Thoughts on Game of Thrones, Season 7 Episode 7, “The Dragon and the Wolf”

Well, Season 7 is done and dusted. And as we close the books on the penultimate season of the show, I have to wonder “maybe it really is cocks all the way down?”

Overall:

For the past couple of seasons, I’ve been saying that HBO’s Game of Thrones has matchless spectacle but has some of the worst writing in the business, either on a plot level or a dialogue level. And this episode really brought that home. They gave this episode a full hour and twenty minutes, and did not take advantage of that in the least. Not only were scenes overly long and repetitive, often involving characters explaining their characters and motivations to one another (and sometimes characters explaining other characters’ characters to other characters!) but there were overly slow transitions (that walk to the dragonpit had some nice character beats, but man did it take forever), and yet…at every turn the writers had crucial convesations, plans, and character choices happen off screen.

Why not use that extra run time to show us the important parts of the story, to actually show the characters making the important choices and earning their victories, as poorquentyn would say? While I don’t like to argue ad hominem, part of me wonders whether the writers know they aren’t as clever as the characters they’re describing, so have things happen off-screen so they don’t have to write that dialogue?

So yeah, I’m bgoing to watch Season 8 just to see off the show, but I think in the end it’ll be remembered as a fatally flawed experiment, a show that gave us four pretty good seasons (even though they had some flaws) and four pretty damn bad seasons (even though they had some good points).

King’s Landing (Up to the Dragonpit):

The initial sequence of the armies squaring up outside the city is nice – although King’s Landing does not have a million people and the North has 3-4 million people; did they not hire anyone to replace Bryan Cogman as lore bible-keeper? – and I actually thought it was quite funny how the scene of everyone walking to the Dragonpit was staged almost like a musical, where the cast gradually comes together until everyone’s on the chorus line belting their lungs out. Also, the reunions were generally moving, as you felt like a lot of these actors were genuinely fond of the people who they won’t be working with after next year.

I’ll also give the writers credit, they’re pretty good at building up tension, what with the dueling power moves of Cersei and her all-in-black team (seriously, are they all in Taylor Swift’s Girl Squad?) arriving after everyone  and then Dany’s arriving on the dragons. Although the two not three dragons thing was thuddingly obvious and you really have to wonder why it never came up in any of what was clearly some rather elaborate planning and choreography.

Also, something that I noticed – they’re really giving the Hound a LOT of screentime, and very much setting up Cleganebowl for next season.

King’s Landing (the Dragonpit):

Here’s where the episode started to take a turn for me. On the one hand, the horror movie jump scare of the wight was quite effective. On the other hand…

  • Euron’s whole disruptive schtick was jarring and broke the rhythm a lot. I don’t buy he’s going to ferry Cersei’s army (more on that later) or that he’s going to fuck off back home, although I guess he will because that’s where Theon’s going to rescue Asha (I guess b/c Euron stopped off on Pyke when he was teleporting to Casterly Rock)?
  • Only Tyrion’s speech really landed for me here. Jon’s, pre- and post-demonstration speeches were a really bald restatement of what Jon’s being saying all season rather than his nessun dorma. Cersei’s characterization waffles a ton – does she hate Dany more, does she hate Tyrion more, does she hate Jon more – but I’ll get into that later.
  • I did love how Qyburn practically got an erection when he saw the wight still moving after it was cut in half.
  • The Army of the Dead is 100,000 strong, although I’m guessing that only matters when the writers want it to.
  • The Mountain was oddly inactive compared to later, although I liked the Hound’s almost sad faceoff with him.
  • Jon’s decision w/r/t to telling Cersei about his allegiance to Dany was not just confirmation that the showrunners think heroes have to be stupid (and yet are morally good and we should side with them) but being clever makes you evil, but also was really blatantly writerly. He had to do this to raise the stakes that maybe the truce (which no one really bought would be a thing) wouldn’t happen…which kind of makes the whole parlay anti-climactic, but it does set up a scene where Tyrion and Cersei would emote at each other.
  • I will say that BookJon is way more means-justify-the-ends than this, although Jon does have a point about relentless Machiavellianism making peace impossible.

King’s Landing (Tyrion and Cersei):

I feel bad, because Peter Dinklage and Lena Heady sell the hell out of this scene. But it’s so badly written. Rather than actually discussing what they’re supposed to be discussing, they instead go round and round about how Cersei hates Tyrion because of Tywin and how Tyrion feels about about Cersei’s kids dying. It’s a scene designed for the actors to emote, rather than actually showing them making decisions about what they want and then employing strategies to get what they want – all of that, the actual important thing as far as drama is concerned, happens off screen.

So now is as good a time as any to talk about Cersei’s characterization. I feel like Lena Headey is playing two separate characters: one is a cool Machiavellian who’s spinning rings around rings (although again, her plans ultimately seem to come crashing into the Army of the Dead, to which I don’t think the writers have an answer), and the other is a paranoid, emotional basket-case who’s all burning resentment and threats of murder and “my baby!” The writers need to decide which she is, because I am tired of the double act.

King’s Landing (Aftermath):

Not much to say here. Jon explains what he did to Dany, Dany explains it right back to him, all meant to lead to their big love scene, except it doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. We do get the seed planted that Dany can have a child (although if Dany bears a living child and Cersei has a miscarriage, I am done) without ever bringing up the prophecy, so there’s that.

Jaime and Cersei? More of the same. Cersei flips back and forth between characters, she waffles on having the Mountain kill her brothers, and so on until Jaime’s ready to ride off into the North on his own. Put this one in the “not happening in the books” column. I was surprised the rumors about the miscarriage were wrong…maybe they kicked that to next season?

I do like the shot of King’s Landing as the snow comes down. That was pretty.

