I’ve been watching GoT since I was at university and I think it’s probably the best television series I’ve watched to date. There are a lot of other great ones out there but GoT just gives viewers something extra. It brings the magic that you would expect to see in feature length films, to 60 minute episodes again and again. Its cast of actors and actresses is enviable. Its musical score is exciting. The controversy of plot is honestly unrivalled – these writers kill our favourite characters off without thinking twice and you never really see it coming. I love when a programme or a film kills the people you never expect to die. How often do you read or watch something and think, well that person could never die because… Not with GoT. Never with GoT.
Until this final season really. Because although it’s had its soaring highs, when you think about it, it’s actually been a little bit disappointing so far. I urge you not to read on if you’re not up to date with the episodes, including today’s. There will be spoilers ahead.
My main issue this season is with character and plot. Why we’ve been reduced to six episodes for the final season is beyond me. We’re four episodes in and although a lot has happened, it doesn’t really feel like it. The Night King is now dead, Daenerys is still alive and Jon/Aegon won’t make his claim to the throne. I am frustrated. Nothing is really being developed anymore, it’s just happening and we, as viewers, are having to work out why and how using theories instead of important pieces of evidence from previous seasons.
The reason we all watch Game of Thrones is because we’ve built up a relationship with different characters throughout the seasons. I have my favourites – Theon Greyjoy, Margaery Tyrell, Tyrion Lannister, Cersei Lannister, Jamie Lannister (every Lannister ever because I’m clearly evil), Ramsay Bolton (again, I love a villain) and probably everyone’s favourite, Arya Stark. And I keep watching because I’m invested in their stories. By this point, most of my favourites are left and I’m thankful for that. Sort of. But in this season, there are so many characters whose development is either suffering or has severely regressed. Let’s go through them one by one.
Sansa really disappointed me in last week’s episode The Long Night. After seeking her revenge on Ramsay Bolton and teaming up with Arya to kill Lord Baelish in previous seasons, I grew to like Sansa. I thought about everything she had suffered through and it made her prevail even more satisfying. Like Daenerys, this is a woman who was oppressed when she was a girl and had to fight her way to becoming the woman she is now. Sansa went through some awful things in the past, with tyrannical men like Joffrey and Ramsay and manipulative creeps like Littlefinger surrounding her. It was difficult at some points to like Sansa. For a long time, she was written into the script as a weak, suffering female. But by the time Season 6 was drawing to a close and she had fed Ramsay Bolton to his hounds, we saw a Sansa that was fighting to empower herself. In Season 7, when she has Littlefinger standing trial for his crimes she says “I’m a slow learner. It’s true. But I learn.”.
The Starks have been through a lot. After losing Ned, having their mother and brother killed during the red wedding and all of them being separated in Season 1, it is only 8 seasons later that we see the remaining Starks reunited – Sansa, Arya, Jon and Bran. A beautiful moment really and the first episode of the season does give us the reunions we’ve been waiting for. The Starks are a very strong house in my opinion and strong houses are made of strong characters. So having Sansa weeping and hiding in fear from the wights in Winterfell during last week’s episode was a huge disappointment. Sansa’s character was on a journey of strength and I feel that killing even one wight would have been a great milestone for her character. Arya even armed her so that she wouldn’t be caught off guard. As the Lady of Winterfell and as Sansa Stark, who has endured so much and yet triumphed still, I could not think of anything more gratifying than seeing her stab a wight. But instead, they reduced her to the shadow version of herself I remembered feeling immense frustration with in previous seasons. Fair enough we can’t all fight, I understand that. But we can at least try. Particularly for our people. There were mothers and babies in those crypts. Sansa is an able bodied young woman and she should have done more.
