Game of Thrust: How GoT Misfired This Season
Caution: Spoilers Ahead
Game of Thrones has always been brimming with action and intrigue, even when it occasionally moved at an excruciatingly slow pace. This is arguably why Season 7 feels like a race to the finish line. When juxtaposed against the previous seasons, and combined with the fact that there are significantly less episodes than in prior years, Game of Thrones in Season 7 is a freight train coming off the tracks.
Having a story build makes sense. The writers need to give their audience time to get to know (and make judgments about) the characters before putting them into the daunting situations that will inevitably unfold in an epic story like Game of Thrones. Character development is essential to compelling storytelling. It invests each of us in the game, asking us to review different tactics and subscribing to those that fascinates you. When the epic battles finally ignite, we are al-the-more thrilled and drawn in. It's akin to choosing a football team and sticking by them, making each game an adrenaline rush. This is how Game of Thrones is played when you are an audience member.
This season, however, has felt askew (I’m not the first person to be saying this). Time and place seem to have little relevance in the storytelling anymore. Journey’s that would take weeks or months happen in very short order, while scenes that should only take a few minutes seem span a great deal of time. This season has also been a culling season, wiping out the extraneous characters on the periphery, not really resolving their storylines, but using brutal deaths as a justification for wrapping up loose ends. True, the death of Lady Olenna Tyrell was a particularly delicious scene worthy of the character and the actress (Diana Rigg), but the death of Lord Petyr Baelish (a.k.a. Littlefinger) was neither justified nor was it an adequate send-off for a fascinating character brought intriguingly to life by actor Aiden Gillen. The point at which Lady Sansa turns on him is never actually clear, and certainly she was skeptical of her sister’s machinations and motives. It rang false that she came around to Arya’s way of thinking so quickly, and it certainly rang false that she didn’t struggle with this decision of ordering his execution more than she did. Her feelings for Baelish have always been convoluted, never really trusting him, but also letting him take the lead for her own protection. This is not to diminish how she has struggled as the result of some of his decisions, but I do not believe for a minute that Sansa was capable of this retribution or sought it.
Samwell Tarly (John Bradley-West) was also given short-shrift this season, and never afforded that ultimate moment of closure with his father, who Daenerys torched with dragon fire as a punishment for not bending a knee in allegiance to her. Even Cersei (Lena Headey), who is usually given the best moments in the show, seemed trapped in one mode this season: icy vindictiveness. Did the limited number of episodes just not afford us the time for the delicious nuances that usually Headey can bring to her character?
Game of Thrones has become “Game of Thrust” with HBO barreling toward the finish line. It would be a shame for a show that has, until Season 7, been so expertly written and executed, to unravel by abandoning what it did best: putting the characters first. Season 8 is slated to be even shorter, so it doesn’t appear there will be a remedy for this slap-dash approach. This story needs a mighty conclusion, but its audience deserves an honest one.