When Game of Thrones is good, it is *very* good. Episode four’s Spoils of War is already being regarded as an all time great episode of television, giving us the long awaited reunion of Arya and Sansa, a thrilling duel between Arya and Brienne, and a lovely grammar tip from Davos.
Oh and there was a dragon flambéing thousands of Lannister soldiers.
But perhaps the most interesting part of Spoils of War lay in one of its quieter moments. Right at the beginning of the episode, Littlefinger makes the curious move to gift Bran Stark the catspaw dagger - the Valyrian steel weapon an unnamed assassin tried to murder Bran with all the way back in Season One.
As Littlefinger points out, the dagger “started the war of the Five Kings” - following the attempt on Bran’s life, Littlefinger informed Catelyn Stark that the blade belonged to Tyrion Lannister. Believing Tyrion to have ordered the hit on Bran, Cate then kidnapped the Lannister, which in turn began the great rift between the Starks and the Lannisters.
Of course, we now know that Tyrion ordered no such hit on Bran. Who did? The true mastermind is unclear: many fans of the show theorised that Littlefinger did and blamed Tyrion in order to create chaos and destablise the Stark-Lannister relationship.
Fans of George R R Martin’s books, however, believe the attempt to be the work of Joffery in a bizarre attempt to impress his father, King Robert. In the novels, when Joffrey is gifted his sword, Widow's Wail, he mentions to Tyrion that he is "familiar with Valyrian Steel," which leads Tyrion (and a lot of people reading at home) to believe that the sociopathic king was behind the attempted assassination.
But, in both the show and the books, the blade has remained firmly in the background for some time. So why is it appearing after all these years?
In the seventh season premiere, an illustration of the catspaw dagger can be glimpsed in a book read by Samwell Tarly about Dragonglass – a move which was clearly no accident: John Bradley (who plays Samwell Tarly) says he was told to linger on an illustration of it. With Game of Thrones’ fondness for foreshadowing, it makes sense that Littlefinger’s decision to give the dagger to Bran, and Bran to re-gift it to Arya, means that all three characters are soon to be connected in some way.
This is made even more obvious when Littlefinger gives Bran the dagger, he tells him: "I imagine you've seen things most men wouldn't believe. To go through all of that and make your way home again only to find such chaos in the world, I can hardly imagine."
Bran responds: "Chaos is a ladder."
This line is of particular importance, as it’s a direct quote from Littlefinger himself. Way back in episode six of the third series, Lord Baelish used it on his courtly rival, Varys.
By quoting his own words back at him, Bran (aka the Three Eyed Raven) is showing Littlefinger that he knows exactly what he’s been up to all these years.
And Littlefinger is terrified by that fact.
But, while Bran’s visions of the past have left Littlefinger in a cold sweat, it’s the future that has left Game of Thrones fans hyped. In gifting the catspaw dagger to Arya, Bran is protecting his sister from any potential White Walkers, not to mention giving a Stark a poetic way to end the Littlefinger threat once and for all.
Bran’s knowledge of Arya’s kill list means he knows his sister is an assassin, and a pretty good one at that. Could he be arming Ayra with the weapon she needs to kill Littlefinger when Lord Baelish reveals his true plans for Sansa and the rest of Winterfell? After all, Bran knows of all of Littlefinger’s crimes, and, as Sansa once said, “no one can protect anyone.”
That’s right: now a certain someone called ‘no one’ is at Sansa’s side once again – and she’s wielding a Valyrian steel dagger.
We reckon Lord Baelish had best start sleeping with one eye open….