Updated: 20th February 2018

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7, Episode 4: ‘Spoils of War’ review round-up

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Given the stunning variety of colorful murders we’ve witnessed on Game of Thrones, death by dragonfire doesn’t seem all that bad.

There are just three hours to go in Season 7 after Sunday night’s fourth episode, “Spoils of War,” and it’s now possible to imagine an ending for this whole mess. Forces are in motion all across Westeros, and two of them clashed in a big way this weekend.

The fiery wrath of Dany and Drogon not to mention the surging Dothraki hordes, testing their might against a proper army of the Seven Kingdoms for the first time obviously stole the show. But as is always the case with Game of Thrones, the quieter moments carry just as much import.

As usual, there’s a lot to talk about on this, the morning after. Here’s what experts around the internet are thinking as the sun rises in Westeros on an oddly smokey new day….

While much of the conversation centers on Episode 4’s Epic Dragon Action, Mashable‘s own Laura Prudom highlighted the latest twist in an increasingly troubling arc for the mother of those dragons, Daenerys Targaryen.

As effective as Drogon was, “The Spoils of War” also allowed Jon to offer Daenerys a vital piece of wisdom about her weapons of mass destruction: “If you use them to melt castles and burn cities, you’re not different. You’re just more of the same.” Dany’s allies have been quick to point out that they’ve chosen to follow her, not because she’s Aerys Targaryen’s daughter, but because they believe in her but this season, we’ve seen far less of the protective, nurturing Khaleesi who put justice above politics back in Slaver’s Bay, and far more of the Mad King who put his desire to rule above the well-being of his people.

In asking Drogon to spit fire across the battlefield, we’re now forced to wonder: did our once-noble Khaleesi go too far?

Time will tell on that count. Most of us are still too busy dealing with the dazzlement of yet another epic Game of Thrones battle. Lenika Cruz of The Atlantic paused to give credit where it’s due for the show’s latest technical achievement.

Much like last season’s unforgettable Battle of the Bastards, we witnessed quite an artful spectacle as Drogon and the Dothraki hordes sowed their own special blend of chaos.

The episodes director, Matt Shakman, did a fantastic job with this sequence, concocting a vision of senseless slaughter roughly as hellish as the one from last years Battle of the Bastards, while adding in some gruesome new details. The men burning alive inside their armor, the columns of ash that were once soldiers crumbling in the wind, the thick choke of dark gray smoke whipping up from the flames, horses getting their (ugh) legs chopped offall of it was far more vivid than the Lannister/Euron Greyjoy wins of previous weeks. And it ended with the fates of two fan favoritesJaime and Drogonin question (though I cant imagine weve said goodbye to either already).

Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter‘s Josh Wigler took note of a different kind of fire, one that’s been burning especially bright for the past two episodes. Increasingly, Game of Thrones is foreshadowing the union hinted at in the title of author George R.R. Martin’s series: A Song of Ice and Fire.

Game of Thrones-loving Star Wars fans especially know how ought to know what I’m talking about here, and how weird the whole situation is starting to feel. That’s what Wigler picked up on.

Clearly, Game of Thrones is building up toward some kind of romantic collision between Jon Snow and Daenerys. It’s not a shock, given the HBO series is based on a series of novels called A Song of Ice and Fire, a title that directly points toward some sort of union between Houses Stark and Targaryen. Then again, at the same time, the show is building up hype toward a reveal the audience already largely knows, even if the characters most directly involved are still in the dark: Jon Snow is secretly the son of Rhaegar Targaryen, Daenerys’ deceased brother who died at the height of Robert’s Rebellion.

It’s hard not to talk about the centerpiece battle in “Spoils of War,” but plenty of other important moments did play out during Season 7’s fourth episode.

Over at The Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg zeroes in on one in particular that could ripple into an assortment of plot twists down the road. Bran Stark has come home, but only physically. He’s the Three Eyed Raven now, and he may stealthily be the most potentially tide-changing force in this Season 7 story.

Its Littlefinger who experiences the first disturbing jolt, making a transparent effort to wheedle his way into Brans affections by offering the young man the Valyrian steel dagger given to an assassin dispatched to kill Bran. Game of Thrones can be brutal about realpolitik, so its unsettling both to Littlefinger and to us to see a character who cares little for human connection, material security, status or vengeance. Those qualities in Bran have become more evident in every scene hes had this season, whether hes unnerving Sansa by trying to talk to her about her wedding night, failing to thank Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) for her sacrifices on his behalf or refusing the title of Lord Stark. But Brans scene with Littlefinger underscores just how far removed he is from the human world and just how dangerous his visions are. If the powers of the Three-Eyed Raven give Bran access to Littlefingers speech from the third season of the show about the opportunities chaos presents to ambitious men, then Bran can expose everything about Littlefinger, and about almost everyone else he meets.

Bran isn’t the only wayward Stark to be back home in Winterfell, however. After a long journey, Arya is safely ensconced in her family home, and reunited with a sister she never really knew… and frankly, never will know.

Vanity Fair‘s Joanna Robinson picked up on the import of the Arya/Sansa reunion. When they last saw each other, they were little girls. Now, they’re both women who have been shaped by the harsh realities of life in murder-y Westeros.

The scene in the family crypt at the feet of their father’s statue makes it abundantly clear: they’re still family, but they’re now strangers as well.

Standing near the monument to their dead father, the two girls are, however unconsciously, re-living the most traumatic, shared moment in their tragedy-filled lives. The pair have a lot more pain they could share, if they choose to, but it makes complete sense that they dont get there right away. This reunion is affectionate but awkward, and crowded with tiny miscommunications, such as Sansa not taking Aryas kill list seriously. Unlike the manufactured misunderstandings between Jon and Sansa, this tension feels entirely earned for sisters who had so little in common as kids, and dont yet know each other as adults.

Is Jamie dead (nah)? Will Dany and Jon do it (please, no)? Will Bronn, he of the absolutely perfect timing, ever meet his end (DON’T YOU DARE, HBO)? We’ll get caught up next week when Game of Thrones returns with Episode 5, “Eastwatch.”

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