-existent) battles had been shot in such a way as to spare us from battle fatigue, so we really appreciate what’s coming. Safe to say this week we really do appreciate seeing the fight in full. Bronn manning the dragon slaying ballista shows that Daenerys might not have it all her own way, and you can actually understand Jaime’s actions at the end of the episode as he seeks to kill the queen who threatens his kingdom and end the war before it can go any further. We now await to see his fate following Bronn’s heroic rescue.
- Arya and Brianne’s sparring match, which turns more serious than either think it will at the start, is a highlight. And we’re hoping these two become firm friends.
- The pause before battle, as only the ominous sounds of the approaching Dothraki suggests what’s about to come over that hill.
- The POV shots riding into battle with the Dothraki forces, the first flame of dragon fire, savage fighters leaping from their horses to join the fray. This is how we’ve always imagined war is fought in Westeros – and it does not disappoint.
- A Dothraki warrior playing dirty as he charges Bronn, which we can’t help but wonder if Bronn is impressed by.
- Dickon [we love Bronn’s snigger] Tarly played by Tom Hopper, seems like a great addition to the show. If he’s survived the dragon attack, that is.
- Nothing to see here.
Bronn: “Queen of Thorns give you one last prick in the balls before saying goodbye?”
Sansa: “You shouldn’t have run from the guards.”
Arya: “I didn’t. You need better guards.”
Review by Matt Chapman