Season 7 of “Game of Thrones” was kind of a mess.
But it wasn’t all bad: “The Spoils of War” was one of the best television episodes of the year.
The episode starts with some emotionally-packed character moments, including the reunion of the surviving Stark children.
A lot of work went into making the battle at the end of the episode one of the best sequences in the show’s history. Here, we take a look back at what made this episode so great.
There is no doubt that season seven of “Game of Thrones” was a messy season. The story accelerated at a confusing pace, Jon Snow traveled more than any full-time travel blogger would in their lifetime, and some of the major decisions characters made weren’t believable.
But the fourth episode of season seven, “The Spoils of War,” is one the best episode of the season, one of the best of the series, and one of our favorite television episodes of 2017. It stuck with us, even months after it aired.
The episode kept things simple, relying on the complex relationships between characters more than the game of thrones that most of them have been playing (or avoiding) for so long.
“The Spoils of War” begins with the reunion of the Stark sisters and ends with one of the most devastating battles in the show’s history. It looks beautiful, but depicts hundreds of brutal deaths at the hands of one of its main characters, who is supposed to be one of the good guys.
The complicated way the battle was shot, with multiple perspectives from different characters on multiple sides of the battle, shows how devastating war is in real life and in the fictional world of Westeros. The excellent episode will make you laugh, cry, and pull your hair out.
So when reflecting on the best TV episodes of the year, we took a look back at “The Spoils of War” and the work that went into making it this good. Here’s how they pulled it off.
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It’s the shortest episode in “Game of Thrones” history.
“Game of Thrones” usually expands the episodes that include battles.
Season two’s “Blackwater” is a self-contained episode, with Stannis’ attack taking place throughout the episode, never leaving King’s Landing. Like “Blackwater,” season four’s “The Watchers on the Wall” depicted one battle the entire episode, this time the Wildling at Castle Black.
In season six, the “Battle of the Bastards” actually had two battles: the first was a short one showing Daenerys, Tyrion, Grey Worm, and dragons reclaiming Meereen from the Sons of the Harpy. The rest of the episode showed the iconic battle at Winterfell between Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton.
Although “The Spoils of War” depicts one of the shortest battles shown on the show, this one has the most impact.
The reunion of Sansa and Arya could have been cheesy fan service, but instead it was jam-packed with tension.
Sansa and Arya’s reunion could have been awful, filled with a lot of hugging and crying.
But Sansa and Arya’s relationship is complicated. Growing up with completely different personalities, they kind of resented each other, even though deep down they always loved each other. But it’s been so long since they’ve seen each other that they don’t know if they can trust each other anymore.
From Arya’s perspective, Sansa let their father get executed by King Joffrey, because Sansa always wanted to be a princess. And now, with Jon Snow gone, she is the Lady of Winterfell.
From Sansa’s perspective, Arya arrived in Winterfell unexpectedly and didn’t hesitate to announce that she kills people now. Who’s side is she on? Sansa has no idea, and neither does Arya. Their enemies are common, but they don’t trust each other enough to reveal them.
The reunion in the crypts of Winterfell packs all this built-up resentment in, and adds a little joy. Despite all their differences, experiences, and loved ones lost since they parted, they’re still excited to see each other alive in their home of Winterfell.
Jon Snow and Theon Greyjoy unite, too. And it’s even more intense.
Theon Greyjoy has come a long way and been through a lot (years of captivity and psychological torture at the hands of Ramsay Bolton) since he took Winterfell and pretended to kill Bran and Rickon back in season two.
But Jon Snow doesn’t know this. All he knows is that he saved Sansa, which Jon says is the only reason why he doesn’t kill Theon when he and the surviving Greyjoys come to Dragonstone.
There’s also a lot Theon doesn’t know about Jon, like that he literally died.
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