Jon in last week’s episode has to take a spot in the line-up of disappointing character performances. We all love Jon, we really do. But we can’t deny that sometimes he’s just so incredibly dull! He’s constantly modest and his expressions are rarely anything other than serious. It was annoying when he didn’t want to be King in the North. He definitely deserved it and the people wanted it. A rare achievement to have the people actually want you as their leader, as isn’t often the case in Game of Thrones. It’s always about bloodlines and rightful claims to the throne. It’s never a people’s choice. Yet kind hearted Jon was actually wanted by the people and I think that if those in the North knew of his true identity, they would want him to be King too. But, Aegon Targaryen (the child of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen and therefore the heir to the Iron Throne), still doesn’t want to claim his worth! For reasons that seem to be an amalgamation of his love for Daenerys (which I believe is purely lust), his modesty, his kind heart, his lack of leadership, his desire for an easy life and plenty of others, he just doesn’t want to take it. He’s just casting it all aside and while I understand that it might have taken him a couple of episodes to process his identity, I’m now just frustrated that he genuinely doesn’t want to make a claim to the throne. Is it not partially his duty? If not for any other reason, as the true heir to the Iron Throne, Jon should rule.
Now, I understand that Jon’s fight was always really against the dead. When he joined the Wildlings in Season 3, he made it clear that he wants to fight for the living. But the battle between the living and the dead is now over. Jon has the opportunity to lead The Seven Kingdoms to a much brighter fate than what they’re set to get and he, very frustratingly, won’t take it. Watching him kneel to Daenerys is so unsatisfying. Particularly as the respect is not mutual.
That aside, Jon’s performance in battle last week was abysmal. Mounting a dragon just to ride alongside Daenerys was just ridiculous. We know from previous battles, like Hardhome and Battle of the Bastards, (my two favourite episodes), that Jon is a good fighter. It would have been more strategic to place him on the battlefield. Yet the writers decided to exploit this whole Targaryen thing with him riding a dragon around in circles with Daenerys, only for Rhaegal to get injured unnecessarily and for him to finally end up on ground, trying to slay an ice dragon. Conclusively stupid.
And we can’t overlook the way that Jon completely abandoned and neglected his dire wolf, Ghost. Honestly, thinking back to this week’s episode, I am completely heartbroken for Ghost. Jon didn’t walk up to him, stroke him, pet him or anything. He completely detached himself from Ghost, offloaded him onto Tormund and got on his horse and rode away. I just feel like this writing isn’t genuine to Jon’s true character. He has no reason to cast Ghost aside like that. Not a single reason. It doesn’t make sense.
I’ve honestly never really been a fan of Daenerys. I feel that her appeal has always come from the fact that she has dragons rather than any standout essence in character. Back in Season 3, during And Now His Watch Is Ended, we see Daenerys buy and free The Unsullied. She tells them to kill every slave master they see and encourages them all to re-name themselves as they see fit. Back then, what she stood for was admirable. I didn’t really like her character, but she was doing good things. Similarly to Margaery Tyrell, she seemed to be someone who stood for everyone and not just herself.
The only reason I fully came round to liking her was because of that iconic scene in the Season 6 finale, The Winds of Winter. After seeing Cersei on the Iron Throne, being hailed with “long may she reign”, the writers gave us Dany’s fleet of ships sailing for Westeros patrolled by her three dragons soaring above. Amazing. Incredible. I don’t think there was a single viewer who wasn’t inspired by that season finale.
But then it all sort of led to nothing. Considering that The Night King got Viserion, Rhaegal has now been killed by Euron Greyjoy in a scene that doesn’t really make much sense and Drogon continues to live on unexplainedly, it’s all a bit two-dimensional with these dragons. She commands them to breathe fire, they soar around in the sky and that’s pretty much it. If I had a dragon, understand that I would be training it up so that it wasn’t just a one trick pony. We all know that dragons can breathe fire. This is the a threat that your enemies will be preparing for. But at the end of the day, they’re still beasts that are much larger than humans and I’m sure they’re capable of a lot more. Only, do we recall in Season 6, that Daenerys had her dragons chained up? They were refusing to eat and becoming frailer over time. So much so, that if Tyrion hadn’t gone to free them, they would probably be dead. So much for the Dragon Queen.
