One more time–
Wow. Huh. Sheer dumbfoundedness and gobsmackery.
In my last post I explicitly held off making a judgement about Season 7 in general, because Episode Seven had yet to air. I am very, very happy I did, because this episode righted a lot of wrongs.
Until Sunday evening, for the most part, I was disappointed with Season Seven. Not with the acting– it was generally superb. Not with the writing– it was about as brilliant as ever.
It was the sketchy and rushed feeling of the season to which I objected.
Frankly, the writers, and show-runners Benioff and Weiss, were quite obviously trying to tie up too many loose-ends, connect too many characters, and lay too much foundation for Season Eight in too little time. From Jon and Dany’s rushed romance to the cockamamie raid beyond the Wall to grab a wight, it was a season sketched out in suggestive lines rather than painted with full-bodied shapes and colors. The line-drawings are well-done, but inevitably they lacked the depth we’re used to.
I have no insight into why HBO decreed that Season Seven have only seven episodes (for some strange reason, I was never invited to the story-planning meetings). Perhaps it was budgetary, even though that’s hard to imagine, considering the show’s success. I hope that the haste in Season Seven has solid plot imperatives driving it, and that now we’re set for a balanced Season Eight (with only six, albeit longer, episodes). I hope.
What I fear, however, is that six episodes will not be enough. I tremble at the thought that GoT will suffer a fate similar to Lost, the poster child of brilliant shows that lose their way and fall flat in their last season. I would kill me, and probably a lot of other people, if Game of Thrones, brilliant as it has been, somehow just peters out and loses all its narrative power as it concludes.
Having said that, I take comfort from the fact that GoT has an distinct over-arching narrative structure passed to the show-runners by George R. R. Martin. They at least have a general idea where they are headed, and how things will end, something that Lost never seemed to have. Lost had so many elements thrown into a mix that never quite gelled into a distinct story-line, and so many threads that were never satisfactorily resolved, all coupled to an ending that was like drinking flat beer when you were promised sparkling champagne. I think, and I believe with some justification, that GoT can avoid that fate because, ultimately, it has the brilliance of Martin behind it, and skilled show-runners in Benioff and Weiss (unlike a certain other popular producer/director, but J. J. is a topic for another rant, at another time).
Having said all that, however, Episode Seven went a long, long way to redeeming the season. It was not entirely without sin– the whole interaction between Samwell and Bran seemed particularly to gallop past– but on the whole the episode seemed better paced, laced with tension and conflict in the right places, and it brought everybody to where they needed to be, not only to wrap up Season Seven, but to lay the groundwork for Season Eight. The characters and their interactions felt right, and the action kept you riveted. And the ending, which for me includes Bran and Sam talking about Jon’s true heritage, Dany and Jon acting on their feelings, and the destruction of the Wall, tied it all together.
So, even though we may have to wait until 2019 for Season Eight, I’m okay with that. Naw, not really, it’s going to be hell, but it gives me something to look forward to in my lonely old age. I have hope that Benioff and Weiss may actually pull off something that is, in truth, quite difficult– giving an tale of epic fantasy a truly satisfying ending that resolves the various threads and conflicts in a way that makes you say, “that’s the way it should have ended.” No pressure, guys….
And now, to sum up, a few final random observations and thoughts on Season Seven–
- My personal predictions about the course of the show over the last few weeks have often been off the mark, but, man, did I miss it with Dany and Jon. Maybe I’m an old romantic who thinks you should build slooowwwlllyyy to the mojo, but I admit it worked out okay– aside from the incest part, that is. Despite the hurried nature of their romance in previous episodes, this moment felt as if it were a logical– if you will pardon the expression– consummation of how these two people have interacted down to this moment.
- From here on out, of course, nothing but heartbreak lies ahead for D&J, especially if Sam and Bran don’t keep their flapping mouths shut. Does Jon really need to know this bit of family history, especially as it is really doubtful he will want any part of the Iron Throne for himself? I don’t think so, but I didn’t set up this particular bomb in the story-line, and if you plant a bomb in Season Seven, it has to go off in Season Eight….
