WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for all 7 seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones, all 5 ASoIaF books, and other related material/speculation.
Game of Thrones season 7 has been a mixed bag, and it will likely take more than one watch-through to really let the events and revelations sink in. But now that the first flakes of winter have begun to fall on King’s Landing and the Wall has crumbled against the forces of the dead, I’ve got some thoughts on the “highs and lows” of the penultimate season of HBO’s most popular show.
The show has been remarkably consistent in its strengths over the years, and one of those “highs” is the acting. The show features a stellar cast across the board. Though we’ve lost so many memorable characters over the years, through tragedy and vengeance alike, the ones who remain have demonstrated vast range and incredible ability, and have engaged viewers across their arcs, drawing them into the individual character stories. As a viewer, I might not like every character, but I cannot deny that every member of the main/supporting cast has done a brilliant job of bringing their characters to life. Some particularly notable moments from this season include:
*Cersei (Lena Headey) and Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) confrontation/reunion in episode 7.
*Ellaria Sand’s (Indira Varma) final scene with Cersei and Tyene (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) in episode 3.
* Olenna Tyrell’s (Diana Rigg) last moments in episode 3 (Slay, Queen of Thorns, slay!).
*Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)… pretty much all season, but especially in his final moment with Cersei in Episode 7 and the battle/his charging at Dany/Drogon in episode 4.
*Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) losing Viserion and nearly losing Jon in episode 6, and returning home in episode 1.
*Euron’s (Pilou Asbaek) dramatic entrance via Silence in episode 2.
*Sansa (Sophie Turner) adjusting to her title as Lady of Winterfell and handling the stresses of delivering justice over the course of the season.
*Samwell (John Bradley West) struggling with his position at the citadel and ultimately deciding to leave in Episode 5.
*Davos (Liam Cunningham) pretty much whenever he’s onscreen. Same for Jorah (Iain Glen).
*Littlefinger’s (Aiden Gillen) death. Seeing him beg for mercy was so surreal.
*Arya’s (Maisie Williams) reunions with Sansa, Hot Pie, and Nymeria.
*Meera’s (Ellie Kendrick) goodbye with Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright).
*The Hound (Rory McCann) in his “Gravedigger” moment in episode 1, as well as his interactions with Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) and the Brotherhood in episode 6.
*Theon (Alfie Allen) succumbing to “Reek” in episode 2, then rising from the ashes in episode 7.
*Jon (Kit Harington) in episodes 6 and 7, but also his meeting with Dany in episode 3.
Honestly, there are several more standout moments that could be included in this list, but these are the first few that come to mind. The combination of chemistry and strong character arcs over the course of the series has really made fans grow attached to these characters and their relationships, and become invested in where their stories are going, which ultimately makes the audience fearful, yet excited, for the end.
I think a prime example of the complex characterizations is episode 4, “The Spoils of War,” which features the dramatic showdown between the Dothraki and Daenerys on Drogon and the Lannister Army. Watching that scene, with the Dothraki horde cresting over the hill and the Lannister soldiers literally shivering in fear at their approach, I couldn’t decide how I wanted it to end. I was cheering when Drogon dropped through the clouds, but cringing as he incinerated an entire line of soldiers with his flames. You don’t want Dany to die, you don’t want Jaime to die, you don’t want Tyrion to die, you don’t want Bronn to die, you don’t want Drogon to die. Watching these characters face one another on the battlefield is mesmerizing and presents a genuine conflict, because as a viewer, I had no idea what I wanted the outcome to be, and that is the type of complexity GoT is known for, and part of what makes it so great.
The production for this season has also been top-notch, as usual. The effects (especially in “The Spoils of War,” “Beyond The Wall,” and “The Dragon and the Wolf”) are amazing. The costumes are excellent, with embellishments and little touches here and there that actually seem to give clues to character traits and upcoming events. It’s been cool to see fur and more black emerge as the newest fashion staples, but the real style winner of the season is Daenerys’s coat in episode 6. I am predicting an Emmy in 2018; mark my words. The new locations were great, as were the old. I also think this might be the season with the best music; I both eagerly anticipate and lament the approach of season 8 for many reasons, but one of the main ones is that we have only one more season of Ramin Djawadi’s soaring score to look forward to.
Although this season has less – ahem, I mean fewer – episodes, it has delivered a ton of memorable scenes and moments, and no episode lacks for exciting content. It’s hard to pinpoint my favorite, and I likely won’t be able to make a definitive conclusion until I revisit them, but after first viewing, I think “The Spoils of War” might take the cake. However, “The Dragon and the Wolf” is a strong contender, as well. The “Aegon Targaryen” reveal was quite a stunner, and the Dragon Pit meeting, with so many characters all in one place, was exciting to see unfold.
We’ve also had some spectacular returns and reunions this season, and of them all, I was most pleased to see Gendry (Joe Dempsie) again. Fans (and Davos, apparently) feared that he might still be rowing since his last appearance in season 3, but now he’s back, swinging a hammer just like his father, good ol’ Bobby B. I hope to see more of him in season 8, and look forward to his eventual reunion with Arya.
