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‘Game of Thrones’ recap: In ‘The Spoils of War,’ enter the dragon

Here's a recap of the fourth episode from Season 7 of HBO's "Game of Thrones." (Video: Daron Taylor, Nicki DeMarco/The Washington Post)

The battle in the Narrow Sea in the second episode of this season wasn’t the greatest “Game of Thrones” battle, by a long shot. Granted, it didn’t have the story line buildup of “Hardhome” or “The Battle of the Bastards,” and it was more minor overall, but simply in terms of execution it was a little dark and disjointed. But there are no complaints that can be made about the battle in Sunday night’s episode, in which the full force of a dragon was unleashed while vicious, bloody clashes raged on the ground. Remove the previouslies and the end credits and this episode barely clocked in at 45 minutes. But it’s hard to see anyone feeling like they didn’t get enough. Let’s get to what happened, and let’s hope this week’s cliffhanger gets resolved in short order.

What’s next for Jaime Lannister?

Read Alyssa Rosenberg’s review of “The Spoils of War:

The Loot Train Battle
We saw what damage the dragons could cause in Meereen, when Drogon saved Dany’s life in the fighting pits after a Sons of Harpy attack, and then when the dragons incinerated all the ships in Slaver’s Bay. But the destruction that Drogon inflicted on the Lannister army was on another level, as he swooped down and incinerated hundreds of soldiers, sending them to their miserable, fiery deaths. We’ll get to exactly how Daenerys landed on this decision to attack, but first the details of the Loot Train Battle (yes, that’s what it’s called), which immediately stakes its claim for Most Impressive “Thrones” Battle.

In the aftermath of celebrating their decisive victory in Highgarden, and making off with the collected riches of House Tyrell, Jaime is shepherding the gold back to King’s Landing so the Lannisters can once again pay their debts, this time to the Iron Bank. Randyll Tarly tells Jaime that the gold has made its way to King’s Landing, but can we trust that it made it all the way to its destination? The worn-down army, also on its way back to King’s Landing, soon gets an unwanted visit. Bronn is the first to hear the rumbling in the distance, which shows itself to be a stampeding horde of Dothrakis, who are armed with arakhs and bows and arrows. The Lannister army gets into defense position, but that barely works against the Dothraki, let alone the giant dragon that suddenly flies into the field of battle, with one Mother of Dragons riding on his back. With just one cry of “Dracarys!” by Daenerys, Drogon begins his campaign of incineration.

Chaos ensues, bodies fall, some bodies run around in agony while on fire, horses bite the dust — it’s going to be a lot of work for our very own Shelly Tan when she updates the GoT Death Tracker in a year or so. Jaime manages to take out a few Dothraki and has his life saved, somewhat surprisingly by Dickon Tarly, who just a few moments earlier was complaining about the foul stench of battle. Well now he can add “charred flesh” to those scents.

Bronn loses his considerable helping of gold, but rather than try to recover it he races toward the secret weapon that’s in tow — Qyburn’s patented Bow and Arrow, but bigger. His first shot at Drogon (who has already shaken off normal arrows, which had no effect on him) goes wide, and then it takes a little while to load up again, as Jaime can be seen in the middle of the ashes of humanity Drogon has left in his wake. But Bronn’s second shot hits the mark, piercing Drogon in the neck and sending him flopping to land, apparently seriously injured.

Are the dragons in trouble on “Game of Thrones”?

Jaime sees this as an opening, a rare chance to land a fatal blow on Daenerys, who is tending the shaken Drogon. Tyrion, observing from a hill in the distance cannot believe what he’s seeing, and mutters for his brother to flee. As Jaime gets closer, Drogon recovers enough to unleash hellfire that is sure to spell the end of Jaime … until he’s miraculously knocked out of the way (by Bronn, it would seem) and into a lake where he floats ominously to the bottom. (That golden hand can’t help but weigh him down.)

Even with the high bar for visual standards set with battles such as Hardhome and Battle of the Bastards, the Loot Train Battle was a marvel to behold. But we’re left with many questions, among them: Is Jaime ever going to emerge from that lake? What is Bronn’s fate? Will Drogon make a full recovery, or is he temporarily or permanently grounded? Is Dickon Tarly still alive, or did he meet his maker and drop a death deuce? Did that gold actually make it to King’s Landing, or is it on fire somewhere among the destruction?

Dany’s decision
Before the battle, back in Dragonstone, Jon is still trying to convince Daenerys that there’s only one real battle that matters, and that’s the one of the living against the dead. Jon takes Dany into the caves of Dragonstone, where he shows her the plentiful reserves of dragonglass that they’ll soon start hacking to bits to make weapons that can uniquely kill the already-dead. Jon’s show-and-tell also includes some cave drawings that he says were made by the Children of the Forest, who were here ages ago, before the Targaryens, Starks or Lannisters. The drawings — which are definitely ancient hieroglyphs and definitely weren’t quickly scrawled there by Jon a few hours ago — show that the Children of the Forest teamed with the First Men to take on the White Walkers, helpfully explained by the unmistakable rendering of the Night King on one of the cave walls.

This leads to a heart to heart between the Khaleesi and the King in the North, which leads to some serious eye-to-eye speaking which starts to look like it could even turn into some mouth to mouth. We already know that Jon has a history with carnal moments in caves. (Of course, neither of them know that Daenerys is, in all likelihood, Jon’s aunt, but surely that information will be brought up again in due time.) Jon’s plea for support seems to work, and Daenerys says she will fight for the North … when Jon bends the knee. She’s stubborn about that. Jon says his people will never accept a southern ruler; she says if their king does, they will fall in line, and that the survival of his people is more important than his pride.

