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Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 4, “The Spoils of War”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 4, “The Spoils of War”

Macall B. Polay/HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 4, “The Spoils of War”

As epic and satisfying as it is to finally see dragons and Dothraki face off against the Lannisters outside of King’s Landing, the more important battle of “The Spoils of War” is between Game of Thrones’s two types of storytelling. The first, which plagues the episode’s first 20 minutes, is the stuff of pure exposition: tactical discussions, cryptic premonitions, and theory. At best, the language occasionally crackles in the right hands, as with the way in which Mark Gatiss cloyingly portrays the Iron Bank’s representative, Tycho Nestoris. “Arithmetic, not sentiment” makes for the sort of too-calculated approach that can swamp an episode before it even begins. It’s not much better when Jon Snow (Kit Harington) invites Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) to view the obsidian tunnels beneath Dragonstone. Sure, there are cave drawings that show the Children and the First Men fighting together against the wights, but that convenient bit of ancient history simply isn’t compelling.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 7, "The Broken Man"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 7, “The Broken Man”

Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 7, “The Broken Man”

Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), and Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) have come to Bear Island, home of the Mormonts, to ask them to honor their pact with House Stark and to aid them in reclaiming Winterfell. The scene could be set as a sad comedy, what with Jon, the former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, reduced to humbly petitioning a 10-year-old, Lady Lyanna (Bella Ramsey), for troops—and there’s a grim humor in the fact that she has but 62 soldiers to pledge. But that’s not at all how writer Bryan Cogman and director Mark Mylod establish the scene, for they understand that war is a serious thing, regardless of the ages of those involved. Lyanna is impatient, but not impetuous, and though she’s reluctant to endanger the men and women she’s found herself responsible for, she understands Davos all too well when he warns her of the undying who will split a divided North. “This isn’t someone else’s war,” he tells her, not as a superior, but as an equal comrade. “This is our war.”

Game of Thrones Recap Season 5, Episode 6, "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 6, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 6, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”

The Game of Faces, as taught to Arya (Maisie Williams) by her fellow corpse-scrubber (Faye Marsay), isn’t as simple as claiming (or meaning) that you are no one. It involves thoroughly convincing someone else that you are someone—just not the person that you were. Like the Game of Thrones, this task of self-effacement and reinvention for the sake of survival is played—whether they’re aware of it or not—by most citizens of Westeros, and those who fail generally end up dead. As Arya’s trainer, the man once known as Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), might put it, it’s a game that “we never stop playing.” In the case of the monastic assassins dwelling in the House of Black and White, it’s doubly true, for as Arya soon discovers, the dead bodies passing through their temple are preserved beneath it, their faces—entombed in the mausoleum wall for future use—continuing to serve long after they’ve passed on.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 5, Episode 4, "Sons of the Harpy"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 4, “Sons of the Harpy”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 4, “Sons of the Harpy”

Niccolo Machiavelli once wrote that “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.” A corollary to this, as taught by Game of Thrones, is that it’s better to be respected than powerful, because power is nothing but a currency used by the especially clever. Considering how many people are neither feared nor loved in “Sons of the Harpy,” respect is all that matters—that, and the dangerous Dangerfield-ian consequences of not getting any respect.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 5, Episode 2, "The House of Black and White"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 2, “The House of Black and White”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 2, “The House of Black and White”

It’s fitting that the titular House of Black and White is home to No One, for if there’s anything true of Westeros, it’s that nothing is ever black and white. Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), for example, blames the Lannisters for her beloved husband’s death, and from her viewpoint, it would be just to mail parts of an innocent young girl, Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free), back to her mother, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). Back in King’s Landing, looking at the threatening statue of a snake that’s been mailed to her, Cersei acts like the victim; she can’t fathom why Ellaria might seek revenge, even as she herself swears to burn Dorne to the ground should anything happen to her daughter. Everybody is the hero of their own narrative; those who are mere bystanders, like the current prince of Dorne, Ellaria’s brother-in-law, Doran (Alexander Siddig), are warned that their inactions will swiftly lead to their own deposal.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 4, Episode 7, "Mockingbird"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 7, “Mockingbird”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 7, “Mockingbird”

“Brilliant speech,” Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) says with fatalistic sarcasm amid berating Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) for the show-stopping speech he gave at the end of the previous episode. Doubly mad at his brother for spurning the deal he brokered with their father, Tywin (Charles Dance), for Tyrion’s life, and himself for not realizing that the deal is what Tywin wanted all along, Jaime can only begrudgingly accept Tyrion’s line of thinking while throwing up his hands at the hopelessness of any action. As an introduction, it stands out as bleak even for a season that now occurs almost entirely in shadow.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 2, Episode 3, "What Is Dead May Never Die"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 3, “What Is Dead May Never Die”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 3, “What Is Dead May Never Die”

With tonight’s episode, the writers of Game of Thrones continue the trend of organizing each episode of season two around a different theme. Every episode seems to revolve around a Lebowski rug quote (i.e., one that holds an entire episode together like the Dude’s rug held his room together). Last week, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) delivered such a line about midway through “The Night Lands” when he declared that “sometimes those with the most power have the least grace.” In “What Is Dead May Never Die,” a title that paraphrases a famous incantatory line from the seminal H.P. Lovecraft short story The Call of Cthulhu, Varys (Conleth Hill) authoritatively suggests that “power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick, a shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very long shadow” after Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) puts on a great display of power by ferreting out one of Queen Cersei Lannister’s (Lena Headey) spies.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 2, Episode 2, "The Night Lands"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 2, “The Night Lands”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 2, “The Night Lands”

After last week’s remarkable season premiere of Game of Thrones, “The Night Lands” is a bit of a letdown. Show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss scripted both episodes, so comparisons are especially tempting. Additionally, both “The North Remembers” and “The Night Lands” have a thematic focus that none of last season’s episodes had. For example, in “The Night Lands,” Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) visits the Iron Islands in order to propose an alliance between the Starks and Theon’s estranged father. The fact that Theon’s homecoming takes place so much sooner in the TV version of Game of Thrones than it does in the timeline of George R. R. Martin’s novels suggests that Benioff and Weiss are trying to unite their dense narrative’s various competing subplots for the sake of making a more unified adaptation.