Game of Thrones Season 7: Is GoT slowly but surely crumbling under the weight of its own mythology?
*Spoilers lie ahead*
There is a certain gleeful pleasure — I’m sure the Germans have a word for it — to being witness to a moment in which people learn information about themselves that you have known for long. What a pity it is then, that the long, eventful and yet largely unsurprising seventh season finale of Game Of Thrones denies us that pleasure.
Before this episode, even casual viewers knew the truth about Jon Snow’s origins, that he isn’t Ned Stark’s bastard and that he is actually the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Readers of the books and frequenters of Reddit even knew his real name, that is, Aegon Targaryen. Towards its closing moments, in a montage that is both sweet and scandalous as it depicts Rhaegar’s sister, Daenerys Targaryen, and his son, Jon/Aegon, ending up in bed together as passionate lovers, a moment the show has been building towards all season.
Super-fans of course, will argue themselves hoarse that Targaryens are cool with incest. However, considering the whole premise of this show is that the people — let’s not forget the people, even if the show often does — will not accept progeny born of incest, so what is the point of this direction?
Will we now have to deal with an unintentionally hilarious story thread in the next season where, as though in a bad Westerosi rom-com, they will have to try and break up, only to realise that their love is too strong and they won’t let ‘convention’ come in the way? Or perhaps the proletariat has changed with the times, especially since Cersei Lannister and Jaime Lannister’s relationship is now pretty much mainstream?
There are two kinds of theatricality we’ve come to expect from Game Of Thrones — one is enjoyable while the other is plain embarrassing but may still appeal to some of our ‘guilty pleasure’ receptors. In this 80-minute finale, the longest of the series so far, we see both. There are several examples of the latter, most notably the posturing we see in Dragonpit where Daenerys and Jon finally come face to face with Cersei.
There is a warm sense of satisfaction in seeing the various reunions — The Hound meets Brienne again, Brienne meets Jaime again (I’m rooting for the two to get together after Jaime kills Cersei), Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, as he insists on calling himself, and Tyrion, two of the wittiest characters on the show get a full minute of banter to themselves — and a certain breathless thrill in seeing how these negotiations will pan out.
Right away, a false note is hit when The Hound marches straight up to his brother Ser Gregor Clegane, now Cersei’s zombie bodyguard, to indulge in some sibling-to-sibling trash talk (is this the time?). A painfully dissonant chord follows soon after, when Daenerys makes a roaring entrance on a dragon, the sight of which somehow doesn’t impress Cersei as much as one would’ve thought (perhaps she didn’t appreciate the surprisingly sub-par computer generated imagery (CGI) either). Meanwhile, as an awkward conversation between all parties begins, led by Tyrion Lannister, it seems that the writers forgot about the existence of Lord Varys, who is seen walking in with the crew and simply vanishes into thin air afterwards.
The good kind of theatricality is reserved for two revelations. The first one involves Euron Greyjoy, who unconvincingly walks away from Cersei after the captured wight is revealed. Later, as most viewers would’ve correctly predicted, we learn that Cersei’s acceptance of Tyrion’s offer to form an alliance against the army of the dead was fake, and Euron was merely being an accomplice. Also satisfying is the logical resolution of the ridiculous drama between Sansa Stark and Arya Stark, which we learn was a plan to trap Lord Petyr Baelish aka Littlefinger all along.
Very neat indeed, except that it doesn’t explain the weird, creepy conversation between the two sisters a few episodes ago, when Sansa discovers Arya’s ‘faces’ — whose benefit was that staged for, exactly?
Aside from that, everything that occurs in this episode is largely as per script, tied up neatly, practically gifted to loyal fans of the show. To please viewers, even Theon Greyjoy is given an unconvincingly redemptive moment. He somehow manages to beat up the Iron-born leader Harrag — a man twice his size — in front of his jeering men, just so that the writers could weave in an unexpected benefit to him being castrated. Sure, the prospect of him being able to save Yara would strengthen his character, but did it really need to go down like that?
The final moments of the show are familiar and predictable, too, with the Night King riding Wight Viserion, which now breathes magical, blue-coloured fire that finally breaks down the magically built Wall separating the army of the dead from the men. The implications are ominous and may raise many questions.
Will the wight dragon be killed by dragon fire? Or dragonglass? Or is it impervious to both? With the army approaching, will Jon and Dany, once they discover the icky truth about their questionable union, still remain united, or will they fight for power amongst themselves? Can Dany really get pregnant? The writers of the most popular show in history seem to have dug themselves into quite a hole.
This season, although bigger, more action-packed and more visually spectacular than any other, has revealed chinks in an armour we once thought was largely impenetrable. It’ll be interesting to see whether this level of interest sustains till early 2019, which is when the final season is now expected to premiere, or whether we’re witnessing the beginning of Game Of Thrones slowly but surely crumbling under the weight of its own mythology.
Having traded integrity for spectacle, the show will still remain impressive and often outrageously entertaining, but it will be different from the one we invested in over the last seven years.
All photos: HBO
This post originally appeared on The Quint here.