GAME OF THRONES Season Seven Review
“When the snow falls and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives…”
By no account is Game of Thrones a family show. It is, however, absolutely a show about family. Familial relationships comprise Game of Thrones’ emotional core, with characters either battling against their lineage or fiercely fighting to defend it. The Targaryens gain another unexpected member, and are possibly on the way to making more. Lannisters have been dying off for many seasons due to household turmoil, while the Starks stay fiercely loyal to each other and, in turn, slowly reclaim their power. Jon Snow and Theon Greyjoy represent characters defined by their actions or house but not beholden to their past, while dragons and faceless men constantly change the game’s rules. Amidst so much conflict, one question remains: can warring peoples unite in order to defeat a greater, more calamitous, existential threat? Season seven takes this idea and finally reifies it. The Night King and his undead army are nearly upon the living, and all but a few understand how dire the threat is.
It’s very apparent that no other current show rivals the budget, scale and popularity of Game of Thrones, while also providing thrilling set-pieces, photo-realistic special effects, and consistent, devastating emotional payoff. Ned Stark’s game-changing death from season one still haunts audiences and characters alike. But unfortunately (I wanted so bad to love them as much), many of season seven’s biggest episodes lack the balance between emotional heft and grandeur of season six’s “Battle of The Bastards,” or its masterfully crafted destruction of the Sept of Baelor. Miguel Sapochnik, the director of said episodes and season five’s “Hardhome,” was sorely missed. Episode four’s recently-monikered “loot train battle” stands as a high point for the season, providing thrills and spectacle on an unbelievable scale. But moments like these are far and in-between. Now in the final stages of the series, the show unfortunately seems to have stepped down a peg in quality, with dialogue feeling slightly more wooden and plotlines evermore contrived.
I’m a simple man… show a Dragon blowing up things and I’m in…
A huge reason for this issue remains in the showrunners’ slightly puzzling decision to shorten this season to seven episodes, as slower moments of exposition and character development were sorely needed in its latter half. Do not be confused, HBO wanted a massive 10 seasons of the show, and is currently developing four spin-off series. Thus, this decision was made to shorten the season in order to accommodate the more ubiquitous winter scenes, consequently compressing the season to a breakneck pace. Perhaps the biggest example of this season’s blazing speed is in the sixth episode. Seven of the show’s most popular characters journey north to bring back an undead soldier, all in order to prove that Westeros is screwed. The show has always balanced the fantastical with its more grounded elements, but this nearly jumped the shark with its perplexing logic. Furthermore, with very little time for the story to breathe, characters travel from place to place in minutes of screentime. It highlights how rushed the plot moves forward. This feeling partially comes a result of major plotlines needing to be resolved before the show’s final season, but without as many valleys, its peaks are diminished.
Like kinda how THIS peak was diminished. HA!… I’ll see myself out…
Seemingly, Game of Thrones has grown so large that it has become all too aware of its fandom. A controversial cameo from Ed Sheeran further brings attention to the global phenomenon the show has become, but ultimately remains harmless. A more concerning shift remains in its treatment of its main characters. Historically, the show is famous for killing off characters that seemed to have multiple layers of plot armor, with the infamous “red wedding” giving millions of fans some form of television PTSD. Now Game of Thrones seems skittish with its most popular characters’ fates, losing the sadistic pleasure that ol’ G.R.R. had when writing the show’s source material. In the season’s major battles of the loot train and beyond the wall, most of the deaths come from nameless ancillary characters and extras. Therefore, the stakes are vastly lowered and the thrills are cheapened. Here, the “game of thrones” no longer seems as dangerous; whereas before “you lived or you died,” now you fall in a lake with full, metal armor and come up sputtering water on the distant shore.
Next year’s “Shark Week”: Is Bronn a better swimmer than a Great White?
Despite the criticism, it’s insane not to be excited every Sunday during Game of Thrones season. Shows like this, where so many people pretend to, or actually do, care don’t come very often. Friends have a good excuse to get together in their quasi-family, sometimes with a feast of snacks and drinks, where for a single hour it’s possible to forget that Monday morning is just around the corner. Additionally, endlessly debating theories about the show and its unknown elements is a blast. While slightly disappointing, it seems that it’s necessary to take the show for what it is: too big to contain itself within the world it has created. If this season is riddled by the more conventional and predictable, hopefully the next will learn from its pacing and narrative faults.
I assume anyone reading this has seen Game of Thrones, but if not, do so, and feel free to discuss with me—like I said, it’s all part of the fun.