Game of Thrones, S07E07:
“The Dragon and the Wolf”

Game of Thrones, S07E07:
“The Dragon and the Wolf”

Accepting That Game of Thrones Is Not the Show It Once Was Doesn’t Make Such a Scattershot Season Any Less Disappointing

 

Out of respect for the fact that this episode brings basically everyone that matters together in the one place, we’re ditching the sectional review system again for this final week. Who knows, it might be more applicable in the final season, but for now everyone’s so close together that it doesn’t seem worth the usual segmenting.

 

Also, if you’re reading this and get upset at the spoilers within, then I can see you’re a character who has outgrown their use and become such a cauldron of illogical actions and pervy inclination as to require a swiftly slit throat. [Sigh] Whatever.

 

 

Capping off a wildly inconsistent season, “The Dragon and the Wolf” defines what Game of Thrones has now become and shall remain until the bitter end: a blockbuster romance, full of bluster and occasional swordplay but, sadly, lacking its signature unpredictability and gripping characterisation.

Rating: 7/11

Season Rating: 7/11

 

(HBO)

Everyone, at last, has made it to King’s Landing. And – though I can see how the result might’ve been much like the forced buddying up of last episode – it’s hard to deny how great it is to see so many iconic characters finally sharing the screen. What’s more, this is less an instance of “What if…?” pairings than people we’ve long known to have history coming together once more, under some mighty strained circumstances no less.

The conversations that follow lean into the show’s fairly traditional rhythm, but in a welcome sort of way. Bronn and Jaime, gazing out at a field of Unsullied, discuss the potential motivations of the cockless; elsewhere, Tyrion explains to Jon the advantages of living in King’s Landing if you are indeed possessive of a functioning cock. Cersei instructs The Mountain on the order in which he should murder the opposition, should it come to it; later, she makes it clear that her only solace in this world is her unborn child. These are easy dichotomies to set up (have/have not, death/birth), but at their best the writers manage to find eloquent ways of having the characters mull it all over.

Meanwhile, in another bit of fanservice that’s much less grating than last week, everyone present gets a line or two before the curtain is drawn. Every character, right down to Missandei and Pod, is granted at least a single moment to reaffirm their position and significance in the lead up to what will be The Great War. All of these exchanges are good in their own way, though some are certainly more successful than others. I mean, Brienne and The Hound need only share a loaded glance for us to be reminded of the bloody battle that followed their last encounter. Meanwhile, the way The Hound perks up when he hears that Arya is still alive stirs the stiffened cockles of my heart, and him and Brienne beaming like proud parents over her newfound competence is nothing short of inspired.

And yes, by God, there is an inherent thrill to having so many of the central characters since the show’s beginning saunter vulnerably into the same place. Cersei, Jaime, Dany, Jon, Tyrion, The Hound and The Mountain, Brienne, Theon and Euron all being present – not to mention the silent Jorah, Varys and Davos – can’t help but lend tension and a crackling energy to everything. There are so many factors in every one of these people’s relationships to consider, now finally intersecting after seven years of separation. Unsurprisingly, it represents the strongest part of the episode.

(HBO)

Whether it’s The Hound confronting his mutated brother, Cersei’s dry as fuck first words to the Khaleesi (“We’ve been here for sometime…”) or Euron taunting his nephew, there’s a sense that just about anything could happen at this point. With so many people present who vye for the throne, who wish to enact the deaths of the others, there’s a genuine threat of danger here that has been sorely lacking in the rest of this season. And, for all of it’s fuckpunnet stupidity, the plan of bringing a wight to the capital does actually pay dividends. Because honestly, what more could convince the calculatingly cynical Cersei of a zombie threat than being exposed to the real thing? And – regardless of your feelings towards her – there’s something refreshing about watching the icy Queen of Westeros lose her shit when an undead beast comes charging at her.

Still, in a move that shouldn’t really shock us at this point, Cersei refuses to honour the truce unless Jon swears not to march on King’s Landing when the White Walkers are dealt with. Jon being Jon, this is a pledge he cannot make, so of course it’s up to Tyrion to persuade his bloodthirsty sister to yield anyway. This leads to one of the best scenes of this season – and what rightly deserves to be considered amongst the show’s best – as Tyrion and Cersei square off in her chambers. They wring out all of the unspoken animosity between the two of them, and watching Dinklage and Headey at each other’s throats, scarcely able to contain themselves, is really quite a treat.

