HBO’s Game Of Thrones: The Winds Of Winter

After a summer that has lasted almost a decade, the famous words of House Stark are a reality, winter is here and the world must prepare for the Long Night they may never end. In The Capital, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) has the power she always wanted and has defeated her rivals (mostly). In the Riverlands, there’s strange whispers of the death and ruin of House Frey, many thanks to a homeward bound Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). At Winterfell, the northern lords have proclaimed Jon Snow (Kit Harington) the King in the North. And Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) has landed at Dragonstone. The Army of the Dead get closer to the Wall by the day.

In my view, Game of Thrones hasn’t been truly excellent since the fourth season. As soon as it went off-book the quality dipped. That said, seasons six and seven were good. And season five has been the only season to catch flack for not only being bleak in design and whatnot, but bleak in quality / events as well (until this one). After Sansa Stark’s rape, Shireen in ashes and the death of our lord and saviour Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), show fans felt rather depressed. But season six did bring an end to the Bolton’s rule on Winterfell. And the sociopath we love to hate, Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) was mauled by his dogs, many thanks to Sansa (Sophie Turner).

The reuniting of Arya (Maisie Williams) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) was wonderful to watch
(Game Of Thrones, HBO)

Season seven is great to look at but it’s got nothing on the first four seasons. It’s full of action but we’re getting to the part in the story where the showrunners are starting to wind down on the politics (my favourite parts) and up the ante on the battle scenes (my least favourite part). And with a shorter season seven and season eight, a lot of characters are being compared to Varys (Conleth Hill) and his ability to “teleport”. So it’s simply easier to ignore geographical gaps. That said I don’t think they need to tell us time has passed. It’s safe to assume that it has and nobody is “teleporting” from place to place. It just seems more “unbelievable” this time due to fewer episodes.

There’s many longer episodes this time around, many by ten minutes, with the finale being thirty minutes longer. I guess the good thing about that is the regular battle scenes. My favourite of those being at the end of Stormborn when Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) intercepts the other Greyjoy fleet (Yara & Theon’s), taking Ellaria (Indira Varma) and The Sand Snakes back to Queen Cersei. My other favourite is in Beyond The Wall. Jon Snow (Rick Flagg) leads his suicide squad Beyond The Wall, including Gendry (Joe Dempsie) Ser Jorah (Iain Glen), The Hound (Rory McCann), Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye), and Lord Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) with that ridiculous flaming sword!

Much akin to season six, Kit Harington is certainly the standout performance of the season
(Game Of Thrones, HBO)

It’s gotten to a point where once this show broke hearts, it looks like it’s ready to put them back together again. It can’t be too violent, cutthroat or sad. Sure, I wanted people to die and they did. However, those who did weren’t important enough to mean anything to me, with the exemption of Lord Baelish (Aidan Gillen) in the finale. Obara Sand’s body is seen hanging from the ship at the end of Stormborn. Nymeria Sand (Jessica Henwick) is also taken out by King Euron. Tyene in The Queen’s Justice by the same poison that Ellaria used on Myrcella in season five. Randyll Tarly (James Faulkner) and a lacklustre death for Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg). Quite honestly, meh!

Sure, the Queen of Thorns was badass with a quip designed for every encounter but those deaths didn’t crush my soul. Once upon a time, deaths in this show would make fans want to rage quit. Yet, I think we’ve got to a point where so many have been killed that we’ve become desensitised to it and the death of a certain character can’t unify the fanbase as it once did. Not since Daggers in the Dark (book fans will get that reference) or before that with The Red Wedding. Seven season in and we’re split. D&D have had an impossible task, pleasing Game of Thrones fans, one of the worst fanbases to be apart of. However, it could be worse, there’s always anime or Star Wars.

No matter if it’s season one or season seven, Lena Headey owns every scene she’s in
(Game of Thrones, HBO)

Let us not forget the end of Viserion. That said, is Viserion really dead? More like undead. The major complaints can be found in the episode with one of my favourite action scenes, Beyond The Wall. And that title is really unoriginal! In a standard season of this show, an expedition like that would be spread over two episodes (at the very least) like they did in season five with the television masterpiece, Hardhome. I can excuse many things, but Gendry (Joe Dempsie) sprinting from Beyond The Wall back to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea in a single episode is utter madness. And the bulk of the death toll this season came from unnamed Stormtroopers with cardboard armour.

Thoros (someone we don’t care about) aside, I’m quite annoyed that Jorah, Tormund and Beric escaped unscathed. This told me that every character, including C-listers like Greyworm and Bronn have plot armour. Even seeing Bronn (comedic relief / Jaime’s bodyguard) exit would have been nice. Up to and including season four, you’d know your favourite characters weren’t safe. No matter the forms of conventional storytelling, your favourite characters could die in an instant. Wham! It seems unlikely that no member of Jon’s squad will die before meeting up with their love interests (kind of): Tormund (Brienne), Jorah (Daenerys), Gendry (Arya) and The Hound (Frankengregor).

First it was Ned’s hand to Petey’s throat outside his brothel, and then Jon’s at Winterfell, déjà vu much!
(Game Of Thrones, HBO)

Though, I do want to see Cleganebowl! Criticisms aside, season seven is entertaining. Things are dying down, heavy hitters are leaving the game. No more Tywin (Charles Dance), House Bolton (Michael McElhatton / Iwan Rheon) or Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). Only Alfie (Theon) Lena (Cersei), Kit (Jon) and Nickolaj (Jaime) remain. With great performances from the living, Game Of Thrones is still Sunday evening entertainment, The Long Night is coming and…

“When dead men and worse coming hunting… you think it matters who sits on the Iron Throne?”

Jeor Mormont