‘Game Of Thrones’ Has To Change For Its Final Season. But Can It After This Finale?

Senior Television Writer
08.28.17 208 Comments

HBO

A review of the Game of Thrones season finale coming up just as soon as we say goodbye, one idiot to another…

“This isn’t about noble houses. This is about the living and the dead.” –Jaime

A little over a year ago, Game of Thrones wrapped up its sixth season with its greatest episode ever. “The Winds of Winter” not only started tightening up what had been an overly sprawled narrative, but did a lot of it with a sequence (Cersei’s bombing of the Sept of Baelor) shot and edited like nothing the series had done before. It suggested a real evolutionary leap, or at least the idea that Benioff and Weiss could still surprise us at this advanced age for the show.

“The Dragon and the Wolf” brought the narrative even tighter, opening with a long sequence in and around the dragon pits that featured virtually every major character left other than the Starks and Littlefinger, as Dany’s coalition tried to negotiate a truce with Cersei’s. But this wasn’t another huge stylistic shift for the show — other than perhaps a portent of how sluggish the final six episodes might be if the showrunners stick to their plan of making each one feature film-length(*) — and was, like a lot of this penultimate season, a collection of strong individual moments in search of a story worthy of them.

(*) Why do Benioff and Weiss want to make six super-sized episodes rather than ten normal ones? It could be any number of reasons, including the fact that the cast and crew are all paid by the episode, not the running time, and if the budget remains constant, they’ll have far more money to produce each individual episode. Could the spectacle of “Beyond the Wall” have been accomplished in a season with ten episodes? Maybe, but it no doubt helped that more resources could be concentrated on it.

There were a number of striking beats: Cersei’s genuine shock at seeing the wight in action, the painful recriminations of the Cersei/Tyrion conversation, the splintering of Cersei and Jaime’s relationship over his refusal to break his oath to aid the North, and, especially, the palpable sense of relief I felt when the Stark sisters proved to be not nearly as stupid as either Littlefinger or the audience took them for. And there were a bunch of charming smaller moments, particularly as all the forces gathered for that confrontation in the dragon pits, like the reunion of the heroes of the Blackwater or Brienne and the Hound grudgingly recognizing they’re on the same side now. But the show’s just not built to run this long in any given installment — few dramas are, even ones with as many characters and storylines as this one — and despite excellent individual acting showcases for Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, and others, the finale really dragged, at times unsure why it should be bothering with anything not directly related to the Night King flying around on the back of his new pet zombie dragon.

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