Monday, August 28, 2017

Game of Thrones Season 7: A Review

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And so the penultimate season of Game of Thrones comes to an end, leaving us with a possible year and a half wait for the conclusion of the epic fantasy series. Before I start a long series of posts containing my season 8 predictions, I think we need to look back at season 7. Because boy do I have a mix of thoughts.

Season 7 was a messy damn season, no doubt. The writing quality was up and down and the pacing set at light speed compared to previous seasons. Plus, because the writers are very far off of the book material now, they don’t have George’s writing to fall back on which gives us a mixed bag.

Before I start ragging on some of the writing, I think I should say something: I don’t hate the show runners. Shocking I know, since everyone seems to these days. Considering the massive project they have on their hands, I’m not surprised that there were mistakes and low points. Remember George has taken decades to write these series, whereas the show runners are working on a tight deadline of a few months to get scripts written and sent in. As a writer myself, I know that’s not a lot of time. This past season was also probably the toughest to pull off as they had to trim the fat of unnecessary characters and bring this huge world together in order to prepare for the final battle. This was a mammoth writing project, so I give credit where credit is due: they did try.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s start talking about the bad bits of this season.

The Low Points

I remember when people used to complain about the pacing in previous seasons. They would whine about how a conversation was ‘slow’ or had ‘nothing to do with the plot’ or was just ‘filler’. And yeah, maybe some of those convos were filler, but I loved them. They gave us a chance to breathe and get to know the characters more. They built relationships between them before sending them into the fray. But, to those people who were complaining, CONGRATS. You got your wish! There is no time to breathe in this season.

Everyone has their hands on a teleporter now and ravens travel at the speed of light. It’s a real shift from the first season where they make a point that it takes one month to travel vis caravan from King’s landing to the North. Now, people can get from Dragonstone to the wall in a jump cut. This wouldn’t be such a problem if they showed time passing. But time is, frankly, a nebulous thing in Game of Thrones now. How old are the characters? We don’t know. How long did Arya stay in Bravos? Don’t know. How much time passed over the course of this season? Not a damn clue. It’s odd that the concept of time requires more suspension of belief than the dragons or white walkers.
That being said, the time thing doesn’t really detract from the story. It speeds it up and it’s hard to accept, but, whatever. We want to get to our good content right?

The problem is, while Game of Thrones rushes some things like no one’s business, it moves at a snail’s pace for other things. Which brings me to the most frustrating stories this season.
Did you know the Stark sisters and Jaime Lannister are among my top five faves in the series? They are! Do you know how frustrating they were to watch this season? EXTREMELY.

Jaime Lannister has been on a long game redemption arc for several seasons. He’s trying to go toward the side of the good but Cersei just keeps yanking him back with her manipulative ways. The problem is, it takes him too damn long to figure it out.

I get what the writers are trying to do. They’re trying to show inner conflict in Jaime and give weight to his relationship with his sister. He can’t just shrug off a manipulative relationship like that quickly. It takes time. But when Jaime has pretty much dropped his sister in the books (or so I hear. I haven’t read that far), it’s annoying to see him continuously serve her. ESPECIALLY after she blew up the sept. That should have been the thing that sent Jaime running so seeing him linger at her side for the entirety of the season was exhausting.

Obviously, they wanted him leaving her to happen at the end of this season. They couldn’t just do it in the middle because that doesn’t fit with TV pacing. The culmination always comes at the end. But they could have written more resistance on his part. More arguing with her. More pulling away. Calling her out on her blowing up the sept. But because this was all subdued, perhaps in effort to trick us into thinking Jaime is going to stay with his sister, it just ended up frustrating. And yeah, seeing him walk the hell out was one of the most satisfying scenes in all of scenedom. But that doesn’t mean the process wasn’t excruciating.

You know who did an arc like Jaime’s better? Avatar the Last Airbender. Yeah, remember when Prince Zuko went on a redemption arc but then at the last second turned back because he was pressured by his manipulative sister and driven by his desire to rejoin his family? That was really sad and heartbreaking. But then halfway through the next season he figured things out and left the family for good. They didn’t drag it out. His arc had its ups and downs but it made sense. I really wish they did something more like that with Jaime but *shrug*, at least he got there eventually.

Jaime’s arc is the example of slow writing but Arya and Sansa’s story is just an example of bad writing. Episode five and six were just painful to watch. Let’s break down why.

It is implied, in episode seven, that Arya and Sansa have been plotting together in order to out Littlefinger. Arya is clearly in on the plan, as is Bran. But there are a lot of questions here: how long have they been in on it? When did Bran tell the sisters what was going on? And why wait so long to kill Littlefinger if they figured it out?