Winterfell:

As expected, this whole plot was a fakeout. Littlefinger states his obvious villainy to Sansa (at one point, I was expecting him to try on an Emperor Palpatine and ask her to join the Dark Side of the Force) and spins the weirdest damn line of argument about why Sansa needs to kill Arya and become Queen in her own right, Sansa seems to believe him, in order to trick the viewer into thinking she’s bought into his lies.

Then we get the reveal, where they do the buildup to Arya and then it’s actually LF! Now I actually kind of liked Sansa and Bran laying it all out and LF going from relatively assured to having no frama of reference for Bran’s accusations, but I really do imagine this scene being done with way more finesse in the books, without the need for the really bad plotting of the previous few episodes, which since we know it was all a fakeout (and the major work is done offscreen, once again) it feels even more manipulative.

And then there’s a bunch of bullshit about how Sansa is a slow learner and Arya would have survived Sansa’s ordeal just fine and I’m not here for any of it. I will say I like the button with the united sisters quoting Ned Stark’s lessons about solidarity, but it’s entirely unearned.

At least this dumb plot is done, Littlefinger is dead, and I don’t have to watch it any more.

On a separate note, while Bran is quite good at being emotionless and ethereal, the whole Rhaegar secret marriage thing remains ridiculous. Harry Lloyd standing in for Rhaegar doesn’t do the man any favors, having Jon be Aegon Targaryen is ridiculous, the show already established that Rhaegar already had a son named Aegon Targaryen, for crying out loud!

Dragonstone/Boat:

Why does Jon care about political appearances now? Why isn’t Dany going by dragonback?

This is a stupid contrivance. It does not matter where Jon and Dany fuck and it is a waste of money contriving a way for them to fuck on a boat rather than in Winterfell or in a tent or in front of the Dothraki horde the way that all civilized people do it.

Theon’s scene was also needlessly long – Theon states Jon’s character to him, Jon states Theon’s character to him, and then we learn that Theon’s been inspired to save Yara because of Jon’s bravery. All of that could have been done much, much faster and more interestingly if they’d just cut out the former and actually explore the latter. Then Theon wins over the Ironborn with the same Homer Simpson strategy he did in Season 2, and then we’re back to the Yara rescue plotline from…Season 4? I’m losing count.

And then Jon an Dany fuck. In one of the weirdest sex scenes this side of the Room – there’s no build up, no undressing, no foreplay, just a cut to them already naked and mid-coitus. There was more passion in Dany standing over scarred-up shirtless Jon last episode then them actually thrusting this episode, and despite being into it last episode I felt entirely unmoved.

And for some ungodly reason, Tyrion watches.

The Wall:

Damn near made up for everything else. A hell of a spectacle, with the dragon bringing the Wall to end the season with an impressive crash. I am going to say that since we didn’t actually see Tormund and Beric die, they’re still going to be around for next season.

 

AND I’M OUT! SEE YOU NEXT SEASON!

 

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96 thoughts on “Thoughts on Game of Thrones, Season 7 Episode 7, “The Dragon and the Wolf”

  1. Sean C. says:

    The Sansa/Arya stuff in previous episodes wasn’t a fakeout. Arya apologizes in their final scene for stuff she said last week.

  2. Bbq_haX0r says:

    Great write-ups Steve, thanks for being a voice of reason these past few seasons and articulating many of the flaws better than I could.

    I have a few thoughts:.

    1) Why hasn’t Dany just taken King’s Landing? It makes no sense to me. The whole parlay last night I kept yelling ‘just take KL’ or at least threaten too. She’s eventually going to have to get her hands dirty in this regard. Stannis assaulted the city in a night, surely Dany and the dragons could; especially since the bulk of her army was at the gates. And it doesn’t have to be messy towards the small folk. Considering how the small folk must loathe/fear Cersei after the Sept blew up, they’d be opening the gates for her. Take KL’ don’t worry about Cersei and then unify against the undead. Why doesn’t this make the most sense from Dany’s perspective?

    2 – I assumed Tyrion was creeping because he saw that perhaps he may be losing influence with Dany now that Jon seems to be her most trusted. Who knows though, the show does a lot of wonky stuff.

    3 – So are we to assume if no one went North of the Wall the NK would be stuck? So Jon and Dany goofed and we’re outsmarted by the NK. Idk, that whole situation was weird too.

    Cheers!

    • 1. Because the city would go boom.

      2. Although they set up the reverse; he was encouraging her feelings toward Jon as of last episode.

      3. Well, the show forgot about the Horn but I didn’t!

    • Ser Biffy Clegane says:

      3 – I think PoorQuentyn has it right. In the books, Euron probably gets the Horn of Jorumund when he raids OldTown and brings the wall down with it, or maybe he takes a dragon with DragonBinder and takes the wall down with that. In this case, B&W decided to simplify and have the NK get a dragon to take the wall down, but you’re completely right. Dany could have taken years solidifying her control over Westeros, and then confronted the NK at her leisure. (Although it’s not clear that winter will end while the NK is rampant, so that has its own risks).

      • Matthew says:

        Both the dragon binder and the horn are idiotic things from the books.

        Let’s introduce super important plot pieces in book 5!

        • Murc says:

          The Horn of Joramun was introduced as a plot piece in Book 1 and has been referenced in literally every single book since then. The dragonbinding horn was introduced as a plot piece in book 4… of a seven-book series, so only slightly more than halfway through.

    • 3. Same thought. If Tyrion-Jon-Dany had done anything other than wight hunting the NK had no plan for getting past the wall on the show.

  3. Disclaimer says:

    Pretty much entirely agree with your thoughts. Just a couple small things:

    1) I thought it was Harry Lloyd as Rhaegar, too, but apparently it was Wilf Scolding.

    2) The last scene was some great spectacle, however… I have to ask what this dragon breathes? If it’s blue flames, which are hotter than orange/red flames, then this dragon wight shouldn’t exist. If it’s frost, then how is it destroying the Wall? Meh. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  4. Thrasherlisk says:

    “Robert Rebellion was based on a lie.”

