Only. Four. More. Days. Until the final season of Game of Thrones premieres. With just seven episodes left in my great rewatch—67 episodes in 67 days—I am definitely going to make it! My review of season seven should go up on Friday, I’m planning one more Game of Thrones post on Saturday and Sunday, and then I will recap the premiere on Monday.
Season six benefits from a tremendous amount of much-delayed catharsis, but tons of time is burned moving pieces around the board, the writers are still furiously junking Martin’s plotlines, and the show writers’ weaknesses are starting to show. One big WHAM! moment (or maybe two, depending on how you count) is much less effective because the writers drop the ball in season 7.
Seasons five and six are very much about transitioning the show from the books to the show writers’ vision for the endgame. To do that they have to move a lot of pieces around the board, so to speak. It is necessary probably, but it doesn’t necessarily make for riveting television. The biggest offenders are the Iron Born, Arya and her exit from Braavos, bringing the Hound back into the game, and that entire sequence at Riverrun. Well done or not, they feel ancillary.
Bran’s storyline consists almost entirely of infodumping. Not bad and I’m not one to complain about worldbuilding, but not riveting television. I will say that I give the writers shit for their additions, but their explanation of why Hodor only says “Hodor” is pretty great.
There are also several purely wheelspinning scenes featuring Tyrion, young Barack Obama, and Missandei that succeed entirely on the basis of the actors’ charisma. Dany gets two WHAM! moments that are both entirely predictable and redundant but great nonetheless. Who cares if Dany lifting the siege of Mereen is repetitive because the dragons look GREAT. (If only we could get that kind of CGI success with dire wolves.) And who wouldn’t cheer for so abrupt and definitive a cutting of the Mereenese knot?
Even with the book cliffhanger, it is no surprise what happens to Jon Snow at the beginning of the season. But it still makes for great television.
The transition from book-adapted-to-show to pure show is marked. The showrunners really are talented. At making television. They are good at television. At the visuals. At foreshadowing future events. But they don’t have the attention and care for details of a book writer like George R.R. Martin. The handling of norms is a big part of that. Nobody really cares that Jon left the Night’s Watch. Just as no one will care what Cersei does in the final episode of the season, drastically reducing it in retrospect. The books depict the tearing down of norms, to be sure, but it is more effective (and tragic) because it acknowledges they exist.
The Battle of the Bastards gives us some of that good old fashioned brutal medieval violence. So, so many things about it don’t make sense, but I don’t care. Game of Thrones features some great CGI and so much spectacle in its battles. This one is grittier. I’m still partial to Hardhome, but the Battle of the Bastards is one of my very favorite medieval battle scenes committed to film (speaking of brutal medieval violence, check out my reviews of Braveheart and Outlaw/King). We also finally get the death of inexplicable main character Ramsay Bolton—hooray! Our long, national nightmare is over.
And the catharsis of that one scene! The North remembers. Some people hate it, because some people hate entertainment that entertains or sparks joy of any sort. Don’t be those people.