By Hannah Blum
I’d like to start this off by admitting that I was wrong. Dead wrong, in fact. Could David Benioff and DB Weiss bring “Game of Thrones” back from the precipice on which this entire season has been teetering? I held out hope for the remaining writing of the season, but the odds of a saving grace were about as likely as Jon saying literally anything other than “I don’t want et” for the 50th time. The penultimate episode dashed those hopes against the rocks, but that doesn’t mean immense anxiety wasn’t felt this time around.
Though the Battle of King’s Landing may not have been as hyped as the one at Winterfell against the unequivocally evil and supposedly world-ending Night King, I found this one to be much more apocalyptic in atmosphere. The cinematography and massive CGI budget almost remedied my issues with the writing. Keyword: “almost.” The shot panning over the entirely useless Golden Company as Jaime enters the city could nearly make one forget that the writers really did just turn his character arc into a character circle. Redemption? Who is she? Aside from the debatable off-on switch for Dany’s change into the Mad Queen (called it, just saying), the resulting fire and blood was beautifully portrayed. I often found myself distracted by the Renaissance-esque scenes in the streets and the, you know, enormous dragon flying overhead. For once, the main characters of the show get pushed to the side, if even for a moment, to focus on the little people who suffer as a result of this petty-turned-catastrophic political power struggle.
Main points of interest in the carnage: Indestructible Arya strikes again as she aimlessly strolls through the alleyways, narrowly avoiding dragonfire, buildings crumbling into dust, and probably getting mesothelioma in the process. Cersei finally stopped drinking wine, stepped away from that godforsaken balcony and Lena Headey got to flex her acting skills at long last. To Sandor went one of the few un-bungled, satisfying ends to a great character arc. And the final words said between Jaime and Tyrion, a true soul to soul between brothers? Who’s cutting onions in here? I’m trying to remember the last time “Game of Thrones” made me feel this way from something that wasn’t a death.
While the writers may have had their moments, they still didn’t break the pattern of rather sloppy writing present this season. On the more awful side of the episode was the beach scene where Euron just happens to wash up right where Jaime needs to go. Gee, that sure seems to have been happening a lot lately, hasn’t it? The consequent brawl was gritty and raw, but the only reason it ended with any sort of satisfaction was because we got to say “good riddance” to Euron Greyjoy, one of the most obnoxious and flattest characters in the show. Speaking of him, his once formidable dragon-slaying fleet got nerfed within the span of a single week, and now the scorpions, both on the ships and atop the walls of the city, are just pretty decorative pieces that scare away the King’s Landing equivalent of pigeons. Continuity went out the window like Bran did in the pilot.
The setup for the final episode lead me to think that it’s at once predictable and yet anyone’s game, and I couldn’t tell if that’s genius or terrible in terms of writing. Sadly, this season seems to have acquired a bit of love-to-hate-it syndrome, and no matter how it ended the masses were going to be very, very unhappy. I’d was probably be one of them, if I were being honest, as I saw no chance of recovery within the hour and a half left. Regardless, we were knee-deep in the sunk-cost fallacy at this point, so you caught me huddled around the TV at precisely 6 p.m. last week, for one last time.
Contact Hannah Blum at hannahbl ‘at’ stanford.edu.