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Week by Week TV: Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 4

Game of Thrones is the adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s series of books A Song of Ice and Fire. The series is a medieval struggle between noble families for the Iron Throne, sets in the fictional lands of Westeros and Essos. First aired in 2011, the show’s seventh season is now underway.

This is part of a continuing series review. Click to read the reviews of Episode OneEpisode Two and Episode Three. This review contains spoilers for the new episode.

My predictions from last week’s episode finally came true: Daenerys, tired of the “clever plans” of her advisers decides to bring out her dragon. This was a very well directed episode for the most part. Although the season as a whole has given more attention to the smaller, quieter moments, the final battle scene is really entertaining despite the obviously CGI dragon. The arrival of Daenerys, Dracarys and her Dothraki army is first announced by an eerie sound, then the fear in the eyes of Jaime and Bronn creates a sense of incoming disaster. Tyrion watches the carnage from a hill, hoping for a victory while fearing for his brother (a bit like us at home, who have developed affection for all the characters alive at this point). Bronn’s attempt to kill Dracarys and Jaime’s rescue are highlights in this sequence.

This series has more twists and turns than ever and during this episode I was frequently surprised. We view the battle from the point of view of Jaime and Bronn so we share their surprise when Daenerys arrives. This tactic has been used previously in this season for other situations, such as the Dorne conquest or the defeat of Yara’s army by Euron. The most famous example has to be the Red Wedding from Season Three, as we were taken completely off guard by the Frey betrayal, just like Robb and Catelyn Stark. Aside from the genuine shock that I felt during these moments, the real strength of this technique is that it blurs our perception of good and bad; we grow fond of certain character who then turn into the villainous oppressors. Until now we were prompted to see Daenerys as cornered; how easily this assumption has disappeared after this episode.

The pacing of this new series leaves a little to be desired in terms of character development. In the last seasons, we witnessed the long and arduous journeys of the characters within the Seven Kingdoms that sometimes took episodes. This allowed us to get inside their heads and understand their anticipation and feelings towards the troubles which lay ahead. In this episode, titled “The Spoils of War”, the journey has all but been eliminated; we only see battles and short dialogue scenes. While this inevitably leads to big shocking moments, we are not given enough time to get a sense of what the characters are truly thinking. Are we unable to predict their actions because the screenwriters are very good at making the release of information realistic, or are those developments too erratic and unpredictable? I understand that some of the journeys are a bit too long to be portrayed realistically but a better balance could be found. It is a series with dragons and characters coming back from the dead, but in the long term this lack of realism could turn from entertaining to annoying.

This however does not mean that the episode is not enjoyable; right now, I still prefer the implausible to excessively long journeys. Overall, “The Spoils of War” has been my favourite episode so far this season. However, the hackers who leaked it before the scheduled date are threatening the future of the series. If people aren’t viewing the show through the correct channels, we might not get the same high quality of programme as before, but the excellent tension and spectacle of this episode makes me optimistic for the rest of this series.

Game of Thrones Season 7 airs on Sky Atlantic every Monday at 2am and 9pm in the UK. Image source: TheEdge.com