Here’s a look at the most shocking moments from the finale of the seventh season of ‘Game of Thrones.’ USA TODAY
So, that was it?
Game of Thrones Season 7 promised to be the most exciting, most electrifying season of a series that built its reputation on shocking its fans and breaking their hearts. The fantasy mastered the art out-of-left-field plot twists and deaths that landed with such emotion because every character was well-formed. No matter how unexpected, almost every twist made sense with the rules of the fantasy world it worked so hard to build.
In the Season 7 finale on Sunday night, nearly all of that was lost.
The Game of Thrones of now – one in which almost everyone gets along, where major characters are seldom in danger of dying, where a zombie dragon breathing cold fire can take down an ice wall because the plot demands it – is a poor facsimile of seasons past. The finale episode, coupled with last week’s abandonment of logic, represents a turning point for the series. The spectacle rules above all else. There are dragons that breath fire, both cold and hot, but no believable stakes for its major characters. In a series where the characters are supposedly fighting for the survival of life itself, Thrones had a startling problem making anything seem vital.
The episode was all over the place with pacing and characterization, in one scene it wasted precious time on useless Theon, in another it forced its heroes into an incestuous romance. In what was meant to be a dramatic opener, it put its biggest characters all in one place for what appears to be a major development that ends up changing very little, but allows for fan-service moments between old friends and foes.
While “The Dragon and the Wolf” had many sins, perhaps its worst was being safe and predictable, letting loose “twists” that were anticipated or even wished for by fans. Littlefinger, long hated, dies in the most satisfying way. Dany and Jon act on their attraction. The Wall comes down. It all verged on becoming dull.
Going into an eighth season, it’s worth wondering why we are supposed to care about the survival of humanity on this continent when the series can’t make us care about characters we used to love, or love to hate?
Game of Thrones has been many things, but it’s never been boring. If Season 8 washes out its characters, its rules and its emotional depth in favor of an icy hot battle between good and evil, it might just turn into that.
With only six episodes left, we doubt it will get much better. But maybe Game of Thrones can surprise us, one last time.
The Dragonpit Accords
So, here’s the meeting that Jon risked his life for, that Dany lost a dragon for, that was supposed to stop the war for the Iron Throne and start the Great War. It went super well, right?
Sort of? After ticking off the list of characters reuniting this week (Pod and Tyrion, Brienne and the Hound, Tyrion and Bronn, the Hound and the Mountain, etc), the meeting began, and after coming face-to-face with a wight, Cersei began to believe they are real. She was down with pausing the war so Dany and Jon could go fight them, but only if Jon promised not to team up with Dany against her later. Jon, honorable and stupid as ever, couldn’t do this.
Jon’s annoying honesty set up both Cersei’s inevitable lie and his intimacy with Dany (more on that below). Tyrion, after begging him to learn how to lie, decides to try and fix things by talking to his sister, a considerably more dangerous prospect than for most brothers.
Cersei and Tyrion’s talk was the best moment in the episode. It’s been awhile, but you’ll recall that these two spent a lot of time together and never truly got to be honest with each other. They were always scheming, always hiding, always trying to undermine. But at this late hour, they finally get to hash it out and vent their hatred. Unlike most other moments, the emotions and actions felt earned.
Tyrion emerges from their chat and Cersei magically decides to help fight the White Walkers, in a wildly out-of-character moment for her. Cersei never intended to go north. She intended to hold her position and the throne, to rely on money and fear to maintain her position, just as she’s always done. For some reason, of all the horrible things Cersei has done, this is the one that pushes Jaime away from her. She threatens to kill him for disobeying her, but doesn’t follow through and he leaves, just as snow begins to fall on the capital city.
That both Cersei and Jaime made it out of the season alive was the most shocking thing about the finale, but not necessarily in a good way. Empty threats from villains and miraculously-surviving heroes only worsen the series’ problems. And it does not seem as if it will have time for Cersei and her Golden Company next season. They are a distraction, and now they are distracting to the audience, too.
Too Little, too late
Game of Thrones has started to become a series in which death punishes the guilty — a reversal from the early days when many of the most noble were the first to go. That Littlefinger was the only confirmed fatality in the episode speaks volumes about how death works on the series now. And the fact that it came at the hands of the Stark sisters only added to the feeling of fan service, as if the series was waiting for our cheer when Arya slit Lord Baelish’s throat.
Although it’s heartening that Arya was not acting so completely out of character for the past few episodes, her and Sansa’s scheme against the master schemer is yet another development riddled with logical problems. It makes the greater part of their screen time this season pure performance, meaning we didn’t get to spend time with the real sisters in favor of setting up this big reveal. Littlefinger won’t be missed, but we worry about what the sisters will be up to in Season 8.
Not the couple we were looking for
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about Jon and Dany getting together? It’s incest, it’s gross. It links Dany and Jon, the heroes of the series, with a practice popularized by its villains. It makes Jon’s lineage seem like a cheap gag. And did we mention it’s gross?
Thrones presented Sam and Bran putting the pieces of Jon’s parentage puzzle together (and the added reveal of his intended name, Aegon) like a dramatic reveal, as if the audience hasn’t theorized this for years and the series hadn’t confirmed most of it last season. Interspersing that reveal with images of Jon and Dany’s sex scene made it feel all the more exploitative, akin to big flashing lights pointing to the incest. We get it, OK? And it’s a terrible idea. The pair’s leadership, heroism and morality is forever tainted. And whatever the series has planned for them (they have to find out soon), it won’t be worth it.
Tear down that Wall
There are a number of problems with the reanimated Viserion being the thing that took down the Wall for the White Walkers. The Wall, as the series has hammered home, is not just a physical structure but a magical one, and it’s that magic that keeps the White Walkers out. How would the White Walkers know that Viserion could cancel that? And if he’s the only way to take it down, were they planning on staying north of the Wall forever, waiting for a convenient dragon to be shot down? And why did his cold fire take down a cold wall, anyway?
Inevitably, Thrones went out on a spectacular but completely illogical note — a pattern that has been the hallmark of this season. Viserion took down the Wall because the plot needed the White Walkers to advance. That’s where we are going in Season 8. We only hope that the eventual victory of our heroes doesn’t feel unearned.
Also of note…
- With his overly-long scenes this episode, Game of Thrones showed that it has no idea what the point of having Theon Greyjoy around. Before now, the point of his survival was to show how little he deserved it, and how absurd it was that he still stood while better men died. He was not meant to be a hero. But now he gained the respect of his men, in a cheap gag. How much time in those last six episodes is going to be spent on his rescue attempt? Yara deserved better. Theon deserved less.
- In the messy direction of the final sequence, it was unclear what happened to Tormund and Beric. We’ll truly miss the ginger wildling if he’s gone.
Thanks for watching with me all season. We’ll see you next year.