“Chaos is a ladder”
While the proverbial Game of Thrones has always created mass casualties in the name of war, this week looked at the intangible gains that can be acquired. And wow, we got a satisfying payoff, didn’t we? But more on that later.
The episode kicked off with the financial gains war can bring, with Jaime leaving Highgarden with wagons loaded with gold. In Kings Landing, meanwhile, Cersei is waiting for the gold’s arrival, as she informs the Iron Bank’s representative that the Lannisters, as always, will pay their debts. The Bank’s Tycho says that the gains of war don’t sit with sentiment or political ambition, it’s purely a financial transaction for them, an algorithm to be calculated. How far these sums add up for Cersei, however, remains to be seen.
Over in Winterfell, another spoil of war is handed over, but this time it’s a gift from Littlefinger to Bran – the dagger that was supposed to kill him and inadvertedly prompted the War of the Five Kings. To put it simply, an assassin hired by Littlefinger tried to kill Bran with it, only to be stopped by Catelyn, who forced a confession from Littlefinger, who had lost it in a bet to Tyrion, who was then held prisoner by Catelyn – all starting the conflict between the Starks and Lannisters. Phew.
Littlefinger continues his half-hearted promises about protecting the Stark children, but Bran uses his own words against him, declaring “chaos is a ladder”. And as we know, if it’s someone who’ll certainly try to profit from war, it’s bound to be Baelish.
But it’s not just the monetary or reputable gains to be attained from war; conflict changes you and we’ve seen this most in the Stark children. Bran is no longer Brandon Stark (“I remember what it’s like to be him, but I’m not him”, he tells Meera), Arya has lost her pure innocence on her journey for vengeance, and Sansa had to grow up in a world determined to destroy her. So when we finally see all three of them reunited this week, there’s a bittersweet tone to it all.
After seven year of being torn across Westeros, the young Starks are back together (hurrah!), and it’s at this point when we truly realise the extent to which they’ve all changed. Arya now has a “kill list” and is able to take down the almighty Brienne in battle, Bran’s sacrificing all material objects as the three-eyed raven, and Sansa has grown into a formidable leader. They have becomes ‘spoils of war’, and whether they‘ve benefited or been ‘spoilt’ by conflict, well, that’s up to you to decide.
Over at Dragonstone, Jon shows Dany that her ancestral home is indeed sat on top of a mountain of dragonglass. But that’s not all, the caves are also home to etchings made by the children of the forest, at a time when they fought alongside humans against a common enemy: the White Walkers. This, quite conveniently, convinces Dany to fight with Jon, but she won’t budge, he still needs to bend the knee.
The moment is however short-lived, as Varys and Tyrion inform the duo that while Casterly Rock has been taken, they’re still losing the war. A furious Dany shuns Tyrion and asks Jon what he’d do – should she just ride her dragons and wipe out the Red Keep? He disagrees, telling her that she’s made the impossible happen, bringing dragons back into the world, and if she torches Kings Landing, she won’t be any different from her predecessors.
Later, Jon sees a Greyjoy ship arrive, and we’re treated to another Stark reunion, this time Jon and Theon. This one’s a bit less tender, as Jon grabs Theon and tells him that what he did for Sansa is the only reason he isn’t killing him. Theon needs help getting Yara back, but he’s too late, the Mother of Dragons has gone.
Where, you ask? Well, we go back to where the episode began, with Jamie and Bronn. In the distance they hear something. An army of hooves is approaching, it’s the Dothraki. The Lannister army are ordered in their formations, but the Dothraki are wild and undisciplined. The two clash and the battle commences.
But oh wait, what’s that? Oh, it’s Daenerys flying in on Drogon of course, as the beast torches the entire Lannister army. In what has to be one of the most spectacular moments in the show’s history, the beautiful countryside is completely devastated, while the Lannister army are burnt to heaps of ash. And in a stunning one-take shot, Bronn navigates across a battlefield of fire and decapitations to get to the Scorpion, the giant crossbow created by Qyburn.
Bronn fires, and after a missed attempt, finally shoots Drogon square in the shoulder. Dropping from the sky, Dany clings on, as she lands safely on the ground, but Drogon’s having none of it as he takes out the Scorpion in one full swipe of his tail.
Watching his army destroyed, Jaime is at a loss, but he sees this as his chance for a heroic death. Rushing towards Dany, he sees this as his opportunity to take out the Mother of Dragons. But Drogon has none of it as he opens his mouth, ready to burn Jaime to a crisp. Luckily, Bronn tackles Jaime out of the way and they both fall into the water. As Jaime sinks further down, weighed down by his heavy armour, could this be the last we see of the Kingslayer?
As the war for the Iron Throne rages on, who’ll survive and what gains will be left for them? Cersei once said that in the Game of Thrones you win or you die, but everyone loses something on their way to power. And for Daenerys, it might just be, like her father, her grip on reality.