    Except, you know, it wasn’t. Apparently the show writers forgot that what started the rebellion was Aerys’ demand to Jon Arryn. That, or they changed it because they thought we were too dumb to follow.

    grrrrr

    • David Hunt says:

      I think it’s worse. I think that they believe it was always about Rhaegar kidnapping Lyanna. The whole executing a Lord Paramount without trial and demanding the head of another doesn’t seem as important to them as Lyanna’s disappearance.

      • Chris says:

        Hey even acknowledge in th show – in this season, no less – that Ned rose up after Aerys killed Brandon and Rickard. So, the only way to square this with the ‘based on a lie’ idea… is that the rebellion would have happened anyway? I can’t really rationalize it without the rationalization sounding dumb.

    • The showrunners don’t seem to have watched their own show for continuity, let alone re-read anything. It’s quite sad. I wonder what happened to Bryan Cogman’s old job.

    • Ser Biffy Clegane says:

      Bran’s not the most coherent, but I suppose that if Rhaegar and Lyanna had admitted their marriage, then Brandon wouldn’t have ridden to King’s Landing, and so on.

      So if it’s based on a lie, then isn’t the lie Rhaegar’s? Are we supposed to believe that Rhaegar intentionally destroyed the Seven Kingdoms for prophesy?

  5. gbajithedeceiver says:

    Contempt for the source material can be accommodated if the adaptation has its own coherence, but contempt for the audience cannot be forgiven. My only remaining investment in this show is cultural, so I can understand the memes.

  6. olisimpson88 says:

    The only shot that got a reaction out of me was that shot after Jaime left KL and the snow fell on the city. 15 seconds out of 80 minutes was the only time i felt invested and it had no dialogue, none of the cast and let the weather and scenery show us.

    We had 80 minutes of basically nothing happening but a wall coming down. Which will be what anyone will remember and what they will care about the show runners. As that’s how they plot and plan their show. the big moments so no one pays attention to the build-up or slow moments no matter how badly paced, written etc. they are.

    They try to have these moments like killing LF off without having to do the work to earn them. Because they are ’emmy’ winning writers. It spits on writers and works of fiction that work hard to earn those sort of moments. It spits on GRM’s gardening no matter how much the weeds has grown in it.

    But that doesn’t matter to HBO as long as the ratings keep busting through, the merchandisers who make money off it. Nor to many of the producers or actors on the show who get acclaim, awards and a nice pay check. Which i don’t fault them for as they are making a living and running a business etc., but it comes at the expense of wasting so much potential and the quality of the source which GOT is deprived from.

    As to their characterization of Cersei, it’s basically at this point. Twisting the story and arcs so Lena Heady is on the show until the final episode and giving her stuff to do that allows her to act the hell out of it. Because they love her not the character. Same reason they have Peter handling the ‘smart’ scenes. Because they love him and the fact he sells the snarky dialogue they love doing.

    Same reason they are keeping Bronn’s actor, Jorah’s actor and others on the show despite their roles being done.

    All of this again just makes the heroes look stupid, short-sighted and hard to root for not taking the obvious solution at first glance. Same with all the important stuff happening off-screen. It’s lazy writing at it’s worst.

    And just wasting time in a part of the series they need to be wrapping stuff up. I imagine D&D when the show ends will point the finger at HBO for making them do another season than they wanted to do. But that doesn’t excuse their poor pacing, inability to fill the time in and pay attention to detail on what they had to work with despite most of it being basic 101 writing.

    I’m assuming Theon being kicked down below. Was suppose to be some ultimate payoff for all their dick and eunuch jokes over the years.

    As for the whole Rhaegar Lyanna scene. They really are blind to the implications of what they have written and how callous they make the two look. No, Jon being the result of their actions does not excuse the treatment of Ella and her children one bit (Rhaegar doesn’t get to be called a father when he was never there for any of them). And that is not how annulment works.

    This is why i have never liked R+L=J. Because it makes Jon out to be a chosen one and special because of his lineage. Which I despise seeing in any protagonists these days because it is so cliché, so boring and really lazy writing.

    Enough said, now the waiting game begins again for another 12-18 months.

    • BBQ_HaX0r says:

      > I’m assuming Theon being kicked down below. Was suppose to be some ultimate payoff for all their dick and eunuch jokes over the years.

      I actually thought that was one of the worst things they’ve done. He keeps getting hit in the groin and then smiles ‘like AHA’ or something that he’s overcome having balls or something. It was so so weird and really out of place.

    • Yeah, I’m pretty convinced by the Dragon Demands now.

      • medrawt says:

        When I first encountered that channel I was like “OK, I agree with this guy on what we dislike about the show, but these are really tedious and he seems kind of unhinged about this stuff.” But after reading people’s commentary on this season (I stopped watching towards the end of season 5), I’m like “he’s right about everything all the time!”

  7. Steven Xue says:

    The whole Jon and Dany romance has been so forced that its just cringeworthy. I suspect in the books they will also be paired up as many fans have speculated for as long as the series has existed, but in the show I get that politically Dany would want to marry Jon to bring him under her yoke but honestly I am seeing how these two would ever click in real life. Honestly I really don’t feel like the two of them have any reason to be falling in love and be given their own love scene.

    At least with Drogo it took a good chunk of season one for he and Dany to get use to each other fall in love while they were married. Daario on the other hand was the typical bad boy hearth robe who was able to win her over by his looks and charms as well as actively courting her. As for Jon, he’s kinda dull and uninspiring and doesn’t fit the bill for the kind of guy Dany usually goes for. I suppose one could say that Dany’s naturally attracted to him because he’s Rhaegar’s son and I suppose destiny, but really he doesn’t look anything like Rhaegar.

  8. Brett says:

    EDIT: I hope this doesn’t double-post.

