By Hannah Blum
Right now, I can just imagine Marvel Universe fans sitting fat and happy with “Endgame” cradled in their laps, having reached a satisfactory conclusion to the series. Meanwhile, “Game of Thrones” fans seem to be fighting over the scraps, scrambling for anything that even remotely resembles good writing. So played out this most recent episode, which traced a path from filler to shock value to god-awful character scenes, and then went in reverse order, just ‘cause. There were some tidbits interspersed throughout that were somewhat redeeming, but otherwise I think I’m just watching at this point because it’s what I’ve been doing for the past eight years.
Given that the show has been running for that long and has a lore-heavy and extensive series of books to draw from, it’s more than a little disappointing that the show has begun to rely on out-of-nowhere surprises as a crutch. It seems like plots that have been developing for several seasons are now just being thrown out the window in the name of “subverting expectations” the way the old “Game of Thrones” used to. Thing is, the classic twists that we’ve come to know and love from the show–like the Red Wedding, Jon’s true parentage and the initial shock of Ned getting his head chopped off–all had deep roots that been growing for a while, and none truly came out of thin air. The mysterious equation of Euron plus an apparently blind Dany plus a single shot on a ballista just doesn’t add up. How did they miss an entire armada? Let me rephrase that: how did they miss an entire armada when they had not one but two dragons in the air? Sadly, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Therein lies the show’s biggest tragedy. It’s not the deaths of beloved characters (or dragons, on that note), it’s the writing team that treats them as if they’re stupid instead of thinking, autonomous people. The characters aren’t driving the plot anymore. They’re just along for the ride now.
Equally confusing is the quality of the dialogue-heavy scenes between characters, wildly swinging from fantastic and closure-granting to so awkward that suffering secondhand embarrassment is a given. Case in point: the Bronn scene. Aside from the fact that he strolled through the castle hawking a massive crossbow and just serendipitously happened across the two people he was seeking, the subsequent discussion was strained to the seven hells. Then–poof! He was gone. Alongside other minor characters such as Tormund and Sam, it’s becoming clear that the show’s writing staff, and especially showrunners David Benioff and D.B Weiss, have no clue what to do with him anymore. The same goes with Gendry. The newly kindled flame of his relationship with Arya died as quickly as it started. With scores of characters still left and so few precious minutes left, it’s understandably difficult for the writers to figure out who winds up where. Their solution? Frantically find a way to write them out and make them disappear. But I can’t tell what would be worse when the show finally reaches its conclusion: lots of loose ends or a mess of sloppily tied, incomprehensible knots.
That isn’t to say that all was for naught this time around. Of the few moments that stood out, the HoundSandor meeting the new and improved Stark sisters really twisted some heartstrings that I thought weren’t there anymore. And despite my qualms about the writing this season, I have to say I’m morbidly enjoying the direction Dany is taking. If one can ignore the free advertising Starbucks got in the scene, the celebratory feast was poignant without saying anything. She lost nearly everything, her armies, a dragon and now her closest companion, just to save a bunch of Northerners who never so much as thank her for it, and now her lover is taken away from her with the revelation that he, in fact, should be the true king? I live for this kind of juicy drama. She’s becoming unhinged. Now that Missandei the walking Google Translate is, uh, uninstalled, she’s metamorphosing into what she swore she never would become–her father. Remind me of that quote from “The Dark Knight” again? The Mad Queen was written all over that gross snarl plastered on her face towards the end of the episode. It’s tragic how she came so far just to watch it all get snatched away from her and wind up where she started. Shakespearean, even.
I know so many wanted our Khaleesi to be the queen that Westeros needed, me included, but this is so much more of a true “Game of Thrones” twist than anything else recent. To see a hopeful if obnoxious little girl transform into conquering liberator and then into a volatile jar of wildfire just begging for a spark, that’s what I’m here to see in these next two episodes. That and the memes, Iron Throne be damned. Some fulfilling character arcs coming to an end would be nice too, but at this rate I don’t want to get my hopes up too high. Oh, George R. R. Martin, wherefore art thou? It seems like it’s time to return to the books.
Contact Hannah Blum at hannahbl ‘at’ stanford.edu.