- One of the big question marks I do have about the characters is, what the hell is going on with Tyrion (or, more precisely, what are the writers doing to Tyrion)? Working backwards from that look of anger and seeming jealousy he throws at Dany’s door while she and Jon are doing the naughty, to his interview with Cersei in which he seems willing to take the blame for the disasters the Lannisters have suffered, to what appears to be a deteriorating relationship with Dany, I wonder if he is being set up to do something foolish, drastic, or (gulp) treasonous in Season Eight? I hope not, because that would seem to be the negation of much of his character arc through the whole show, which is why I find it puzzling.
- Note also, we seem not to be presented with the whole discussion between Cersei and Tyrion– it cut off right after Tyrion realizes Cersei is (allegedly) pregnant. Did the two of them talk about something else? Did the potential of a new nephew and/or niece change something in Tyrion’s attitude and– gasp!– loyalties? Did he cut some sort of deal with Cersei to get her to come back out and mouth the words of truce and united purpose for Dany and Jon? I fear we’re going to get an unpleasant surprise on this point in Season Eight.
- Littlefinger– yes. It’s a wonder the collective shout of joy from fans didn’t set off seismometers around the world. It was worth being played by the writers to be surprised along with Baelish. Pleasantly for us, badly for him. An excellent portrayal by Aidan Gillen of a schemer who realizes, too late, that if you plot against everyone, eventually you will find yourself in a cold room, surrounded by hard faces, confronted with the sharp edge of a knife, and with no friends to save you. Oak-leaf clusters on Gillen’s medal for this scene in how he makes Littlefingers’ self-assurance crumble into whimpering on his knees. It seemed a fitting way for this bastard to go out.
- I also applaud the writers for navigating what I perceived to be a particularly treacherous channel– if you convince Cersei of the reality of the Night King, how does that work with her self-centered take on everything? But, of course, with utter consistency, Cersei says one thing and does another, still attempting to turn a situation that should be beyond political calculations to her advantage. Jon would not lie, but of course Cersei did.
- For a moment I, and probably a lot of other people, really thought Jaime was going to die when he called Cersei on her BS. With this open break with his sister Jaime is very close to completing a redemptive arc, possibly the greatest and most profound of the whole show, from an arrogant son-of-a-bitch who shoved a child out a window to someone who is willing to stand up for other people and not think of his political advantage– and who wants to live up to his word. He sets out alone for the north (and I wonder if he tried to talk Bronn into going with him?), just maybe finally free from Cersei’s vampirism. He’s probably going to die, but it looks very much as if he will die a man, and not a self-important little asshat.
- Also, Brienne is in the north. I wonder….???
- But then, so is Tormund. Oh, now we talking a serious triangle….
- Regarding Tormund (and Beric, for that matter) it took me looking at the scene a couple of times and reading some internet comments to realize that the two of them have mostly likely survived the destruction of the Wall at Eastwatch. As people have pointed out, they fled westward along the top of the wall (the guys going down the stairs didn’t have a snowball’s chance, which is kinda ironic), and were past the point where the collapse began– and the collapse went from west to east, which means, almost certainly, the two of them are standing on what is now the sharp eastern edge of the wall, looking down on the army of the dead as it advances south. This realization gave me a sense of relief, because 1). I didn’t want either one of them to die (yet), and 2). I didn’t want the writers to have to engage in some bogus hand-waving to allow them to survive the fall. They live, without writerly fakery, to fight another day.
- The Wall’s destruction was just cinematic gold. Most movies don’t do it this well….
- It’s snowing in King’s Landing. Where Gendry, in a life of more-or-less twenty years, has never seen it snow. The bad mojo is rising fast…..
- I mentioned heartbreak for Dany and Jon. The truth is, in Season Eight, if the writers fulfill the promise of this last episode, sorrow and loss are going to spread over Westeros as thick as the winter snows beyond the Wall. We still have death and betrayal and sorrow ahead. And now no one– no one— is safe. We should brace ourselves.
I think that’s all the observations I have at the moment. Perhaps with GoT on hiatus I can spare some of the energy I’ve expended talking about it for my own writing. There’s nothing more inspiring than watching good writing at work.
Farewell, Season Seven. You ended strong. Tell Season Eight to move its butt.