    I liked the minimalism of the sequence where Dan and Jon hook up. They’ve had very limited chemistry this whole season, so the less we have to see in fumbled foreplay the better. And I liked the look on Tyrion’s face in the hallway, the look of resignation and unpleasant surprise. It’s the look of a man who knows that his importance is about to shrink, because Dany has a new man to be her right-hand and first to speak in her ear.

    Hated the “Aegon Targaryen” bit. I really hope the whole “his name is . . . ” bit doesn’t happen in the books, because in the show it comes across as something that will be used for a bunch of contrived-feeling scenes in the next season where Jon has to decide whether he’s Jon Snow King In the North or Aegon Targaryen King of Westeros, etc, etc.

    Damn near made up for everything else. A hell of a spectacle, with the dragon bringing the Wall to end the season with an impressive crash.

    It looked fantastic, and it’s apparently show-specific (I haven’t watched the “making of” segment after the episode, but supposedly the show-runners said that’s not how the Wall is coming down in the books). Of course, it also means that among their many, many screw-ups, Jon and Tyrion accidentally caused the apocalypse.

    • Brett says:

      I’m going to hold off of the “not in the books” claim until I actually watch the “making of” segment afterwards. Maybe it is in the books!

      Although I doubt it. If a dragon has to do with how the Wall comes down, it’s probably going to either be some craziness with Euron or the shadow dragon breathing shadow fire.

      • Crystal says:

        Does Aegon, son of Rhaegar and Elia, exist on the show? Because I don’t get naming your new son “Aegon” when there’s already a half-brother named Aegon. If Rhaegar annulled his marriage to Elia even though she’s already borne his children, and then names his new son by his new wife the same name as his son by Wife #1 – Rhaegar is scum, or that makes no sense.

        “Jaehaerys” or “Daeron” in memory of the Just or the Good makes more sense to me.

        • Brett says:

          I’m pretty sure they’ve mentioned killing Rhaegar’s children in KL, although I don’t know if they ever mentioned the names.

          It doesn’t make any sense. I guess maybe that could just be dying Lyanna giving Jon the only Targaryen name she can think of under the circumstances, but . . .

          • Crystal says:

            Or Rhaegar could have said something like “If it’s a boy, we’ll call him Jaehaerys or Daeron” or something like that. I would *think* she and Rhaegar would have discussed baby names, considering that was the whole point of their marriage, the Prince that was Promised.

            Or, assuming that Lyanna learned history and literacy (and no reason to believe she didn’t) she could have picked a king’s name from the dynastic list – unfortunate if “Maegor” was the only name she could think of as she lay dying, but…

            Forget it, Jake, it’s Westeros.

          • Brett says:

            If they have to do it, I like the idea of “Visenya” if it’s a girl – and Aemon if it’s a boy. Although of course my personal favorite would just be for it to be “Jon”, with no Special Targaryen Name to signify that Jon is being revealed as a Secret Prince.

          • Brett says:

            Actually, I take that back. Given how high Rhaegar was on his own prophecy stuff, I like the idea that he simply thought Jon would be a girl – to complete the “three heads of the dragon” as with the original Conqueror and his sisters – and they didn’t have a boy’s name at all ready for Jon. It’d be fitting.

          • Slutocrat says:

            Because Aegon was the name of the original Conqueror and ‘Jon’ and Dany together are probably Azor Ahai or the Prince that was promised. Rhaegar’s first children were AEMON, not Aegon, and Rhaenys.

    • See, I disagree about that. What sells chemistry is the signs and signifiers of attraction – beng so impatient you’re fumbling and tearing at your own clothes, being attracted to your first sight of the other person naked, and so on. Going straight to the deed itself means there’s no opportunity to do build-up.

      As for Tyrion, given that he encouraged this exact thing to happen, I don’t buy that.

      Ok, I’ll watch the Making Of, I guess…

      • Brett says:

        I haven’t watched it myself. That was just what I’ve heard – feel free to correct me on Wight Dragon if I was wrong.

        • Brett says:

          Haven’t watched “the making”. Obviously I’ve watched the episode.

        • So I just watched it. It’s kind of ambiguous. They describe the wight dragon as something that logically suggests itself as a way to make the Wall come down, but don’t say anything about the books at all. So ambiguous?

          • Brett says:

            Good to know. I guess it could be the way the Wall comes down, although hopefully there’d be more build to it (the Others are scarier if they have some type of long plan to bring the Second Long Night, versus just lucking into a Wight Dragon to do it).

  9. Richard O. says:

    Arya has put an end to poor torture that Littlefinger underwent from fifth season.

    I hope the Night King win the throne and kill the showrunner.

  10. Crystal says:

    I don’t know that Jon is really going to be called Aegon in the books, unless Rhaegar is really George Foreman.

    • Grant says:

      Pretty sure that he won’t. Rhaegar, at least, was sure Jon was going to be a girl and probably planned to name her Visenya. Of course Lyanna could have been the one to come up with the name, but it wouldn’t make sense since she’d be fully that Rhaegar had another son named Aegon and at the time Jon was born I think she’d have bigger problems to deal with than his name. Like the fact that she was dying.

      • David Hunt says:

        Yeah. Chances are that Ned named Jon after his own foster father, Jon Arryn, whether Lyanna told Ned he had some Targaryan name or not. It would fit the naming patter of his other sons.

  11. Sasha says:

    I just can’t help but think that if they had plotted out the story better from the beginning, they wouldn’t have to jump through all these hoops and make up ridiculous plot points and holes to get to where we are now. They had the same books we all have AND George to draw from. Even if they didn’t want to go into some of the more byzantine plots (Quentyn, fAegon) they could have done better with the things they totally screwed up (Dorne just as an example). I will never forgive the show for taking Jaime’s amazing arc and turning him into a punk bitch, just to get him to where he should be in the last season. Same with Sansa. And I’m still mad about their killing off Barristan Selmy. Jon + Dany felt rushed and almost utilitarian with no joy or even passion in their interactions. It just seemed like “I guess we’re supposed to fuck now? Alright, get on with it.” it took Ygritte at least a season to get Jon into bed. The pointed references to Dany not being able to have kids? Was that supposed to be foreplay? ARGH. I could go on, but my main feeling is that D&D have *always* missed many of the themes and important takeaways of this epic and while spectacle has its place (and all the dragon stuff this year has been spectacular) the spectacle *became* the show, rather than what draws people to the books and keeps them there year after year even as we all wait for the next book. They dumbed it down and made it a ridiculous soap opera in so many ways.

