(Note: This post contains spoilers for “Game of Thrones” Season 7 through the Aug. 6 episode.)
In Episode 3 of “Game of Thrones” Season 7, the Lannisters executed a masterful strategic move. While Queen Daenerys’ Unsullied attacked Casterly Rock, the Lannister family home, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) took his army and attacked Highgarden, the fortress controlled by the Tyrell family.
Highgarden was captured, Tyrell matriarch Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) was killed, and the Lannisters won a whole lot in the process — not just the defeat of one of their enemies and a key ally to Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), but the capturing of some important resources. The Tyrells were the wealthiest family in Westeros, and the Lannisters planned to use the gold they took from Highgarden to pay off debts to the Iron Bank of Braavos, which then agreed to give them more money for their war effort.
But the capture of Highgarden earned the Lannisters another strategic resource: food. At the start of Episode 4, “Spoils of War,” Jaime discusses taking all the grain and other foods from the farmers of the Reach, where Highgarden is located.
It’s probably a pretty awful thing to do with winter having arrived, since losing that food will likely kill the farmers, but Jaime’s got good reason to steal from them. Ever since Season 2 when the Tyrells switched sides and backed the Lannisters, they’ve been providing the Iron Throne with money, troops, and probably most importantly, food.
That’s because during the War of the Five Kings, King’s Landing was suffering from a serious food shortage, with Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and his forces cutting off supplies to the city. And that’s not even getting into the change of seasons. Before the war kicked off in earnest, in Season 2, Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) noted that King’s Landing only had food enough to feed everyone if the winter lasted five years — and now, all the food is gone.
The food shortage resulted in some riots and even attacks on King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and other members of his court. When the Tyrells joined with the Lannisters by way of marriage, with Joffrey betrothed to Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), part of the deal was providing the capital of Westeros with food.
So Jaime stealing food from the Reach is essential. The fields around King’s Landing have long been burned and destroyed, so the city isn’t especially self-sufficient. Winter has arrived, even if it’s a little slow in arriving in the south. And King’s Landing will almost definitely come under full siege before long, which will mean the city won’t be able to receive outside supplies.
In fact, the Lannisters aren’t the only ones thinking about storing up food to get through the coming war. Sansa Stark is making some of the same moves, requesting food from across the North to be stored at Winterfell.
Instead of stealing it through warfare, though, she’s asking the lord of the North to send portions of their grain stockpiles of their own accord. That’s because when the Night King shows up, Winterfell will be the strongest, most defensible position, and Sansa expects almost everyone in the North to hole up there. When everyone’s fleeing the White Walkers and run to Winterfell, they’ll have a hard time bringing food along with them, she reasons.
Daenerys knows the importance of all those supplies as well. She mentions that with the Lannisters stealing all the food from the Reach and destroying the Tyrells, she’ll be hard-pressed to feed her armies at Dragonstone.
When Daenerys attacks the Lannisters with Drogon and her Dothraki horde, attacking the Lannister troops is almost a secondary concern. During most of the battle, she and Drogon don’t blast all the Lannister footmen, but instead attack all the wagons filled with grain. Dany is purposely trying to destroy the Lannisters’ ability to wait out a siege, the winter, or both.
She’s only partially successful, though. As noted in Jaime’s discussion with Randyll Tarly (James Faulkner), some of the wagons full of grain have already made it into the city, and when Daenerys attacks, she’s destroying the stragglers that haven’t caught up yet. But it’s still a big strategic win. So much of “Game of Thrones” Season 7 has concerned the numbers of troops and weapons everyone has that they’ll need to survive the war with the Night King, but Episode 4 illustrates that food will also be a major concern.
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