Warning, Major Game of Thrones Spoilers Ahead!
Winter is coming.
From the very first episode of Game of Thrones, which was aptly titled “Winter is Coming,” the viewers have been constantly reminded of winter’s chilling past and how it will come again. The entire Stark family’s sense of identity is molded by that simple phrase, and it has been a recurring theme since the beginning of the series. One of the most poignant moments of “Winds of Winter,” arguably the best entry to date, occurred when Jon Snow wryly responded to Sansa’s news of a white raven arriving from the Citadel marking the coming of winter with “Well, Father always promised, didn’t he?” However, this line does not apply solely to the Stark family motto and could easily sum up the promises from show writers and executive producers David Benioff & D.B. Weiss through the series, or even the father of A Song of Ice and Fire himself, George R.R. Martin. Those promises are the seeds of the past planted throughout Thrones, which have come to fruition through the events that have unfolded in Season 7.
“Spoils of War” was the most direct evidence of this yet this season when Jon showed Daenerys some of the long-dormant secrets of Dragonstone, including ancient cave dwellings detailing how the First Men and the Children of the Forest became allies to defeat a greater enemy. Thanks to some well-placed drawings in the depths of her family home, Daenerys was able to finally understand the darkness that lies north of the Wall. Yet, Benioff & Weiss were not content to merely use that scene to hammer home the greater message of “we must band together” that Jon Snow and his allies have been spreading across the North since last season. Instead, they placed a skillful callback to Jon’s conversation with Mance Rayder before Stannis and Melisandre engaged in their favorite pastime of burning people at the stake where Jon implored Mance to swallow his pride and bend the knee to serve the greater purpose of saving his people and sparing them from destruction beyond the Wall. Mance refused to listen, and Jon made similar overtures about how his people will not unite with the South. Perhaps Jon should look at the unique and historic alliance of Northmen and Freefolk, the “Hatfields and McCoys” of the north, to see that the impossible can be done when it is your only option.
After Daenerys got a crash course on Westerosi history while engaging in some not-so-subtle flirting with King Snow (King Jon?), which Jon clearly had time for, she had plenty of time to make her ancestor, Aegon the Conqueror, proud with her own version of the Field of Fire. When the first trailer for Season 7 of Thrones came out, the callbacks to the Field of Fire were evident when we saw a horde of Dothraki screaming across a field supported by Daenerys and Drogon from the sky. In The World of Ice and Fire, an epic tome released by Martin in 2016 detailing the history of the rich world of ASOIAF, the Field of Fire is described as the definitive victory in Aegon’s conquest and domination of Westeros. Despite his armies being outnumbered five-to-one by the combined forces of the Reach and Westerlands, including the Lannisters, whose patriarch styled himself as the “King of the Rock”, Aegon devastated his opponents in the field thanks to his dragons literally setting the grasslands afire. By bringing all three of his dragons into battle together for the first time, Aegon used fire and smoke to blind and torch his enemies, which allowed his armies to complete the rout. The Field of Fire resulted in the Lannisters bending the knee, the Reach swearing fealty to Aegon with a new family, the Tyrells, in charge of the Reach (at least until the rains swept over their halls in “The Queen’s Justice”), and eventually, the North also bending the knee rather than face the wrath of Aegon’s dragons.
In “Spoils of War,” Daenerys took a page right out of Aegon’s book by putting her enemies into a maelstrom of fire, which led to a quick and brutal Dothraki mop-up of the Lannister and Tarly soldiers. When I first saw the Season 7 trailer, which also included Jaime galloping on a horse surrounded by fire that eventually marked the climax of “Spoils,” I thought we might be getting a literal Field of Fire 2.0 where Daenerys’ dragons ended the Lannister opposition and set up Daenerys’ final conquest of the Iron Throne. Instead, the “Loot Train Attack” (What an atrocious name. We need to do better. Maybe Dany’s Inferno?) was not the final battle or end of the war, but it may prove just as decisive in the end. I cannot imagine that any soldiers who find out what happened to the dudes fried extra crispy out on the Blackwater Rush are going to be in any hurry to risk a similar fate protecting a Mad Queen. The preview scenes for this week’s episode alluded to that by setting the stage for Daenerys’ former enemies to bend the knee and join the winning side, not unlike Torrhen Stark, the King of the North who swore allegiance to Aegon and became the derisively named, “King Who Knelt.”
Yet, not only has Season 7 involved quite a bit of history repeating itself, but Thrones has skillfully interwoven details from seasons past into current events. Like Breaking Bad, another epic show from the Golden Age of Television, Thrones has done an excellent job of making sure every single scene is used to add another layer to the narrative. No opportunities are wasted, and no minor details are unimportant in the story. In “Dragonstone,” even Sam Tarly reading through old books at the Citadel included an easter egg callback when a picture of the assassin’s dagger from Season 1 was contained in a book about dragonglass and fighting White Walkers. Not surprisingly, that exact dagger got a lot more scene time at Winterfell in “Spoils.” For anyone who may have forgotten the dagger, the show even took the time to have Littlefinger point out how that very dagger was the trigger for the War of the Five Kings, and subsequently, most of the major conflicts in Westeros since the show started. With only three episodes in Season 7 left, it’s a pretty good bet that Arya’s new killing tool will become Chekhov’s Dagger, likely for Baelish himself, and possibly even some White Walkers if Arya is called to defend her home from the Long Night that approaches.
Ultimately, this season so far could be summed up by saying that with Daenerys’ attempted conquest of Westeros and the impending invasion of the White Walkers, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This is true to some extent as what occurs the rest of the season will likely dovetail with the painstaking groundwork that Benioff & Weiss have laid for the past seven years. But in this case, the events of Season 7 have been more of the same song – of ice and fire – but with a different verse.
This is the new sound, just like the old sound.
Contributed By: Scott Chandler