Sunday, August 27, 2017

Game Night: A First Reaction To The Game of Thrones Finale “The Dragon And The Wolf”

This post contains spoilers about the Game of Thrones episode “The Dragon And The Wolf”

Game of Thrones wrapped up a splashy Season Seven on Sunday night, airing a finale that was a mostly predictable and somewhat disappointing exclamation point. With a 79-minute run time, “The Dragon And The Wolf” was the longest Game of Thrones episode to date. So far, this season had moved at a hastened pace. It eschewed logical timelines and important plot developments in favor of big moments. Ultimately, this writing strategy proved to be a flaw in the season that was also reflected in the finale.

The most glaring deficiency in the writing was rampant in the demise of one of the greatest villains of the show, Littlefinger. After seven seasons of his Shakespearean monologues, Petyr Baelish finally uttered his most prescient statement when he noted, “I’m a bit confused.” While his execution at the hands of Arya Stark was satisfying, the plot was similar to a poorly written whodunnit where the evidence magically appears in the last two minutes of the episode. Throughout the season Arya and Sansa have clashed in private in a way that only makes sense to lead on Littlefinger, who was not always present in the room. That misled the audience, but those scenes turned out to be more deceitful to the viewers than a red herring.

The gaps in writing also appeared in other moments of the episode. The finale opened with the Unsullied and the Dothoraki horde outside of King’s Landing (although the set appeared to be more Highgarden). The presence of the army was more flash than substance and led to nothing of significance. It ultimately was a wasted tease for the high-level conference at the Dragon Pit.

The conference itself was an interesting scene, but missed the mark on what could have been a transformative moment. It was the biggest gathering of the show’s principal characters since Robert Baratheon departed Winterfell in Season One, but felt anti-climatic. Euron leaving and Cersei’s duplicity were a solid development; however, the long-awaited discussion between Tyrion and his sister was lackluster. At no point did they show how Tyrion persuaded his sister to join the Northern effort. Game of Thrones also forgot that Tommen’s death was Cersei’s fault, not her brother’s. After a lifetime of vitriol between the two siblings, this new development was unnecessary.

Jaime’s departure from King’s Landing was also a rushed development. Cersei’s sudden confidence in Euron and the dismissal of her longtime lover was a rejection of the Lannister family’s strongest bond.

The finale did have its positive moments. After a season of Bran’s aloofness, his omniscience was finally explained to mere mortal Samwell Tarly, who laughably said “I don’t know what that means.” Their discussion confirmed the origin of Jon Snow’s birth and rightful place as king of Westeros just as he and Daenerys updated their relationship status to “it’s complicated.” Bran’s introduction of this new truth will be likely be an interesting moment next season.

The most enjoyable moment of the finale came in the closing scenes of the episode. The emergence of the Army of the Dead and the Night King riding an ice dragon was spectacular. While it was not a surprise, the collapse of the Wall and the slow march of the dead was a compelling choice to conclude the season. It would be hard not to marvel at the amazing effects from Game of Thrones’ excellent production team. The vivid sight of an ice dragon destroying the Wall was one of several excellent moments from the series that has typically crafted these moments well.

Season Seven’s finale reinforced a constant theme of the series. The production quality is spectacular, but the writing and story arcs have failed to match the quality of its crew and cast. 

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