From relatively humble beginnings, Game of Thrones became such a phenomenon that nobody (in the English-speaking world at least) can stop talking about it and share their favorite characters, theories and opinions. While watching the first three episodes of the latest season, I had a couple of small reactions that I didn’t have a chance to share on Twitter, so in the end I decided to skip their annoying character limit and write about it on the blog.
Disclaimer: I haven’t read the books and at this point I don’t see any reason why I should waste my time with the series, especially since the official end is nowhere in sight.
Episode 1, The Red Woman:
Everybody is cheering for the Sand Snakes. What did they do exactly? Stabbed two people in the back and killed a helpless man in a wheelchair to take power. Wow, good job! Should I seriously admire backstabbing and cowardice because it’s coming from female characters supposedly standing up against male oppression? Possibly the most pointless scene of the whole season, considering there is no follow-up until last episode.
Episode 2, Home:
Jon Snow is back from the dead and all is right in the world. And, as the next episode shows, he still knows nothing.
Episode 3, Oathbreaker:
Most boring episode so far this season. An interesting detail in Bran’s vision though: it looks like he could actually influence the past through his power. If the final season is all about Bran going back to rewrite the history of Westeros, I suspect Game of Thrones will become a disappointment of Lost proportions.
Episode 4, Book of the Stranger:
The action heats up again – literally for Daenerys and her Dothraki captors. I have to wonder (again): I understand that Dany is somehow immune to fire, but how does that translate to her hair as well? Hair is dead matter just like clothes and those somehow manage to burn away every single time.
Episode 5, The Door:
Sansa wipes the floor with Littlefinger, exploiting his only weakness, the love for her mother – and for Sansa by extension. Arya’s first assignment as shadow killer puts her face to face with a parody of Westeros including the role of Cersei, one of the names on her famous ‘to-kill’-list. Curiously Arya seems to empathize with her would-be victim, the actress playing Cersei. To me, it looks like Arya is starting to understand that the world is not so black-and-white as she imagined and that her enemies have suffered irreparable losses during the war too – and the next episode confirms it. Also, more vision-time-travelling shenanigans.
Episode 6, Blood of My Blood:
In an unexpected twist, Queen Margaery and her puppet-husband are embracing the Faith, thus avoiding Cersei’s walk of shame. Unlike most viewers, I suspect this has little to do with regaining political power and everything to do with freeing her brother Loras from the dungeons – tying into their scene in the previous episode where he is on the verge of collapse, and with the current title, “Blood of my blood”. It remains to be seen if her gambit will work…
Episode 7, The Broken Man:
Hard to say what was more painful to watch: Sansa’s hopeless efforts to assemble support for the Stark cause in the North, or this episode. The show stumbles head-first into cliché territory, as the warrior-princess of the Iron Islands reveals herself a lesbian who enjoys brothels as much as her seamen crew. The prize for stupidest turn of events this season: after fleeing the local league of assassins, Arya strolls leisurely through town as if she has no care in the world – and promptly gets stabbed violently by the Waif.
Episode 8, No One:
A bit more interesting, but not by much. You can get an underlying sense of danger and foreboding as the final episodes and more epic battles approach. Otherwise Arya’s storyline continues to stretch plausibility, as she escapes her stab wounds and recovers enough from an amateur’s stitching to be able to draw the Waif into a carefully set trap and defeat her. Tyrion continues to be irrelevant in Meereen while trying to be witty. A small pleasant surprise: Jaime proves you don’t need bloodshed to take down castles, but rather the right leverage.
Episode 9, Battle of the Bastards:
The traditional epic battle in the penultimate episode was quite impressive visually. I also got the impression the show-runners wanted to emphasize the bloodshed and gore, to bring realism to war, something people like to paint in false images of glory and honor. The last giant falling inside the walls of Westeros made for a much more touching moment – for me at least – than the other giant man dying at the end of episode 5. Speaking of which, if Hodor was killed by the white walker army, doesn’t that mean he could get resurrected as a zombie? That would be a hell of a comeback for the final season.
Episode 10, The Winds of Winter:
By far the best one yet, from the muted start to the many twists and fast action. If you don’t want to spend the time going through the whole season, I would say watching the final episode more than makes up for the rest. The ‘woman-power’ theme set up in the beginning comes back in full force with women taking charge across Westeros, by virtue of most men being out of the picture. It remains to be seen if women can act wiser than the men they buried – but with Cersei on the Iron Throne and Dany leading a huge navy, Dothraki horde and trio of dragons against her, things don’t look very promising. I was a little vexed by the rapid travelling across the globe: Arya starts enacting her vengeance in a scene very reminiscent of her mother’s murder at the Red Wedding – but also of Cersei torturing her former guard from the Faith: “my face will be the last thing you see before you die”. And Varys does a round-trip to Westeros and back to secure support from the angry houses in the south and still manages to stand by Dany as she sails towards Westeros – although as people pointed out, some of the ships have Dornish and Tyrell banners, so he may have sailed along with them and joined with Dany’s fleet at sea. We have confirmation of a long-standing theory about Jon’s mother – but still no definitive word on his father; after all, Jon doesn’t share any of the Targaryen hallmark physical traits like silver-white hair or violet eyes.
As a quick conclusion, I for one I’m glad the producers decided to limit the number of remaining episodes. I think the show needs some restraint and focus – as it stands this latest season could have been trimmed down to 6 or 7 episodes and still deliver mostly the same story. I won’t be holding my breath for the final season(s) but I’ll watch them as they come along just to see how it all ends.