The most recent episode of Game of Thrones, titled “The Spoils of War,” concluded with this season’s biggest battle yet and it was truly a sight to behold. Having Daenerys swoop in on her dragon and finally her Westerosi enemies in battle was the culmination of seasons’ worth of build up and while it’s hard to say if it was worth the wait, the battle itself was undoubtedly thrilling. It turns out that one dragon is more than a match for an army of Lannister soldiers, who were woefully outmatched here by Dany, Drogon, and an army of mounted Dothraki. The battle marked a significant turning point in the war for the Iron Throne, as Cersei will now have to rebuild her forces in order to stand a chance against the Mother of Dragons. However, even though the battle itself was important to the overall plot of the show, it was a surprisingly hollow event when you consider it’s one major problem:
Yes, technically hundreds, if not thousands of Lannisters and Dothraki perished on the field of battle, but nameless characters die all the time on this show. While we still don’t officially know the fate of all the important characters involved, the fact is that not a single one of them died on-screen and therefore, the stakes of this conflict felt practically nonexistent. Sure, the episode ends with Jaime plunging into the depths of the Blackwater, but there’s no way this is the end for him, as the show still hasn’t settled his inner conflict with his loyalty to Cersei. Besides, it’s not like Jaime, Daenerys, or Tyrion were ever not going to make it out of this battle alive, as their stories aren’t finished yet. Still, there’s one character in particular whose death would have been upsetting to many fans of the show, yet would not have impacted the overarching story all that much:
That’s right: Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, the mercenary with a roguish charm who has provided viewers with comic relief and moral ambiguity since the early days of Game of Thrones, should have been burned to a crisp by episode’s end. The strangest thing about the sequence of events that led to Bronn’s miraculous last-second rescue of Jaime from Drogon’s fire is that it all seemed to be pointing to his demise. Bronn was easily the MVP of Team Lannister, as he was the first one to hear the approaching Dothraki hordes and displayed repeated acts of heroism throughout the ensuring battle. While I’m confident that Bronn is still very much the same rake we know and love by the end of “The Spoils of War,” his actions were surprisingly sacrificial in nature. At one point, Bronn loses the bag of gold he made such a fuss about at the beginning of the episode, but rather than go back for it, he keeps on fighting and even succeeds in wounding Drogon. So why didn’t the show’s writers commit to following through on this mini-arc and have Bronn die in combat?
The only reason I can think of is that we’re due for a Tyrion/Bronn reunion and based off how well this pair played off each other in earlier seasons, this will surely be a conversation worth tuning in for. That being said, is providing viewers with more banter between Tyrion and Bronn really worth robbing us of meaningful storytelling (though that shouldn’t be read as a claim that all stories need a major death to be meaningful)?
Look, I love Bronn and would be sad to see him go, but he’s not even that important of a character, all things considered. His loss wouldn’t mean all that much in the long run but in the moment, it would at least elicit an emotional reaction from the many viewers who have grown attached to him over the years. Game of Thrones built its reputation on shocking character deaths but in recent seasons, it’s arguably become more shocking when the writers actually commit to killing a character off. The fact that Bronn is spared when he absolutely shouldn’t have been is worrisome, as it suggests that at least on some level, showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have become more concerned with adhering to the whims of their fans than making the tough calls when they’re needed.
Admittedly, I could have this all wrong. Perhaps Bronn still has an important role to play in the coming weeks that I just haven’t foreseen. And with only nine episodes of Game of Thrones left in total, it’s pretty much a given that the body count is going to start adding up as individual stories reach their conclusions. As things stand though, I firmly believe that killing Bronn would have made “The Spoils of War” even better and one of the show’s best episodes overall. Both Jaime and Tyrion would have lost one of their closest friends, which in the latter’s case would likely have made him question his loyalty to Daenerys; something that was already teased a bit in the dwarf’s pained facial expressions as he watched his former countrymen burned alive by dragon’s fire. And speaking of Daenerys, think about how having her kill a fan-favorite character would complicate our opinions of her. This season has been toying with the idea of whether Daenerys is a hero, villain, or something in-between, and Bronn’s death would have made her a less sympathetic figure.
That being said, if next week’s episode begins with Daenerys ordering Drogon to kill both Jaime and Bronn, I’ll happily eat my own words. However, I highly doubt that’s going to happen and for as good as “The Spoils of War” was, it should have gone out in a blaze of glory (Bronn’s. I’m talking about Bronn here). Speaking of which, what do you think happened to Dickon Tarly? That poor guy’s probably going to want to pack up and become a farmer after being in a battle like that.