Article by: Anthony Florez
Sam: “Hi, Bran.”
Bran: “Three Eyed Raven.”
Bran: “I am the all-seeing, all-knowing Three Eyed Raven. And guess what?”
Bran: “Jon Snow is not, in fact, Jon Snow. His real name is Jon SAND. Because…Dorne. He was born in Dorne and is Rheagar’s bastard. I seen’s it.”
Sam: “Actually, Rheagar Targaryen annulled his marriage and married Lyanna Stark in a secret ceremony.”
Bran (frowns, three-eyed-ravens for a bit): “I mean, his real name is AEGON TARGARYEN.”
Sam: “But you just said-”
Bran: “I AM THE ALL-SEEING, ALL-KNOWING THREE EYED RAVEN!”
As much as I enjoyed this season of Game of Thrones, there were a number of things that nagged at me after an episode ended, where I was satisfied in the front of my brain but in the back this voice kept chiming in, “That…didn’t make a lot of sense. Just sayin’.” This exchange is one of those moments, because Bran watched that scene between young Ned Stark and Lyanna on her death bed last season. We saw him paying attention to her words and for whatever reason, we as the audience were denied the content of that conversation….until the end of this season. So the writers made a conscious effort to take the two big twists to come out of the Tower of Joy and spread them out across a season, like when they split the last Harry Potter book into two movies when it really only needed to be one. Okay.
Beyond the Wall was some thrilling television even if it didn’t exactly make any sense from a chronological standpoint and for those people who are condescendingly observing that complaining about the realism in a show with dragons and magic and witches is inherently stupid, back off. Because it really was, at one point, thoroughly grounded in the limitations of a society in the Middle Ages. It’s what made it so engrossing, it felt practical and real and only slightly fantastical. The last two seasons have been unarguably entertaining but devoid of that attention to detail. No, Game of Thrones is no longer and never going to be again that intimate, complex indie darling where we know all the band members names and histories and inspirations behind songs, instead it is fully evolved into arena rock; big, bombastic, full of accessible uplifting major chords. It used to be Radiohead, now it’s Coldplay.
The finale itself seemed to satisfy most as far as concluding this arc and setting us up for the final season but it arguably ended on a weirder note than previous seasons, most of which left us with a feeling of dread or suspense or, in the case of the sixth, an uncharacteristic, if hesitant optimism. Instead, while we once again leave off with the imminent invasion of the army of the dead, we are also left with the somewhat awkward union between Daenerys Targaryen and The King Formerly Known As Jon Snow. And not just because of Brandon Stark and Samwell Tarly’s revelation that he is, in fact, the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne and is doing the No Pants Dance with his own aunt but also because there was no noticeable chemistry between Kit Harrington and Emilia Clarke. They are both very beautiful people and The King In the North clearly has a Gold’s membership but the sparks that appeared between them had more to do with tenderness and mutual admiration/respect which does not appear to have translated into any kind of passion. When they both paused and stared longingly into each other’s eyes I couldn’t help but wonder if one of them was going to announce they had a headache and maybe they should just do a jigsaw puzzle together and drink tea. And Tyrion watching creepily from the shadows of a ship that does not appear to be influenced by the motions of the ocean left kind of an ominous shadow on what was probably supposed to be the eponymous Song of Ice and Fire.
Cersei Lannister, with Lena Headey’s great performance, has managed to become one of the more fascinating and loathsome villains in modern fiction today. Very few antagonists manage to be so successful at doing evil manipulative deeds that always circle around and bite her in the ass every time, it’s positively Shakespearean. She’s practically the Wile E. Coyote of Westeros, which is why her success against Daenerys this season has seemed so uncharacteristic. Maybe it’s Euron, or Jaime, or some combination therein, but she has anticipated and preempted a superior force throughout (and it helps that Dany refuses to take off the kids gloves with her) but it’s important to remember that she more or less Forrest Gump’d her way into the Iron Throne. Her short-game is without parallel but it’s always been only that.
It’s easy to forget she was the one who put the Sparrows in power to take out Margaery, which was less like letting the fox guard the hen-house than letting a cult of religious zealots with a proclivity for sacrificing hens guard the hen-house. Say what you will about her will power and strength of character, I’ve never personally forgiven her for blowing up poor little Tommen’s whole life simply because she couldn’t stand the fact that Margaery had sway over him. Shame, indeed. To wit, it was absolutely the most Cersei-ist thing she could possible have done to fake an armistice with Dany because of course she would. If someone were to present a choice between her ego and the welfare of the people of King’s Landing and greater Westeros as a whole she wouldn’t have heard the end of the sentence because she’d have picked already. Which is exactly what she’s done. Jaime has also been on quite an ethical roller coaster over these seven seasons and maybe the sight of his old traveling buddy and moral compass Brienne of Tarth has finally brought him back to his senses. It hadn’t occurred until someone pointed it out to me last season but, by blowing up the Sept and everyone within, Cersei has become exactly what Jaime betrayed his oath to prevent. And with this final act of selfishness, he’s abandoned her with what will be her last child. Will he join Dany and Jon? Go wander the halls of Casterly Rock singing The Rains of Castamere to himself? Show up at the last second somewhere in season eight to save someone from danger? That one, probably.