Game of Thrones is a visually stunning, engrossing, genre-bending, and utterly captivating show, and season 7 is no different in that respect. Every episode had me on the edge of my seat, the emotional sequences moved me to tears, or in some cases, enraged me, and the wait for season 8 (a rumored 18 month wait, no less) will be unbearable, though at least we have 7 seasons to re-watch and 7 soundtracks to listen to (and, hopefully soon, a sixth book to read) until then. After watching the Game of Thrones unfold for seven seasons, with players moving and shifting or being axed from the board entirely, it’s hard to believe that The Long Night has come, and out watch is almost over.
BEFORE I GET INTO THE “LOWS” OF THE SEASON, let me just say, I love this show. It will, barring catastrophe, officially be my all-time favorite show come s8 ep6. After watching several “behind the scenes” from this season and previous seasons, I am consistently amazed and awed by how much work and passion goes into the production of this show. That said, though I’m usually pretty quick to defend the showrunners for the liberties they take, season 7, while amazing in so many ways, did strike a couple of off-notes, but for me, that’s like, giving Season 7 an A- rather than an A+, and I can narrow it down to two “lows;” a combo of writing and pacing.
One of the common issues folks seem to have with this season is the pacing, and I must say, I agree. I will give mad props to the show writers/runners (and especially Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington) for making me care about and notice the progression and chemistry of Jon/Dany A.K.A. “Jonerys.” I have my doubts a “happily ever after” is in the future for them, especially when they find out they’re aunt/nephew and with the war for the dawn creeping ever closer, but I guess the incest blow is softened a bit by the fact that they don’t know they’re related, and at least it’s not as squicky as Cersei/Jaime. I wish their romance had a bit more build-up, but for what we got, I was pretty impressed by their interactions and the development of their relationship, in spite of the short time.
Overall, the pacing wouldn’t be an issue if the rest of the series was as fast-paced as this season was, but it isn’t. If this were an earlier season, it would have taken Jon at least 3 episodes, if not more, to get to Dragonstone, or from Dragonstone to the Wall. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for some things, but compared to how things are handled in the earlier seasons, GoT feels like a different show now. The writing is not bad, and I’m not bashing the writers, it’s just now, the writing is different in tone and pace and how characters make decisions. Season 6 faced similar “logic” issues, but the pacing less so, because there was a full 10 episodes.
I’m not saying that I don’t understand why they are doing it this way. I get it. But that doesn’t make it any less jarring as a viewer since it’s unlike the show in its early years, where more time was spent getting the pieces in place and developing relationships and situations for some grander scheme rather than big moves and power plays happening in quick succession, so swift it becomes tough to process. The big moments lose their impact because there is no time to decompress afterward. The show used to dwell; it used to thoroughly explore situations and expand on intrigue, and this season seems like a lot has been glossed over in favor of flash and spectacle. Generally, the changes the show has made don’t bother me a whole lot, because I know the books will be different and I accept that, but this is the first season that I noticed the “streamlining” as a detriment instead of a strength.
Sure, the shortened season may be due to monetary/budget reasons, or it may be due to the fact that they’ve run out of book material, but the difference in writing (especially in the dialogue) and the pace, while not necessarily bad, is noticeable. Conversations that should be happening aren’t; Why hasn’t Jon brought up Maester Aemon to Dany? Why did Jorah not mention Sam to Jon? Why did Gendry not mention Arya to Jon? Why did Brienne and Sandor only discuss Arya, not Sansa? Why did NO ONE address Varys at the Dragon Pit meeting? Where does Euron have Yara? WHY DOES NO ONE MENTION THE FREYS AFTER ARYA KILLED THEM ALL? WHERE IS EDMURE TULLY? IS MEERA GOING TO COME BACK? WILL WE EVER GET TO SEE HOWLAND REED? HOW DID THE UNSULLIED SURVIVE POST-CASTERLY ROCK INCIDENT? The decrease in meaningful conversations is apparent, and it makes some of these “reunions” or decisions feel hollow, and definitely rushed. Which, if the series continues in that direction, season 8 will likely face similar complaints. If they didn’t have enough material for two final 10 episode seasons, we shouldn’t have even MORE questions rising after season 7.
Also, some characters don’t seem to have much to do (Varys, Brienne, Melisandre, even Tyrion) while others have lost a bit of their spark, and with the end looming, I wonder if there will be enough time to really give all of the great characters the amount of screen time they deserve to close out their individual stories. Granted, the books have a lot more characters and scenarios to deal with (and a lot more freedom due to the whole “no budget” factor), and I know that the show and the books are not the same thing any more, but just because the show has scaled things back doesn’t mean they should be skimping on the story or cutting corners. The non-book material they made for seasons 1-4 was pretty seamless, so they are capable of blending their own ideas in with Martin’s tone, and I hope they hit the right notes with season 8 despite the restrictions they face.
