Winter has come. It has kicked down the door and is making itself at home despite the fact that we’ve called the police and are cradling a knife for fear that winter does something unpredictable, but all it’s doing is drinking a beer it brought with it and asking if we’re feeling ok.
That’s a bit of a belaboured metaphor, but I’m going somewhere with it. This has been the shortest season of Game of Thrones to date, in fact this and the remaining season are supposed to constitute a single super-season that brings the series that has now wandered from the Song of Ice and Fire source material rather dramatically. Gone are the magic horns Dragonbinder and the Horn of Winter, gone are half the characters, and the rich prophetic and psychological elements of Martin’s epic that inspired the watered down show.
With that said, even the watered down version has shocked, awed, and astounded even the most resolutely non-fantasy minded of viewers. It’s television that shaped the decade and we’ve seen the impact ripple throughout modern media. But has the dilution finally gone too far now that they’re off-script. The books aren’t even at the end of the road, we’re past even their tenuous guidance, and adrift in the mists of whatever the show-writers can do to finish the show in a way that’ll satisfy the slavering hordes that have tuned in religiously, and must now wait tentatively for over a year for another, final fix.
How have they fed their devoted audience?
Let’s quickly rattle off the list shall we? Spoilers ahead! All aboard!
Olenna dies in the most tremendous way ever, rubbing Jamie’s face in the death of his son and confessing in the same breath. In fact there are no real shock-deaths, The Frays and Littlefinger we wanted gone, the Sand Snakes and Thoros of Myr were never given enough characterisation to truly feel for their parting, and Viseryon’s death and subsequent resurrection as a white walker is nothing but glorious escalation that was spoiled for us in the promo material.
What was the point of the Nymeria/Arya scene, bad symbolism, or just a way to squeeze in a loose end? Still, the sparring match between her and Brienne was cool, and it was awesome the way she wholesale butchered the Frays and then promptly abandoned the vengeful slaughter to go chill with her sister… Is it because there’d be no nuance to the final conflict if Cersei get’s offed too soon? Because no way she’d have survived a visit from the Faceless Girl.
And turns out we were right all along about Jon, and also we were right to ship him and Daenerys, but after all, he’s the only man she’s seen in years who’s got that sweet shared-genetic appeal that Targaryans go crazy for. Sucks to be Jorah!
Everything this series seems to have been ushered along faster than normal. Much like the sudden appearance of Euron Greyjoy and the horribly shoehorned way he was dragged in last minute to fulfil some essential story roles and be the new detestable villain who for some reason isn’t as loathsome as Ramsey Snow/Bolton. It’s almost like he wasn’t built up enough! Anyway, that’s an old rant.
All of the characters we have known and love are coming together to congratulate one-another on surviving this long, some who haven’t seen each other in years, and I’d like to say that it has been truly wonderful. It may seem late in the game for character exploration, but if you look on it as a study in how far the characters have come. The Hound, Sandor Clegane, has gone from servant to whatever master comes along, to embittered soldier of fortune, and has somehow picked up humility, a willingness for self-sacrifice, and has kept the jaded attitude and colourful language. If he’d have died that might have been the horrible shock we all needed, but then we’d never get to see him fight his purple-faced zombie-brother.
Still, a lot of characters seem to be trying to cram in their story-arcs as quickly as possible to build for the grand finale. Theon suddenly gets bravery after a brisk talking-to from Jon, Arya’s home, the union of Jon and Daenerys has clicked into place courtesy of some graffiti and shameless flirting, even Gendry seems to be making up for lost time by running a thousand miles an hour to the Wall to deliver a message. Clearly years of rowing makes one incredibly strong.
Politics is giving way to a more imminent threat, and only Cersei is too blind to see it. The tone of the series has gone from game-playing and underhandedness, to a grand gathering of everyone’s favourites readying themselves to fight the good fight, everyone dies at the end in dramatic fashion apart from… maybe Lyanna Mormont if we’re lucky. She seems pretty tough to kill.
Did I enjoy this season? Yes. It was fun! But fun is not what I expect from Game of Thrones.
I want every win to be bought in blood, and tainted by some great tragedy. I want emotions to build organically, and revelations to come at the most terrible moments, with fallout that upturns everything in the immediate proximity. In fairness, for a series that opened with White Walkers, it’s about time we saw some White Walker action, and the Wall coming down seems like action enough to me.
But I feel as though this season has been spoon fed to us, rather than earned. One more season remains, and it’d better be the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen, or I am going to be dissapointed.