This season, fortunately or unfortunately, only saw one major character death and it’s one that has been a long time coming. I have to admit, they had me going for a minute there. If Sansa was good at playing wide-eyed and impressionable again, Arya was an absolute master at cold-blooded, calculating murderess ready to turn on the family. Although it should have been obvious to anyone who’d spent longer than a week with Littlefinger, the guy has never been up to any good and perpetually talks out of both sides of his mouth. But for all his guile and cunning he forgot one simple and important lesson about being a monster. Once you’ve shown someone the devil you really are, you can’t expect them to ever forget it. Sansa did not and he got what he deserved for staying in the same place for too long. It’s actually kind of appropriate given the tone of the show these last two years, a character as subtle and conniving as this one doesn’t really have a place in what this world has become which is less about pulling strings behind the scenes than it is about setting the whole stage on fire.
So the parlay that took place in the Dragon Pit is the big draw of the finale and I’ll admit I never thought that capturing a wight and just showing it to Cersei was going to be enough. But it clearly had the desired effect, so I guess it was worth handing the Night King a zombie dragon and the key to bringing down The Wall, right? How difficult would it have been for the Hound to just….let that wight take a big ol’ bite out of Cersei? Her guards sure as shit were caught on their heels. But there were a lot of important exchanges that took place, including one interesting one that didn’t, and some things that didn’t seem to add up. For one, what was going on between the Hound and the Mountain? How did one recognize the other and who exactly is it that’s coming for the him? Funny story, I was watching the episode with someone who does not watch the show and has no interest because of the repeated use of rape as a plot point and when Euron Greyjoy stood up and started speaking, her immediate reaction was, “Who the fuck is that. I hate him so much.” So it’s nice to know it’s not just us, he really is, even without context, spectacularly obnoxious in an objective sense. I didn’t quite buy his whole pre-arranged plan with Cersei to create a reason to walk out at first. Clearly his improvisational skills are up to snuff, otherwise how could they have created the plan without knowing what it was they were going to encounter at the parlay? Without the top secret scheme his reaction seemed the most believable and realistic of anyone there but adding this level of craftiness… I’ve always considered the Ironborn to be, basically, the Juggalos of Westeros, openly despised to the point that they embrace being hated as part of their identity. This whole skilled strategist thing completely takes the fun out of that.
The question remains: was the seventh season of Game of Thrones a success? The finale itself set a record for viewership in the neighborhood of 15 million or so folks tuning in, which are great numbers for network TV, to say nothing of a premium cable show. My problems with it are many, but none of them are deal-breakers. The pacing of the season was undeniably off, with several episodes feeling rushed and a lot of what seemed like interesting enough content crammed into two minute long conversations. There were more walk-and-talks than your average episode of The West Wing with characters I would have loved to see interact in a more in-depth way. How about some war stories or history from Thoros of Myr before he turned into a Thor-cicle? The Hound and Brienne of Tarth nearly killed each other the last time they met, how about a real sit down and some jawin’. Jorah and Jon would both benefit from chewing the fat for longer than a minute or two considering the history of their two houses and the latter’s service to the former’s father. To get to the point, the logic of reducing the season from 10 episodes to 7 still escapes me, outside of the obvious financial advantage to HBO, but I’m trying not to think that cynically. And the ultimate litmus test is, are we going to come back for the final season? I mean, of course. I can express some disappointment in the lack of depth and still enjoy the damn thing. And there are still some big payoffs to come, alluded to in the earlier seasons that can still be banked on. Remember the Red Wedding? Immediately afterwards we were treated to a very subtle scene with Bran and Hodor and Meera huddled together in watch tower near the Wall where he recounts the story of the Rat Cook. The cook, he says, killed a King’s son, baked him into a pie, and then fed it to him, foreshadowing Arya’s revenge three seasons before it ever happened. Going back and rewatching some of the earlier seasons, now that we are fully off-book, might be the best way to figure out what the final one will bring and the vision I’m looking forward to the most is this one: