We're recapping Season 7 of HBO's Game of Thrones here on Monkey See. We'll try to turn them around overnight, so look for them first thing on Mondays. And of course: Spoilers abound.
Reunions and battles. Battles and reunions. If they aren't the stuff you tune in for, I've got bad news. Because they're all we're going to get, from here on out – together they form the two-stroke engine that'll propel us toward the ending. (Yes, OK, sure, there'll also be some Cersei-quaffs-red-wine mixed in there, too, because fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly and Cersei's gotta guzzle.)
We begin with Jaime, Bronn and the Lannister army riding toward Kings Landing with the loot they've plundered from Highgarden. Jaime opens one of the wagons, takes a Scrooge McDuck dip into the piles of gold and hands Bronn a satchel so full of money it might as well have a cartoonishly large dollar sign scrawled across it. Bronn is appreciative. Up to a point.
"You've just won the biggest prize in the world," Bronn says. "What are you gonna do next?"
"I'M GOIN' TO DISNEY WORLD!" screams Jaime, except no he doesn't. But for a hot second you thought he would. We all did.
Bronn can tell something's bothering Jaime. He wonders if the late lamented Olenna Tyrell is responsible (turns out she is, bless her hear— um, bless the black and desiccated husk where her heart should have been). Bronn wants the keys to Highgarden for his efforts, causing Jaime to launch into a lecture about the upkeep a castle like that would require, but before this scene can devolve into talk of fiberglass insulation and double glazing – always a risk, whenever two or more straight men converse — Jaime sends the wagons carrying gold ahead to Kings Landing (this will be important later).
Speaking of gold and Kings Landing: Tycho of the Iron Bank is impressed by Cersei's "effectiveness and efficiency," which is banking jargon for "bat-poop drunken crazy murderiness." They proceed to discuss ... interest payments. Because the producers are determined to out-boring The Phantom Menace's trade negotiations. She tells him she needs more troops and has reached out to "The Golden Company in Essos." Tycho thinks it's a great plan.
Up at Winterfell, Littlefinger hands a Valyrian-steel dagger to Bran. It's the selfsame dagger used by the would-be assassin who was sent to kill Bran back in Season 1 by ... someone (Jaime? Joffrey? Littlefinger?). The dagger that Littlefinger said belonged to Tyrion. The dagger that started The War of the Five Kings, basically.
But Bran is the Three-Eyed Raven now, has he mentioned that? So he can see, as clearly as we do, that Littlefinger's continued attempts to explain how very devoted he was to Bran's mom, Catelyn, remain just as gross as ever.
He just keeps doing this. First to Sansa, now to Bran: I feel like Littlefinger needs to write Post-It notes to himself and slap them on his bathroom mirror, so every morning the first thing he sees is "Talking about how hot someone's mother was will not, repeat NOT endear you to said someone" and "Dude quit it with the creeping already" and "Stop talking about MILFs."
"I imagine you've seen things most men wouldn't believe," he tells Bran. (Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, maybe! You don't know! Who can say?) But all of Littlefinger's default, oleaginous frippery is for naught: Bran has got the dude's number. "Chaos is a ladder," says all-seeing Bran, repeating one of what passes for Littlefinger's signature catchphrases, causing Littlefinger's left eyebrow to lift, Spockishly.
They are interrupted by Meera, who looks at the wheelchair the local Maester has built for Bran and remarks, "It's a very good idea!" You can tell she means it, because this is a woman who's spent months toting ol' Bran "Dead Weight" Stark hither and yon, and hither again.
He informs her, using his raven-fu, that's she's leaving (spoiler: she is), and she's dumbfounded that Bran expresses no remorse over the many lives that have been lost to protect his. But it's no use. He's not Bran, he tells her. Not anymore. The Bran's been removed, along with the germ, leaving only the spongy endosperm.
The Three-Eyed Raven is white bread.
There were never such devoted sisters
We see Arya approaching Winterfell. I was certain all that business with her ex-direwolf a couple of weeks back meant she'd be on her way to Kings Landing to kill the queen, but the appeal of a hot meal and (what remains of) her family proved impossible to resist. She approaches the gates and informs the guards of her identity; there's some putatively humorous back-and-forth wherein they doubt that she is whom she says she is. She soon gives them the slip and disappears into the crypts below Winterfell. There, in front of Ned Stark's tomb, she meets Sansa.
We've waited a long time for this, and for my money it's a hugely satisfying reunion, precisely because it's not a warm, emotional, easy one. They embrace, but the distance that's always stretched between these two characters, these two very different sisters, remains. If anything, it's gained a harder, more brittle edge.
Speaking of awkward reunions, Sansa takes Arya to meet Bran. He's in the Winterfell godswood, naturally. Smoking clove cigarettes, reading No Exit, listening to Hatful of Hollow, still, again, some more.
"I thought you would go to Kings Landing," he tells Arya. "So did I," she says. Get in line, I think.
Bran gives Arya Littlefinger's Valyrian steel dagger, and it's tough to read his affectless affect here, but the camera lingers on his face once he's handed it over. Something's up. It's like he's watching himself hand her the dagger, noting it both in the moment and as if it's a key turning point in Westeros history. Dollars to doughnuts Arya is going to do something — or someone — big with that dagger before this is all over.
Brienne and Pod watch the surviving Starks and allow themselves a couple of wan smiles of mild satisfaction at the sight, which probably means one or both of them will get their skulls caved in any moment now.
