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
It was almost jarring to see them end a season on something other than a big “creature reveal.” That’s not a complaint-and not that there’s anything wrong with big creature reveals, because of course there isn’t. But I really like when seasons (or series, for that matter) end with a central character boarding a vessel or entering a vehicle and going somewhere. It’s a beautiful if obvious metaphor for consuming a serial narrative and also for characters during a “hiatus.” This ending reminded me of the ends of Freaks and Geeks and Six Feet Under, which left me with an unsettling feeling given that those two were series finales. I’m certainly glad I’m aware that Game of Thrones has already been renewed for at least two more seasons. Continue reading