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Monday, 28 August 2017

Game of Thrones S7E7: The Dragon and the Wolf

Game of Thrones
Series 7, Episode 7
The Dragon and the Wolf.

Well, we're finally here, at the end of series seven. I say 'finally,' but it feels like this series has come and gone in the blink of an eye. It turns out that everyone having the power to teleport really does wonders for your pacing. Who knew?

(I gripe a lot about the teleporting, and it does cause some serious problems in the story by making distance and geography seem meaningless, but one thing I do like is that we now don't get entire series of people trekking across the bloody Riverlands.)

This week's episode kicks off some time after last week's, with the three factions meeting in King's Landing, where Jon and Daenerys intend to convince Cersei to form a truce with them to fight the White Walkers. After Jon nearly ruins negotiations, forcing Tyrion to step in to patch things up, Cersei reluctantly agrees to help -- only to immediately afterwards inform Jaime that she has no intention of doing so, prompting him to abandon her and venture northwards. In the aftermath, Theon convinces the Ironborn to help him rescue Yara, while Jon and Daenerys do unspeakable things that should not take place between an aunt and her nephew. In Winterfell, Sansa and Arya reconcile, putting Littlefinger on trial and eventually killing him, and Sam reveals the truth of Jon's parentage to Bran.

Brienne! And some other guy.

I honestly don't have many complaints about this episode. My main complaint is that Jon and Daenerys finally bump their proverbial uglies, and the show seems to want us to see it as -- romantic? Sexy? Even though they're related, and even though they don't know that, we, the non-incest loving audience, definitely do.

In an utterly baffling turn, they decided to intercut this with Sam and Bran realising that Jon is the legitimate heir to Rhaegar and thus the Iron Throne, so we ended up with this bizarre scene where Jon and Daenerys are having sex, and we the audience are meant to draw a parallel to Lyanna and Rhaegar -- who is Jon's father and Daenerys' brother, and who annulled his marriage and disinherited his two children for a love affair with a much-younger-than-him woman (Lyanna was seventeen at the time, Rhaegar was twenty-four) that eventually resulted in said children (and Lyanna's father, and her brother, and Rhaegar's first wife) dying, along with countless others -- and see it as romantic.

There are layers of bad writing choices there.

That really is my only real complaint, though, along with my hatred for Jon being revealed as legitimate, but honestly that's a complaint for a few episodes ago.

The rest of the episode I really actually kind of loved. We'd probably be here all day if I went over everything I enjoyed about the episode, so we'll limit it to the four moments I loved the most, roughly in order of when they happened in the episode.

Sansa, and her super nice cloak.

Tyrion and Cersei's conversation is the first, and it also takes the spot of my second favourite scene in the episode as a whole. I've always loved their dynamic, with the strange interplay of honesty, affection, regret, vulnerability, and anger, and it definitely helps that Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey are two of the most talented actors the show has to offer, with an astounding ability to play off each other to create absolutely compelling scenes.

Interactions between Tyrion and Cersei capture the heart of what makes the show good -- when it is good, which isn't always -- I think: Complex characters with goals that both conflict and align with each other, trying to find common ground but struggling because of their circumstances. That character drama is the real core of the show, and we've actually had very little of it in this series so far.

On an entirely opposite note, the second moment in chronological order (but my first in terms of which I liked the most) was the Stark sisters uniting to take down Littlefinger. On a character basis, it was completely baffling and at odds with what the show has been setting up all series -- look, guys, that's not a plot twist, that's just a lie -- but I don't care, because we never should have had the stupid, torturous Stark sisters conflict in the first place, it made no sense

Them uniting against Littlefinger was a very gratifying moment in that it saw the architect behind so much of the show's problems brought to justice, being outwitted by a much more skilled player of the game. It was also gratifying because it marked the end of a stupid, pointless subplot which butchered Arya's character and made zero sense, and I can think of a dozen better ways we could have had a conflict that built to this point.

Cersei's dresses are so stylish.

Also, let's face it, Littlefinger had nothing to do anymore. All he was doing was skulking around Winterfell being moderately inconvenient to people -- and now he's not doing that, and also Sansa is presumably Lady of the Vale. And the Riverlands. So, that's nice.

The third moment is another one with Sansa and Arya, specifically their conversation on Winterfell's walls. I honestly feel like this should have happened not long after Arya arrived, but I'll take it now, especially as it involved them formally making up after their several episodes long ridiculous fight with each other.

It feels very backwards to be glad about scenes which, while good, only came to pass because of some very shoddy writing, but here we are.

The last moment on this list is the end of the episode, with the Night King riding out of a storm on Viserion, and proceeding to collapse the Wall. There's not a huge amount to say about this scene -- it's not an example of compelling storytelling or acting, it's just a big, blow-out, awe-inspiring scene that hammers in the enormity of the danger that the White Walkers pose.

While I personally find the White Walkers pretty fascinating, the show does have something of a challenge ahead of it: A show built on political intrigue and character drama cannot sustain itself on 'people fighting big, nasty evil people' alone, so the show needs some way to inject intrigue and nuance into that for the final series. I can't say I'm especially confident in their ability to do so.

Still, that's it for this year's Game of Thrones, and when we pick things back up next year, I guess we'll be in for seven episodes of people fighting White Walkers and/or Cersei. I won't say that that won't be fun to watch, but it'll certainly be a step down -- but who knows, maybe the show will manage to surprise me.

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