The lunkheaded spelunker
On Dragonstone, Dany and Missandei quietly discuss just how very gosh-darn sullied Missy and Grey Worm managed to get on their last night together, when Jon directs them to the nearby Caves of Convenient Metaphor.
"This is it," he says, indicating the veins of dragonglass stretching all around him and far overhead, "all we'll ever need. Look at this trove, treasures untold. How many wonders can one cavern hold?"
Jon wants to show Dany some glyphs on the cavern's walls, left by the Children of the Forest. Some swirls, some crude figures of Children and First Men, and some crazily detailed, nigh-photorealistic images of wights and White Walkers, down to the eeeeevil phrenological bumps on the Night King's crown. The message: the Children of the Forest and the First Men banded together to defeat The Others, just as Jon and Dany must do now.
Dany is sort of convinced, but she still wants Jon to swear fealty to her (the show's go-to phrase, "bend the knee," always sounds to me like the start of the Westerosi hokey-pokey). Jon doesn't commit to doing so.
Varys and Tyrion greet them at the mouth of the cave with bad tidings from Casterly Rock.
Fuming, Dany turns on Tyrion (who, as we've noted, seems a much better politician than general) and argues for a full, dragon-sized attack on Kings Landing. "Enough with the clever plans," she spits.
(Did that strike anyone else as weirdly contemporary phrasing, dangerously close to "Oy, with the clever plans, already!"?)
"I'm at war, I'm losing." She asks Jon for advice, and what he tells her makes sense, though it doesn't quite connect logically. He says, essentially, that because she brought dragons back, people believe that she can do the impossible. Like, maybe even improve the world. But if she were to attack a city full of innocents with her dragons, she wouldn't be doing the impossible — she'd just be "more of the same."
I'm with him on those first two points. But if she used her dragons to burn cities, she definitely would be doing something many people would have thought impossible. I get what he's saying, but he didn't close the sale.
Back at Winterfell, Brienne and Arya spar with each other while Sansa and Littlefinger look on meaningfully from their Place Where Sansa and Littlefinger Do Most Of Their Looking On Meaningfully. Arya is crazy nimble and ruthlessly efficient, seemingly on par with her old dancing master Syrio, and the training session ends in a draw. Sansa leaves; Littlefinger looks on meaningfully.
Back on Dragonstone, Davos asks Jon what he thinks of Dany, and there is a certain amount of Westerosi bro-talk, during which Davos corrects Jon on the usage of "less" vs. "fewer" because the producers want us nerds to fall in love with this guy right before they kill him off in some horrible bloody painful fashion, probably. Missandei presents a strong talk-track on Why I Believe In Daenerys Targaryen, and Theon Greyjoy lands on Dragonstone Beach, looking for the Mother of Dragons.
The Battle of Flamm Bay (Get it? Flambe? Get it?)
But Dany has taken one of her dragons, and a horde of Dothraki, to meet the Lannister army on its way to Kings Landing. Randyll Tarly informs Jaime — and, helpfully, us — that all the gold from Highgarden has made its way safely to Kings Landing, where it will be used to pay down the Lannisters' debt.
The remaining wagons in the caravan — stocked with Highgarden's food and money and weapons, one assumes — are straggling behind. Bronn hears the sound of approaching horses, and Jaime instructs his men to form a line of sword and shields, which would be a fine defensive formation against similarly outfitted soldiers. But as we soon see, against the berserker-like fury of Dothraki, and the napalm-halitosis of a flying dragon, the old protocols of battle won't protect you.
In an instant, the Lannisters are overrun; entire swaths of soldiers reduced to ash. There's some nifty shots of Dothraki standing up in the saddle to fire arrows, and speaking of arrows: They keep bouncing off Dany's dragon harmlessly. Jaime sends Bronn to fire Qyburn's scorpion (read: big honkin' crossbow) at the dragon, and Bronn dutifully makes his way through a hellscape of fire and ash and burning men. At one point, he loses his bag of gold, decides not to go back for it, and instead soldiers on, to attack the dragon.
(You guys, Bronn learned a lesson! He's grown as a person! Which means his character arc is complete! Which means he's gonna die soon!)
He uses the scorpion to dispatch one particularly persistent Dothraki, and then rotates the machine toward the sky like he's Kate Bush in the video for "Cloudbusting."
Tyrion's here, somehow, high on a bluff overlooking the vast barbecue pit that is the field of battle. He looks grim, but not grimmer than Jaime, who gazes around at his men, most of whom are on a lot of fire.
Meanwhile Dany, astride her dragon, turns around for another approach. Bronn's first big honkin' arrow whistles past. But his second hits the dragon right in its shoulder, causing it to hurtle earthward. It recovers, however, and promptly incinerates the scorpion; Bronn dives for cover. (I was sure he was a goner, but he lives to quip another day.)
Dany and her dragon land on the battlefield, and as Dany attempts some field surgery, Jaime seizes the opportunity – and a nearby lance – to make a run at her. The dragon notices, and aims a blast of fire straight at him – but he's pushed out of the way, into a very convenient and ridiculously deep lake, by ... Dickon, right? Jaime sinks toward the bottom, out of our sight.
Look, there's no way that's the end of our Jaime, people. His fate is too tied up with Cersei for this to be how he goes out. I'm sure of it.
But then I thought Arya was headed to Kings Landing. So.