Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Seven Thoughts On Game of Thrones Season Seven

This post contains spoilers about the seventh season of Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones finished its seventh and penultimate season on Sunday evening. The series wrapped its shortest season with the confirmation of a major fan theory (R + L = J) and epic use of an ice-spewing dragon. Here are seven thoughts on Season Seven:

The Writers’ Room – After two lackluster seasons, Game of Thrones bounced back in its sixth installment. After consecutive years of drawn-out plots that were necessitated by the large cast and complex geography of George R.R. Martin’s universe, the show had finally discovered its best balance between character development and compelling drama. That successful formula was abandoned this past season. The show shunned the longer stories and focused more on viral moments that depicted a scheme to kidnap a zombie, epic battles, and dragons wreaking havoc.

The series has recast its identity. Naturally, not every character interaction was developed to perfection in prior year and the writing was never the best aspect of Games of Thrones. The acting and production quality made the series stand out. The show has now lost out on the opportunity to create more dynamic moments between its incredible cast. The amount of viral dominance had an additional negative effect: the overwhelming flash of the season may have also negated the impact of the big moment and become predictable. If every scene is a viral sequence, the value of the battles, dragons, and special effects that the series does so well will eventually become watered down.

The Episodes – The emphasis on flashy moments makes it difficult to distinguish the episodes from each other. The best written and acted episode of the season was “The Queen’s Justice.” The midseason show was one of Cersei Lannister’s finest moments. Watching Cersei enact vengeance upon the Sand Snakes and the Queen of Thorns was particularly engrossing because of the depths of her cruelty. The episode also depicted stunning reversals in the conflict in Westeros after Cersei outmaneuvered Tyrion at Casterly Rock and Highgarden.

Cersei Lannister – Lena Headey does not receive the same amount of attention as Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, or Kit Harrington, but she is one of the best actors on Game of Thrones. Her ability to play an undisputed villain with a likeable evil is uncanny. In a season that emphasized CGI, Headey stood out as one of the most consistent actors on the show by executing the Lannister comeback with perfection.

Littlefinger – The storyline of Petyr Baelish was a frustrating plot with a satisfying ending. While few fans will take issue with the execution of the scheming Littlefinger, the scenes that led to his demise were frustrating. The choice to play Arya and Sansa against each other was more deceitful than distracting. A show can include scenes that mask a surprise, but it should not lie to hide its true intentions. The best mysteries often reveal their outcome with all of the facts present in the open. The intra-family squabbles and lack of sisterly communication that occurred when Littlefinger was not even in the room were examples of how a sloppily written story can derail a show.

The Dragons – Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion were clearly the MVPs of Season Seven. The detail that the visual effects crew has provided to this show is unmatched on television. Not only do these dragons look lifelike, but they act like animals as well. Little touches like Drogon angrily swiping at the giant crossbow with his tail help make the beasts seem believable. While the story that led to the creation of the Ice Dragon was a little far-fetched, its existence was an amazing addition to the season and provides excellent momentum for the Night King heading into Season Eight.

Tyrion Lannister – After six seasons of being the most cunning character on the show, Tyrion endured a slump this time around. He was frequently outwitted by Cersei, devised a scheme that cost Daenerys a dragon, and had his loyalty questioned by his queen. It also cast doubt as to how he will survive in the final season. Will he fall out of favor with Daenerys? Will he redeem himself with brilliant strategy in the war against the Night King? Has he recast himself as a Lannister by becoming secretly allied with Cersei?

Overall Grade – Season Seven merited a B-minus rating. “The Queen’s Justice” and “The Spoils of War” were by far the best episodes of the season. Both rank among the top episodes of the series, although the remainder of the season lacked the fully developed stories and character moments of prior years. The season did not eclipse the consistent quality of seasons one and six, but also did not fall into the plodding stories of seasons three and four. The season did hasten the intersection of so many key characters and set up what appears to be a final season unlike any other epic on television. 

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