[Warning: this story contains spoilers for the fourth episode of Game of Thrones' seventh season, "The Spoils of War."]
If it wasn't clear before, it sure is now: Daenerys the Conqueror (Emilia Clarke) has arrived in Westeros, and nobody is safe from her wrath.
The latest episode of Game of Thrones, called "The Spoils of War," serves both as the midpoint for the show's penultimate season, as well as a decisive declaration of Daenerys Stormborn's arrival in the Seven Kingdoms. If the closing moments of the season premiere, in which Dany returned to her birthplace on Dragonstone for the first time since fleeing for her life as an infant, served as a contemplative homecoming, then the closing moments of "The Spoils of War" were the exact opposite: all fire and brimstone, the fulfillment of the show's violent promise of what it would look like whenever the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea finally crossed the Narrow Sea with conquest on the mind.
Countless lives were claimed during the bloodbath, potentially including one main character (more on that in a minute), as Daenerys and Drogon ripped through the fields of the Reach in an act of war that was as mythical as it was violent — somewhere between the horrible human warfare featured in "Battle of the Bastards" and the White Walkers' stunning slaughter at the end of "Hardhome."
Here are seven of the biggest highlights from the battle, ranked:
7. Fall of the Kingslayer
The episode concludes with Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) plummeting into a nearby river, his regal armor acting as an anchor. The sight of him drifting off into the ocean conjures memories of another main character's death from another highly watched show (you all get the reference; everyone else is just Lost), except this scene is significantly less fatal. There's simply no way Jaime dies in an episode in which he doesn't interact with Cersei (Lena Headey), let alone send her a raven with the news about the Queen of Thorns (Diana Rigg) murdering their son. It's a powerful image to be sure, but it's not a final one.
6. The Horrors of War
At one point during the battle, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) watches the carnage from a safe distance. The look of horror on his face is surpassed only by the horrors he sees out on the field, as soldiers scream in fiery agony, some of them rendered into nothing more than ash. (Indeed, the sight of one soldier's body blowing away in the breeze stands out as one of the single greatest images in recent Thrones memory.) Moments earlier in the episode, Daenerys was accusing Tyrion of not wanting to see his family lose this war. We know all too well how much Tyrion wants to see his sweet sister fall, of course, but that doesn't make him immune to the horrible cost of war.
5. Daenerys Takes Flight
Think back to "Dance of the Dragons," the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones' fifth season. After years of waiting for it to happen, viewers finally watched Daenerys soar through the skies on one of her dragons. Almost two full seasons later, we've seen Dany fly on Drogon a few times, even in the heat of battle. With that said, the incineration of the Masters of Slavers Bay pales in comparison to the sight of Daenerys finally unleashing Drogon upon denizens of Westeros. We always wondered what it would look like when the Mother of Dragons finally turned her attention upon the Seven Kingdoms, and now, we have our devastating answer.
4. The Dothraki Howl
Ever since Daenerys' marriage to Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) in the first season, her fate was linked with the Dothraki. Those earliest days of Thrones came equipped with the promise of these horseback riding warlords crossing the Narrow Sea for the first time ever, to decimate the Westerosi who cast out House Targaryen in the first place. Consider that to be yet another promise fulfilled, as this episode brought the full force of Daenerys' massive khalasar to bear upon her enemies, first glimpsed in the battle in the form of a far-off ferocious war cry — the stuff of absolute nightmare fuel.
3. Bronn versus Brawn
A marginal character in the books, Bronn has become one of the breakout fan favorites over his run on Thrones, thanks to the wonderfully wry performance from Jerome Flynn. It doesn't hurt his approval ratings that Bronn often finds himself in heart-pounding situations, whether it's participating in Trial by Combat for a wealthy man he barely knows, or firing off a pivotal arrow during the Battle of the Blackwater. In the case of "The Spoils of War," Bronn fires off two pivotal arrows: the first one striking a Dothraki warlord in what can only be described as "overkill" and the second one striking....
2. Fall of the Dragon
We weren't worried when Game of Thrones introduced a giant crossbow with the potential to kill a dragon. Well, we should have been worried. Although Drogon survived his injury (at least for now), we saw firsthand just how much damage the new Lannister weapon can unleash upon Dany's most precious resource. Even if the masses are rooting for the Targaryens over the Lannisters, it's still absolutely riveting to consider the prospect of one of Dany's dragons meeting an untimely demise thanks to such a powerful device — and if Bronn had added "Dragon Slayer" to his résumé, it may have been worth the price.
1. Rise of the Kingslayer
Jaime Lannister lost his hand almost four full seasons ago to the episode. Look how far he's come since then. Sure, in many ways, he's the same exact man, foolishly rushing into violence all in the name of his addiction to Cersei (Headey). But it's still impressive to see the man become such a force on the battlefield with only the one hand. What's more, nobody will soon forget the sight of the Kingslayer charging directly at Dany and Drogon with nothing more than a spear, momentum from his horse and determination on his side. He's fighting for the wrong cause, no doubt about it — but imagine applying all of those powers to the right cause. The Night Kingslayer has a certain ring to it, doesn't it?
Watch the video below for the Game of Thrones cast's preview of season seven's battles.
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