The sixth episode of the seventh season of Game Of Thrones, "Beyond The Wall," was easily the most entertaining of the season so far. But, like every episode this season, there were moments that left me scratching my head, wondering how characters had crossed distances that used to take a full season in the space of a few minutes. It may be that the writers, feeling the pressure of picking up the pace to its current speed, have simply missed things.
What has happened to the attention to detail and the flawless character development of Game Of Thrones of past seasons that has made it generally regarded as one of the best shows, if not the best, on #TV? WARNING: Game of Thrones spoilers to follow.
Ed Sheeran's Cameo Was The First Red Flag
It all started in the first episode. As much as there was cruel and personal criticism of a certain red-haired pop star in the first episode, I feel that it was a sign of things to come. Whether you liked Ed's turn as a Lannister soldier or not, you have to admit it is a very questionable move by the writers. It pulled you out of the narrative, and was completely unnecessary. It didn't necessarily seem to be a sign of things to come then, but in retrospect it was.
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly So Far This Season
Season 7 has still had many great GoT moments. Daenerys riding Drogon? Incredible. Olenna Tyrell confessing to Joffrey's death after being forced to swallow poison and Arya taking down the Freys? Stuff of GoT legend. When Cersei locks Ellaria and her daughter in a dungeon so Ellaria can watch her daughter die and then rot in revenge for her murder of her daughter we got the pure pleasure of seeing Cersei do what she does best.
The fantastic battle scene with Daenerys flying into battle atop Drogon was undone by the Jaime's ridiculous brush with death. The episode ends with him sinking into a lake wearing a full suit of armor, yet the next time we see him he is happily at the edge of a lake with Bronn even though everyone else involved in the battle is captured or dead. After that we see Jaime chatting with Cersei in King's Landing.
Everyone seems to have somehow gained the ability to teleport this season, not to mention certain uncles appearing in a perfect deus ex machina moment, and an assembling of a squad of misfit men, superhero movie style. Arya threatening Sansa feels like a plot move rather than the genuine chilling moment it should be.
How Does This Compare To Season 6?
Season 7, like Season 6, largely consists of new material. I don't think many people would count Season 6 as their favorite, but it is still pretty consistent and full of great moments (and one of the best episodes ever with "Battle Of The Bastards"), so let's compare it to this season.
Think of some of the major moments in Season 6: Jon Snow brought back from the dead, the Tower of Joy scenes, the Battle of the Bastards, "hold the door" and plenty of other explosive and unpredictable moments. These fit into the narrative fantastically, surprised the audience and developed characters. These moments were all believable and there was no shred of poor writing decisions or moments of implausibility.
Are You Not Entertained?
This isn't to say we need to go back to the days of a journey taking characters an entire season; we know the amount of time left to finish the story is relatively short. However, character development and plausibility don't need to be sacrificed for momentum; pure exposition doesn't need to replace genuine dialogue. There are points where this season feels like it is written for the benefit of the fans; the days of swatting away beloved characters as if they were flies appears gone. At this point, people are so invested — and the production values are so great — that errors, inconsistencies and poor narrative choices are not getting the attention they would in another show.
There are still the moments of the greatness we know and love, and #GameOfThrones is still easily one of the most enjoyable shows on television. However, the crackle of a narrative you trust to be full of characters developed and torn away and gratuitous violence and sex scenes is gone, replaced by something resembling a sentimentality that you wouldn't expect of a show that chopped the head off its protagonist seven episodes into its first season.
This doesn't mean that I don't love Game Of Thrones anymore — of course I do — I just hope that between the finale and the last season the show can return to the heights of storytelling, not just entertainment, that we are used to.
What do you think of this season of Game Of Thrones? Is it still living up to expectations?