Though the distant final season is even shorter (in episodes, maybe not running time) I hope the show is able to steer back to form for the final run, and address the lingering questions. I don’t envy the showrunners/writers, who are adapting a book series that isn’t finished and have run out of actual book material, though I fail to understand why they believe the story could be wrapped up in a convincing and satisfying manner in 13 episodes after season 6. I hope they can end the show with the detail, nuances, and richness the series is known for, rather than a reliance on fan-service. And I have confidence they will.
FINAL RANT: Can I just say, though… people need to stop shitting on Rhaegar because of the wig the actor was wearing. If you’re going to shit on Rhaegar for anything, it should be the fact that he abandoned his first wife and two children (who were later brutally murdered) in favor of running off with a much younger Northern girl, which threw the kingdom into chaos and caused thousands of deaths. Annulling his marriage is a dick move, too, because he essentially discarded and dishonored the innocent Elia Martell and her two children, Rhaenys and Aegon, and then he NAMED HIS CHILD WITH LYANNA “AEGON TARGARYEN,” EVEN THOUGH HE ALREADY HAD A SON NAMED AEGON. Rhaegar is not a hero; he is flawed, and his romance with Lyanna, however genuine it was, should not be idolized. End of story.
OVERALL RATING: 9/10 (It may seem like I have a lot of complaints, but it is still a top-notch quality show!)
Season 7 M.V.Ps
Beric Dondarrion: HE HAS A F*CKING FLAMING SWORD AND UNFAILING COURAGE. The man is my hero. And he has a voice that could soothe even the most ornery of wights.
Drogon: Our baby is all grown up! Torching Lannisters like nobody’s business.
Gilly: Girl delivered the “Prince Ragger” revelation. Gilly dropping the info bombs this season!
Benjen Stark: The man half-lived alone beyond the wall for years, all for the sake of fighting for life. I wish his mini-reunion with Jon had been a bit longer, but he will be missed. I hope “the pup” has found his peace.
Meera Reed: GIRL DESERVED A BETTER SEND-OFF. SHE BETTER BE BACK OR I WILL RIOT.
Samwell Tarly: The man is all of us when he’s talking to Bran in the last episode. Also, it takes great courage to walk away from a lifelong dream, as he did when he left the Citadel. Samwell is a hero.
Ramin Djawadi: Seriously, this man delivers A+ quality music every single season. Even songs that feature the familiar themes get fresh spins and new twists, and songs like “Truth,” are wonderful additions. It’s going to be on repeat for ages!
Season 7 R.I.Ps
Thoros of Myr: All things considered, death by zombie bear is a pretty badass way to go. Also, Paul Kaye nailed the role of our favorite drunken red priest.
Randyll and Dickon Tarly: Randyll was a real dick, but Dickon didn’t deserve his fiery fate. He should have bent the knee, but whatevs.
Viserion: Due to the episode leak, this pivotal moment was spoiled for me thanks to the title of a youtube video, but I still legit got emotional. I mean… no lie, his wight form is BADASS but it was still so sad to see 1/3 of the dragon troupe get iced.
Littlefinger: I hated the smarmy, weasel-like Littlefinger from his first appearances in season 1, but I cannot deny that Aiden Gillen absolutely killed the role. Seeing him break down in front of Sansa and beg for his life was so shocking, because he’d never acted like that before, and I loved it.
The Freys: Good riddance.
The Sand Snakes: Dorne may not have had the best book to screen transition, but I was sad to see them dispatched in such a cruel way.
Benjen Stark: Mentioned above.
Ellaria Sand: She may be gone, but Indira Varma absolutely owned her final scene.
Reek: The “Reek” has been killed, and “Theon” (re)born!
Ghost: He’s not dead, I know. But he endured a “death by budget” this season, and I’m sad we didn’t see him even once.
SEASON 8 PREDICTIONS (CONDENSED VERSION):
*Dany is so going to get pregnant. They’ve discussed her infertility way too much this past season for her not to get pregnant. It’s the Targaryen way, after all. I also think, once Jon and Dany find out they’re related, Jon’s ensuing identity crisis will drive them apart (if not permanently, it will at least cause some friction) but the whole “being related” issue will be more pertinent for Jon, while Dany would be more bothered by the issue of inheritance, since Jon technically ranks above her now. But it’s also an issue that will probably be resolved fairly quickly, because of the limited amount of episodes.
*I think there’s a good chance that both Jon and Dany will die, but if it’s just one, I think it will be Dany.
*I also think Gendry will be legitimized, will inherit Storm’s End, and (CALL ME CRAZY) if romance is in his future, I think he is more likely to end up with Sansa than he is with Arya. Arya is so different now I can’t imagine her settling down.
*Cersei will not have her child, and will die by season’s end. It will either be via Jaime, or Arya; not sure which, but I’m leaning toward Arya at this point, even though I’d rather it be Jaime.
*Cleganebowl will happen.
*Bran does have something to do with the Night King. I don’t know what, but they are definitely connected.
*The Iron Throne, as a concept, is done for.