Winter is coming faster than expected in “Thrones”

By Rachel Popa, Managing Editor

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Daenerys Targaryen with her dragon, Drogon in “Game of Thrones” season seven, episode five, “Blood of the Dragon.” Courtesy of HBO

If you are not caught up on the latest season of “Game of Thrones,” be warned – this review is dark and full of spoilers. Additionally, since the newest season has been out for a couple weeks, I wanted to respond to and explore some of the criticism of the latest season.

Over the course of the past seven seasons of the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones,” we’ve been told that “winter is coming;” and up until the past two seasons, it seemed to be taking its time. With season seven however, winter seems have been rushed in accordance with producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ desire to get the show done on time and on budget. With season seven only having seven episodes instead of 10 like every other season up to this point, there now doesn’t seem to be enough time for the writers of “Game of Thrones” to fully explore characters and different plot lines.

“Game of Thrones” is known for its complex plot lines and expansive character arcs, as well as the fact that Westeros, the setting for the show, is a harsh and brutal place where nobody is safe. However, now that the show has completed its penultimate season, much of what made “Game of Thrones” what it is has been pushed to the wayside. Travel between various locations in Westeros used to happen over the course of several episodes, and that time spent traveling would be filled with dialogue and character development. Now, in season seven, the characters seem to teleport from place to place between scenes, and now hardly talk to each other.

Additionally, in the past, when our favorite characters (namely Jon, Daenerys, Tyrion and Jaime, among others) put themselves in danger, there was the very real, heart-wrenching and ever-present possibility that they could die; “Game of Thrones” fans have learned to not get too fond of characters as a result. In season seven however, it seems like everybody except the main characters that have survived this long are in danger of dying, whereas the main characters seem to be wearing “plot armor” that protects them from any real danger.

As a die hard fan of “Game of Thrones,” (trust me on this, I’ve petted the dogs that portrayed Summer and Grey Wind on the show, as well as visited the Winterfell filming locations), I sympathize a lot with other fans when they express their disappointment over the fact that “Game of Thrones” seems to be a shell of what it used to be. I was worried when it was announced that season seven would have three fewer episodes than usual, and I was hoping that what the show lacked in time, it would make up for in substance. While season seven had the longest episode in the show’s history, the writers took narrative shortcuts which really removed a lot of the substance from the show.

A lof of major things happened in season seven that the show has been building up to since the beginning. Daenerys finally went home to Westeros; Arya, Bran and Sansa were reunited for the first time since being separated in the first season; and the Night King and the army of the dead brought down the Wall and invaded Westeros, bringing on the beginning of the end. However, it felt like much of the focus of the show was on these couple significant events, and not on their effect on the characters. I can forgive travel happening quickly if that screen time saved goes toward showing some change in the characters. The difference in season seven, however, is that time seems to have very little effect on the characters anymore, or at least it’s not shown to.

For example, Daenerys and Jon, two of the most important characters on the show, finally met this season. It’s implied that Jon has been at Dragonstone (Daenerys’ base of operations) for weeks over the course of the season. However, fans only got a handful of scenes where Daenerys and Jon speak to each other, and when they do, they only talk about the impending threat of the White Walkers, Daenerys’ desire for Jon to swear allegiance to her, Daenerys’ curiosity about Jon’s apparent resurrection and the fact that Daenerys can’t have children. While all of those conversations are important in their own right, I would have liked to have seen Jon and Daenerys talk about their pasts more, considering that they have changed more over the course of show than many of the other characters. Daenerys sees Jon’s stab wound scars from when he was betrayed by the Night’s Watch, but they never talk about what happened. In fact, not much has been said at all about Jon coming back from the dead, which seems like an important plot point to discuss.

Along with the fact that characters teleport around Westeros to save time, I was willing to forgive that none of the main characters seemed to be in any real danger this season. While it’s true that much of the thrill the audience gets when an important character is killed off is gone, it’s also true that much of the character deaths occurred in the first couple seasons of the show, leaving us with the living cast of characters we have now. Since the show is going to end after season eight, it wouldn’t make narrative sense for characters like Daenerys, Tyrion, Jon and Jaime to die randomly. So yes, they have plot armor because not much plot is left. We need those developed characters to last until the another season – otherwise the show’s end would be anticlimactic.   

Aside from some of the major critiques I’ve covered, there is also a lot to enjoy in season seven, namely seeing Daenerys lead her army of Dothraki into battle atop her dragon, which is now as big as a Boeing 747. The special effects, music and stunts are more stunning than what you would see in many Hollywood movies, which makes every episode a treat to watch based on just looks alone.

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