  12. Baldi says:

    They could’ve named Jon any Targaryen name they wanted, but they chose Aegon, Why not Aemon, or Baelon or any other Targayen name, there are dozens to choose from. Why do they assume the audience is so stupid?

    • thatrabidpotato says:

      Because they themselves are stupid and can’t conceive of any other way of life.

    • Murc says:

      Or why does he need a Targaryen name at all? What’s wrong with Lyanna naming him Jon? Nice good northern name, that is.

      • Crystal says:

        Yes, Jon is a good name. And when you think about the hash that Aerys and Rhaegar made of ruling, a good Northern name linking to a well-respected family with a reputation for honor might suit a king much better. All hail King Jon.

  13. mrs bauser says:

    They ghosted Ghost! I understand that they are using all their resources on the dragons but the direwolves are just as important to the Starks as the dragons are to Dany and to just erase Ghost out of the story without any acknowledgement (not even a single mention all season) seems strange to me. Even Nymeria got a final moment with Arya before they cut her from the cast.

  14. Jim B says:

    As a practical matter, I’m not sure what choice Jon had in terms of responding to Cersei’s offer. It’s unlikely that he’s going to be able to keep his loyalty to Dany a secret — he may already have told Sansa, though given how fast ravens fly in this show it’s possible that he sent that message afterwards. So what good does it do if he lies to Cersei, gets the truce, and then a month later Cersei discovers that Jon is sworn to Dany, giving her justification for the betrayal she was going to commit anyway?

    But that gets into another problem I had. I hate to ask for more exposition from an episode that already had a lot of it, but why was it so crucial to get a truce with Cersei? If Dany is pulling all or most of her forces north anyway, what possessions does she hold in the South that a truce would “protect,” even assuming you could trust Cersei?

    We’ve already been told that Casterly Rock was a poisoned chalice that the Unsullied would have to abandon (and presumably they already have abandoned it, given their presence at KL in this episode). Dragonstone, I suppose, has some strategic importance as a naval base for threatening or blockading KL, but if Dany’s focus is in the north now and Euron’s fleet controls the sea, how valuable is that? Dany can always shelter the remnants of her fleet at White Harbour until the fight with the Night King is over.

    So even if there’s no truce, what can Cersei do offensively to Dany’s position? The Vale (assuming that it remains on Team Dany after LF’s death) is famously easy to defend — if Cersei wants to throw her armies at the Vale, that’s probably a blunder you’d want to encourage. Is she going to try to invade the North, in winter?

    Cersei is still a danger, because she can use the time to increase her forces via mercenaries and consolidating the South, as well as benefiting from the casualties Dany suffers in the North, but that is true whether there is a truce or not.

    Obviously, the reason this truce was important was as a Macguffin that brings us all these face-to-face confrontations (Dany and Cersei, Tyrion and Cersei, Jaime and Cersei, Theon and Euron, Sandor and Gregor) and reunions (Tyrion and Bronn, Tyrion and Pod, Brienne and Sandor), which were pretty good on the whole.

    • David Hunt says:

      The most damaging thing that Cercei can do is take or besiege Dragonstone if it’s lightly garrisoned. They need the dragonglass to flow from there to the North. Also, I don’t know who’s in charge in Dorne, but she could probably move to put people loyal to her in power if D&D weren’t ignoring Dorne as much as they possibly can.

  15. thatrabidpotato says:

    Real talk: does anyone think that the series is going to end with every single direwolf dead like this, or is that just more transparent show stupidity?

    • Jim B says:

      I think we’ve seen the last of Nymeria, so no, they won’t all be dead.

      As to Ghost — I’d say it’s 50-50. Ghost might die protecting Jon (or trying to). If Jon dies before the end of the series, I doubt Ghost will survive him — I have trouble imaging Ghost just hanging around Winterfell with Sansa or King’s Landing with Dany, but I guess it’s possible.

      I give the showrunners a break on the direwolf issue. I have no reason to doubt that, if they could, they would include awesome direwolf scenes in every second episode. B&W may have some views of the various characters and plot points that I disagree with, but I suspect that “direwolves are cool” is a consensus-builder.

      But it’s a huge cost issue, so they would have to compromise elsewhere (shorter/fewer episodes, or fewer dragon and/or battle scenes), or else do some half-assed low-budget version of the CGI (which would look awful). This is just one of those areas where the fans’ fantasy version of an adaptation collides with the realities of production.

      • thatrabidpotato says:

        Speaking of which, the show’s version of Nymeria is also extremely stupid. If Arya wants Nymeria to come with her, Nymeria is coming with her. That whole warging thing and all.

        • Jim B says:

          I don’t agree.

          First, I don’t think that Show Arya has ever shown any warging ability. Now, perhaps your point is that the books are the One True Version, and therefore the show is Wrong to depict anything that contradicts them. I disagree, but that’s a larger conversation. But even granting that view…

          As I recall, even in the books, Arya’s warging ability is fairly limited — you can easily miss it on a first read — and she doesn’t even seem to be consciously aware of it. I don’t know that it would occur to Arya to think “I can just warg into Nymeria and MAKE her come with me.”

          And last, I don’t think Arya would want to do that Nymeria even if she realized that she could. The direwolves are the Stark children’s friends, not slaves.

