Game of Thrones Season 7 Review

by Matthew Thompson

The seventh season of Game of Thrones once again delivered the kind of spectacle and awe-inspiring moments I have come to expect from HBO’s epic fantasy series. Unfortunately as it heads toward the finish-line, the show is simply speeding between these big moments without properly building up to them, often leaving logic by the wayside in the process. The result is a very uneven season for one of my favorite series still on the air.

Game of Thrones Season 7 3

The first three episodes of Season 7 seemed most intent on paring down the show’s large cast of characters to only the most integral players as it goes into the final stretch. The premiere opened with Arya enacting revenge on the Freys for the Red Wedding. It feels satisfying to see the Freys finally get what they deserved, but Arya’s mishandled arc in Braavos meant that I didn’t feel she had progressed to that moment properly. As a result, it didn’t land as well as intended. Over the course of these episodes, many of Daenerys’s new allies were made quick work of as well. It is hard to look back at Dorne as anything but an abject failure on the show. Oberyn was an excellent introduction to the Dornish with a brilliant performance by Pedro Pascal. His storyline is one of the reasons I hold the show’s fourth season in such high regard. Unfortunately, just about everything to do with Westeros’ southern-most kingdom has fallen flat on its sandy face since. Luckily the same can’t be said for another major house: the Tyrells. They too were wiped from the show in a somewhat hasty manner, but not before making a large impact on the tapestry of the series. And beloved, silver-tongued Tyrell monarch Olenna was afforded the chance to go out with one last flourish. Much like Charles Dance did as Tywin, Diana Rigg made the Olenna character into much more than I expected and it was nice to see her get one more shot in before her time was up.

There were still a number of strong and memorable scenes sprinkled across this first trio of episodes. I’ve waited years for Daenerys to arrive in Westeros. Landing at the place of her birth, Dragonstone, felt appropriate. Her passing up sitting on the throne upon her arrival and heading right to the war room was a nice touch. As a big Dany fan, I felt her first steps in Westeros on the show were handled well. The Hound scenes in these early episodes were great too. And fortunately the best episode of the season followed in “The Spoils of War.” It featured another in a long line of jaw-dropping battle sequences for Game of Thrones, this time with Dany, Drogon and the Dothraki attacking Jaime’s troops fresh off their victory at Highgarden. I’ve been wondering how the Dothraki’s style of combat would fare against armored Westerosi since the first season – quite well seems to be the answer – and we get to see the destructive force that a dragon can be in this sort of open-field combat. It was awesome to watch. And beyond this centerpiece to the episode, I liked most of the other scenes including Arya’s long awaited return to Winterfell.

Game of Thrones Season 7 1

What comes next is the low point of the season: the “bag a wight” plan. It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s such an all-around bonehead idea and Tyrion should have known this wouldn’t sway Cersei. When it actually plays out, it helps make “Beyond the Wall” perhaps the silliest episodes of the series. So little works here. Like when we discover that killing a white walker offs the wights they brought back as well, it conveniently leaves them one alive to take back to King’s Landing. Or how the show’s quicker pacing of recent seasons magnifies the travel time issues that have always plagued the series making the whole chain of events that leads Daenerys on her rescue mission seem ridiculous. Or how the Night King easily could have snagged two dragons and killed Dany and Jon in the process if not for the Valyrian Steel-plated plot armor the gang seemed to be wearing. I can’t even say the spectacle of it all made up for the stupidity on display here as it wasn’t really a great action sequence by Game of Thrones’ – admittedly lofty –  standards. Further bringing this episode down are the interactions between Arya and Sansa and the eyeroll-worthy moment of Sansa finding a messenger bag full of faces sticking out from under the bed as if they were some teenager’s shoddily hidden girly mags. Weeks later this episode still has me scratching my head. It was clearly a contrivance to get the Night King a dragon so he could breach the Wall, but there had to be a better way to make this plot point happen.

Despite the questionable manner in which we arrive at the events that brought us there, I enjoyed the season finale quite a bit. It is entertaining to watch all the big players come together during the summit at the Dragon Pit and they make the best out of having a wight as it storms from its box towards the current Queen of Westeros in a pretty cool sequence. Tyrion and Cersei get to share a scene for the first time in years. It delivers and quickly reminded me how well Headey and Dinklage worked together in the show’s early seasons. Jaime finally moves away from his sister and I am genuinely excited to see his role in the coming war. I’m also really happy Cersei will be around for the final season. Coming into the year, I wasn’t sure if she would make it to Season 8. Perhaps Dany could have taken the throne and the White Walkers would be the primary antagonists for the end of the show. But I am not sure the Night King as the lone villain for Season 8 would have done it for me. I’m glad Cersei still remains to put a stick in the spokes of the whole thing, presumably after the war with the dead is over. And it was good to see the rather dubious spat between the Stark sisters end in Littlefinger’s death. His usefulness on the show seemed to have dried up.

