The seventh season of “Game of Thrones” hasn’t been easy to watch.
After a strong sixth season that had cohesive, thematic episodes that played out organically with the narrative (the Arya/Waif plot excluded, and even that can be forgiven now), the writers proved that they were capable of moving this story forward and ending it without the guidance of George R.R. Martin’s books.
Good things can be fleeting. In the shortened seventh season, I’d argue we’ve seen the opposite, the episodes jump from place to place, often skipping over long periods of travel.
But that’s not the biggest problem. The problem is every other choice the writers have made, from characters to plot to dialogue.
Here are all the problems with the seventh season of “Game of Thrones” that will hopefully be forgotten after the season finale:
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Insider.
With a shortened season and so few episodes left in the series, it was a given that there'd be time jumps. In a penultimate season of a show that's wrapping up its story, there isn't time to watch characters travel for five episodes anymore.
The fact that Jon Snow and friends travel so much and appear at their destination in the next scene isn't the problem. The problem is how jarring it is compared to the precedent the show has set for the passage of time. In season four, one of the central arcs was Arya and The Hound's journey from the Riverlands to the Vale. If you look at a map of Westeros, that's not very far compared to some of Jon Snow's travels, but it took Arya and The Hound pretty much the duration of the ten-episode season to get there.
That's not a problem: we got to know The Hound better, and Arya got to sympathize with him. This journey ended with Arya sailing to Braavos, and her time with The Hound changed both of them in a lot of ways.
In season six, there wasn't much travelling, so there wasn't an indication that the show was about to change its pace. This makes the season seven jumps incredibly jarring. Jon Snow hopping all over the continent of Westeros isn't an issue, the issue is that we weren't eased into it. This new storytelling tactic was abrupt, and it doesn't make sense for the show when it could have easily fit in with some gradual pacing changes.
There are multiple scenes in season seven that show a character who is definitely not going to die almost dying.
'The Spoils of War' ends with Jaime falling into a deep body of water, sinking. It's a pointless cliffhanger. Of course Jaime isn't dead. So why waste screen time, and money, teasing that he could?
In 'Beyond the Wall' we see Jorah Mormont almost fall off Drogon mid-air. The Hound helps him up. We get that riding on a dragon isn't easy, but why waste money (this is an expensive shot) and time for an unnecessary death tease? If they really want these characters' lives to be at stake, one or more of them should die in action.
Jaime isn't the only main character who almost drowns, but doesn't. In 'Beyond the Wall,' when Jon stupidly keeps fighting wights instead of hopping on Drogon, a few of the wights pull him into the lake. He emerges minutes later, and he is just fine!
We never knew what would happen next, but it always made sense. We still never know what will happen, but now a lot of it makes no sense.
One of the things that audiences admire about 'Game of Thrones' is the shocking deaths and twists. Ned Stark's execution in season one changed everything. Same with Catelyn and Robb Stark's deaths at the Red Wedding. Anyone can die at any time, even the heroes, and death doesn't spare anyone's feelings. Knowing this elevated every scene, every minute and every second of the show.
But now that a lot of characters have been eliminated, they're relatively safe, which makes the show a little less exciting. Sure, that means there's less anxiety, but that's not what made 'Game of Thrones' a hit.
The battle in 'The Spoils of War' is one of the highlights of the show. It's shot beautifully, and the shifts in perspectives from Bronn to Jaime to Daenerys make it thrilling. It brings back that horrible, exciting feeling that anyone could die right now. And despite Drogon breathing fire all over the Lannister army, every character we knew luckily survived. Jaime, Bronn, Randyll and Dickon Tarly. This lowers the stakes of the threat Daenerys is to the characters on Cersei's side, and just makes us all the more convinced that she will take the Iron Throne from her easily.
We know Daenerys will probably end up on the throne anyways, but making it seem easy and without significant casualties makes it less engaging, and less threatening. And having Benjen Stark appear out of nowhere to save Jon after Daenerys saves the day just feels too unlikely.
This problem is most evident in episode six, 'Beyond the Wall.' The battle is really cool (pun intended), but the purpose for Jon Snow and his Dream Team being there is incredibly stupid. They knowingly went out into a battle they could not win with no way out, simply to capture a wight to bring to Queen Cersei to convince her that the Night King and his army are real.
This just felt like a lazy reason to have a battle that would bring a dragon to the Night King. While a dragon on the side of the enemy certainly changes things and makes the dead even more powerful, the reason Daenerys rode North with the dragons feels forced. It has nothing to do with the time it would have taken her either.
There's also a character problem. A majority the main characters are inconsistent this season compared to their experiences, personalities, and skills that we've learned about for six seasons.
