The penultimate season of Game of Thrones is finally over, with only 7 episodes, compared to the usual 10, things moved fast. Battles, deaths, secret, betrayal and deceit, usual themes of a Game of Thrones season, but this didn’t feel the same. I’m going to try and figure out why. [Mild Spoilers ahead….]
Before I explore of what I found problematic with season 7, I still enjoyed the season, it was visually impressive and the plot progression leads on to a hyped final season next year. Some of the scenes shot were revolutionary for the medium and Game of Thronesas it always has done, has raised the standard for TV shows. There were moments where I was blown away by some of the battles and moments within the show. However, I have further grievances on season 7.
First of all this season has been full of leaks of scripts and full episodes. To escape spoilers from eager fans was near on impossible. Out of the 7 episodes I believe I knew what was going to happen with at least 4 of them. I watched all the episodes a few hours after their original air time but before and during that small gap, people shared spoilers without warning on every social media platform. Now I cannot fault the show for being so popular that fans try to clamour for every piece of information and it becomes worldwide news of what happens with the show, however, the show is cursed by its own success. When you know what happens because of someone spoiling it, the episode loses its shock value and some of the scenes in the show was underwhelming because of this. This is more a community issue but HBO need to sort their cyber security out as well. This season has been more prevalent in leaks and reveals, past seasons has been plagued by this but this season just seemed much worse.
The great thing about Game of Thrones was its unpredictability. The show would keep you on edge and you could never trust the writers with the fate of your favourite character. You never was sure of what was going to happen and there were multiple times within the show that my heart was broken from a character dying, seemingly from nowhere. The Red Wedding will forever be the most shocking episodes in TV history. Throughout the whole season, it focused on the Stark rebellion towards the throne. As a viewer we were ready for the final confrontation between the Starks and the Lannisters. The Red Wedding took that narrative and flushed it down the toilet. The audience were hurt and in pain but that’s why Game of Thrones is a beloved show. It’s a cathartic experience. Season 7 lacked this unpredictability. I was never surprised of what happened and pretty much everything that I predicted came true. There were some moments I was taken back but I was never surprised. It could be argued that because it has now gone away from the books the show has fallen back to the traditional formula. Season 7 was a A+B=C, a simple, predictable narrative much different to previous seasons. Season 7 was a chance for the writers to have more freedom because they weren’t tied down by the books. They could of killed characters and altered the narrative and kept the fans on their toes, but they didn’t. The reveals were satisfying but I was waiting for a trick up the writer’s sleeves but it never came. It was nice fan service but Game of Thrones plays on punishing the fans. Season 7, along with the leaks, lacked a lot of shock value of which has become custom to the shows success.
The biggest criticism of season 7 seemed to be the pacing of the whole season. The overarching plots of the show were moving at a steady pace in the previous 6 seasons. Season 7 had a faster pace and something that would take a whole season to happen would only take an advert break. Sending ravens would become a lengthy process previously, but now it takes a single cut. It has been explained that time is not specified and travelling is still taking the same amount time but there is less filler. The best metaphor I saw online for this problem was if you had played Dungeons and Dragons for the whole day and then your mum calls for dinner and you have to wrap up the game in 10 minutes. Season 7 is those final 10 minutes. The explicit change in pace was unsettling to watch, it was nice to not have filler but this show needs it. So much was going on that it needed some downtime. There was also not much tension because of it. When Jon went to go to meet Daenerys, usually this would take a long time for Jon to reach his destination. Extending the time for Jon Snow to reach Daenerys increases tension and anticipation as the audience can ponder on what will happen. Much to my surprise, after the advert break Jon reached Dragon’s Stone. There is a lot of payoffs in this season and it doesn’t need it because that means those payoffs are less special. The pacing of the show was a big issue for me. I enjoy the slow burn because the pay off is satisfying. I understand there was less episodes but maybe the 7 episode schedule was the wrong decision.
Usually there is one episode that everyone talks about every season, whether it is the Red Wedding or Battle of the Bastards there is a stand-out episode that is sublime. Season 7 again lacked this. There were little battles that was impressive but due to the fast pacing there was no build up to the battle, leading to an underwhelming climax. The visuals and cinematography was fantastic and the CGI is at a cinematic level, however it is a perfect case of style over substance. When I watched Battle of the Bastards, I was blown away by the tension and drama of the scene. It was beautifully shot and the cinematography was some of the finest in television. You were invested in the battle because you knew what was at stake and the whole season built up to the final climax. The battles in season 7 had no time for the build up and I was never invested in any confrontation, especially not on the level of the Battle of the Bastards. There were some moments that were dramatic. The episode when Jon and crew are surrounded by White Walkers but this is quickly and predictably resolved. Some fans raged about the use of dragons, yes it was cool but it still lacked tension and purpose.
This is not to slander Game of Thrones, I still think it was a good season. I know how much hard work gets put into these shows and the sheer number of people that have worked long hours on this show. However, the pacing, predictability and the style over substance are glaring criticisms. Next season will probably have similar issues with only 6 episodes left. I am overly hyped for the final season, this is the season that will be the payoff from years and years of commitment. Game of Thrones can be argued to be one of the greatest shows of all time and I only desire for the final season to not go out with a whimper but out with a bang.