Game of Thrones Season 7 4

I’m not sure how I feel about the whole Jon-Daenerys romance angle. It is pretty clear we were headed in this direction from their first meeting – or before it to be totally honest. At least they share enough scenes together this season that them sharing a bed doesn’t come out of nowhere. Their sex scene is incredibly awkward given the backing vocals by Bran about its incest nature, but perhaps that was the writers’ intention. It will be interesting to see how Jon’s true parentage has an effect on him and his relationship with Dany. It adds internal strife to their new alliance, but I suspect only one of them makes it out of the fight with the White Walkers alive meaning no debate to which Targaryen should sit the throne when it is actually wrested from Cersei.

Despite my complaints about Season 7, I still enjoyed watching it each week. Any chance I get to spend in this world is a joy. I think it sets up well for the final season. I’ve rarely been into any sort of fiction like I have this universe. I really hope they can deliver a satisfying ending to the series and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. The eighth season can’t come soon enough.

Game of Thrones Season 7 2

A few more things:

  • I know this is a couple of weeks late, but I always write something about each season of Game of Thrones and I didn’t want to miss the chance this year. I just needed a bit more time to gather my thoughts I guess.
  • I wish they had at least gone with two full ten episode seasons for these last two. Then it wouldn’t feel so rushed. Get back a bit of the nuance of earlier seasons. Let things breathe a bit more.
  • A dragon dying and one being taken control of by an enemy of Dany’s always felt inevitable in this series, but it still bummed me out to see it. The future dragon fight will both be really cool to watch and a bit sad at the same time I think.
  • Euron still doesn’t work that well for me, but I suppose it is an improvement over his character in the previous season.
  • I can’t believe there are only six episodes left! Seems like it will be airing in Fall 2018 at the earliest. I hope they can get Miguel Sapochnik back to direct some episodes for the final season. His work in Seasons 5 and 6 was incredible.
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6 comments on “Game of Thrones Season 7 Review

  1. You did a good job breaking down the highlights and the issues. I think the production budget and the salary of the top cast members, with some actors making a million per episode in the final two seasons, played a significant factor in splitting the final run into two seasons with fewer episodes. This also meant the show writers made certain decisions which impacted the storytelling. But when the show is on top of its game, like the action scenes in Spoils of War, it’s the best TV on air. I hope to learn more about the Night King, I think that could use fleshing out in the final season. Cersei may not be the show’s ultimate threat, but she’s an interesting villain to me. I agree, it’s good to keep her around for a little while longer … well there’s only 6 more eps. 🙂

    • Yeah, if it is a budget issue I really can’t complain. I know how much these things balloon for long-running shows especially in regards to actor contracts as you mention. I am thinking back to rumblings that HBO wanted more episodes and the showrunners felt 10-13 was all they needed to finish it up. I’m not sure if there was truth to that or not though. I kind of forgot that a lot of the final season’s episodes may run longer than usual supposedly too. So that would be a plus.

      We could definitely use some more info on the Night King. I figure there is some aspects of the White Walkers that we don’t quite get that they might clue us into in the final season.

      Thanks for commenting Eddie!

  2. I agree with all of your points of “failure” in the show. I started doing live Facebook videos about each episode, because I just didn’t have time to do the written episode reviews that I published for each one of Season 5. I loved the idea, but it just takes way too long.

    The wight plot made absolutely no sense, and I was irritated by the forced antagonism between Arya and Sansa. Initially, like many, I thought the turn around to Littlefinger had been the plan all along, but it turns out there was a deleted scene where Sansa was going to order Arya’s execution, but she talked to Bran who set her straight. That…made no sense whatsoever, and why wasn’t Bran involved before? Not to mention Arya was being a HUGE hypocrite. She told Sansa she would’ve died to not betray her family sooner than working with an enemy, buuuut Arya was Tywin Lannister’s cupbearer. She didn’t attempt to poison him or cut his throat, and, in fact, you see a grudging respect and camaraderie growing between the two of them. It was like the show runners either forgot about prior seasons or they had their characters forget about them, but there was no call out on either end.

