Done! I finished my rewatch of all 67 existing episodes of Game of Thrones last night. I am all set to watch the final season live via a Hulu Live subscription and an HBO add-on. As I did last season, I will be posting recaps of each episode.
On rewatch, I have season 7 pegged in the bottom half of all seasons. It has what we have come to expect from the latter seasons: shocking twists, a measure of catharsis, outstanding and astounding effects work and CGI and sometimes clumsy storytelling, lack of attention to details, and massive plot holes. Almost all superfluous plotlines have been discarded, but the pacing is both hurt and helped (mostly hurt) by the short, seven-episode season.
Cersei seems to be in a weak position as the season opens. (Even though no one appears to care that she destroyed the Great Sept of Baelor and seized the throne with no real basis, undercutting season six.) Her position changes dramatically with two battles: one lasts only a few minutes and the other takes place offscreen. This won’t be the last time the show would benefit from a full 10-episodes.
But the show also benefits from the fast pace. Just as quickly as Dany faces a setback she recovers with a quick strike using her dragons and Dothraki. Our first battle in Westeros with dragons is horrific to see. But then so it was to watch men hack themselves into pieces in the Battle of the Bastards. (The dragons would be most awful if they breathed water and drowned people to death.)
The season revolves around Dany and Cersei. Jon is conveniently pulled into Dany’s orbit. Oldtown and the maesters has enormous potential, but it’s too late in the game for all that. Sam gets vital information and leaves town. Scenes in Winterfell are mostly justified on the basis that it will surely be the key location for the final season. The maneuvering among Sansa, Littlefinger, and Arya primarily exists to take Littlefinger off the board, but it offers its own catharsis once you get over the writers misleading you. Traveling south doesn’t turn out well for northern lords, but traveling north is no picnic for southern lords. Even if Littlefinger hadn’t made too many enemies, “my word against yours” doesn’t work out too well when the other word is from a Stark and you are in Winterfell. Creating chaos is easier done than benefiting from it, in the end.
For the remaining Lannisters, a basic theme is Tyrion underestimating his family. Or, more accurately, staying his hand. Jaime is, for the first time, clearly in the subordinate position. He isn’t comfortable with that, or with their relationship being open. Cersei is a woman of limited talents. But she has survived this long in no small part of a certain viciousness and a complete willingness to resort to violence. It is notable, then, that she let both of her brothers walk away from her in the final episode. Especially in light of a certain prophecy.
The penultimate episode is centered on the awful, illogic expedition beyond the Wall. It is so important to the show, has maybe the biggest Wham! moment in the entire series, and there is so much else to like . . . but it just doesn’t make any sense on any number of levels. My pet peeve rewatching—Jon constantly moving away for the dragon for no good reason when he should be moving toward it. But we finally get the showdown between ice zombies and dragons we’ve been waiting for for seven seasons, and it did give us the Game of Thrones A-Team, and that makes it all worth it.