Honestly, there is a lot of re-writing that needs to happen to make me happy. Yes, Daenerys fought decently in The Long Night and rode down on Drogon pretty quickly after the Dothraki were slaughtered in a matter of minutes by wights. But, unpopular opinion probably, it wasn’t even her dragons that helped much in the battle against the dead. It was really Melissandre that best equipped everyone for battle. She lit up the swords of the Dothraki and lit the trenches. So yes, we needed Daenerys’s army and back in previous seasons, it was the threat of her dragons that helped her to get The Unsullied and her relationship with Drogo that helped to get the Dothraki on her side. But we didn’t need her and her dragons in that battle.
Her ceaseless quest to sit on the Iron Throne has changed her so much in recent seasons. From a girl who was abused by her brother and pushed around by men, to a woman who learnt how to embrace and harness her power for good, now reduced to a power hungry, arguably, one-dimensional character. We’ve already caught a glimpse of her ruling. In this week’s episode, she named Gendry Lord of Storm’s End. But not because she is a nice Queen who recognises his accomplishments and wants to reward him. She did it to show her power and to ensure his and his people’s loyalty to her in the future. She showed nothing but contempt toward Jon after him telling her about his true identity. What sort of Queen are we all supporting here?
Ser Brienne of Tarth
Brienne’s character has been on a journey, but we can thank the writing for the fact that her disposition and traits have remained constant throughout. Her loyalty, her bravery, her resilience to distraction in any form it may take. Brienne is such a lovely character and she really challenges every restriction on what it means to be a woman.
All up until this week’s episode that is. Ever thought you’d see Brienne blubbering and chasing after a man in a nightgown? Well you have now. And all for Jamie Lannister at that. Now the show didn’t have me fooled for a second! Jamie and Cersei are my favourite Game of Thrones couple. I don’t care if they’re brother and sister, their relationship is just so compelling and I am one of few that are all for it. We all know that Jamie and Cersei have a connection that nobody else can rival or really properly understand. During Season 7 I had my doubts about whether Jamie was still in love with his sister. But of course he is. And we can’t forget that these are Lannisters. They’re about family and money, nothing else.
So I hate to say it, but Brienne seemed to me to simply be a triumph after a very long moment of boredom. Honestly, Jamie could have slept with any random whore, they didn’t have to employ Brienne as the vulnerable woman that loses her virginity to a man that’s only going to leave her in the middle of the night for his sister. That’s brutal. It was also incredibly unrealistic (as with many things this season, it seems) considering that the connection the two of them have built up throughout the seasons is very obviously platonic. Apart from the scene where Jamie climbs into the bath with Brienne in Season 3 and they both see each other naked. But even then, the scene isn’t sexualised and he even tells her he’s not interested in her. Judging by the way she looks at him, I don’t think she’s interested either. When Jamie knighted her in episode two of this final season, this was a satisfying and pivotal point in their friendship. We didn’t need to take it any further. We didn’t need to watch Brienne sobbing over Jamie; it was extremely uncharacteristic. Just like Arya will never be a Lady, Brienne is not the kind of woman to waste time crying over men. Not after all she’s been through.
And if she were to cry over a man, well, it would have to be Tormund! We’ve all seen the looks exchanged between Brienne and Tormund. It should have been Tormund that took her virginity. Why did they build that relationship up for it to become nothing in the end? An annoying little trick they like to do to play with our emotions. I was actually irritated that Tormund just went off with a whore to cure his heartbreak. The writers really destroyed this love triangle in the most unsatisfying way possible. The only reason I wasn’t that mad is because I fancy Jamie and I therefore can’t complain if the script demands I watch him take his shirt off.
We have to note that Cersei is the most constant character in the series, in my opinion. Never does she fail. She is a master at plotting, skilful at planning her revenge and a very dangerous woman. I find her fascinating. We have watched the decline of her character as she slowly descends into more and more vicious behaviour. After losing all of children, Cersei became even more ruthless. At a time where you couldn’t even imagine that this was possible. And it was around this time, during Season 7, that I began to think Jamie didn’t love her anymore. She makes herself a very difficult person to love. I truly believe, however, that she wouldn’t even care if Jamie stopped loving her. But none of that matters because in the end, she isn’t seeking love. Only power.
