Battle Breakdown: Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 3

By AT&T Digital Media Productions editorial team


Episode 3 of Game of Thrones’ seventh season reset the chessboard with not one but two major battles, fought at two strongholds of the great houses of Westeros. By the end of the episode, Daenerys Targaryen’s invasion suffered a major setback, while Queen Cersei tightened her grip on the Iron Throne and strengthened Lannister control over the southern half of the continent. What, you thought it’d be smooth sailing for the Mother of Dragons?

So what exactly happened in both battles, and why does it matter? Let’s break them down, starting with...


BATTLE #1: Casterly Rock

THE PLAYERS: Targaryen Unsullied army vs. Lannister garrison at Casterly Rock.


THE PLAN: With Tyrion’s encouragement, Daenerys plots to gain a strategic foothold in the Westerlands and deal a spiritual blow to Cersei by taking the Lannisters’ ancestral home. At their queen’s command, Grey Worm and the Unsullied sail from Dragonstone around the southern coast to attack Casterly Rock from the west.

Casterly Rock is thought to be impregnable, but absent Bronn’s skills in that department, how to get inside? Years ago, Tywin Lannister commanded his least favorite son to overhaul the stronghold’s sewer system, and the opportunistic Tyrion installed a secret door to sneak in his girlfriends. Now, Grey Worm leads a detachment through the Tunnel of Love into the heart of Casterly Rock, circumventing the Lannister defenses by letting the Unsullied in through the front gate.

The Lannister garrison quickly collapses under the skill and drive of the Unsullied. But the huge enemy force Grey Worm expected is nowhere to be found, because the fortress is nearly empty. Worse, Euron Greyjoy’s fleet shows up and destroys the Targaryen ships idling in the harbor.


THE VICTOR: Technically, it’s a win for Team Targaryen, but at the dire loss of their fleet. And with most of the Lannister forces gone by the time the Unsullied arrived, the advantage gained by taking Casterly Rock was smaller than Daenerys and Tyrion had hoped.


WHAT IT MEANS: Grey Worm and the Unsullied hold Casterly Rock for now, but without their fleet they’re stranded on the western coast, separated from Daenerys by an entire continent.

With her armada decimated and her infantry separated, Daenerys no longer has a strong enough force to mount another significant attack on the Lannisters, let alone storm King’s Landing. She could also be vulnerable to attack on Dragonstone.

So what happened to the big Lannister army that was supposed to be at Casterly Rock? Under Jaime Lannister’s command, they went on the march to...


BATTLE #2: Highgarden

THE PLAYERS: Lannister army vs. Tyrell forces stationed at Highgarden.


THE PLAN: Jaime takes a page from Robb Stark’s playbook by moving his army to engage his enemy where they least expected it—in this case, Highgarden instead of Casterly Rock. The bulk of the Lannister army marches on the Reach, where they make short work of the unprepared Tyrell forces.

The Tyrells, though wealthy, were never a military powerhouse. The fall of Highgarden is so swift and decisive that we don’t even see it. The intimidating Lannister army advances on the castle, then boom—red-armored soldiers are picking through Tyrell corpses strewn across the prettily-appointed Highgarden courtyard.

Jaime tracks down Olenna Tyrell and offers her a mercy cup of swift, painless poison. But before she succumbs, the Queen of Thorns has one last jab for Jaime: she was the one who poisoned Joffrey at his wedding feast. “Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me.” Olenna had to know that nothing would enrage Cersei more than being deprived of the chance to get personal revenge.


THE VICTOR: House Lannister, no question, though Olenna (as always) won the war of words.


WHAT IT MEANS: House Tyrell was a keystone of Daenerys’ plan to retake Westeros. With Olenna Tyrell dead, the Tyrell line is officially extinguished. Highgarden will pass to Lord Tarly, per his handshake deal with Jaime, and the majority of Reach lords will probably fall in line.

The legitimacy Daenerys hoped to capture by aligning herself with one of the noble houses of Westeros is gone (does she even have Dorne on her side anymore?). Now she has no native army left to help prosecute her land war.

As a foreign conqueror, she’ll have to court new Westerosi allies in order to win over the people and establish a sound, lasting regime. The North and the Vale would be a good start—though both will depend on Dany’s ability to thaw relations with Jon Snow.

An equally pressing concern for the Targaryen invaders is that the Reach—and the vast resources within it—are now firmly under Lannister control. The region is the breadbasket of Westeros, and whoever hopes to survive the winter needs its grain fields and storehouses. Dany’s current stronghold at Dragonstone is a barren rock, and winter is here.


With this season of Thrones already at its midpoint, the storm of swords is sure to intensify. Stay tuned to all the action Sunday nights on HBO, and check back here every week for installment of Battle Breakdown.