The abbreviated seventh season of HBO’s hit series, Game of Thrones, was always fated to have a rigid plot. From the show’s earliest episodes, we understood the broad strokes of the finale. The impending threat from the North, which we saw in the cold open- no pun intended- of episode one would take precedence over the game of thrones. In the fight against the White Walkers, true allegiances would form and the seven kingdoms would unite.
Game of Thrones | Episode 704 | ‘The Spoils of War’ | Aired Aug. 6th, 2017
As those alliances begin to form, we’ve seen many characters reunited after a long time apart from one and other. Whereas last week’s episode featured Jon and Danny meeting each other for the first time, this week was all about characters being re-introduced to each other. Many of our favorite Game of Thrones characters were once close to one and other. But the years have torn them apart for most of the show’s run. As they reunite, they are finding each other to be different people than the ones who they remember.
Take, for example, the reunion this week between Arya Stark and her sister Sansa. The last time these two characters saw each other was in Game of Thrones’ fledgling first season. Back then, Sansa dreamed of being a great lady, preferably as Joffery’s wife. Meanwhile, Arya eschewed courtly expectations, preferring to learn sword play from Syrio Forel in secret. Flash forward to this week’s episode and each has what they’ve always wanted. Sansa is the lady of Winterfell and Arya is a master with a sword.
Each of these characters though has also grown to understand the burden that comes with their bounty. Sansa has had to learn to play the game of thrones to survive. And Arya has found it harder than she expected to mesh the assassin’s lifestyle she picked up in Essos with the societal expectations of Westeros. So while each has found themselves exactly where they wanted to be when they were children, they have also learned that the world is more complicated than a child could have imagined.
This week also brought Jon Snow back together with Ned Stark’s ward Theon Greyjoy. With everything that has happened in the last seven seasons of the show, the casual viewer would be excused for forgetting that Jon and Theon grew up together in Winterfell. But they haven’t seen each other since Jon left to join the Night’s Watch early in the first season.
In the intervening period, Theon has betrayed the Starks, killed most of the Stark’s servants in Winterfell, taken over Winterfell after claiming to have killed Bran and Rickon, and served Ramsay Bolton, who himself took Winterfell and murdered Rickon Stark. While Jon has been serving the Night’s Watch and literally giving his life to protect the realms of men, Theon has been on a path of chaos and bloodshed. His only constant has been doing whatever he needed to do to survive.
When the two men meet in this episode, Jon tells Theon that the only reason Jon didn’t kill Theon the minute he saw him is because Theon helped Sansa escape from Ramsay Bolton. It is interesting that the only selfless thing Theon has done in the entire series helped him survive his encounter with a man who he grew up with.
The most interesting, and the most overlooked, reunion of the episode though was the one between Tyrion and his brother Jamie. Tyrion wants to see Dany win the game of thrones, but his plans have been foiled at every turn by his siblings in King’s Landing. This week, Dany accused him of subterfuge, and took to the sky on the back of her dragon Drogon, to dispense some old fashioned Mad Queen justice to the Lannister army. And while Tyrion was against the plan for a number of tactical reasons, he found his loyalties torn on the battlefield for one very particular one.
As Dany rode over the battle, fire spewing from the toothy maw of her mount, Jamie Lannister was one of the only men to keep his head about him. With the help of his knight Bron -who was once Tyrion’s knight- Jamie felled the dragon and attempted to kill Dany with a Dothraki spear. The plan fails, as Drogon’s fiery gullet has other things in mind.
But it is Tyrion’s reaction to Jamie’s charge that is most revealing. Tyrion is not upset because Dany could die. He is upset because his brother could die. The brother who let him out of prison even when he thought Tyrion may have killed his son Joffrey. Jamie is the strongest military adversary that Tyrion has in the fight for the iron throne, and Tyrion wants him to ride away to safety as fast as he can.
The dynamics in the game of thrones are changing quickly. Characters who have been separated for years are coming back together. And characters who once thought they wanted one thing are finding out they want something else. As we push through to the end of the season, the most important question will be, who actually wants peace in Westeros, and who just wants the Iron Throne? We’ve all known for seven years that winter was coming. Now we will see who has spent that time preparing for it.