Let’s say that the Stark sisters were never against each other. Let’s say that they had a plan from the start. That is the solution I would like to believe. But there are a lot of issues with that idea. Sansa and Arya aren’t always arguing in public. One time they have a conversation with the door open and another time outside in the courtyard. Theoretically Littlefinger could be listening in (though they don’t show him there, which is a problem). But the most emotionally dramatic of their scenes happens behind closed doors. No Littlefinger in sight. If the writers wanted to get across that this was a show for Littlefinger they should have shown him being nearby or snooping or something.
But this story wasn’t about fooling Littlefinger. It was about fooling the audience. The writers wanted to make the audience think that the sisters hated each other so they could have their big twist. And what a cheap twist it was: an ending we all saw coming because of the totally forced nature of the conflict between the sisters. The death of Littlefinger may have been amazingly satisfying, but the lead up was some of the worst stuff they’ve ever done on the show. Period.

I have other small quips about this season. Like how there seem to be a lot of side characters with nothing to do. Or how Tyrion didn’t seem like the main character in his own story up until the final episode. Or how plot-device Bran has dug the writers a hole because they’ll have to come up with wild reasons why he doesn’t share important info. But those things were more minor for me. So, let’s jump into the good stuff.

The Good

This was a season of closure. Finally, we get Dany in Westeros. Finally, Jaime leaves his sister. Finally, all the surviving Starks are back in Winterfell. Finally, Littlefinger got what was coming to him. Finally, Gendry is back from rowing. Finally, Theon is taking control of the Iron born and going on his redemption arc for his sister. Finally, that damn wall is coming down.

We’ve wanted a lot of this stuff since season one. We’ve made jokes about the Starks never getting back together and laughed about the White walkers slow, slow moving army. We’ve complained about Dany spending too much time in Essos and screamed at Jaime to just leave his sister. But now, we get what we wanted. Resolution to arcs set up in the very beginning.

For that reason, this season was very satisfying to me. Patience pays off here because finally I get what I’ve wanted. My Stark survivors reuniting at their home was so healing to me. Arya and Sansa hugging twice and admitting each other’s strength despite their differences--that was so nice to watch. Danerys actually touching down in Westeros was almost unreal. Seeing her in a room with characters like Jon or Cersei--priceless.

I’m also a sucker for all the small character connections. The Hound and Brienne talking about their adopted murder child, Arya. Tormund speaking dreamily about Brienne to the Hound. Gendry and Jon laughing about their fathers. Jon and Tyrion reconnecting. It shows what an interconnected web of characters we have now. If even one of them dies, several of them will feel it and that’s a great thing to set up going into the final season. Cause season 8 is gonna have so much death.

I also think the series was smart in restablishing the original four houses. Yes, there have been others, but at the beginning it was Stark, Lannister, Baratheon and Targaryan. They bring Gendry back as the remaining Baratheon. They put the Starks in one place. The Lannisters all reunited in the last episode, reestablishing their familial bonds before parting. And Jon was revealed as a Targaryan as he slept with his aunt (which was probably one of the most hilarious reveals ever, not gonna lie).

Meanwhile the show runners trimmed the fat, getting rid of the Martells and Tyrels. The Martells I won’t miss because of their terrible writing. There are still some survivors in Dorne who will rebuild. Just...away from the show. And though the Tyrels were awesome, it was good to cull them here before the big conflict. We still have the Greyjoys, but even Theon was established in the finale as an honorary Stark.

I’m glad the writers are narrowing the story again. It got so spread out but now everyone is coming back together, joining forces. There is one common goal now: defeat the Night King. Many character arcs have wrapped up or are close to wrapping up so it’s time to see where everything goes. Even though the writing quality was uneven, I think the show runners are setting themselves up for success.

On another note, I am a sucker for some CGI action sequences with dragons. I know it’s sometimes fanservicey but...whatever. I don’t care. I had fun watching. And I appreciate the continued moral ambiguity of Game of Thrones. They didn’t show Dany’s burning of the Lannister army as totally triumphant. They showed the horror of it. Even Littlefinger’s murder, though satisfying, was kind of sad and pathetic. Moral ambiguity has always been my favorite aspect of game of thrones. No one is wholly good or wholly bad. They’re all in a grey area.

In Conclusion

Honestly, this was a tough season for the show runners to write and I think we’re set up for a great eighth season. The pieces are in place for a lot of great reunions and battles. It was probably one of the weakest seasons in terms of quality, but still very enjoyable for the most part. I’ll be rewatching it soon for the highs and lows, and, until season 8 comes around, I’ll be making predictions like crazy.

Next time on the blog, we’re going to jump into season 8 predictions. See you then!

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