Despite all its charm, grandeur, glut of legitimately great filmmaking and stirring moments, “Beyond the Wall” remains for me one of, if not the most frustrating episode of Game of Thrones to this point due to its relative abundance of logic holes and writing shortcuts. To be clear, I don’t think the flaws I’ll discuss below are enough to completely sink the episode, even in the the aggregate. Nor do they take much away from the experience of the viewing the handful of unforgettable moments the episode contains. However, based on the standard that the series has set for itself, I can’t ignore the amount of compromises made.
An area of particular interest to me when it comes to contemplating and debating A Song of Ice and Fire from a political perspective is the idea of legitimacy, specifically in terms of from where and whom legitimacy is conferred onto leaders/rulers given that democracy isn’t exactly a realistic prospect in this narrative universe. As the field of contenders for control of Westeros has shortened over the course of the series, questions around legitimacy have come into sharp relief this season, especially now that Dany and her army have finally descended on the continent.
As short as seven episodes may be for a season of American television, an episode this eventful and consequential arriving at the relative midpoint of a season is reminiscent of the great primetime soap operas of network television pulling out all the stops for sweeps and ending on a massive cliffhanger before a hiatus. However unlikely it is they would kill off such a crucial character as Jaime in such a fashion, the drama of the moment was undeniable, especially following as spectacular a battle sequence as it did. As strong as the first three installments were, there isn’t much doubt in my mind that “The Spoils of War” was the strongest episode of the season to this point by any metric. Continue reading
Of the myriad ruminating and analytical exercises I enjoy while engaging with Game of Thrones, one of my favorites is to consider the events of the series through the lens of modern political theory and dynamics, especially when it comes to the legitimacy of the leaders, a subject I’ve mentioned more than a few times in this space. I find the concept of legitimacy especially interesting where it concerns monarchy. While it is fairly clear what Dany’s personal motivations are for her quest for the Iron Throne, she’s never made an effective or legitimate case for her claim, and I do not believe it’s a coincidence. I think the reason she doesn’t have one is that she hasn’t developed a positive case to make for herself apart from her own personal drive and desire. Continue reading
Now, we’re cooking with gas. Or dragon fire. Or wildfire. Take your pick. Game of Thrones has long established a tendency to feature robust, standout episodes for the second slot of the season, and “Stormborn” continues that trend. This episode had no major flaws and just about every beat moved the narrative forward, in some cases monumentally so. The momentum, rhythm, and pace of the episode was consistent while still finding the time and restraint necessary to let crucial moments land.
As far as table-setting season premieres go, Game of Thrones season 7 lead off installment is pretty much as good as they come. Although I wouldn’t put “Dragonstone” in the pantheon of individual episodes, it did set up the board for the ensuing season, as Game of Thrones season premieres always have. It wasn’t the most riveting or challenging episode they’ve ever done, it certainly had its moments and that moved the narrative forward significantly, even though the most unexpected moment was a bizarrely orchestrated cameo by a pop star. Continue reading
Going into the season 6 finale, I assumed that any episode following the exhilaration and brilliance of “Battle of the Bastards” would suffer from at least some measure of anticlimax, regardless of the quality of the episode itself. I am happy to report that I was sorely mistaken in my assumption. I was mistaken to the extent that I must concede that while “The Winds of Winter” was as dissimilar from “Battle of the Bastards” as two episodes could be in such a stylistically consistent series as Game of Thrones, it was absolutely on par with that installment in every respect save for action, which it obviously need not be because that wasn’t the focus of this episode, that being central to the aforementioned difference. Indeed, several aspects of this episode were stylistically unique for the series, not just in relation to the previous installment.
The quality of Game of Thrones in terms of narrative and production value has been so consistently high from the very beginnings of the series that it becomes easy to lose perspective on just how much the show has grown and continually raises the bar for the key elements of the show. The scale of Game of Thrones production is enormous and unprecedented, with a considerable amount of resources at the team’s disposal. What one does with those resources from a creative standpoint, though, is what really determines the quality of programming such as this, and Game of Thrones has reached a new pinnacle in several respects with “Battle of the Bastards.” Continue reading
While I harbor no sympathy for assertions of quality for one work over another across media (i.e. “the book was better…“) and have zero tolerance for people who complain that an adaptation isn’t sufficiently representative of their personal experience with or perception of the source material (“wah wah wah, they cut this, they changed that“), I will freely admit that as someone who has read and loved the Ice and Fire book series, there is something extremely disconcerting about watching what was once an exceedingly faithful adaptation begin to diverge from the source text to such an extent that it fundamentally changes the experience of viewing the series. I don’t mean this as a total negative; it is exhilarating as well as disconcerting to know that in any given sequence one of my favorite characters I haven’t prepared myself to say goodbye to because they’re alive in the books might be killed off. This must be what the non-readers feel when watching Game of Thrones. Continue reading
Whenever there’s a wedding on Game of Thrones you know something terrible is going to happen, and the wedding of Sansa and Ramsay was certainly no exception. While I agreed with some of the criticism of last season’s scene featuring the rape of Cersei by Jaime, my criticism stemmed from the fact that it was a mostly unmotivated event that had no repercussions for the characters involved or their relationship. I completely agree with the sentiment that rape and sexual violence as a mere plot device is irresponsible, but I wholeheartedly disagree with the notion that any depiction of rape is inappropriate for the screen. To me, this line of thinking is akin to the argument that high school students shouldn’t read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because Mark Twain uses the word “nigger” in the text. Senator McCaskill is free to stop watching Game of Thrones, as is anyone else, but Game of Thrones is under no obligation to avoid depictions of certain behaviors and actions because they might possibly offend the sensibilities of certain audience members. Continue reading