Emmy episode analysis: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (‘Game of Thrones’) battles a dragon in ‘The Spoils of War’

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau had to wait seven seasons, but he finally scored a Best Drama Supporting Actor nomination for HBO’s mega-hit “Game of Thrones.” It is the actor’s first career Emmy nomination. His portrayal of Jaime Lannister previously garnered him Critics’ Choice Award and Gold Derby Award nominations in 2013. Coster-Waldau has submitted the episode “The Spoils of War” for Emmy consideration.

After sacking Highgarden in the previous episode, Jaime and his Lannister army are packing up loot from the fallen Tyrell stronghold. Jaime can’t seem to bring himself to celebrate the military victory, however, and is still mulling over the revelation that Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) had his son murdered. While en route to King’s Landing, the Lannister loot train is suddenly besieged by Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) Dothraki horde. To Jaime’s horror, the Dragon Queen herself flies into the battlefield atop her dragon to wreak havoc and incinerate his men. Bronn (Jerome Flynn) is able to wound and ground the dragon with a large ballista bolt. Jaime rushes Daenerys with a spear while her back is turned, but he is spotted by the dragon before he can strike. As the creature opens its mouth, Bronn tackles Jaime off his horse and into the adjacent lake, narrowly missing the erupting flames.

Can Coster-Waldau win his first Emmy for this character? Below we discuss the pros and cons.

PROS

The episode opens on Jaime, deep in contemplation. Olenna Tyrell’s final words clearly stung him, and the death of his son weighs heavy on his mind. There is an undercurrent of remorse in every line. This dynamic is not created by the dialogue but is instead subtext that Coster-Waldau contributes himself. Not only is it a finely calibrated performance, but it provides the type of quiet and emotional beat which has become rare for Jaime.

Coster-Waldau’s main sequence is the loot train battle at the episode’s climax. This clash between Lannisters, Dothraki, and a dragon is one of the most memorable moments of Season 7. Not only are the effects and stunt work inspiring, but it represents Jaime at his lowest. It’s clear from the look in Coster-Waldau’s eyes that when Jaime charges at Daenerys with his spear, he is embarking on a suicide mission. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

CONS

While voters may walk away with a lasting impression of Coster-Waldau since the episode begins and ends with him, Jaime disappears for the bulk of the running time. After the first scene, the story diverts to the Starks at Winterfell and Daenerys at Dragonstone. He has a serious lack of screen time compared to some other nominees in this category.

While the loot train attack was a highlight of Season 7, the scene’s focus on action doesn’t provide Jaime with much dialogue. As a result, there is no epic monologue or emotional outburst for Coster-Waldau to dig into. What’s worse, Bronn is tasked with felling the dragon, so Jaime doesn’t even partake in the centerpiece of the battle sequence.

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