This far into a series, an audience knows its characters. Even if we don't know exactly what they're thinking or doing, we know who they are, what kind of decisions they would make. So as viewers, we know when something doesn't add up.
In season seven, multiple characters have shown inconsistency in their choices that erases arcs they have had throughout the series, and things we already know about them.
Jaime's story has been problematic for a few seasons now. His undying loyalty to Cersei is uninteresting, and doesn't make sense for his character's sense of morality (it's disjointed, but he has it). Jaime kills the Mad King and is known as the Kingslayer.
In season three, he tells Brienne that he killed the Mad King Aerys because he threatened to kill innocent people with wildfire so Jaime's father, Tywin, couldn't take King's Landing. In other words, Jaime sacrificed his honour as a knight to save innocent people. But he keeps fighting and killing for his sister, Cersei. Despite the fact that she clearly takes advantage of his love for her, he succumbs to her every need.
In 'The Spoils of War,' Jaime charges at Daenerys because the fire reminds him of the Mad King, her father. Yet Cersei sets the Sept of Baelor on fire, which causes their only living child to commit suicide, and he's off fighting a war for her. At this point, Jaime's choices aren't adding up to the person we've gotten to know.
Cersei got power and maintains it exclusively through violence. Brutal violence. This is absolutely in her character, but this season things have changed a bit. Apparently the Iron Throne suddenly gave her and her Hand, Qyburn, incredible insight on war strategy.
Yes, she's gotten some of the strategy help from her brother Jaime, but after seasons of seeing characters like Tyrion and Tywin mention her lack of self awareness when it comes to her cleverness in Westerosi politics, all of her wins this season don't feel quite right.
Tyrion is one of the most beloved characters on this show. In season two, when he serves as Joffrey's Hand of the King, he proves that he is great at the job. He successfully holds off Stannis' army in the Battle of the Blackwater. He knows how to reason with people. He knows how to manipulate people. He knows how to reveal people's secrets. In his short time as Hand, Tyrion proves this is what he's meant to do.
From a narrative perspective, it makes sense that Daenerys and Tyrion suffer some losses. But the fact that they lose to Cersei and Euron in big ways because of Tyrion's inability to think ahead and come up with a more clever plan than Cersei diminishes what the show has built up for this character.
And don't even get us started on his 'capture the wight' idea. That idea is dumb, and isn't how Tyrion usually thinks. If he doesn't have something grand planned for Cersei during their visit to King's Landing, we'll be incredibly disappointed.
Arya Stark is a trained assassin. She decided to go this route to get revenge on the deaths of her family members at the hands of her many, many enemies. And now that Arya is reunited with her few remaining family members, she's seemingly conspiring against one of them.
It's true that Arya and Sansa didn't get along as children, but that is not abnormal, especially for sisters with huge personality differences and different interests. But after your family members have been slaughtered, you'd think one's reaction upon learning some less-than-flattering news about your sister's actions in captivity wouldn't be to threaten to cut her face off? You'd think these two would have sat down and had a long dinner to discuss their experiences since they were separated.
If Arya and Sansa really are getting played by Littlefinger, then we'll be disappointed that Arya didn't see this coming, even after her extensive training.
Sansa has spent a lot of time with Littlefinger, and among enemies. She's spent most of her time on this show as a captive, first in King's Landing, then in her own home of Winterfell when she was married to Ramsay Bolton.
She's developed a keen eye for Westerosi politics, and most importantly, she understands that she can't trust Littlefinger, even when he's in plain sight.
If her fight with Arya is real and not staged, then it is completely inconsistent for Sansa's character that she doesn't see right through Littlefinger's meddling. It completely erases the journey she's been on, everything she's learned, and the strong woman she's become.
Jon has fought in probably the most battles lately out of any character on the show. And he is one of the few characters who has seen the Night King and fought White Walkers and wights. But somehow, despite the horrors that he's seen, Jon still thinks it's a good idea to march beyond the wall with a small group of men to capture a wight to bring to Cersei, a queen he does not know.
Surely Jon could've told Tyrion, 'Hey, listen, I've seen this army of dead people and this idea is really, really bad.'
The first three episodes brought characters together who'd never met or were long gone. These reunions and get togethers elevate the story and make the end feel closer and closer.
The writers managed to make Olenna Tyrell's death really cool when she went out while revealing to Jaime that she is responsible for Joffrey's death. Also, the Sand Snakes died, which is just the best thing since sliced bread.
The Loot Train Attack is a series highlight, and one of its best battles to date. And while the battle beyond the wall is problematic in a lot of ways, the Night King having a dragon makes the army of the dead threat a lot more serious and horrifying for the living than it ever was before.
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