A short episode, made shorter by how intense and impactful it was. Not much wasted dialogue or action here. Reunions galore, quotes referencing scenes from many years ago, and a dragon unleashed. All this, and the dead still to come. This episode was focused on fewer stories, and thus there was a lot of meat.
Jaime and Bronn (and Lord Tarly) lead the Lannister army away from the defeat of Olenna and the Tyrells on the road from Highgarden to King's Landing. Jaime pauses the wagon train so that he can get a big sack of coins for Bronn, who is suspicious...not of getting a big sack of coins, but that Jaime intends for that to be his big reward rather than the castle he was promised.
Not to worry, says Jaime. Once the war is won, Bronn will have his choice of castles. Bronn doesn't seem too confident about that, either.
Back in King's Landing, Cersei woos the Iron Bank. The sacking of Highgarden will apparently provide enough gold to pay off the Bank in one fell swoop, and the Bank rep (I'm sure he's a VP, but isn't everyone at a bank?) is eager to reinvest. Cersei wants to expand her military might, and has reached out to the Golden Company, a mercenary company based in Essos. Fitting, as the Golden Company was founded by someone who tried to defeat the Targaryens (of course, the founder was a Targaryen, too). The Iron Bank rep is pleased, as well, as the Bank has used the Company in the past.
Littlefinger presents Bran Stark with the dagger that was used to try to kill Bran while he was in a coma, way back in Season One. Back then, Littlefinger told Ned and Catelyn that he had lost the dagger of Valyrian steel in a wager to Tyrion Lannister. To Bran, Littlefinger expresses how much he cared for Bran's mother Catelyn, and how he feels that she'd want him to protect her children.
Bran asks Littlefinger if he knows who owned that dagger. Littlefinger says he doesn't, but that very question started the War of Five Kings. He says that the dagger led Bran to his destiny, and that for poor Bran to have traveled North of the Wall, seen all the things he's seen, only to finally return home through such hardship and find chaos resident... Bran interrupts him to say that chaos is a ladder. Of course this is a reference to a (fantastic) speech Littlefinger made to Varys in King's Landing, explaining how sowing the seeds of chaos was the only way a poor noble of indifferent birth could rise in the world. To have Bran Stark use his very words has to be very disconcerting to the guy who sees himself as the puppet master.
They are interrupted by Meera Reed, who has come to say goodbye to Bran, and Littlefinger is only too happy to take his leave with her arrival. Meera wants to be with her family when the dead come. Bran is very matter-of-fact with Meera, and for her part Meera is taken aback at how dismissive he is of all she's been through with him. She lost her brother to get Bran to the Three-Eyed Crow, and they lost Hodor and Summer to get him back to the Wall, and Bran's only explanation is that he's not really Brandon Stark any longer.
It's a measure of the depth of this story that Bran is basically just starting his arc as we get toward the end of the series. He's awkward, as his conversations with Sansa and Meera have demonstrated. He's powerful and dangerous, as his meeting with Littlefinger revealed. In fact, he may be THE most powerful person in the Seven Kingdoms right now, but if he has a particular agenda, it is unrevealed.
As Meera leaves Winterfell, another brunette arrives. Arya Stark has returned home. Her anticipated reunion with Jon Snow doesn't happen though, as Jon is at Dragonstone. Instead, Sansa greets her in front of the tomb of Ned Stark. It's a bit awkward. For her part, Sansa hugs Arya warmly enough, and speaks excitedly about how Jon is going to be thrilled to see her. Arya, though, is a bit removed. She's been on her own for awhile, and learning strange arts, so perhaps that's not so surprising. But perhaps she also remembers the role Sansa played in everything going to hell in King's Landing, and maybe that's not so easy to forget while standing in front of their father's tomb.
Arya asks Sansa if she really killed Joffrey. Sansa admits she didn't, but that she wished she had. Arya confesses that she, too, wanted to kill Joffrey, and was angry that someone had beaten her to it. However long her list got, she said, Joffrey was always at the top. "Your list?" asks Sansa. "Of people I'm going to kill." replies Arya. Sansa starts to laugh at the absurdity of that. I guess they have some catching up to do.
As they realize that each took a long, tortuous path to get back home, their second hug is much warmer than the first. Sansa then tells Arya that Bran is home, too, and Arya's smile dies a-borning as Sansa's face gives away that things aren't quite right with their younger sibling.
They find Bran by the weirwood tree. Bran tells Arya he saw her at the crossroads and thought she might go to King's Landing to kill Cersei, as Cersei is on her list of names. Sansa starts to understand that the list is not a joke, and wants to know who else is there? Arya evasively replies that most are dead already. Bran gives the Valyrian steel dagger to Arya, as she'll find much better use for it. Another note from this conversation: it's good to know Sansa still recognizes Littlefinger is out for himself only.
Podrick and Brienne are training. Rather, Brienne is beating the tar out of Podrick and then telling him what he's doing wrong. Arya interrupts to suggest that Brienne train with her. Above, Sansa and Littlefinger watch. Arya surprises Brienne with her speed, her technique and her two-weapon attack. Brienne is still a ferocious fighter, and gets the better of Arya at one point, but for the most part Arya prevails. "Who taught you how to do that?" asks Brienne. "No one", replies Arya.