That said, there’s one moment in their talk that rings slightly false, that is until the show ingeniously mirrors it near the episode’s end. Tyrion, struck to the core by Cersei’s resentment, offers himself bare to her executioner The Mountain and goads her into having him killed. They stare each other down for a few heated seconds, before she relents and Tyrion lets out a staggering breath of relief. Of course, no one in their right mind really thinks that this is going to be the end of Westeros’ dwarven saviour, but when the scene is replayed with Jaime half an hour later there’s a real uncertainty to it. Cersei, enraged by her brother/lover’s (brover?) insistence on working with her enemies, seems just unhinged enough to really have Jaime cut in half and, in that moment, I stopped breathing. Just for a moment.

(HBO)

After we move on from King’s Landing, however, everything quickly starts to fall apart. As far as the business at Winterfell goes, I can’t even begin to express my utter eye-rolling indifference to this storyline. Last week, I said that the only thing that could possibly make the abrupt rift between Arya and Sansa even more stupid is if it turns out they’ve been plotting against Littlefinger the whole time. But of course, because the show had painted itself into a corner with this thread, it needed to wriggle its way out somehow and that just seemed the best way to do it. And on paper, I can see why the writers would make this decision: we get to finally see the Stark siblings brought together against a common enemy, who dies in a puddle of his own blood at their feet. Too bad that, uhh, it doesn’t make any fucking sense!!! 

Seriously, there are just too, too, toooo many questions left unanswered by this resolution, too many glaring plot holes that we’re expected to overlook in the interest of going along just for the sake of it. Because – and I’m genuinely asking this question – what are we supposed to believe happened here? Did Sansa only just realise how much of a snake Littlefinger is after their talk about Ayra’s motivations? Or have she and Arya really been plotting this whole time and every scene over the last two episodes has been bullshit? Wait, has Bran been in on it the whole time as well, and the show’s just been getting off on being withholding? Why send Brienne away? As a misdirect? Isn’t this supposed to be fun, goddammit?!

Here’s my next problem (and Christ, do I have a lot of them): does anyone remember when, for all of his deviousness, Littlefinger was actually an intriguing character? He was competent and wily, able to survive purely by his wits and strategic manoeuvring when others needed brute force and dragons to do the same. So where’s the satisfaction here in killing this version of Littlefinger, a man at such a reduced state of being that it was frustrating obvious every step of the way what he was planing? Because this was supposed to be the most intelligent tactician in Westeros, and he basically spent this season salivating over Sansa and not fleeing the second Bran quoted his own words back at him and Arya demonstrated an aptitude for fighting. Really? Really?! This is the guy I’m supposed to be whooping and hollering over the show finally killing off? The guy who set the entire plot of Game of Thrones into motion by poisoning Jon Arryn, brought down by a shitty doublecross that (at fuckin’ best) strains credulity? Nope.

(HBO)

Finally, pretending that all of this made sense (which it didn’t) and that it was enjoyable to watch (which, holy fuck, kill me), was it strictly necessary? At the end of the day, even if you found the twists and turns of the Winterfell plot clever and captivating, it’s hard to make an argument for it as essential to the show. If the theory is that the Stark sibling really were in on this the whole time, what exactly was the problem with calling a council meeting a couple of weeks back and having Littlefinger killed then? Were they concerned at having a lack of evidence? ‘Cause, apart from the scroll Arya found, what evidence did they have this time around? The word of a creepy kid who keeps saying he’s a psychic bird? Are none of the Northern bannermen or councillors disconcerted at watching a man’s throat be slit based on literally nothing that can be proven with any physical exhibits?

Look, at the end of the day, the people who watch Game of Thrones (at least a good majority of them) want what they want, and the people who make this show are super aware of that. Littlefinger has been a thorn in the side of the viewership for a while now and we also haven’t had a truly significant death in a long time; faced with that, the solution seems obvious. Likewise, there’s been a vacuum of romantic interest on the show since the death of Ygritte and Dany bidding farewell to Daario; pair that with the overt teasing of Jon and Dany’s eventual hook-up, and there you go.

