By Aubrey Byron, News Editor
Warning: This article contains spoilers. Do not read further unless you have seen all of the latest “Game of Thrones” episodes.
The “Game of Thrones” series ended its penultimate season Sunday night, breaking its own viewership record with over 16.5 million views. The critically acclaimed show is known for its epic fantasy world, featuring dragons, dire wolves, and undead ice zombies. However, it is the character driven political drama and its willingness to mercilessly off fan favorites which set it apart from other beloved cult series.
Yet this season seems to have sacrificed the complexities and subtle character plays that once defined it, in favor of shock value and CGI stunts. Do not get me wrong, I love some dragon wreckage, but I also love “the game” that this season forgot.
The Guardian harshly hailed it “A dumbed down, shark-jumping mess.” I’m not sure I would go that far. Unlike many of my companions on the world wide web, I did not feel the need to complain about the record fast speed and lapse of geographical possibility that plagued so many viewers this season, as the writers rushed characters back and forth across continents for the sake of convenience. I was willing to suspend some believability and submit to the idea that boring, unnecessary moves could conceivably take place off screen for the good of the story. It was the character sacrifices that were hard to stomach.
After six seasons of roaming apart, the remaining Stark siblings finally have a long awaited reunion in Winterfell. Bran is now a powerful all knowing, god like creature; Arya, a trained face-shifting assassin; and Sansa, an emerging political upstart, running the kingdom in her half brother (cousin, actually) Jon’s absence. Each character has been through suffering and strife during their years on their own only to come together now and – bicker?
The shallow sisterly drama unfolds as Jon fights to literally save all of humanity from The Night King’s army just a few hundred miles to the north. Meanwhile, their all-seeing brother sits a few rooms away. Unfortunately (and conveniently) no one thought to consult him. In their defense, he is acting pretty strange these days.
The conflict came to a head in the finale as the lords of The North and The Vale gathered for a trial of not Arya, but Littlefinger, the puppet master himself who has not only been fanning the flames of not just the sisterly rivalry, but has also caused nearly every conflict on the show to date. “Chaos is a ladder,” he has explained in past seasons. A line which came to haunt him when uttered by omniscient Bran.
The moment when Sansa turns from her sister to accuse him is a satisfying one. The shock is meant to be reminiscent of the startling plays in the show’s past, such as ‘The Red Wedding.’ However the means to the end doesn’t match up the same as great upsets of the show’s past.
‘The Red Wedding’ was often foreshadowed by the constant reminder not to trust the main players, Frey and Bolton, and by their own ambitions. The latter’s banners literally feature flayed Starks hung on a cross.
The Stark children, in contrast, grew up with long lectures from their father on the importance of family. Even their mother’s sigil words are, “Family. Duty. Honor.” So were they faking the threats to each other in an empty room?
The sad truth may be that writers David Benioff and Dan B. Weiss are better suited at adapting screenplays than originating them. A thought possibly evidenced in the controversy over their new show pitch, “The Confederate.” They have been astray now for two seasons, without the blueprint of George R.R. Martin’s books to guide them, and characters, particularly female character story lines, have suffered.
The penultimate season’s conclusion did feature a lot to celebrate. We finally saw dragons (and the Dothraki) in action! The White Walkers have finally made it past the wall! Jaime finally left Cersei! Jon and Dany have warmed up to each other, a union, despite recent revelations most fans “ship”. Best of all, we finally know the complete truth about Jon Snow’s – or rather, Aegon Targaryen’s, parentage and birth rights!
While the recent writing styles and story lapses of Dave and Dan, and their newfound reluctance to kill off anyone of import, leaves cause for concern, I am looking more forward to the series conclusion than ever. Let the battle for humanity begin! And maybe the conversation with Jon about who he really is.