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And with an ice dragon breathing ice-fire (at least that’s what it appeared to be?), The Wall comes crashing down, and the penultimate season of Game of Thrones ends. A solid ending, to be sure, even if I think the vast majority of the viewing audience had a suspicion that this was exactly how the season needed to end. As for the rest of the episode, it was a bit of a mixed bag, offering up some fun moments, some truly touching moments, and a number of moments that left me scratching my head.
Let’s start with the disappointing elements of the episode (don’t worry, there are only a few), before delving into its strengths. Remember last week, when we all thought Tormund was going to die and he was saved from the jaws of death by his new buddy the Hound? And how we all thought it meant he would have a bigger part to play in the story moving forward? Or how Ser Beric told Jon that he was convinced the Lord of Light needed him for something, and that’s why he was brought back time and again? And how we all thought he would serve some important purpose, using his last life for something bigger? Well, I guess that wasn’t to be the case, as both appear to be casualties of The Night King (and, potentially, wights next season).
Now, I don’t mind characters having “pointless” deaths, because not everyone in the world can die in a heroic manner. But when the show takes pains to save a character from certain death one week (in a way that really stretched the bonds of believably and, to be perfectly honest, cheapened the battle itself) only to kill him off in a pretty throw-away manner the next, that bugs me (and if they some how magically survived the falling of The Wall, well, then that’s even worse). I get that having one beloved secondary character in the carnage (or threatening their death in the aftermath of an attack) may make a sequence “mean more” to an audience, but A MAJOR SECTION OF THE WALL JUST CAME CRASHING DOWN THANKS TO AN ICE DRAGON. I didn’t need named characters to die as a result to make that moment hit home. The mere act in and of itself was enough. They could have saved Tormund and/or Beric to use later, to have a really “meaningful death,” since Benioff and Weiss seemed to think having them die beyond The Wall was a waste. Either way, pour one out for Ser Beric and Tormund. I hope we don’t have to watch them attack their friends next year. But it would kinda be cool if they did.
As for the other disappointing element of the episode, man, what the hell was with Arya and Sansa’s arc in the back half of the season? I’m assuming the pair of them were in cahoots the entire time, with Bran telling them all the secrets he saw regarding Littlefinger’s duplicity throughout the entire story, and their ridiculous scene last week was simply to throw off Littlefinger in case he was listening. But why even bother showing us that scene? Sure, I suppose Bran could have called a Team Stark meeting afterwards, told them everything, and they all decided to kill Petyr. But no matter what the sequence, none of it makes sense, from a narrative perspective.
If the purpose of it all was to throw us off the trail, well, all it did was make us think Arya and Sansa had had personality transplants and started acting completely out of character in the span of a few episodes. The “surprise” of Petyr’s trial certainly wasn’t worth the damage it did to our characterization of both women. It was cheap plotting and shoddy writing (which, unfortunately, wasn’t in short supply these last couple of episodes). It would have been much more fun to watch the sisters and Bran work together and plot Littlefinger’s downfall, to watch as they caught Petyr in his lies. I would have loved seeing two sisters who hated each other at the start of the series band together to dispatch with their family’s betrayer. It would have been wonderful to see. Instead, the show tied itself in knots to hide the truth from us, damaging beloved characters in the process, while still failing to explain what had happened even in its final reveal. Yes, the end result was what we all wanted to see, but the path there could have been laid out much better.
Speaking of suspect characterizations, man, Jon Snow (or should I say Aegon Targaryen) is so bad at playing politics. I’m almost actively rooting against him ending up on the Iron Throne (at least ending up there without Dany by his side to temper his moronic tendencies), because that man is not going to last very long in power if he keeps to his “I cannot tell a lie” set of morals. Who knows, they might take a beating once Bran and Sam give him the good news of his parentage, but I suspect, as he told Theon (in a scene that should have been cut down significantly, because man, Theon remains the absolute worst), Ned Stark lives on in all of his children, even if they aren’t his trueborn son. I only hope he remembers that once he learns who he really is.
Having said that, I continue to be worried regarding what will happen when Dany gets that bit of news. As Bran pointed out, Jon’s claim to the throne is significantly stronger than Dany’s (even if, as I suspect, Jon pulls the “I don’t want the Iron Throne” card). Dany might not be a Mad Queen a la Cersei (more on her in a moment), but she won’t take lightly to the idea that someone else might take what she sees as rightfully hers. A marriage between the pair would solve all of those problems, but while Targaryens don’t have qualms against incest, Starks certainly do. Jon is not going to be happy when he finds out he slept with his aunt.
