Okay so this is the first episode this season in recent memory where I'm not sure where to begin. Quite a bit happened and it's being praised as one of the top 3 of all time and I'm inclined to agree. The thing that really stood out for me, and this is something I'm sure I'll expand upon later, was that this episode really showed off the cumulation of the writing both the books and programs tension. To elaborate; there were many instances where favorited characters, all of them plot essential, were going to die. Some threw so many red flags I'm honestly surprised they did make it out of there. There was plenty of action and it's unfortunate that this season only has a few more episodes left, however with the events in this episode I can definitely see where the budget is going. So, if you haven't watched this episode yet, you really need to check it out!
I suppose I'll begin with the events in the North. There was a ton of great acting this episode, and also a lot of callbacks to previous episodes. The first time we see this is when Littlefinger gives Bran the Valerian Dagger, and tries to monologue to Bran and he uses Littlefinger's own quote "Chaos is a ladder" to effectively leave Littlefinger shook. I really enjoyed this scene, because Littlefinger is so used to working in the shadows and having his movements go undetected, and now he's literally outclassed at his own game. Bran is becoming more distant as he does his Neo/Dr Manhatten shtick and Meera calls him out on it in a very emotional scene. She tells him that Bran really did die in the cave in season 6 and has now fully been replaced by the Three Eyed Raven persona. But I don't buy it. Bran can be mystic and distant all he wants but I'm willing to bet that hes choosing this ideology, not that it's truly taking him over like he wants people to believe. Arya arrived back in Winterfell! There was a call back to when she was turned away at the gates during the first season, however this time she was able to get in with minimal effort on anyone else's part. Sansa and her share a touching reunion I'm front of Ned Stark's grave, where Arya tells Sansa about her list (which Sansa didn't take seriously at this point), then they head off to meet Bran. Bran does his shtick to her after sharing a hug and reveals he's aware of her history traveling the world, however with everything Arya has seen she seemed less shocked about Bran's visions than Sansa was. Bran also reveals he's aware of the list, backing up the idea to Sansa, and the three Stark children head back into Winterfell. I've mentioned it before, but after years of waiting it's always so satisfying to see the Stark children together.
Brienne meets Arya during a training session with Podrick and the two have a sparring match. Everything about this scene was awesome to me and was the first real sequence of this season where I was truly impressed with the choreography. The first thing was seeing the different styles match up. Arya's offense relies heavily on speed while Brienne relies on strength. It was a very Mountain vs Snake esque sequence and once again speed came out on top. But going further than this there were several other things that made this part amazing. The cinematography and swordplay was much better than normal even given how short it was. Littlefinger and Sansa watching overhead complimented the moment too as you realize that Sansa understands that Arya is serious about the list and also capable, and it hammers home how outclassed Littlefinger is with the Stark children, the next generation of the man he betrayed. You see, not only did Littlefinger realize that Arya might have been Tywin's cup bearer all those years ago, but house Baelish, founded by a man from Braavos, would be familiar with the water dancing style that Arya utilized. Over the course of this episode Littlefinger came to realize that Arya and Bran are aware of him siding with Lannisters as well as exactly where Arya's been and just how dangerous she may now have become. It's the first time where we've started to see how he's losing the game directly when typically he's pulling the strings behind the curtain. Finally one of if not the best lines of this episode was the exchange between Brienne and Arya. "Who taught you that?" "No one". Somewhere in Braavos a man is smiling.
Everything is not hokey-pokey for Daenerys right now. Jon showed her the location of the Dragonglass and the drawing of the Children of the Forest and First Men which confirmed the idea of the White Walkers. On the latter; I'm 70% sure he did not pocket some chalk before Dany walked in. Only 70%. Daenerys says thats all well and good but she really wants him to bend the knee, and we get yet another reference to a former episode, this time nearly line for line. Mance Rayder told Jon Snow that the Wildlings would not accept a southern ruler to which Jon replied "isn't their survival more important than your pride". When Daenerys tells Jon this, I'm sure that look on his face was the same realization. I'm not sure how Jon should proceed here and I'm about at the same impasse he is. It's definitely going to be a huge point of contention when he returns to the North. Exiting the cave, Daenerys learns that she is losing the war and that Highgarden has fallen. She then finally does some things that I can get behind, starting with turning to Jon asking what she should do. Now I wasn't entirely on board with her not going to King's Landing and wrecking everyone, but the way Jon put it totally convinces me that leaving the city intact is the right move. His speech was much better than Tyrions. Dany does leave with a dragon, but before we see the outcome of this, Theon shows up and reveals what happened in the water to Jon and Daenerys' council. Now I can see why Jon didn't beat the brakes off him right there on the beach, but I'll leave it at he's a stronger man than I would've been.
