Game of Thrones, Season 7 (2017)

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

Fans met the announcement that this season would receive fewer episodes than previous ones with mixed apprehension and expectation; the result is a story that moves at a breakneck pace, without the nuance, emotional development, or complexities of former installments. Since the series has deviated from the still-unfinished book series, fans have complained at the character development and absurd plot resolutions… and the same continues in this second-to-final season.

Daenarys (Emilia Clarke) has dreamed of this moment throughout her young life: when she would return to Dragon Stone, the ancestral castle where she was born. She sets foot in the kingdom that forced her into exile over the death of her father… with an army of thousands and three dragons to help her lay waste to the Lannister forces. Cersei (Lena Heady) focuses on re-shaping a family dynasty with her children dead, and her ruthlessness toward her adversaries horrifies even her brother / lover, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).

In the north, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) fears a much more pressing danger than either a new dragon queen or retaliation from the Lannisters: the Night King, an immortal ice creature awoken since “winter has come,” with an army of the undead. Though the great Wall holds them at bay Jon believes it will fall. Unless they halt the army’s progress, no one in the seven kingdoms is safe, and it won’t matter who rules the Iron Throne. He leaves his sister Sansa (Sophie Turner) in charge of Winterfell to travel south and meet Daenarys, whose Hand, Tyrion (Peter Dinklidge), urges her to take a “softer” approach with her adversaries. In his absence, the industrious Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) tries to manipulate Sansa into her brother’s position of power, little aware that Arya (Maisie Williams) has survived, murdered the Freys in retaliation for her mother’s death, and, upon learning her remaining family has returned to their ancestral home, heads north.

Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) returns to Winterfell, his head full of visions as the Three-Eyed Raven, and one of his revelations will change the game forever.

The once splendid writing that characterizes the book series has gone downhill since in eliminating “unnecessary” side plots from the narrative, the co-writers must come up with new circumstances to lead to the same conclusion George R.R. Martin intends for the novels. They know the end game, but not quite how to get there, and the result is an uneven season that causes its characters to commit massive acts of stupidity, just so the writers can maneuver them into position for later events (or with one character, a tragic downfall).

Putting aside some of the “travel problems” (like how a raven could travel a thousand miles overnight with news, and rescue arrives before dawn), the characterization is horrible. The characters serve the plot, instead of the plot moving around the characters, and most of the characters are emotionless. Bran, Sansa, and Arya all share the same lack-of-feeling. Instead, the series distracts us with moments we have waited for, for a long time: dragon destruction, an army of the dead, a betrayal and execution at Winterfell, and one character having enough of another’s erratic, selfish, insecure behavior.

There’s no real room to breathe in some scenes, where others you wonder… why they are there; is a conversation about a “cock-less army” a good use of two minutes in a season finale? Is that what serves as character development now? But still, it is entertaining. Had this series started out this way, the expectations would be lower, we would not have earlier seasons’ stability to fall back on for comparison, and it might impress me more, but the pacing is off. And apart from Jon Snow, and occasionally, Jaime and Tyrion, no one has a moral spine anymore.

The costuming and set design continue to be incredible, and the stand-out scenes involve the dragons and battles spread across the season; the threat in the north beyond the wall is terrifying, and even though most of the plot twists you can see coming, somehow most of them hold your interest. The acting ranges from excellent (Gillen in his final scene) to tepid (Jon and Dany have no chemistry) and the score is gorgeous. They dialed the sexual content back this season because there’s no time to mess around.

I ended the season on mixed feelings, which included disappointment. I felt the script did not treat several characters with respect while others can do no wrong in the writer’s eyes; the tendency the series has to invite us to cheer on brutality disturbs me, but what also troubles me is the co-writers’ clear inability to understand the source material, or what motivates any of Martin’s characters, so they use and twist them for their own purposes. It seems disrespectful to an author who has generated one of the most popular, powerful series of all time.

Sexual Content:
Two graphic sex scenes (nudity, kissing, implied oral sex); implied sex between siblings; an aunt and nephew sleep together (they don't know they're related). Some nudity (backside), innuendo, references to whores; a man asks how he should treat a woman and if she likes a finger up her bum. Implied threat of rape to female prisoners.
 
Language:
For some characters, 'f--k' is every other word, along with 'c--t.' Other profanities, obscenities, and crude references to body parts (p---k, d---k, c---k, etc).
 
Violence:
Tons of brutal warfare, executions, and gore. Dragons lay waste to entire armies and burn men alive in numerous scenes. Men are poisoned, stabbed, have arms and legs cut off, and are slit across the throat. Horses fall in warfare, sometimes having their legs cut out from beneath them. Much violence in a battle setting toward women (women are gutted, strangled, and stabbed). One main character cuts another's throat, and he gushes blood, chokes on his own blood, and dies on the floor.

Other:
Incest. Bran has 'visions' of the past, present, and future as a mystical entity known as the Three Eyed Raven; he 'wargs' into animals to see what they see.