          • thatrabidpotato says:

            Her warging ability in the books is not limited, and she’s definitely aware of it by Dance. She’s controlling Nymeria from another continent, she’s capable of controlling multiple animals at once as we see her do with the cats in Braavos, and she is fully aware that she can see through the eyes of cats: it’s how she beats the kindly man at quarterstaffs.

          • Jim B says:

            I’m aware that she used the cat’s eyes to see the priest. As I recall, it’s a little ambiguous as to whether she induced the cat to follow her back to the temple or if it just followed her as cats sometimes do. And I don’t think there’s any indication that she realizes she is influencing Nymeria, or even that she thinks her wolf dreams are real. It’s possible, I grant, but overall I still think it’s a bit of a jump from “I can see through an animal’s eyes sometimes” to “I can control Nymeria and bend her to my will.”

            But I think the main point is that, even if Arya has that ability and knows she has it, she still wouldn’t use it to force Nymeria to follow her.

          • thatrabidpotato says:

            Maybe. Or maybe she would, if she realized the alternative was Nymeria continuing to rampage around the Riverlands murdering innocents until she’s finally caught and killed.

    • Honestly, I think they don’t want to wolf-wrangle, so unless a direwolf is strictly necessary, they go out of their way to not have them there. For example, I don’t think Jon has seen Ghost since Season 4.

      • Murc says:

        That’s just laziness when it comes to Bran and Jon, tho. Their wolves are an important part of their journey.

      • mrs bauser says:

        Ghost was with Jon in his resurrection scene but I think that was the last time we have seen or heard from him. I understand they don’t want to waste their dragon budget on him but just some sort of acknowledgement that he exists. Like “hey Sansa take care of Ghost for me while I’m gone” or “I’m going to leave Ghost here with you to help hold down the fort while I’m gone”. I don’t think that’s asking too much is it?

        • Jim B says:

          Well, there was Sansa’s comment this season about how the Northern Lords weren’t like Ghost and wouldn’t just sit around waiting for Jon to come back.

          It’s not much, but it’s something.

  16. luma1912 says:

    I’m surprised by how disappointed I am by the way they handled RLJ. The writers don’t pay much attention to silly things like themes, after all. Still, to treat Jon’s birth story as this empowering revelation, brushing aside all the tragedy that came with it, makes me want to punch someone. I mean, it’s the price that was paid for Jon’s birth that makes it so interesting, so heartbreaking..
    And Aegon Targaryen? Well, considering show!Rhaegar and Lyanna are selfish idiots, that choice actually makes sense in a demented way. Still, they could have chosen literally anything else. Why not a name that would mean something to Jon, like Aemon???
    I guess they thought show!Jon is too manly to feel any emotion at being named after one of the few Targaryen relatives he had the chance to meet 😦

    • Rebecca says:

      I can’t say I have a vast knowledge of the Targaryen’s, but in episode 6 the meisters were making fun of a prophecy about the god of sea defeating Aegon the Conqueror. They thought it was ludricous because Aegon was dead, so it couldn’t be fulfilled. If there is another Aegon, then the prophecy can still be fulfilled. Which makes me wonder if Yuron will defeat Jon in the next episode.

  17. artihcus022 says:

    My biggest pet peeves for this Season Finale, aside from the Population howler, aside from the Rhaegar-Lyanna-Aegon thing…is Jon’s conversation about Theon.

    “You don’t have to choose. You are a Stark and a Greyjoy”.

    I am sorry, the whole thesis of ASOIAF and GOT Seasons 1-4 is that “You DO have to choose”. That’s what Maester Aemon told Jon Snow in Season 1 (which is still my favorite moment in the show), “A day must come when a must choose”, it’s what Jaime’s whole “So many vows they make you swear and swear”…and Stannis’ whole “hard choosing” comes from.

    The show’s transition from a deconstruction of traditional fantasy to the very thing it attacks is complete.

    • Ser Biffy Clegane says:

      I think Theon’s path in the books is to be The Latecomer, so it’s not crazy to say he can integrate what he’s learned from the Starks and the Greyjoy’s to be a better kind of Ironborn.

      • Jim B says:

        Yeah, I don’t think that “sometimes life presents you with hard choices” is necessarily in conflict with “sometimes you don’t have to choose.”

        For me, the problem comes when a story continually gives the heroes the second type of situation (the false dilemma) but keeps asking us to believe every time that it’s the first type. It lowers the stakes a little that we know that Spider-Man will find a way to save Mary Jane AND the cable car full of schoolkids, or that Batman will find a way to beat the Joker AND not break his “no killing” rule, or that Captain Picard will find a way to save the stranded crew members AND deliver the medicine to the colony on time.

        But once a story has really followed through on sticking characters with the consequences of hard choices, I don’t mind that much if it throws in the occasional situation where a character realizes there is a third option.

    • Murc says:

      I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that one of Theon’s big problems, both in the books and in the show, is that he keeps trying to choose and it keeps not working.

      Because Theon is both and neither at the same time. He can’t be fully ironborn because of his time with the Starks, and he can’t be a Stark because he… well, he isn’t a Stark. Whenever he tries to be one or the other it doesn’t work because it can’t work.

      He has to figure out how to integrate and reconcile them together rather than trying to reject one side or the other. Only then will he be a fit leader and a fit man.

  18. Ser Biffy Clegane says:

    1) I actually felt kind of relieved by this episode. I agree that the writing could be much better, but the show’s strong points have always been the actors and the spectacle, and this delivered both.

    2) Littlefinger’s story is basically Iago’s – he keeps taking these crazy chances, and he just keeps getting away with it, until he doesn’t. That said, Iago’s final scene is one of my favorite things in literature, and Littlefinger’s was just pathetic. I would have liked this much better if they’d touched up a couple things.

    a) I wish that Littlefinger had had a better send off. Maybe an emotional speech about how life has never been fair, anywhere, and how they’ll need him in the war to come, followed by execution. Maybe an Aaron speech from Titus Andronicus, where LF took the moment to say that his only regret was that he couldn’t destroy the Starks even more for what Brandon and Hoster did to a little boy whose crime was to think he could love a lady of a great house.

    b) Sansa passed the sentence; she needs to swing the blade. I know that she’s essentially a Soutnron-ified Stark, but this sequence was about her being a Stark. Have her take the blade from Arya. Hell, let her re-play “fetch me a block.”

