We’re now a week removed from the Game of Thrones season 7 finale and upon watching and reflecting over the past few days I’ve settled on the opinion that it was a fairly decent finale and a fine episode. There are a few places where I think some creative misjudgements were made and I’ll get into those in a bit but on the whole I found the finale enjoyable. The season as a whole has been pretty good bar perhaps one glaring issue, but it was certainly an improvement upon season 6, even with the sped up timeline and shorter episode count. That said, a couple extra episodes would really have helped flesh out some of the character stories, namely Jon and Daenerys, but also Messandei and Greyworm, but again I’ll get into that in a moment.
He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake.
- It’s a little disappointing that Cersei’s scheme was basically to agree to the armistice with her fingers crossed behind her back. I mean it’s a very Cersei thing to do, to just lie, and it’s not unlike Tywin sitting out Robert’s Rebellion until the end but I really expected something a bit more dramatic for the finale. You’ll notice and Euron left after the wight was revealed and before Jon’s ultimatum or Tyrion’s plea. So, it never mattered what either one said, Cersei never planned to help and always intended for Euron to transport the Golden Company to Westeros.
- Jaime also made some good points about Cersei having to face whoever survives. Of course, she’s intending to fight a crippled, weakened enemy, but it was all the more reason why I expected her to attempt something at King’s Landing. As it stands, Cersei only really has the Lannister armies and the Golden Company. A decisive blow here would have allowed her to consolidate more power from the other kingdoms which the Targaryen forces have currently cut her off from. Then she could have just left the North and Daenerys remnant forces to battle the White Walkers and then taken out whoever was left with her greater force. On the whole it feels like she’s taking this whole thing a little lightly, though admittedly that too is a very Cersei thing to do.
- Much like the last couple of episodes, I did enjoy a lot of the little character moments such as Tyrion, Bronn and Pod catching up, Tyrion appealing to Cersei and Sandor Clegane and Brienne bonding over Arya. These scenes have been some of the funniest or heart-warming all season long and it’s a nice juxtaposition to the first few seasons where anytime two characters met they were duelling wits or scheming against another. Now there’s a real, life or death threat and pretty much everyone agrees that they need to get along in order to survive.
- Jon not lying and doing the honourable thing is such a Jon thing to do. I liked that he brought up Ned’s death because it’s an argument that a lot of people make, but it also underlines how honest and trustworthy Jon is. He’s correct that his word means nothing if he says one thing to one person and denies it in the next breath. Also note that Cersei had already planned not to march North regardless. It didn’t matter if Jon accepted the terms or not regarding Cersei’s allegiance because it was never really on the table to begin with.
- The Theon/Jon exchange was strange. I get that it was basically to motivate Theon to get off his ass and stop being so cowardly but it’s been week since Yara went missing. These scene feels like it needed to happen a lot earlier in the season. And the fight club-esque brawl with the boat man was equally embarrassing because the coup de grâce is low blow that Theon no-sells because he has no balls. Har har. And again, why is this happening now? Yara was captured ages ago in the show and these men have no respect for Theon or allegiance to Daenerys. They’d have sailed for the Summer Isles weeks ago.
- The Winterfell storyline finally reached its close with the reveal that Arya and Sansa were plotting together to take down Littlefinger. The trial scene was nice, with Littlefinger becoming increasingly more desperate as his excuses and manipulations proved fruitless, but the whole thing was ruined by the lame, nonsensical build up. What should have been great was merely good because rather than revelling in Petyr getting his retribution, we were all too relieved that it was finally over.
- Also Sansa’s ‘this is what Jon does’ line made me laugh. Like Jon as an appointed ruler has to have the right and ability to make unilateral decisions. He can’t be expected to constantly consult Sansa or every other Northerner about events that affect his kingdom. One because they appointed him so they should trust in his decision making and judgement, two because he’s miles away and waiting on ravens would delay agreements, especially in situations like King’s Landing where he has to make the decision there and then and finally, three, because no one is going to take him seriously as a ruler if he has to go ask permission. Literally none of his decisions have been wrong so far; he’s got dragon glass and he’s convinced practically everyone that the white walker threat is real. Hopefully this was just more of the shoddy character writing they were using to trick viewers during the Littlefinger plot because otherwise this seems very petulant of Sansa.
- The big moment of the episode though had to be the boat sex between Daenerys and Jon, a literal climax of their romance from this season. Though it was a fine scene as far as these go, I did find it a little abrupt for them to go from Jon knocking on the door to rolling naked on the bed. I’d have liked a scene in between with Jon and Dany talking and admitting to their feelings, possibly trying to talk the other out of it before just giving in and deciding to worry about regretting it later. It would have added another dimension to the sex as a whole and given the audience some clarity regarding their feelings.
- I do question the decision to intersplice the sex with Bran and Sam discussing Jon’s lineage and Rhaegar’s marriage to Lyanna. That was not the time to assert Jon’s right to the Iron Throne or his relation to Daenerys. It dampened the impact of the sex, effectively hobbling a romance that Benioff and Weiss had been building up throughout the season. Separating it to have Sam and Bran’s conversation along with the vision after the sex scene would have had the same effect without hurting the romance prior.