    What do you think about the theory that Tyrion betrayed Dany somehow to Cersei? It would explain his troubled look when her and Jon were fulfilling some prophecy hehe. At first I thought he might be jealous, but there was no setup for that with his character. I could see that being a point since we don’t know all what transpired between him and Cersei, and I’m SO glad Jaime finally sees how poisonous she is. Lena Headey is a phenomenal actress, but Cersei is so narcissistic and wrapped up in herself that she can’t see anything else. It’s a lose/lose situation in this betrayal of Dany and the northern forces, and with King’s Landing being home to one million people, that’s one million more for the dead army if the NK gets there.

    I’m really hoping The Winds of Winter comes out soon, but I also agree with you that I’m not going to stop watching GOT. I want to know how at least the show ends, and I think it’s deviated far enough away from the books that, while in a similar vein, won’t encapsulate all of the nuances.

    • Yeah, I think I reviewed all the episodes from Seasons 3-5, but it become a bit too much to keep up with.

      You are totally right about the Arya/Sansa stuff. I had read about that deleted scene. I hadn’t thought about the whole cup bearer thing for Tywin thing until someone pointed it out to me. It really feels like the showrunners lose track of things like this sometimes.

      I’m definitely guessing Tyrion made some sort of deal with Cersei that we don’t know about hence his look at the end. I just can’t quite figure out what it is. I’m glad Jaime finally bailed on Cersei even if it feels a season or two late. I tried not to do any book comparisons here, but I loved Jaime’s arc in the books (so far). The whole letter burning and everything was just excellent. I wish they had handled it better on the show.

      I would much rather read the ending first. That just feels like a decade away (more if it stretches beyond two more books). So I have just come to terms with seeing the show’s ending first. Hopefully they get the big stuff right. As you said, there will be a lot of original/different stuff in the books, a lot more details/nuance. So it still should be exciting even if the large strokes of the endings are similar.

      Hey I really appreciate the thoughtful comment! I wasn’t sure if I was being a bit too critical. I’m glad to see we agree on a lot of this season’s issues.

      • It’s so time consuming. It would take me at least 4-6 hours to analyze one episode, and for the finale episode I think it took me a couple of weeks to get it finished.

        I also didn’t think about the Tywin cupbearer thing until it was pointed out to me! I really wish I’d thought of it before, because I was int a vitriolic argument with a Facebook friend about that whole thing. He’s a professed Sansa hater though, and I finally grew tired of his shallow opinions about it. Like if you have some valid reasons/arguments against my points, that’s fine, but it all came down to “She’s a stupid child. Why did she do that. She should’ve known better,” which is wildly unfair. Did Sansa mes up? Yes, very much so, but she didn’t have the experience to do otherwise and comparing her to more experienced characters is unfair as well. I think the show runners either forgot or thought show watchers would forgot, which is an asinine supposition, since many show watchers are book readers, and those people are anal as hell lol (I’m one of them :p)

        I think there’s something going on with Tyrion and Cersei, too, and I couldn’t agree more with Jaime. I understand there are things that work in a book that don’t work in a visual medium, but some of the decisions they’ve made are head scratchers.

        Yeah…as much as I’d rather read the ending first, I just don’t see it happening, and I know there’s no way I’ll be able to avoid the show spoiling things. The internet is dark and full of terrors hehe. I do think the endings will be different enough at least in nuance that we won’t be disappointed and still surprised.

        Oh goodness no! I’ a big believer in critiquing the things you love as harshly as you love them especially when they’re interpreted in ways you disagree with. I’m extremely critical of my faves, and there’s a huge difference between being critical because you love something and just bashing it for the sake of bashing and/or to get likes, which unfortunately, I’ve seen some people do.

  3. Whole heatedly agree with everyone you said. Episode 4 spools of war was the highlight and one of the best episodes in the series, but pieces needs to move and the creators didn’t care how characters got to their destinations or how they achieved their goals. It feels like everything had a destiny so to speak and that takes away from the spontaneous unpredictability nature that we all love of the show. The Arya and Sansa drama was so unneccessary to. Little finger should have died in that manner as I was predicting much earlier, but they dragged it on too long just for shock factor in the season finale. By that point, I was happy it happens, but it was not any surprises.

    Hoping season 8 will remedies these mistakes. Even though I still.enjoyed season 7, the closure to the series needs to be better. I’m hoping each episode is much longer so everything isn’t so rush rush.

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