    3) Just as a matter of logistics, I don’t see how Cersei and Dany can meet. Dany and her team can’t go anywhere that Cersei could booby-trap with wildfire, and I can’t imagine Cersei permitting a situation where one burst of dragon fire let’s Dany win the war.

    4) That said, the actors did a nice job emoting, and my main feeling was relief – Littlefinger is finally out of the picture; Jaime is finally free from Cersei. (I would have at least as happy if Jaime or Cersei had killed the other one, but at least now I don’t have to see Jaime scowling at Cersei all the time).

    • Jim B says:

      Re 2(a): That would have been the last thing I wanted. I think we all know how LF purports to justify himself; I don’t need a speech from him repeating all of his grievances from high school. Er, wardship. You know what I mean. And I’m not sure even LF has an argument for how he will be useful in the war to come. His skills aren’t much use against wights. As I wrote elsewhere, I would have liked to see LF squirm a little more, but that’s about it. (As you can probably tell, I’m not a fan — that is to say, I think he’s a great character, but I don’t like him or even have much sympathy for him.)

      2(b): I thought about that, too. But I guess I look at it this way: this was a sentence being jointly passed by the three Stark children. Arya, Bran, and Sansa each provide pieces of evidence, and while it’s Sansa who does most of the talking (because that’s her particular skill), Arya takes care of the part she’s best at. And notice the way she does it: slicing him with his own dagger, fatally but leaving him just enough time to understand what’s been done to him. That part was terrific I thought.

      3: Yeah, that was another point where I had to suspend my disbelief a bit. After the Red Wedding and the Sept of Baelor, it’s kind of crazy that Dany is putting her head in the lion’s mouth so to speak. I guess we’re supposed to accept that these talks are so vital that it’s worth the risk, which didn’t really work for me.

      4: I will still always think of GoT as a successful adaptation, in large part because it’s a pretty great cast who do their jobs well, even when the material has been dodgy.

      • Crystal says:

        Re point 4: the cast is almost all great. The acting is a high point of the show. As well as Michele Clapton’s costuming – beautiful, detailed work on her part.

    • Sean C. says:

      2(b) Northern women aren’t trained to fight or conduct executions, Bear Island notwithstanding. Ned’s maxim has some general application to the idea of not being disconnected from the consequences of your actions, but if you take it literally it presumes that the person ordering the execution is an ablebodied man of martial skill.

      Ned left Catelyn in charge while he went to the Greyjoy Rebellion, etc. She clearly wasn’t hacking people’s heads off while he was away.

      • thatrabidpotato says:

        Conducting an execution has nothing to do with being trained to fight. You don’t need long and grueling training. You just need to pick up an axe or a greatsword and give it one good swing. One. Any adult can do it in theory.

        • Ser Biffy Clegane says:

          Tell that to Theon

        • Sean C. says:

          Chopping off somebody’s head in one stroke requires considerable upper-body strength and good aptitude for swinging a blade. In real-life, medieval executioners botched this quite regularly. One of the courtesies (so-called) that Henry VIII extended to Anne Boleyn was bringing in a highly skilled swordsman from France to conduct the execution to make sure he actually killed her in one stroke.

          The broader point is the same, that women in the North aren’t expected or trained to handle weapons. Whatever other problems there are with the show’s handling of Sansa (and there are many), I appreciate them recognizing that she is not the sort of character who needs to kill people with her own hand.

  19. Something my brother pointed out is that even as LF dies he is still speaking, fitting as LF always seems to think he can talk his way out of everything, he wants to be the smartest person. But yeh, the WF storyline was still quite contrived. Again, Stannis being killed off has led to massive long-term problems for the Northern storyline.

    But the last scene was really impressive. But like PoorQuentyn I think the Night King is taking the role of Euron in taking a dragon and taking down the wall.

    And the Aegon Targaryen thing is just really not necessary. It does mean there was an Egg with Aemon but I think another Targ being there was really enough. The important thing is Jon Snow is a Targaryen, not the first name. And Rhaegar already had a son called Aegon. But I suppose if the marriage was annulled, uh that was such a bad piece of writing. I just realized, Dr Agon, Aegon. Now I’m thinking of Dr Agon. Why did it take me so long to realize this? Like Drogo and Drogon the Dragon.

  20. Sensfan90 says:

    What is there to say at this point beyond the inabiltiy of the writer to maintain internal coherence?

    Cutting out entire plots? Easily forgiven for cost and logistical reasons.
    Playing up certain characters? Happens in most shows, people work with who they like.
    Some contrived dialogue and setup? Unfortunate but not in anyway a deal breaker.

    But oh my god was the plot not only non-nonsensical at times it was outright contradictory of its own canon. Repeatedly and in not so subtle ways that completely broke the suspension of disbelief. The writers quite literally forgot the ‘medieval’ part of the ‘medieval’ fantasy genre they were writing in.

  21. Mick says:

    The whole jumping through logical loopholes were worth it to get the dragonpit scene with so many big named characters together. It’s obviously set up and has no real plot consequence, but a TV show can’t have its main characters writing each other letters.

    But I do feel the whole season would have been structured way better by making the Wall fall in episode 3 or 4. So forgive me for dreaming: The army of the dead is besieging Winterfell where Sansa can truly shine while Bran protects the castle and fights telepathically with the Night King. Jon is stranded in the South and needs to get North, so the expedition doesn’t lead beyond the Wall but to Winterfell and Dany can still safe them from a lake. This is still where Viserion gets whightified which can be the last shot of the season.

