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.
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
Before I began watching Lost in 2004, I, as a viewer and certainly as a screenwriter, had always considered flashbacks to be a crutch meant to prop up weak narratives in almost all cases. Much like voiceover, if you’re going to use flashbacks in your script and pull it off, you have to do so masterfully and in a way that is innovative and integral to the narrative, the way that Stanley Kubrick used voiceover in A Clockwork Orange or Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi did in Goodfellas. The voiceover in those films wasn’t used to explain things or fill in holes in the narrative, but rather guided the narrative and fleshed out the characters, adding color to an already rich and detailed on-screen painting. In short, those two films exemplify how to utilize voiceover as a tool rather than a crutch, an integral part of a narrative, much more akin to the way first person narration is used in literature than the lazy, newsreel style of expository narration employed by weaker features. Continue reading
At the beginning of this episode when Jon and Edd were interrupted by the sound of the Watchman’s cry to “open the gates,” it occurred to me Sansa and her escort could be on the other side, but when the very next edit brought us to the image of the gate opening to reveal exactly that, I was actually shocked out of sheer disbelief that this long awaited and longed-for event could actually be happening. Just so, from the time Sansa, Brienne, and Pod were safely within the walls of Castle Black until the time Sansa and Jon saw each other and embraced, I feared that either one or both of them would be suddenly pierced by an arrow or cut down before the reunion could occur. Once it appeared that they would both at least survive that moment in the courtyard I felt a sense of relief I’m unaccustomed to feeling during an initial viewing of a new Game of Thrones episode. Continue reading
I began the previous post by stating that “Home” was one the strongest early-season episodes Game of Thrones has aired and now I have to begin this post by stating that “Oathbreaker” was an even stronger episode in what is already shaping up to be perhaps the most impressive season of the series to date. Every segment of the story featured in this episode had some major moments here to say the least. Continue reading
In the time between this writing and the airing of the Game of Thrones finale, I’ve had ample opportunity to argue with several people, and repeatedly so, about the conclusion of “Mother’s Mercy” and what it might possibly entail for the characters. Now, I love a good argument about narrative and there are few things in life I enjoy more than discussing Thrones, but unfortunately, all these arguments have almost completely distracted from what was not only a brilliantly executed and exquisitely played final sequence, but also a very strong episode featuring some of the best work of the series so far, albeit along side some more problematic material. Regardless, I left this finale with more to chew on as a viewer and consumer of the series than with almost any other episode. Every sequence held significance either for character, plot, Game of Thrones as a series in the grand scheme of television and the larger culture, or in a few cases, potentially all three. Continue reading
There is a question at the heart of not only this episode of Game of Thrones in particular and the series in general, but at the heart of many aspects of human culture and society themselves, which is, what is the value of a human life? When I say “value,” I don’t exactly mean it in an abstract, esoteric, or philosophical way in terms of potential or theoretical value. I mean it here more in the the practical, tangible, or material sense; what is a human life worth? Furthermore, are some lives worth more than others? Part of what is so fascinating and heart-wrenching about A Song of Ice and Fire is that in this narrative universe and in the logic thereof, the functional answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” Continue reading