‘Game of Thrones’ recap: The Mother of Dragons strikes back in mother of all battles in ‘The Spoils of War’

Game of Thrones” is moving at a mile a minute in this, its penultimate season, and it’s no wonder. This shortened season consists of just seven episodes, so after the August 6 installment, “The Spoils of War,” we’re already more than halfway to the end. And since we’re moving at a steady clip, the show delivered on yet more promises, including a couple more long-awaited reunions and a battle that delivered something that fans have probably been waiting for for years. Here are the six most epic moments from “The Spoils of War.”

Arya Comes Home — The Starks are a hardy bunch. That’s what I thought when Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) rode back home to Winterfell, humiliated a couple of hapless guards and reunited with her sister Sansa (Sophie Turner) after years of separation. It didn’t occur to me until most of the clan was back together that the Starks are one of the most enduring clans on the show. The execution of patriarch Ned Stark in a way was a catalyst for the entire series, his wife Catelyn and oldest son Robb died at the Red Wedding, and youngest son Rickon died in the Battle of the Bastards, but Arya, Sansa, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) are still alive and arguably stronger than ever. Compare that to families like the Tyrells, Targaryens, and even Lannisters, which have been decimated. Don’t be surprised if a Stark ends up on the Iron Throne.

Arya: Warrior Princess — Arya’s storylines have been some of the most isolated from the rest of the series, so who in her family would ever imagine she’d not only survive but become a formidable warrior? Sansa laughed when Arya told her about her list of names of people she would kill, but she wasn’t laughing when all-seeing Bran confirmed it without being told. And if that wasn’t enough, Sansa surely became a believer after watching Arya wipe the floor with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) during a friendly sparring match. Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) was also intrigued, always on the lookout for a new angle he can play to his advantage.

“Chaos is a Ladder” — One wonders how long Littlefinger will last, though, while living at Winterfell with Bran, the Three-Eyed Raven. His schemes and machinations require deceit and trickery, and you can’t trick Bran Stark anymore. After Littlefinger presents Bran with a gift — the dagger used in an attempt on Bran’s life — Bran tells him, “Chaos is a ladder,” which echoes a speech by Littlefinger from season three that outlines Littlefinger’s willingness to sow discord to further his selfish interests. But Bran’s line is more than just an indication that he can’t be fooled. Bran is omniscient now, and therefore knows everything Littlefinger has already done, so it might also be a warning. If the Starks knew the whole story, his head might be on a pike. But Bran is so detached from the world now that he can see all of it that it’s not clear he would lift a finger even to help his siblings.

Reek and the Bastard — Speaking of people betrayers of the Starks, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) returned to Dragonstone with his tail between his legs after abandoning his sister Yara during an attack by Euron, their uncle. Theon and Jon had been on such divergent paths over the years that I almost forgot that they once lived together at Winterfell — Theon was taken as a ward of the Starks after the failed Greyjoy Rebellion. Of course, after that Theon overthrew Winterfell, which led to the takeover by the Bolton’s, which sent Bran off into the wilderness and led to the eventual death of Rickon. Suffice it to say that Jon was not happy to see Theon again. Jon spared Theon’s life when they came face to face, but only because Theon eventually helped Sansa escape from Ramsay Bolton. But given his cowardice in the battle against Euron, Theon’s off-again-on-again sense of integrity might be a problem, and he should hope Jon is not around to see his next betrayal.

The Mother of Dragons Strikes Back — In last week’s episode, “The Queen’s Justice,” Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) wiped the floor with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) on all fronts, capturing or killing her allies and trapping her army of Unsullied at Casterly Rock. Frustrated, Dany wanted to fly her dragons into battle and take the throne by brute force. Jon Snow advised against a campaign that would have brought death and destruction upon the populace, but despite that, we still got to see a dragon in battle for the first time. For years we’ve known the dragons are fearsome, but we haven’t seen one enter a battle quite at the scale of the one that ended this week’s episode, in which Dany brought one of her dragons along with her Dothraki army to lay waste to the Lannister forces that just looted Highgarden. Finally, we got a stunning illustration of precisely what dragons can do on the battlefield, deflecting arrows without breaking a sweat and incinerating an entire military caravan in a single breath. It looked invincible until Bronn (Jerome Flynn) managed to reach Cersei’s secret weapon, a crossbow from hell that brought the dragon back down to earth.

Jaime Tries to Kill Another Targaryen — Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is famous for serving as the Hand of the Mad King and then executing him when he was preparing to destroy King’s Landing to prevent Robert Baratheon from taking the throne. Well, Jaime got a chance to execute another Targaryen leader, the Mad King’s daughter Daenerys, who was vulnerable to attack after her dragon’s injury. While Jaime’s brother Tyrion watched on in horror, Jaime prepared to hurl a spear at Dany, but the dragon caught sight of him first and would have burned him to a crisp if Bronn hadn’t been there to push Jaime out of the way. In the last shot of the episode we saw Jaime sinking helplessly underwater, but we didn’t see him die. I for one hope he survives at least long enough to tell his sister/lover Cersei about Olenna Tyrell’s dying confession. Let’s hope “Game of Thrones” doesn’t deny us that satisfaction.

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