    Littlefinger’s court schemes don’t really fit in, but then again, he’s probably dead by this point in the book…. 😉 But you can surely do some sort of plot with him and Arya. And the South? Just leave it in a standoff while Cersei and Jaime fight until the latter leaves, leaving this plot at the same point as in the true show (and the books at the moment as well…).

    Because – to get back – even though the big parley scene was nice, it still was quite inconsequential and mostly a re-hash of things we’ve known. The quick scenes like Brienne talking to Jaime just didn’t have the punch they would have had in a one-on-one scene. And the pacing was at the same time too slow and too quick somehow.

    So, it’s a fine TV show, but it only makes me more hungry for the books in the end.

  22. Yet Another Aegon says:

    Instead of a fatally flawed experiment, the show will most likely be remembered as the most ambitious show on television adapted from an exceedingly difficult source material that wasn’t even close to complete some 20+ years after the first novel.

    The logic of the show is insanely stupid sometimes but the TV medium has a lot less room for logic and demands spectacle by design.

    Every time I get pissed off at the writers for what I perceive as an unnecessary change or what everyone percieved as bad writing, I just remember that I probably wouldn’t give a damn if the books were finished and I had some actual canon to lean on.

    But alas, a lot of ASOIAF fans project a lot of anger at show producers for doing what show producers do, and not at the man who sold the rights to his masterpiece before it was even finished.

    Honestly, the probability is higher every day that this is the closest to a resolution we’re gonna get (ADOS by 2020? 2022? 2025? Who knows) and A LOT of us would’ve faded away to other fandoms if not for this mish-mash of unfulfilling adaptations and TV production of the highest quality that kept our minds in Westeros this past 7 years.

    And now his rant is ended…

    • Wild Bill says:

      Yeah…

      And certainly, the showrunners have been short of material to adapt for sometime. But still, the showrunners have been quite abysmal once they were on there own (not withstanding coordination with GRRM in the broader scope).

      I would like to say that the showrunners were dealt a bad deal, and then had to compensate, as best as they could, since their source-material dried up. But still… the quality, and more importantly, the mood, of the series has been so totally absent. As much as anyone might want to criticize for all the talky, character-development bits in the books/tv – that is the point of the whole thing. That these have been missing since the series went past where the books are.

      I’m not really disagreeing, but putting a different cast on things…

    • Murc says:

      The logic of the show is insanely stupid sometimes but the TV medium has a lot less room for logic and demands spectacle by design.

      One, this absolutely isn’t true.

      Two, even if it were true, this is premium cable. It’s supposed to be better than that. It explicitly bills itself as better than that!

      But alas, a lot of ASOIAF fans project a lot of anger at show producers for doing what show producers do, and not at the man who sold the rights to his masterpiece before it was even finished.

      We should be pissed off at Martin for not deciding to leave HBO money on the table?

      George Martin busted his ass as a little-known midlist author and as a TV writer for the better part of a quarter-century, then he spent another decade and a half slowly building up ASOIAF; the novels fandom very slow grew over time, and didn’t really take off until after ASOS came out.

      Speaking as someone who thinks he ought to have a plot synopsis in a drawer somewhere, I don’t think he’s obligated to have his work FINISHED before he options it. That’s how this works; you release part of it, you get paid, you release more.

      A LOT of us would’ve faded away to other fandoms if not for this mish-mash of unfulfilling adaptations and TV production of the highest quality that kept our minds in Westeros this past 7 years.

      Six years.

      And no, this seems unlikely, given that the fandom only GREW in the six-year gap between AFFC and ADWD.

      • Yet Another Aegon says:

        He got paid.
        He hasn’t released anything in the main series but individual chapters.

        What part is absolutely untrue? That the show’s logic is stupid or that TV has less room for logic than books, because I don’t see how either of those assertions is false.

        7 years of production and the reason why the readership increased dramatically right before the TV show was because the AGoT paperback was rereleased with Sean Bean on the cover and the marketing by HBO.

        • Murc says:

          That the show’s logic is stupid or that TV has less room for logic than books, because I don’t see how either of those assertions is false.

          Please to be explaining to me how the TV medium inherently is hostile to logic.

          the reason why the readership increased dramatically right before the TV show

          This was responsible for an upswing immediately before the TV show came out, yes.

          It was not responsible for the increase in readership and interest during the bulk of the six-year gap between 2005 and 2011, nor, the increase in readership during the five-year gap between 2000 and 2005.

    • Hedrigal says:

      I watch enough anime to deal with shows that are working from an unfinished source material, and shows that do it far better than D&D have managed to pull off.

      D&D are a bunch of painfully inept narcissists who look at this whole series as a way to get their favorite actors to emote on screen, with plot tissue to connect that together.

  23. JG says:

    There’s no reason for Cersei to still be around. Her continued existence completely undermines Tyrion’s belief that it is necessary for Dany to have popular support to get the throne. If Cersei can sit comfortably on the throne after all the crap she’s done than why should Dany worry about burning a bunch of people?

    • JG says:

      Also: “Euron’s whole disruptive schtick was jarring and broke the rhythm a lot. I don’t buy he’s going to ferry Cersei’s army (more on that later)”

      Can you elaborate?

  24. Haplo-6 says:

    If the Kingsguard at the ToJ (Sers Whent, Hightower, Dayne) knew of the sack of KL, and of the royal family’s death, why wouldn’t Lyanna have known? And if Lyanna had bought into Rhaegar’s theories on prophecy, then Aegon was the right choice for a boy.

    It would make Jon = Aegon VII to challenge fAegon VI. Also, I believe the folks on the Quiet Isle are waiting to find Rhaegar’s 7th red ruby from his death on the Trident.

  25. […] Season 7’s over, my essay about LF’s schemes is up, and Sam I is around 11,000 words long (contender for […]

  26. Ioseff says:

    “And for some ungodly reason, Tyrion watches”

    The series and the audience in a nutshell.

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