Every week for the seventh season of Game of Thrones, three Atlantic staffers will discuss new episodes of the HBO drama. Because no screeners were made available to critics in advance this year, we’ll be posting our thoughts in installments.
Lenika Cruz: Is your heart still pounding? Even if you had managed to keep yourself spoiler-free by avoiding the pesky headlines and articles about last week’s HBO leak, you may have sensed from the dramatic, martial tone of the “previously on” that this episode, “The Spoils of War,” was going to a be a doozy. After losing her first two battles—and her three principal Westerosi allies—Daenerys Targaryen finally got to do things the Mother of Dragons way: by saddling up on Drogon, rallying the Dothraki, and ambushing the Lannister and Tarly armies after their victory at Highgarden. Following the Crown’s successful campaign last week, the Tyrell gold is now secure inside King’s Landing, allowing the Lannisters to (finally) live up to their unofficial house words and repay their debt to the Iron Bank. But Dany, too, made good on her own house’s promise in the closing minutes of the episode, delivering a brutal helping of “Fire and Blood” in the first truly large-scale battle of the season so far.
Her scorched-earth campaign was a visceral reminder of the kind of internal conflict viewers might continue to face as storylines converge and characters’ loyalties place them on opposite sides. “Yeahhh!!!” I couldn’t help but cheer when I heard the hoofbeats and the frantic whooping of the Dothraki, as Cersei’s soldiers prepared, at last, to see the foreign horde they’d heard so much about. “Woooo!!!” I yelled, as Drogon fire-breathed all over the Lannister/Tarly troops—but only after I was certain Bronn and Jaime were on the other side of the battlefield. “Garggnnbugghhh!!” I gurgled when Drogon and Dany charged at Bronn and his scorpion, and then when Jaime charged at them with his spear.