Welcome to “A Song of Nice and Fire” Upworthy’s weekly series recapping one of the most brutal shows on TV. Since brutality is not really in our wheelhouse, Eric March has taken it upon himself to dig deep, twist and turn, and squint really hard to see if he can find the light of kindness in all the darkness. He may not always succeed, but by gosh if he won’t try his best.
Here’s what he found on this week’s “Game of Thrones.”
For an episode high on characters non-consensually set ablaze, “The Spoils of War” featured a lot of man’s-kindness-toward-his-fellow-man. I didn’t even have to squint that hard.
Let’s dive right in!
1. The Stark siblings reunite!
After six and a half seasons, thousands of miles traveled, several months of assassin training, two nightmare marriages, and one attempt to kind of become a tree, the remaining three children of Ned and Catelyn Stark finally get the band back together — and it’s glorious.
Sure, it’s also a little awkward. Bran behaves like the world’s most insufferable college freshman home for Thanksgiving who has thoughts about the categorical imperative, while Sansa increasingly suspects that Arya’s kill list might include a certain red-headed sister whose name rhymes with Pantsa Park. Arya, meanwhile, is too busy fighting knights three times her size to a draw to really bother with any palace intrigue, stirring up some of her sister’s long-buried childhood resentment. But for the most part, everyone hugs and has a nice, easygoing break from the generational trauma they’ve been subjected to.
And just like at most family reunions…
2. Everyone gives everyone a dagger!
Like a fruitcake on Christmas morning, Westeros’ most infamous stabbing implement — the knife that almost ended Bran way back in season one — spends a majority of last night’s episode being re-gifted. Littlefinger gives it to Bran, who gives it to Arya, who gives it to Brienne, who gives it back to Arya. Sure, they all have different motives, not all of them 100% pure, but hey, it’s the thought that counts!
Judging by Arya’s rapid mastery of the weapon, I can easily imagine it making its way into a certain perpetually-on-the-edge-of-cynical-laughter face before too long.
Careful who you pawn that fruitcake off on…
3. A Lannister pays her debt.
What do you know? Cersei actually delivers on her promise to make good on her loan from the Iron Bank.
That’s A+ financial responsibility, even if it involved poisoning an old woman to death to make it happen.
Gotta balance those books!
4. Bran thanks Meera for dragging him thousands of miles through the snow.
Yes, he does so in the most ungrateful, detached way possible and leaves out a few minor details and incidental dead friends, but if we set the bar as low as we possibly can, he does say thank you. Turns out you can be all-knowing and all-seeing and still recall the essential Emily Post.
Anyway, Meera’s off the show now probably, so score one for character economy!
5. Jon gives Daenerys a free art history lesson in the dragonglass mine.
Time was, a guided tour of the catacombs beneath Dragonstone would set you back 175 euros and a cooler full of overpriced baguettes, but here’s Jon, giving it to Daenerys free of charge!
Of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. It turns out that in addition to enough dragonglass to slay an army of white walkers, the mine contains some seriously spiral-y etchings that conveniently help Jon sell the story he failed to adequately transmute to his potential ally-in-walking-dead-killing a few days (Weeks? Months? Centuries? What is the timeline on this show?) prior. Panicked, throne-room descriptions of ice zombies delivered by a man wearing an IKEA shag rug on his back? Eh. The same story scratched onto a cave wall? That’s the sort of thing that gets a dragon queen on board.
Jon wins her over enough that Dany offers her killing prowess — in exchange for your standard pledge of undying loyalty and submission (“Bend the knee”). Unfortunately, there are some plan-hitches even Dany is unaware of.
6. Tyrion delivers the good news first!
Good communicators know how to sandwich bad news in between the good, and that’s exactly what Westeros’ smartest, most prolific talker does by leading with the glorious capture of Casterly Rock before filling in the small matter of the trapped Unsullied, ransacked resources, and dead allies.
The delivery is so tactful that Daenerys remains cool enough to probe Jon for advice — and seems to take it when he reminds her why people are into her in the first place.
People, that is, like him. He seems into her.
Also, she is his aunt.
Weirdly, we all ‘ship it.
7. Jamie casually persuades Randyll Tarly not to whip a bunch of his soldiers.
Look, it really sucks when your exhausted army is moving at a snail’s pace, and flogging the slow-moving dudes does seem like the kind of thing that would speed things up, but props to Jamie for urging his co-commander to at least give the guys a stern talking-to before going all “Fifty Shades of Grey” on them.
Later, Jamie, the most morally medium Lannister, continues to get right with his gods by attempting to talk Tarly’s son Dickon out of his shell shock. His efforts are nearly undone by Bronn, who not only laughs at the dude’s admittedly hilarious name but proceeds to mock his pampered upbringing with a well-/poorly timed poop quip.
But the sellsword rapidly redeems himself because not seven seconds later…
8. Dany goes for a dragon ride!
What good is painstakingly raising three dragons from birth if you’re going to sit around and not ride them? To the delight of viewers and horselords alike, aspiring Queen Daenerys finally scratches the itch for the first time since landing in Westeros.
Her first destination? Straight at a bunch of unsuspecting Lannister soldiers (cf. the above “FIREBALL!”).
Mercifully, in the ensuing (epically one-sided) carnage…
9. Bronn ditches his sack of gold to save Jamie’s life…
…when they and several hundred of their closest foot soldiers find themselves under combined assault from the Dothraki, who apparently brought a teleportation machine over from the steppe (again, I have to ask — how quickly is time moving on this show?) and the aforementioned 50-foot fire monster from the maw of hell. In an act of utter and utterly surprising selflessness, when forced to choose between his spilled gold and the lives of his comrades, Bronn elects to leave the cash money behind and make a beeline for the scorpion in a vain attempt to spear Daenerys’ one-woman scaly air force out of the sky.
Indeed, for a supposedly honor-less killing machine, not only does Bronn sniff out the oncoming horde in the first place and trade his pay for the chance to save a couple dozen Ed Sheerans, he (or some guy who really looks like him) also risks involuntary immolation to push Jamie into the most conveniently adjacent river of all time, sparing him an untimely death-by-Drogon.
Give that man his castle, already.
P.S. — While it’s not exactly “nice,” credit to director Matt Shakman for providing lots of long, lingering shots of Lannister soldiers screaming and staggering around on fire, reminding us that war really, really sucks if you’re the little guy — even if you fight for the baddies.
Random Acts of Niceness
- Jon, who hasn’t seen Theon since all that, you know, stuff went down, demonstrates heroic restraint and refrains from smashing the ironborn lordling’s face in. Funny how so many of the nicest moments on this show involve one character not killing another character they emphatically should kill! Take it where you can get it, I guess.
- Littlefinger promises to protect all of Catelyn Stark’s children, which seems sweet until you remember it’s a vow that conveniently leaves out a certain sibling/cousin/bastard who just happens to be out of town giving museum tours at the moment.
- Thanks to Stannis, Davos is now an insufferable grammar pedant who knows the difference between “less” and “fewer.” Stannis appreciates the congrats.
Whew! Lots to cover on the kindness beat. Join me next week when, hopefully, Jamie finally learns Dickon’s name (assuming the golden-armed general hasn’t drowned), Sam finally gets to read the long academic tome of his dreams, and Tormund and his wildling brigade report nothing of note going on at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea — false alarm!