This was a difficult one. For an episode so packed with juicy scenes, it’s odd it left me afterwards feeling a bit robbed.
As the end of the saga hurtles ever closer, the show runners are starting to pressure the plot onwards at a breakneck pace. And that’s both a blessing and a curse.
Let’s start with the good, and there’s a lot of that to get through. I never, ever expected this much, Gendry. Gendry, back with all his obstinance and a brand new war hammer his father would’ve been proud of. We got to see him swing it at some gold cloaks… then row back to Dragonstone, befriend Jon, and venture all the way to Eastwatch and beyond the Wall to take on the army of the dead — all within one hour.
And every minute of it was stellar. Jorah’s return to Daenerys and Tyrion’s reconnection with Jaime compete for second best major character reunion. Peter Dinklage might have stolen the whole show with Tyrion’s heartfelt defence to his brother, for the murder of his father.
We didn’t have time to appreciate it, though, before we were swept to the citadel and got a game-changing confirmation from Gilly that Jon is a legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen, and therefore has a greater claim to the throne than Daenerys.
This was a very loaded episode. Significant plot developments were explored in every part of Westeros, from Littlefinger’s old tricks in Winterfell to Cersei’s new pregnancy lie (remember the 3 children prophecy?) to keep Jaime loyal. It deserved a longer runtime, because many of these great moments had more steam in them. Instead, they were jammed together and felt rushed.
Another consequence of the time constraint is that there is no time left for obstacles for main characters. A lot of the political intrigue and sense of drama has dissipated from Game of Thrones, and our characters are starting to feel too safe. It seems that characters ‘can’t’ die now because their plot arcs ‘need’ to be completed poetically.
Their plans are lazy when they once were cunning, as if they are aware of the impenetrable plot armour that surrounds them. The idea of capturing a wight for Cersei is a ludicrous plan. They plan to travel all the way from Dragonstone to out beyond the Wall, fight the White Walkers, survive to take back a hostage, and ride all the way to King’s Landing again. Then, after lots of negotiation, they plan to ride with an army all the way back up to the Wall again.
That involves crossing a continent three times, once with a massive army on foot. In that amount of time, the White Walkers would have plenty of time to decimate the North several times over.
Of course, however, characters can travel fast whenever it’s convenient for the plot, and characters can travel slowly whenever it’s convenient for the plot. The White Walkers have taken two seasons to get halfway from Hardhome to Eastwatch, whilst Jon takes one scene to traverse the entire continent.
It was also incomprehensibly convenient for Bronn to have saved Jaime from drowning with apparent ease in the first two seconds of the episode, to find the battlefield suddenly completely deserted and safe. Later, Tyrion assumes with certainty that Jaime is alive and at King’s Landing, despite not witnessing his rescue.
It wasn’t a bad episode. Far from it. The show runners have just lost the integrity that they used to hold over other TV shows and movies.
Now, it doesn’t feel too different to a Marvel superhero production, with its invulnerable heroes, supernatural transport methods, and caricature villains. And that isn’t sitting right with me.
I expect the show runners to turn the tables on us soon enough, though. I hope they do.