One way or another, Cersei always wins. She led Daenerys, Jon and Tyrion to believe that she would fight with them against the Army of the Dead and had instead plotted with Euron to gather men from Essos, The Golden Company, to fight in her army against them. Essentially, she left everybody else to fight the Army of the Dead and as usual, she got away with it. Unscathed.
How this was possible completely confounds me. The whole show has been building up to this. Winter is Coming has echoed throughout every season so far and now that Winter is finally here, Cersei gets to sit in a chamber sipping wine, untouched? I’m literally pulling my hair out. Now, with the Army of the Dead defeated, which we’ll come to later, we have Cersei and Daenerys having a little bitch fight over who deserves the Iron Throne. Great.
In this week’s standoff, Euron manages to kill Rhaegal. He shoots him with three arrows as he’s flying through the sky, Daenerys riding beside him on Drogon as usual. After Rhaegal falls to his death and drowns in the sea, a very angry Daenerys flies straight at Euron, giving him a clean shot. Do we remember Battle of the Bastards? We all wanted Rickon Stark to zig zag as he made his way across that battle field to Jon. What does moving in a straight line do? It makes you an easy target. Daenerys and Drogon made themselves a very easy target for Euron, who lined his arrow up with them as they soared directly toward him. So how come when he shoots, he miraculously misses? As do the fleet of other arrows fired by his men? This is just another plot hole that doesn’t make sense. A few favourite characters are continually escaping death in very illogical situations.
Here’s another. Later on, Cersei has Daenerys and a good portion of her Army of Unsullied standing right in front of her as each of the women’s spokespeople demand that the other surrender. She has her men in good health compared to Dany’s, who Sansa points out will be exhausted from the colossal battle they just fought against the Army of the Dead. Nevermind though. Dany doesn’t actually care about the health of anyone but herself anymore and so she proceeds to march a portion of them to Cersei anyway. So now there is a physical standoff and both Dany and Cersei have the opportunity to attack one another head on. And yet, neither of them do. Cersei very unnecessarily kills Missandei. This should be enough to send Daenerys mad but she cares about all the innocent people she would be killing if she were to launch an attack there and then. Alright, fair enough.
So what’s Cersei’s excuse? This is not like her at all. Why, when she had the advantage, did she not just kill Daenerys then and there? Drogon was sat down for goodness sake, they could have killed her dragon and killed her and then fought Jon and the rest of her army when they arrived. And I would have preferred that plot twist! Because then we could have seen Jon (hopefully) making his claim to the Iron Throne against Cersei – a battle that I feel viewers would have been much more invested in. Daenerys doesn’t have any influence in the North, Jon does. And Cersei, has a reputation in Kingslanding. This is a battle we could all invest ourselves in. Now the show has put viewers like myself in a very awkward position. I don’t like Daenerys and I like Cersei but I don’t want her on the throne. Now that Jon won’t make his claim, I have to side with Cersei and hope that she wins – even though she is not a good leader. Dany is pretty much just the Targaryen girl who has dragons. But now that she only has a dragon, who really cares, you know?
The Night King
I’ve always been on the side of the Dead. Since I watched Hardhome, Season 5 and then saw The Night King kill Viserion with his spear in Beyond the Wall, Season 7, I have been enthralled by the White Walkers and their army. I think the show really established their threat as completely deadly. I had no doubt in my mind that the Army of the Dead would win this battle. It didn’t seem possible to me that they couldn’t. I love the way they look, I love what they can do, I love the fact that they can only be killed permanently with dragon glass or valyrian steel. I think it’s such a great concept.
The fact that we didn’t really know that much about them either also made for a much more interesting battle. There has been a lot of anticipation leading up to this episode, The Long Night. Viewers have known for seasons that this battle is coming and we sort of knew what to expect, but not really. That made it exciting.