But from my perspective, all I can do is – vocally and obnoxiously – call out what’s been irking me about this show for a couple of years now: it’s no longer interested with existing on its own terms, but rather catering to what its audience expects. Game of Thrones began as a typical fantasy show, true, but it started to reveal it had no true allegiance to the structure and rhythm of a typical narrative very early on. Our protagonists died with alarming regularity and the antagonists (at least some of them) were worth caring about. It was a depiction of chaos attempting to be reigned in by warring notions of peace. There was political intrigue and familial struggles alongside strategising and unpredictable bloodshed. It was like little else on television.

(HBO)

Now, it’s like everything on television. There are heroes and villains, with little to no ambiguity between who they are; one side must win, and the other must lose. There’s a messiah figure and star-crossed lovers, and one of them will probably die, but not until the final episode (I will concede that, yes, it is rather unusual for these characters to be related). Characters engage in plots and schemes offscreen that are supposed to be shocking because they make no sense, rather than because they sneak up on us; when they play out, we either throw up our hands in surprise or roll our eyes, depending on our willingness to accept them. The road ahead for the show, where it was once littered with potential detours and uncertain advances, is incredibly clear; now, we’re simply watching and waiting for it all to play out. Will it be interesting? Possibly. Will it offer anything new or compelling beyond everything else on TV? I sincerely doubt it.

I guess I should actually finish this review though, huh? Well, the episode concludes with one more inevitable and, again, pretty underwhelming development: the ice dragon cometh, and The Wall crumbles before its awesome might. Ok, yep. So, let’s see what cool-looking spectacles HBO and co. can cook up for us in the final season of GoT, apparently due in about two years’ time. Maybe they’ll be able to stick the landing and… I dunno, not shit the bed bigtime. In case you can’t tell, I am woefully pessimistic on that score.

 

Quotes & Random Thoughts

 

  • No Housemate Contributions this week, as our schedules weren’t able to link up for this final installment.

 

  • Jaime considers what else there is to fight for when you don’t have a cock: “Family.” Of course, Bronn’s ready for that one: “Not without a cock, you don’t.”

 

  • “What’s in there?” “Fuck off.” It’s nothing short of a miracle that The Hound’s incurably gruff demeanour is still fun to watch this late in the show’s run.

 

  • As per my complaint a few weeks back, I can’t help but point out once more how disappointing everything about The Mountain has been since Qyburn revived him some time ago. He rapes nuns, grunts and occassionally draws his sword for no greater purpose. Am I the only one maddeningly unsatisfied by this?!

 

  • Euron has been away far too long and, unfortunately, the time between appearances has not been kind. He makes a weak joke at Tyrion’s expense then pussies out once he sees the undead lunge out of its box. And, regardless of whether or not his retreat was a tactical display, it’s not a lot of fun to watch. I miss the Euron who made inquiries about arseplay with Cersei.

 

  • “When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything.” Jon, all but turning to the camera and yelling “DONALD TRUUUUUUUUMP!!!

 

  • “You’re pregnant.” Fuckin’ Tyrion over here, sleuthing shit out like a G! How’d you pick up on those subtle cues, Nancy Drew?

 

  • Theon’s talk with Jon was actually quite touching (“What I can forgive, I do”), while his bloody skirmish down on the shore continues this episode’s theme of cock versus cockless. Turns out being a eunuch is to Theon’s advantage in this fight, which is probably some sort of comment on being a man even without the requisite appendage. I dunno, not a lot about this fight made sense. Oh, and so much for Brendan Cowell, I guess.

 

  • Bran has some infuriatingly selective prescience. He knows Jon’s heritage, yeah, but apparently he needs to be told all about the secret marriage between Rhaegar and Lyanna by Sam? That said, Sam’s reactions to Bran’s airy bullshit answers are priceless: “Oh… I don’t know what that means.”

 

  • Tyrion listening in on Jon and Dany’s fuckfest was… super ambiguous. Like, what’s the feeling there, dude? Jealous? Wary? Horngry?

 

  • At long last, let’s pour a goblet out for young Lady Lyanna Mormont who, if I’m not mistaken, had about four lines this entire season. What the actual undead bear-fuck, GoT?

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