First off this week I need to do some confessing.
At the start of every Game of Thrones episode I usually type in my notes something like this: “I cannot stand this opening. Every other show on TV figured out how to not have a protracted opening sequence. Get with it, Game of Thrones.” Usually it gets left out of the blog post because who wants to hear me complain, and it’s not even all that insightful.
I confess this now because I finally realized watching “Eastwatch” that the opening sequence shows the locations that will be featured in the upcoming episode. Duh. Now I love it. It’s a great way to help viewers understand such a sprawling story.
About This Speed
I feel a little hypocritical even bringing this up seeing as I was all “Winter needs to get here NOW. Dany needs to sail west NOW” at the end of season six. But I’m not comfortable with the speed things are happening in season seven. To phrase it a different way, I’m not comfortable with the way seemingly major things are so quickly and obviously being dropped into the story.
Two scenes from “Eastwatch” illustrate this point.
The first and biggest is Gilly casually uncovering documented evidence of Rhaegar annulling his marriage in order to wed Lyanna Stark. This is, um, rather freaking major and yet the show gave it one scene. One line really. I understand that it’s setting up for the big BIG reveal later. But it should have been given more now.
And to be clear, I’m not critical that Sam didn’t jump up and go, “My stars, Gilly, that’s Jon Snow’s mom you’re talking about! Jon Snow is a bleeping Targaryen!” We as viewers all know this, but Sam can’t be expected to have that grasp of obscure Westerosi marital history.
The second is Tyrion arranging to meet Jamie among the dragon skulls deep under Kings Landing. The show theorized and executed this big reunion between the two brothers in a matter of minutes.
Shouldn’t there be a little more room for these things to breathe? It feels like events are being forced a long so quickly in order to tell the whole story that we’re missing the fabric that gives Game of Thrones its depth. I know the show plodded along in earlier seasons (something I missed a little by bingeing it all in the span of a few months) but I think it’s swung too far the other direction for most of season seven.
An example of a good but not too rapid pace is the latest scheme from Littlefinger in Winterfell. They showed him watching Arya spar with Brienne in a way that clearly indicated he was going to view her as an obstacle to whatever end goal he has in mind for Sansa, but they waited until the following episode to show how he would try to cleave the Stark sisters apart. I like that pace. Set it up one week, knock it down the next.
When major things are set up and knocked down in one episode, it strikes me as the show trying too hard to check boxes in advance of the season finale than it does telling a rich story.
Now on to some other thoughts.
Arya is smarter than this
Staying in the north, if anyone should be too smart to fall for Littlefinger’s games it’s Arya. She’s lived a hard life since first leaving Winterfell and she doesn’t suffer fools. Witness 1) the way she outwitted Sansa’s dimwitted guards getting back into the place, and 2) she fed Walder Frey his children. Maybe she’s never dealt with the likes of Petyr Baelish, but she should be smart enough to know she’s being lured into finding the note.
Just show us
And about that note. What’s the point of the show not making it obvious what it was? The letter from Sansa to Robb was a callback to season one, some six years ago. It didn’t need to be half-hidden.
Maybe I’m wrong
My prediction that Dany would capture Jamie from the water and Tyrion would flip him to their side didn’t even make it past the opening scene. Solid work. Now I’m thinking maybe I had the wrong brother shifting the wrong direction.
Tyrion sided with Dany because he wanted to get back at his family and because I think he sees Dany as the way to a better Westeros. Buuuuut he was awfully uncomfortable walking through the ashes left behind by her use of the dragons and with how she treated the Tarlys. There was desperation in his voice when he offered her two alternatives (prison and the black) to roasting them. I don’t think they gave us the scene later on with him and Lord Varys drinking away their guilt to tell us Tyrion is at peace with her decision.
The brotherly bond between Tyrion and Jamie is always a joy to watch in a show where genuine affection is increasingly rare. It’s the only time Tyrion appears emotionally vulnerable. Maybe as he finds further trouble with Dany’s tightrope act between vengeance and mercy his love for Jamie will lead him back in the Lannister’s direction. Further strategic blunders that frustrate Dany could push him while a softening stand from the suddenly pregnant Cersei could pull him. It won’t take much.
No happy ending for Cersei
“If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.” I love this line from Ramsay Bolton because I’m in love with the notion that not every TV show should have a happy ending. George Martin seems to agree.
Nevertheless I think there are characters in Game of Thrones who could have happy endings. Cersei is not one of them. At all. Nothing about her life makes her deserving of happily ever after. Even at the joyous moment when she tells Jamie of their baby, she has to ruin it. Lesser shows might use her pregnancy as a way to give her redemption, I would be shocked if this one did. My prediction is twins and they’re both afflicted with a malady that leaves her with her own little Tyrions. How rich would that be? I’d love it.
Gendry as Adam & Eve
Darlton always said they put Adam and Eve into the first season of Lost so they could call back to it at the end for proof that they always knew where they were going. If Gendry was written into this story so there would be someone who forge Jon Snow some weapons with dragonglass in them then hats off to all involved.
A key difference
In the south, Tyrion cooked up a whack-a-doodle plan to prove to Cersei that the army of the dead is real by bringing a White Walker to Kingslanding. For this to work he had to convince Dany it was a workable idea, work with Davos and Bron to schedule a secret meeting with Jamie, convince Jamie to take the idea back to Cersei and (as if all that was so totally doable) convince Cersei to at least entertain the idea.
In the north, one conversation outside a jail cell convinced everyone to put their grudges aside and fight on the same team.
That’s the difference between a culture that lives with a threat and a culture that doesn’t.
I wouldn’t want to hang out at Eastwatch. Did you see how all that stuff just hung on the side of the wall? That shit is perilous.
I started this post criticizing the speed at which the story is moving in season seven. The poster child for that has been the way characters are jumping about Westeros in the blink of an eye. Case in point: Jon’s quick sail from Dragonstone to Eastwatch.
My point here is to say that when a story is forced to unfold unnaturally fast, it strains the credibility it needs to for viewers to suspend their disbelief. Having medieval characters transit continents by sea and by foot as if they’re flying puts further pressure on it.