Friday, 1 September 2017

GAME OF THRONES - Season 7 review


Catch up on Layla's reviews of each episode of season 7 here.


The most anticipated show of the year has now ended, leaving us with a painful wait for the final season. The series grabbed people's attention for subverting the familiar good-verses-evil tropes of traditional fantasy, allowing us to view a more brutal and unpredictable landscape that is wide reaching and consequential. However, in a rush to tell this story, and without the crutch of the books, season 7 has forgone its surprising aspects for a more tried and tested type of storytelling.

One of the biggest gripes for the series, and one that it obvious from episode one, is the lack of travel time. The trepidation for characters moving between certain parts of Westeros and the wider world provided rich landscapes for disaster and character building to happen. In previous seasons we watch Arya move disguised as a boy north, Catelyn traverse her prisoner Tyrion to the Eyrie, and Brienne transport a decrepit Jaime to King's Landing, all of which lasting several episodes, and all fraught with danger. The possibility of dying before you even get to your destination, through ambush or disease or otherwise, created a sense of place on the vast continent and really made you feel its full 4,443 miles.

This season leaves us with plot holes due to these jumps in time, which itself results in dissatisfaction from the audience. Are we meant to believe that the Lannister army can march to Highgarden and then back to King's Landing within two weeks? And that ravens fly at supersonic speed? I understand that all this is purely to cram as much plot in to the seven episodes they can, but I couldn't help but feel a separation from the spectacle every time this happened.

The common folk also seemed to be missing from the series, and when they did turn up, they acted uncharacteristically. One of the maxim's associated with the Iron Throne is that a "king should never sit easy". This isn't just because of disloyal lords but also angry subjects. Season two sees riots happen in Flea Bottom because the Tyrell's had cut off the food supply to King's Landing, and then there's the infamous "shame!" scene, but in this season the commoners all seem up for a queen who's more than willing to blow everything up, as they are seen cheering Euron and his captive's. Hot Pie is even pretty matter of fact about Cersei's crimes. In the last episode we see Daenery's fly her dragons over King's Landing, and all I could think of was, what was Flea Bottom was thinking? This must seem like the end of the world for them, and just after a scene with Jorah explaining the dangers of dragons to live stock and people.

The exposition bombs were blatant and exploding everywhere this season, especially now as the personality-devoid Bran is the Three Eyed Raven. Sam's scene's in the Citadel (a place I would have loved to have known more about) were awfully convenient, as he seemed to come across vital information almost by accident. Deus ex machina's were in full force too, with Uncle Benjen and Daenerys acting as rather useful pieces of plot development. While seemingly necessary, the predictability of these events diminished the shocking-and-unexpected death trope this series had made for itself.

We all knew that the meeting between Jon and Daenerys was going to happen, as it has been foreshadowed in the books and TV series, and it seemed obvious that, yes, as icky as it is, they would fall in love. But really? Is it that hard to maybe have these guys flirt maybe a little bit more proactively instead of pensive gazing? Maybe they stand a little bit too close together, maybe they accidentally brush past one another, maybe they have a conversation about anything other than bending the knee. Their flirtation seemed to be told more in hearsay, with both Davos and Tyrion referring to Jon's longing gazes. It was only by episode seven that we got any kind of chemistry, and by that point they were in bed together.

While Jon's parentage was the big reveal of last season, the reveal that Rhaegar had his previous marriage annulled and that Jon isn't a bastard, and is in fact the true heir to the Iron Throne, felt a little underwhelming. I'm really curious however to see how quickly Daenerys will disregard Jon when she finds out he has more right to the throne than her. Will that be part of her wheel breaking? And seen as Bran is so selective about what he says now, the fact he says "Robert's Rebellion was built on a lie" must come into play next season. Who knew the lie? Who came up with it? Why?

By far one of the most contentious parts for me was Sansa and Arya's relationship through out the season, and that's mainly because I was looking forward to them working together and utilising each others strengths. I didn't for once believe that Sansa thought that Arya would kill her, and Arya seemed to be acting as weird and standoffish as Bran. I appreciate Littlefinger's attempts at scheming against the two sisters, but his execution should of been grander. He was the main architect behind this entire game of thrones, his finger prints are everywhere, and I would of liked to see a little bit of his true colours as opposed to another declaration of love to Sansa.

Despite this series faults (I don't think I have enough space here to talk about the stunted dialogue and silly premise of getting a wight to King's Landing), Game of Thrones is still the most exciting show on the box. At a reported $10 million an episode, the budget put aside for CGI was well spent. The mixture between practical effects and computer effects looked great together, as I really don't think the fire coming from Drogon, Beric's sword, or the soldiers on the Rose Road would have looked as impressive and devastating rendered on a PC. The costumes were also stunning, although showing restraint from earlier seasons. It seems when winter comes, everyone dresses in black.

Lena Heady was by far the standout actor out of everybody. She is less a queen gone crazy but more a woman whose family is disintegrating around her, and has hardened up to such a state that she can call her own son's suicide a betrayal. A lot of characters personalities seemed to have staled in this series, but Cersei continued to wind slowly into a vortex of paranoia. And speaking of characters, finally seeing all the Stark siblings together was great, if slightly sad, as a family of eight has been reduced to three (if Jon decides to abandon them, which I highly doubt).

With the Citadel being a big focus in the earlier episodes, I was super excited to see what kind of art Westeros has, hoping they may have their own version of Illuminated manuscripts. The books Sam steals are filled with some drawings, but none so elaborate as some of histories earliest illuminations. I think maybe Westeros' main artistic output is through clothing and armour design, plus Daenerys' hair. The cave paintings left me tingling, as this is proof of recorded deep history in Westeros, but that scene was a little naff, and those drawings of the strangely detailed White Walkers seemed too out of place compared to the swirls and circles.

For me, the best episode was The Spoils of War, and it was so chilling due to its conflicting morals. The Lannister's just ended a great house and looted it, and Daenerys is flagrantly disregarding the advice of her council. The build up, with the sound of the Dothraki and the roar of Drogon, was spine tingling. The sight of terrified soldiers aflame, and then their ashes blowing away in the wind, left little doubt as to Daenerys distinct lack of empathy, which may not bode well with Jon in the future (although he doesn't seem to mind it so far).

Although season seven doesn't achieve the heights of the first few seasons, and the dialogue and exposition is pretty heavy handed, I am way too deep into this story as to not care. Each plot twist in this season seemed veered into slightly ridiculous territory, and then each subsequent consequence was fairly predictable in a way Game of Thrones has traditionally refused to be. I am excited to see how this story ends, more than excited, but I cannot deny that season seven betrays the shows confidence, showing that maybe without the hand-holding of George R.R. Martin's books, the series will suffer without his subtly and ruthlessness.



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