But, I feel that the simplicity of The Night King wanting to kill The Three Eyed Raven/Bran just made the whole thing really anti-climatic. This is something that had been revealed in previous episodes and I was sort of hoping that that would only be part of the whole story. When I watched that scene at the end of the episode, where The Night King slowly approaches Bran, they exchange a few looks and then Arya jumps up behind him, I read it very differently to everybody else. I noticed that Bran and The Night King looked at each other for a good few seconds in silence. There’s a point where Bran’s eyes move away from The Night King. Then The Night King sort of looks at him questioningly before reaching for his sword. Everybody else read this as him reaching for his sword to kill Bran. I read it as Bran telling him there was something behind him and The Night King reaching for his sword to protect himself. I was just convinced that the two of them were working together. But, sadly I was wrong. The simple story so far is exactly as we had already been told. The Night King wanted to kill Bran, The Three Eyed Raven. Disappointing.
And then Arya kills The Night King. I adore Arya and I know that most of the nation does. This girl is honestly such a bad ass, there’s no other way to describe her. She shies away from nothing. Do we all remember how she completely defeated House Frey in Seasons 6 and 7? First she killed their sons and baked them into a pie to be served to their father. So bad. Then she killed Lord Walder Frey himself. Incredibly bad. Then she kills the whole of House Frey by using Lord Walder Frey’s face and poisoning them all. Words cannot even describe my excitement when she teamed up with Sansa and slit Littlefinger’s throat in Season 7. And then in the final season, we get to watch her kill The Night King himself. I was literally on the edge of my seat when he turned around and grabbed her by the throat. I thought she would die. Until she very cunningly dropped her blade into her free hand and stabbed him in the gut. The Night King shatters to pieces along with the rest of his army and… that’s it. Winter comes and is gone, just like that.
The show has done a good job with Arya’s character and in giving us what we want to see from her. Losing her virginity to Gendry was both satisfying and slightly uncomfortable for us to watch – because we love her and we want her to be happy, but also she’s our little girl. It was done tastefully though, thankfully not staying true to the plethora of sex scenes throughout the seasons. But having Gendry ask Arya to marry him and be his Lady in this week’s episode was just a little far fetched. Gendry knows Arya. He shouldn’t have wasted his breath asking her such a silly question, she was always going to say no. And in keeping with her character, she did.
I don’t feel like Arya has received enough recognition yet for completely slaying The Night King. Not nearly enough considering that Jon was about to get eaten by an ice dragon about two seconds before Arya stabbed The Night King. And the rest of them would be dead. But it was prophesised by Melissandre in Season 3, The Climb. She says “I see a darkness in you. And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me. Brown eyes. Blue eyes. Green eyes. Eyes you’ll shut forever. We will meet again.”
So now that she has fulfilled that prophecy, what will she do? In this episode she tells us that she’s riding for Kingslanding and if that’s not to kill Cersei, then I won’t be very happy.
Isn’t it crazy? That all of these seasons built up to a battle that feels like it really didn’t mean that much at all. The threat that we were lead to believe was so incredibly big, wasn’t even really that big at all. Because after The Long Night, the majority of our main characters are still alive – Tyrion, Sansa, Arya, Jamie, Cersei, Brienne, Daenerys, Jon. And there are people like Lyanna and Theon who had to die. People who don’t even deserve to be alive too. Sam Tarly, for example, who gets a happy ending with Gilly when he didn’t even fight. I hate that I now dislike him but the show’s failure to develop his character accordingly has forced me to.
It simply feels as though everything we were all excited about throughout the previous seasons has amounted to an anti-climatic end. I know the season isn’t finished yet, but we only have two episodes left to wrap things up and that doesn’t seem like enough time for what I’m hoping will happen. Already I have found myself disappointed. I’m not happy with the performance of the dragons and if I don’t see Daenerys dead this season, I’ll be even more frustrated than I already am.
Now, we’re left to watch Cersei battle Daenerys for the throne when neither of them really deserve it. And in all honesty, Jon and Dany are just as bad as Cersei and Jamie at this point, considering that they’re also brother and sister. The only difference is that we’ve watched Jamie and Cersei’s relationship unfold over many seasons and so I have more of an attachment to them than I do to this little fling between Jon and Daenerys, which I am very much not on board with in case that was unclear.
Sadly, it just doesn’t seem as if we have much to look forward to in these next two episodes. What do you think?