Jaime and Bronn have been delivering the gold and resources taken from Highgarden back to King's Landing, which the Iron Bank representative guarantees Cersei will ensure her financial stability for the war to come. They successfully get the gold delivered, but as the resources and entire back half of the army prepare to embark on the last leg of the journey, Daenerys shows up, riding a dragon, with a horde of Dothraki screamers. Tyrion is there to witness as well. As the Lannister forces prepare a shield wall for the advancing calvary, Drogon turns the battlefield into a literal hell. An aerial unit in a medieval setting, all conventional attempts at stopping the dragon, who more than devastates the battlefield, come up short. Luckily for the Lannisters they brought the scorpion, and Jaimie, amongst the confusion, orders Bronn to bring down the dragon. Bonn succeeds in grounding the dragon, however the scorpion is destroyed. Jaimie, eying an exposed Daenerys, attempts to ride her down and nearly gets burned to death by dragon fire, but at the last moment Bronn tackles him into the water nearby. The episode closes with Jaimie, seemingly unconscious and still in full heavy armor, sinking to his death.
There was so much right with the last half of this episode. I really enjoyed, and I said this last week, that Daenerys finally had a reason to bring the dragons. That was excellent targeting, everyone on the field was an enemy and it was in a place where there would be no collateral. The cinematography was amazing, both with the amazing shots of the dragon, which looked straight out of a movie, and with the reverse follow cam on Bronn. Bronns sequence was something I really appreciated especially after seeing the Battle of the Bastards. I thought it was clever how instead of following like they did with Jon they had Bronns charge towards the camera and take on enemies as they came. Very, very few shows are able to capture good long sequence fight scenes like this. The production of this episode was damn near perfect. Another thing I really enjoyed was seeing the Dothraki in action and showing exactly how superior they are compared to traditional fighters, and you see why the unsullied had the reputation they did for being able to defeat them once. The rising tension throughout this scene was incredible writing, as every character was a favorite. I really didn't want to see Bronn, Jaimie, or Daenerys die, and all of them nearly did. Bronn I thought for sure was a dead man at least twice, once when he had to choose between the gold and his life, and again when he was on the scorpion. Daenerys I didn't truly think would die but I did wonder if she was going to be seriously injured and prove Tyrions point of being reckless. And of course, Tyrion was the voice of the audience during the entire end sequence. "Flee you idiot. You idiot. You fucking idiot!" set up the absolute perfect tone for the end of the show and seeing Jaimie's tragic fall.
So this episode had quite a bit going for it. The parallels to previous moments really did it for me, and then of course seeing the work put into the ending was amazing. One last call back I forgot to mention was the writing on the walls in the Dragonglass sequence was the same shots we saw during Bran's vision of the Children of the Forest. Speaking of Bran, one thing I was wondering was the significance of him handing Tha dagger to Arya. I believe Bran can see the past, present, and some of the near future, however things are typically out of context until he gets more control over his gift, so it makes every move he does with the question over whether or not he is purposely making a self fulfilling prophecy. Moving on to Daenerys, I'm going to go ahead and make another prediction, not necessarily for this season but for the show ends. Dragon armor. Now that Daenerys is aware of the scorpion, a really dumb move breaking it out early on the Lannisters side in my opinion, it's not going to catch her off guard at King's Landing, and further than this she realizes that dragons aren't as indestructible as we've seen. I think dragon armor is in the near future. That's just about all there was, so my final thought is this; this is the first 5 star episode I think we've had this season. Everything was perfect it could've even been a finale episode. There was parallels to earlier seasons, some things came full circle, people might've died, and the acting was superb. The tension throughout the last half was very well done and was the first tie in recent memory I cared about who was going to live and who was going to die. Looking back of course it had to be Jaimie, there were subtle cues that his fall n the field was coming and I think Bronn was a good red herring to the end. However I don't believe he's dead. Yet. As we all know, if it didn't happen on screen then he's not really gone.