Upon their exit from the cave, it’s the bad news that Tyrion bears that sets Daenerys on her course of destruction. The good news is that they’ve taken Casterly Rock; the bad news is that they’ve lost everywhere else and now Daenerys is out all of her allies and strategic locations (Highgarden, Dorne, Iron Islands) while she’s just been sitting and waiting at Dragonstone.

Tyrion insists they trust the process, saying his original plan is still on track and will succeed. Daenerys thinks maybe Tyrion doesn’t want to hurt his family after all, and while that’s almost certainly not the case, Tyrion subconsciously throwing the game to help his family would be an interesting development. Daenerys has had enough of the clever plans and wants a show of force, which means an attack on her enemies in King’s Landing. Everyone tries to talk her out of it, including Jon Snow, who says that if she uses her dragons to melt castles and burn cities, she’s not truly a different kind of ruler, just more of the same. So we see exactly how much sway Jon Snow has over Daenerys.

A bigger Stark reunion at Winterfell
Another week, another Stark returns to Winterfell. This time, Arya’s the one who finally makes it back home. After a brief holdup at the main gate, where she name-drops the long-dead Maester Luwin and Ser Rodrik Cassel in an attempt to prove who she is, she manages to get past the idiotic guards and meets up with Sansa in the family crypt. Sansa immediately notices that something about Arya is different, namely that she’s now an unrepentant killer, as evidenced by her kill list, which she speaks of in the hushed tones of, well, an unrepentant killer. Sansa says that when Jon sees Arya, he’ll be so excited that “his heart will probably stop.” Ha, I get it. Then it’s off to visit their brother, Bran.

Well, their kind-of brother, Bran. Earlier we see Bran interact with both Littlefinger and Meera. Littlefinger — who, it barely needs to be said, is clearly up to something, as he always is — gives Bran a gift of the Valyrian steel dagger that was the weapon used in his attempted murder way back in Season 1. That weapon was recovered by Catelyn Stark, who showed it to Littlefinger, who told her that it belonged to Tyrion Lannister, which basically set off the entire mess we’ve seen between the Starks and the Lannisters. Was it really Tyrion’s dagger? Is this all part of Littlefinger’s longest con yet? Littlefinger tells Bran that it must be hard for him to have seen everything he’s seen and to come home and find everything in chaos. Bran replies with Littlefinger’s catchphrase: “Chaos is a ladder.” We get it Bran — you know everything.

Meera interrupts to say that she’s leaving, since Bran is safe and doesn’t need her anymore. “No I don’t,” Bran affirms. “That’s all you’ve got to say?” she asks, incredulously. “Thank you,” is what Bran musters. It’s not that he’s being a moody teen, it’s just that he’s not Bran anymore. “I remember what it felt like to be Brandon Stark, but I remember so much else now,” he says. He’s the Three-Eyed Raven now. For all intents and purposes, Bran Stark died in that cave last season when the wights and White Walkers attacked.

Back to the Stark sibling reunion, Arya and Sansa greet Bran at the weirwood tree where he’s doing what he does — stare straight ahead, silently and creepily. Bran tells Arya he saw her at the Crossroads, which takes Arya by surprise. Sansa tells Arya that Bran has … visions now. Bran gives his newly acquired dagger to Arya, who quickly puts it to use while training with Brienne and showing off the combat skills she picked up during her many years away from home. As Arya displays those skills, Sansa and Littlefinger watch from above. Sansa seems a little taken aback at how much her little sister has changed. Littlefinger smirks. Littlefinger always smirks.

Let’s also talk about …

— Theon Greyjoy showing up at Dragonstone. He certainly didn’t think that Jon Snow would be the first person he’d see upon getting to shore. It was yet another reunion in a season full of them, but this one wasn’t so heartwarming. Theon asks after Sansa, and Jon lets him know very clearly that him helping her escape from Ramsay Bolton is the only reason he doesn’t kill him right then and there. Speaking of rescuing, Theon has come to Dragonstone to ask Dany’s help in getting Yara back from Euron.

— One bit of tonight’s comic relief was Brienne’s semiregular training lessons with Podrick. There is just something funny about watching her beat the hell out of him while imparting wisdom — “Don’t lunge,” “Don’t go where your enemy leads you” — all while Pod smiles through it. No doubt Tormund was hiding in the wings of Winterfell watching this and getting very worked up.

— The other comic relief comes from Davos, who is turning out to be something of a scoundrel. He asks Jon for his impressions of Daenerys and when he replies she has a good heart, Davos notices that he was “staring at her good heart.” “Speaking of good hearts, Missandei from Naath,” when she arrives. Davos, you dog.

— Cersei continues her negotiations with Tycho Nestoris, the representative from the Iron Bank in King’s Landing. With news of the Lannister victory in Highgarden, Nestoris seems very enthusiastic about backing Cersei in her efforts to rule the Seven Kingdoms. But will he get his full payment?


Episode 3: ‘The Queen’s Justice’

The third episode in Season 7 of HBO's "Game of Thrones" finally brought Jon Snow and Daenerys together. (Video: Erin Patrick O'Connor/The Washington Post)

Episode 2: ‘Stormborn’

Here's what we're still talking about after Episode 2 of the seventh season of "Game of Thrones," including the beginning of Daenerys's plan to take King's Landing. (Video: Erin Patrick O'Connor, Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

Episode 1: ‘Dragonstone’