- The wall coming down with Beric and Tormund stranded at the top was a spectacular way to finish the season. The army of the dead is now officially in the North just as plans are being made to bring all of the Northern and Targaryen forces there. And with Beric and Tormund having to walk along the wall to the next castle the Night King and Viserion will have a head start before anyone can be notified. The visuals were great and it set the stage for next season.
He who passes the sentence should swing the sword.
As I said above, the season was enjoyable, although looking back it is clear that the only reason its seven episodes long is because Benioff and Weiss are eager to move on to a new project. That’s understandable but I’m disappointed that we’re only getting by with good when it could have been great. Moving Theon’s story to earlier in the season and actually having a rescue attempt for Yara could easily have been done. A few extra episodes would also have allowed them to show Jon and Dany getting to know each other on a personal level rather than only showing the important political or military moments and trying to squeeze romantic tension out of gazes and hand holding. The whole Messandei/Greyworm romance is also never revisited past episode four. Instead much of the season felt as though the show was sprinting towards the finish line and I’d quite like to enjoy it while it lasts.
Looking ahead to Season 8, what can we expect? I’ve seen a lot of commenters who think that Daenerys and Jon are doomed because it would be too much of a fairy tale ending. There’s an article in Rolling Stone magazine from 2014 where George R R Martin talks about Aragon becoming King at the end of Lord of the Rings and the question of how Aragon would rule inspired Martin to write Game of Thrones. That article is usually taken as evidence that Martin doesn’t like the kind of ending where the expected hero gets the girl and takes the throne but that interpretation is kind of missing the point. It’s not that Martin dislikes Aragon because he’s the hero or that he’s too good, but that we have no idea what kind of ruler he would be. There’s no reason for anyone to support him outside of his birth right because no one knows his policies or opinions on political and economic matters.
On the other hand, Martin has gone out of his way to show what kind of rulers Jon and Daenerys are; kind and considerate, capable of making hard decisions and trusting their own judgement, of being fair to the poor, being responsible and making sure the needs of their subjects are met. Jon was trained for command by Jeor and ran the Night’s Watch as Lord Commander, keeping it stocked and manned. Daenerys too explicitly remains in Mereen rather than sailing for Westeros so that she can learn to rule effectively. We have every reason to believe that people in Westeros can trust Jon and Daenerys to be just and capable rulers.
Besides, the ending is likely to take the fairy tale ending and turn it on its head, in true Game of Thrones fashion. For one, despite having the stronger claim Jon doesn’t care about the Iron Throne, and even if some kind of parliamentary democracy is put into place it is likely to be a constitutional monarchy with someone as head of state. By the end I can see Daenerys as Queen with Jon as her King consort, an inversion of the typical fairy tale ending where the prince takes the throne and marries the princess. And besides, how many fairy tales do you know that portray an aunt and a nephew marrying as a happy ending?
“It’s fine, my ancestor Jonnel the one -eyed Stark married his niece too”
In terms of the narrative and plot, it now seems likely that the Night King will be dealt with first, followed by Cersei, flipping the expected order. On that schedule I imagine that the army of the dead will be beaten by episode three, maybe episode four by the latest in a battle that will have largely depleted the combined Northern and Targaryen forces and possibly even cost another dragon. It also seems like they’re setting up a victory where by someone, most probably Jon, will defeat the Night King and the rest of the army will just collapse. It’s a bit of a cop out but it’s already been set up in ‘Beyond the Wall’ and it will create a nice visual and save time.
With a reduced army and only one dragon left to play Cersei will be on much more equal footing. But she also has no commanders left, except Euron who is erratic and aggressive and whoever commands the Golden Company, whereas Daenerys side will have some of the best commanders we’ve seen over the series, such as Jaime, Greyworm and Jorah, if he survives. And Cersei doesn’t seem like the kind of person to hedge all her bets on one battle, so perhaps she’ll attempt something a bit more underhanded beforehand. I do think that the battle will mainly be a distraction though while Jaime, The Hound and a few others (possibly Briennne or even Arya) sneak into King’s Landing. Jaime will confront Cersei and probably kill her while The Hound has his showdown finally with his brother.
All of this might happen in the last episode or even in the penultimate episode, which would leave the finale to wrap up some loose ends, but, given the pacing of season 7 and that season 8 has even fewer episodes, I can just as easily imagine a five minute vignette tying everything together. But at the very least it should still be entertaining and we can look forward to a few big action moments.
Those are my predictions for next season. Think they’re bollocks? Let me know in the comments below or on social media. Maybe I’ve missed something; feel free to fire me questions on your preferred platform and I’ll respond asap. Either way, thanks so much for reading, especially if you’ve been following along with the series. If you haven’t, you can go back and read them in the archives. To keep up with what comes next, hit the follow button on the right. And finally, if you’re looking for something to fill the time until season 8, you can check out my novel ‘Carrion Youth’ on Swoonreads. Til next time.