Speaking of incest, the most interesting part of the episode, in my opinion, came about through the Lannister family reunion. We all wondered what would happen when Cersei and Tyrion finally faced off, and boy, what an electric scene. Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage are two of the show’s finest actors, and getting to see the pair of them go head to head was an utter joy. Cersei played the role of hard to convince tyrant beautifully, luring Tyrion into her web, and making it appear that he had convinced her (for the sake of her unborn child) that fighting the White Walkers was worth the risk to her position on the Iron Throne. But, as I have been saying for weeks, Cersei is perfectly happy at the possibility of falling to the Night King if it means she gets to keep the throne until the moment he kills her (and if it means no one else gets the throne at all). I did, foolishly, think Euron really had abandoned the cause. While Jon Snow cannot lie, Euron and Cersei are masters at it, fooling even poor Jaime (the stupidest Lannister of them all, as Cersei rightly proclaimed).
To be fair, the Lannister army might not mean much in the fight, if the Night King can kill a dragon with ease (Cersei may be a snake, but she did have a point there). But boy, I didn’t think this would be the straw that shattered the Jaime-Cersei relationship for good. Yet, here we are. Jaime is alone, even without Bronn, heading down the King’s Road toward Winterfell. Throughout the season, Jaime was brought face to face with Cersei’s atrocities, and warned to get out before it was too late. Lady Olenna laid bare who Cersei truly is. Euron’s posturing made it clear he knew more than Jaime about Cersei’s plans. Brienne, the only person who ever saw Jaime for the person he could really be, begged him to see reason (and make Cersei do the same). Now, he’s on his own. And doing the right thing. It took him years to begin to think for himself, but I’m happy it might mean Jaime gets the valiant death he wished. And it will be on the side of good. And I’m not going to complain that this means we might get some more complex and layered scenes between Jaime and Brienne. What a lovely series-long arc for the character.
So, where does the series go from here? Well, I honestly have no idea how our heroes are going to take out the Night King and his horde. Because the deck is certainly stacked against them. At least Jaime switching sides means they’ll have an excellent general on their team (which was what Jon has truly lacked). There are six episodes of Game of Thrones remaining. If the rumors are true, we can expect them to clock in at around 90 minutes a piece. But, new episodes of Thrones likely won’t be out until late 2018 at the earliest, with winter of 2019 the best guess for season eight’s premiere. It’s going to be a long winter’s wait.
— As I’ve said in the past, Theon’s sole purpose now is to die redeeming himself. As Yara’s ten times the character he could ever be at this point in time, I’d be perfectly content if his suicide mission resulted in her surviving and killing her uncle. But, I’ll even settle for Theon killing Euron before dying himself. Basically, Theon is the worst and he needs a heroic death to put him and us out of our misery.
— Poor Jorah.
— I’m not entirely certain what that look on Tyrion’s face at the end meant. Is he worried that Dany hooking up with Jon might mean he’s going to lose his position? Because, considering how many characters told Jon how dumb he is this episode, I can’t see Dany trusting his judgment.
— That scene between Arya and Sansa on the wall of Winterfell was absolutely beautiful. I just wish we didn’t have to make it through that hogwash to get to it.
— So, it turns out Sam did listen to Gilly? Or did he just decide to take credit for that find in the High Septon’s journal all for himself?
— I loved that scene with Brienne and the Hound. Especially the Hound telling her that he has no desire to ever cause trouble for Arya again. The Hound has become one of the show’s best characters, and I’m thrilled that he declared his intentions to kill Zombie Mountain at some point in the future. It gives me some modicum of hope he will make it to the end. Perhaps he and Arya can go hunting in King’s Landing for names on her list?
— I didn’t get into the glaring issue with the plotting this season: Why should we care about what Cersei/Theon/everyone not set to fight the White Walkers is up to, seeing as the only thing that matters now is defeating the seemingly unbeatable enemy? The Benihoff and Weiss have written themselves into a corner here, as those arcs won’t matter a whole lot until the real enemy is defeated. Yet, there still need to be arcs to follow once the good guys (presumably) win (if they don’t, well, those arcs are even more ridiculous). It’s a problem, but at this point I’m just planning on ignoring the glaring nature of it and focusing on the positives.
— And with that, I bid you a fond farewell until season eight. Thanks for reading. And, who knows, maybe the sixth book will be out before next season? Yeah…right.