Game of thrones used to be an incredibly entertaining and intelligent series that also surprisingly educated the audience about how different reality is from fantasy, in spite of technically being a fantasy series. As of season 7 episode 3, it’s still entertaining and still has an unpredictable storyline which makes it difficult to guess winners and losers or distinguish between heroes and villains but it seems to be losing a lot of the intelligence that made it so effective in doing those things.
Most of you probably had a good time watching today’s episode just as I did so let me go into what was good before complaining. First off, character dynamics and dialogues. There was endless speculation about how Dany and Jon’s first meeting would go. Getting it right was exceedingly difficult because in spite of being part of the same story, these characters have been so separated in every way by the plot that it seemed more like a superhero crossover movie. And we all know how hard it is to get those right. I think the scale of the story just got out of George RR Martins hand and some of these characters grew too much in too many contradictory directions to ever really fit together anymore. Given that, their interactions were genuinely believable and even endearing. Jon Snow awkwardly looking at Davos for help after hearing Dany’s whole resume narrated in a single breath was exactly what any of us would have done when faced with such an overinflated sense of self. Davos’s responses starting from “he’s king in the north” to talking about how he’s a bastard who’s faced and fought those things Dany doesn’t believe in were fantastic because it highlighted their contrasting personalities and journeys with the overlay of Davos’s personal emotions and perspective on whose deeds were superior. Tyrion’s comment about how Jon is overshadowing his brooding was another great moment that made character contrasts work well. The only interaction that seemed completely off was Bran and Sansa, mostly because Bran seems to have got seriously creepy about his three eyes and what they can see. As someone on Reddit said, Bran is acting like your little brother who got back from college and acts like he knows everything because he minored in philosophy. You meet your long lost sister and the first thing you do is talk about how pretty she looked in her wedding dress before she got raped in it? Did the cold beyond the wall numb his brain or something? Littlefinger hiding around dark corners throwing lecherous looks at her seems plain adorable compared to this twat. He now wants to speak to Jon, probably to tell him how he watched his mother get raped. I suppose when Arya returns he will talk to her about the night their parents conceived her. Moving on, except for this aberration everybody else sparkled when talking to each other, whether it is the queen of thorns talking to Jaime, Euron needling (or bludgeoning) Jaime or Samwise Gamgee, sorry Tarly’s farewell handshake with Jorah the cuddly bear who no longer has greyscale and can go back to being lovesick. OK stop right there – this is where the ridiculousness of some of the plot elements start to overwhelm your fan-boy sentiments.
So apparently, greyscale, the infamous disease that turns men into stone, the same disease Shireen Baratheon had and could be stopped only after Stannis the Mannis summoned every maester and healer from across the seas can be cured by a procedure that looks like peeling an orange and applying an ointment. It is apparently forbidden because it is extremely dangerous, which is probably because the maesters believe in doing it without a sedative on trained killers with just gloves and no face masks. The only possible explanation for this turn of events is that Jorah bear is needed back at the Dragon lady’s side asap since there’s like only a dozen episodes or so left. It’s exactly this new trend of cutting corners I have a major complaint with.
While it was satisfying to see Dany’s God mode cheat code deactivated, her losses were all due to some mind-numbingly dumb war tactics. First of all, the whole world knows she’s coming and what she wants and they also know exactly who her allies are- they posed for a team photo on a ship at the end of last season. Of course the Westerosi lords will go after the Dornish and the Tyrells. They didn’t anticipate an attack on their strongholds even as they gallivant over the high seas with foreign invaders? Team Dany seems to think that this is a turn based strategy game where no one will make a move while they are making one. It doesn’t work like that and characters like Tyrion and Olenna Tyrell are supposed to know better, which is why the whole thing becomes difficult to believe.
Somebody seems to have stolen Littlefinger’s teleportation device and distributed 3 D printed rip offs across Westeros and beyond, which might explain why the mastermind is stuck in Winterfell doing stupid things like telling his crush’s half brother that his crush on his sister is just like the one he had for her mother. As Littlefinger rots down north, everybody else is jumping across the chess board with ease. In spite of all these improvements in transportation, none of Dany’s allies seem to be able to send out scouts before their armies or navies to you know, watch out for crazy uncles who want to kill you. The Lannisters manage to uproot their entire army from Casterly Rock, unite with Tarly forces who are betraying Olenna Tyrell and reach Highgarden and the only reaction is from Olenna Tyrell who looks out from a window and says “oh”. I guess she really believes her advice to Dany and ignored all the clever men in her life who could have told her that its probably a good idea to have a few watchtowers on even shepherds grazing livestock out somewhere to warn them if a freaking army is coming. And by the way if you’re going for open rebellion against the crown, maybe check in on your MVP military geniuses like Randyll Tarly once in a while for signs of rebelling against you.
Its not that none of these setbacks are plausible, but they need to be portrayed better. Like show how someone betrayed Team Dany and leaked plans about the naval invasion or something. In the rush to make the story faster and unpredictable, the show is asking the audience to believe that all these characters who were shown as smart before are really really dumb now. From the looks of the promo, Daenerys Targaryen is paraphrasing Olenna Tyrell’s line about ignoring clever plans (because that worked out so well for her) and is about to fly off on dragon-back to burn Highgarden to a crisp along with Jaime and he’s going to be very surprised because it was their turn in the strategy game and everyone else is supposed to wait till its over. I suppose something unpredictable will happen, probably because someone is being stupid again.
A lot of this pace increase could have been distributed across earlier seasons to make things less weird. I can’t help compare this with something like Breaking Bad which was one single cohesive story with no pacing problems. However, Game of Thrones has recently been having a trend of having a few off episodes in a season but ending it with a bang that makes up for weaker episodes earlier on. I hope the show-makers have trimmed down on enough of the unnecessary characters and sub plots to let them concentrate on the end game, and I hope they will dedicate some time, effort and gray matter to that.
Overall, 8/10 for entertainment, 9/10 for dialogues and 6/10 for logic (1/10 if you factor in speed of transport)