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Episode 7 - The Dragon and the Wolf

6 December 2017

This felt anti-climactic. A lot of things were teased but few were resolved. If they are resolved satisfactorily next season that will make up for it but its hard to have faith in that. I suspect most climaxes to come will be like the killing of the dragon last week. Or the collapse of the Wall here. They were visually impressive but they were set up in a very paint-by-numbers way.

I always assumed that the levelling of the Wall would generate huge panic across Westeros. However the good guys are all headed to Winterfell to fight the dead anyway. So although this is bad news it doesn't quite have the same impact it might have.

Little Finger's death was another example of this. Yes the sight of him begging was sort-of satisfying. But there was no craft in how we reached that moment. It's not clear how much of Sansa and Arya's bickering was staged. Or when Bran shared the knowledge that he possessed. All of that was made murky in order to facilitate the "surprise" of Baelish being called out when he didn't expect it. I'm afraid it was a twist so telegraphed that even I predicted it two episodes ago. In fact four episodes ago I pointed out that Bran was being kept in the shadows in order to be an "engine of surprise." I don't recall these things to point out my intelligence. On the contrary I am rarely ahead of the mysteries on TV shows. I was surprised by the Red Wedding. I've been shocked by most of the show's twists before the last two seasons. I live in the moment when I watch TV, that's what I love it so much. It takes me out of my self. It's only afterwards that I analyse why I felt what I felt. So if even I can see through a lazy plot to the predictable finish, something must have gone wrong.

Benioff and Weiss are not good storytellers. They think that surprise is the same as drama. It isn't. As Arya and Sansa stand on the walls and reminisce about Ned there was genuine emotion in the air. Emotion generated by the story as it was told before they began adding their own twists. Baelish's death made me feel nothing. As soon as he gave Sansa to the Bolton's he ceased to be the same character as in the books. He became a foolish TV prop and he died as one.  I can't believe GRRM will write such a flat ending for the instigator of the War of the Five Kings.

I enjoyed the various reunions at the Dragonpit and the demonstration of the Wight. But I waited for big character moments to appear and they didn't. We got a Cleganebowl tease. Then we cut away from Tyrion convincing Cersei to see reason. Even Jaime leaving was only goodbye-for-now. We did get consummation from Jon and Dany and I enjoy their chemistry just fine. But the timing of the Sam-Bran chat seemed designed to make us go "Ewww! Incest!" rather than actually contemplate Jon's future.

I liked the essence of the Theon scene even if the execution was a bit much. Kicking a eunuch in the crotch would still hurt him, particularly if he'd already been badly beaten.

Also I'm pretty sure women in the middle ages drank alcohol while pregnant. It's not a question of ignorance, more about the scarcity of purified water. That seemed like an interpolation of a modern storytelling trope where it didn't belong.

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  • Littlefinger's death has a huge thematic contribution. Like Jon said: 'when enough people make false promises, words stop meanng anything...then there are no more answers, only better and better lies and lies won't help us in this fight'.

    Littlefinger as a character only knows how to spread distrust, chaos and lies and beyond that on a story-level he has nothing to contribute in terms of answers to the problems that Westeros now faces (the fight with the Others/White Walkers), hence why it makes sense for him to die when the game of thrones, the conflict for control over the Seven Kingdoms has become utterly meaningless in the face of physical embodiments of Death. Hence, I enjoyed his death scene enormously because it showcases what the show has been telling us all along: the tension does not come from whoever ends up being ruler or whether or not someone lives or dies but whether or not these people will come together as one and fight for Life itself, even though they thoroughly hate each other. Same with cliate change: we can all look at various different political problems bu ultimately, if we do not do something as a species to mitigate the worst consequences of cimate change, the planet will at some point react to whatever it is that we are doing and that might mean the end of human life on this planet.

    Throughout the show, peope have exhibited the worst kinds of behaviour and inflicted pain and suffering on people who had done them no harm, often for no reason or for fun. Yet, these feuding fractions now have to set aside their vendettas and squabbles for the survival of humanity and if they do not (whch Cersei indicates she will not) then nothing will survive because the White Walkers have been created to be completely omnicidal (which is why bears and dragons get resurrected as wights).

    Characters like Littlefinger are good at startig conflicts but he has no insights into magic at all, as showcased by the fact that he gets beaten by Bran's magical powers so what can a guy like that contribute in a war against magical embodiments of War and Death? Nothing of his court intrigue is constructive in any way and hence from a story perspective, this is the best moment for him to go.

    It was also a great moment for Sansa, who has had to learn to accept her weird and changed siblings after their reunion so I have no problem with her, Arya and Bran working out the truth offscreen, mainly because we all know that Bran has the ability to know the truth of what happened. The only question was whether or not Sansa would ask him about it and, given that Bran sat right next to her, we can assume that she decided to ask him as to what the truth of the matter was.

    I do not think that we are meant to be "surprised" by the show at this point either. We are seeing things get resolved that demanded a resolution since the very beginning (who are Jon's parents, will Littlefinger get his just desserts for starting this meaningless conflict, etc.). The fact that Bran has magical visions and that he would share his insights offscreen seem perfectly fine with me because it's Baelish that has to be surprised, not us. We are getting resolutions on various story points and that is another indication that we are moving towards the end.

    Theon has been though much worse torture at Ramsay's hands in the past so I don't think a few kicks in the crotch would be that painful by comparison at this point.

    Viewer score: 90 / 100

    Posted by Beric, 05/12/2017 7:10am (7 days ago)

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