Sansa is blown away by Arya's prowess, and it seems a bit perturbed as well. It bears watching.
Missandei is worried that they haven't heard from the Unsullied. Just as she's about to dish with Daeny about her night with Grey Worm, they are interrupted by Jon. Jon leads Daeny to the cave where they are mining dragonglass. The massive supply will be more than they could mine and use. Jon also shows Daeny some cave art done by the Children of the Forest (the original inhabitants of Westeros, before the coming of the First Men). Daeny is enthralled by it, by how ancient it is. Jon leads her on to show that the Children and the First Men worked together to fight the White Walkers. The cave art is clear. The Children and the First Men fought each other over primacy in Westeros, but they put aside their enmity to fight the real danger. Jon draws the obvious parallel with where the two of them stand today. Daeny swears that she will bring her armies and dragons North, if only Jon will swear allegiance to her as his Queen. Jon is reluctant, and Daeny says his people will accept her if Jon does.
Back on the beach, they are greeted by Tyrion and Varys. It's a good news / bad news thing. Casterly Rock is taken, but the Unsullied are in a pickle. Daeny is none too pleased. Davos tries to excuse Jon and himself to allow Daeny and her advisors to discuss things, but Daeny orders them to stay.
She's chafing at the inaction. She's furious with Tyrion over his advice losing her allies in short order. She wants to use her dragons to attack the Red Keep. She asks Jon for his advice. Reluctantly, as he doesn't feel comfortable getting in between Daeny and Tyrion, Jon tells her that she could lead the people of Westeros, but not if she uses dragons to kill innocents. Then she'll be "meet the new boss...same as the old boss".
Later, Jon and Davos are walking and talking, and the subject turns to Daeny. Davos asks Jon what he thinks of her, and Jon says he believes she has a good heart ("I saw you staring at her good heart", laughs Davos). Jon turns the talk to war against the Night King, and in another throwback quote, Davos corrects Jon on the use of fewer vs. less, just as his former boss Stannis used to do. Grammar nazis of Westeros!
They run into Missandei, who gives them the view of those Daeny rules. It is in keeping with Jon's view of Daeny, as Missandei says they don't serve Daeny because of her bloodlines but because they have chosen her. She speaks so passionately that Davos jokingly tells Jon he's switching allegiance to Daeny.
In the harbor, a ship arrives. It drops off Theon and other Ironborn, and Jon sees Theon for the first time since Season One. Theon, who took a very bad thing and made it worse by betraying Robb and taking Winterfell. Theon, who saved Sansa from Ramsay Bolton. Theon, who wants Daeny to save his sister Yara. But Daeny is no longer resident at Dragonstone. She has put herself in play.
Just outside King's Landing
The gold has made its way safely behind the gates of King's Landing, but the rest of the wagon train is struggling to stay together and move efficiently. Lord Tarly wants to flog those at the back of the line, but Jaime suggests that a warning first would be reasonable.
Jaime and Bronn discuss the battle at Highgarden with Dickon, Lord Tarly's son (and Sam's brother). Apparently, although Dickon fought well, there were some things they didn't teach him at fancy lad school (in Bronn's words), like that men lose control of their bowels when they die. This fascinating conversation would continue, but Bronn pauses to draw their attention to the sound of hoofbeats. The strung out wagon train is coming under attack by Dothraki.
Jaime and the other leaders get their men set in a defensive line. The front will hold body-length shields, while behind them men place spears ahead of the shields. The theory is that charging horses will impale themselves on the spears while the shield wall keeps the charge from penetrating. Behind the spears, archers try to take out the charging horsemen.
Bronn suggests to Jaime that he race back to King's Landing, as he's the commander of their forces. Jaime refuses, believing they can hold off the attack.
And then Drogon roars, and it's probably not just death that causes men to lose control of their bowels.
What might have been a reasonably even fight is a butt-whipping. Shield walls don't stay tight when dragon flame is burning up huge chunks of defenders.
Jaime forms up the archers, whose arrows do no damage whatsoever to Drogon.
Jaime then sends Bronn to go get Qyburn's secret weapon, the ballista-like scorpion, which is mounted on a wagon in the (so far) unburned line.
Bronn gets de-horsed by one of Daeny's guard captains, spilling his coins and losing his sword in the process. Bronn manages to put obstacles between them until he finds a sword, then he fights his way over to the wagon. The captain finds him there...and also finds a ballista spear through his chest. Bronn readies the weapon, and fires a giant spear at Drogon, who evades it. Reloading, Bronn manages to send the next one into Drogon's shoulder, and Drogon barely manages to pull up before a crash landing that would have killed Daeny. Bronn jumps away as Drogon destroys the scorpion. Daeny tries to pull the spear from Drogon's shoulder.
Tyrion watches from a hill above the battle, and he sees his brother Jaime pick up a spear and charge the downed Daenerys. Before he can get there, Drogon lines up a blast of flame, which would have seared Jaime from his horse, if he were still there. Just in the nick of time, Bronn has tackled Jaime off his horse and into the waters of Blackwater Rush. Jaime, fully armored, sinks like a stone.
Scenes From Next Week
- Daenerys addressed the conquered troops
- Varys discusses Daeny's willfullness with Tyrion
- Cersei consults with Qyburn
- Drogon shrieks at Jon
- The dead march to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea