"Game of Thrones" Nears Its End
The penultimate chapter of Game of Thrones finished airing a few weeks ago, officially marking the beginning of the end for the TV juggernaut. The writers have been proceeding without George RR Martin’s guidance, as he has yet to finish the final book, which may be why this season felt more predictable. We were still given some phenomenal segments, particularly in “The Spoils of War,” but seven episodes is a small space to squeeze in the complex plot of Game of Thrones, especially at this point. As a result, it felt as though some corners were cut. (Warning- spoilers ahead.)
Up to and including the finale, season 7 was full of payoffs. From Jon and Daenerys finally meeting, to the triumphant reunion of the Starks, to the bitter reunion of the Lannisters, audiences saw some encounters they likely thought would never happen.
Subplots collided as the war against the White Walkers was brought to the forefront, which is what the show has been working towards since the start. While Game of Thrones has had (and still has) plenty of villainous characters, the Night King has always been the true big bad; like the Voldemort of Westeros. This season’s biggest accomplishment was finally getting all the good guys on the same side, including Jaime, who finally left Cersei in the finale.
Shortly after Jaime’s departure, we saw the Night King use his new zombie-dragon to destroy part of the Wall so that his army can pass. Fortunately, the dead are the only ones on the show who still travel at normal speed, so there will still be some time before they reach Winterfell, whereas Jaime probably made it all the way there as the Wall was falling.
In all seriousness, the fast-traveling and, by extension, the pacing in general was the main problem with this season. Previously, it took entire episodes before characters reached their destinations. Now, everyone can seemingly teleport to wherever they need to be, which is likely a consequence having fewer episodes and less time for filler.
But who imposed that the last two seasons must be shorter than the rest? Game of Thrones is a cash cow for HBO, so why are they not milking it? David Benioff, a co-creator of the show, said in an interview with Deadline “We wanted it to be one giant story, without padding it out to add an extra 10 hours, or because people are still watching it.” He also said that having fewer episodes would allot more money for each one, meaning they can get more grandiose leading up to the big finish.
Speaking of finishes, the season finale was a mixed bag. It was hard not to geek out during the big meeting when nearly every major character was in the same place at the same time, but in the end, it didn’t accomplish anything. Cersei’s truce was false, which everyone will find out eventually (or sooner if Bran discovers he can use his omniscient powers when it’s not just convenient for the plot.) On top of that, the big reveal at the end of the episode was essentially the same as in last season’s finale. Both told us the truth of Jon’s parentage, except we got more details this time. Bran and Sam discovered that Jon is not a bastard of any sort, but is Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark’s legitimate son named Aegon, meaning he is the true heir to the Iron Throne. Unfortunately, this was revealed as Jon was having sex with Daenerys, who happens to be his aunt. Leave it to Game of Thrones to make you conflicted on incest.
The biggest problem I have with this reveal is that Bran should have known it already. All the necessary information was revealed to young Ned on Lyanna’s deathbed, from Jon’s lineage to his real (non-bastard) name, which Bran witnessed last season. The writers clearly just wanted the juxtaposition of Jon and Daenerys making love with the confirmation that he is a Targaryen.
The showrunners will have their work cut out for them next season, with a lot of material to cover in not a lot of time. Will Theon outgrow his cowardice and save his sister? What will become of Cersei’s child? Who will ultimately sit on the Iron Throne? And, most importantly, will they give Jaime a Valyrian steel hand? Unlikely, I know, but I would love to see him fatally slap a White Walker.
Overall, the seventh season of Game of Thrones provided plenty of fan service and some fantastic sequences, but rushed to an unimpressive conclusion.
Final Score: 7/10
(photo provided by Vanity Fair)