Recaps

Game of Thrones “The Dragon and the Wolf”

Well, “Winds of Winter” that was not.

In previous years, hearing that a Game of Thrones season finale would be pushing 90 minutes in length would have left me excited and full of anticipation. After all, lots of excellent episodes of this show are longer than average in duration. Why wouldn’t “The Dragon and the Wolf” be the same? And shouldn’t more Game of Thrones make a fan, like me, happy? Instead, I felt kind of irritated.

This is what this season of Games of Thrones as done to me. An extra long run time used to be a treat; in this case it just felt like a ploy, another showy trick to convince us that this episode would be better than the last.

Not that everything in “The Dragon and the Wolf” was bad. With a such a long episode, there were bound to be bright spots. But overall, much like the theme of the entire season, this episode was a bloated, incongruous, mess that managed to check off a number of important plot points without any sort of build up that makes it worthwhile. A constricting universe implies that there’s more time to devote to characters—for actual story development. Instead, it’s actually kind of impressive how much story we burned through while simultaneously having the riveting combination of bizarre, stalled character growth and a bunch of filler nonsense no one cares about.

And that’s what bothers me the most. I don’t have any issues with Sansa and Arya killing Littlefinger, Theon working his way to redemption, or Jon and Daenerys’s consummated romance. But there’s a failure in storytelling.

Photo Credit: HBO

Starting with the Sansa/Arya plot: I wrote about my problems with this arc after last week’s episode, at which point I assumed that the confrontation between them was real. It was lacking character motivation then. Now that we know this wasn’t a real fight, it makes even less sense. Why would Sansa and Arya stage a fight if no one was watching? Otherwise, what are we to expect? That they were able to quickly reconcile after? The writers’ attempt to pull the wool over the audience’s eyes when it was Littlefinger being charged with treason and murder reeks of self-indulgence. It fails to realize that misdirection like this is the lowest common denominator in terms of tricking the audience; it laughs at them instead of with them.

Photo Credit: Macall B. Polay/HBO

I was optimistic about Theon’s story early in the season, even though I suspect most people have been over him as a character for a long time (as my boyfriend said “No one cares about this storyline except Lily Allen.”). My case is simply that Theon’s had a miserable life, and has experienced horrific torture that could make him a deeply sympathetic character. His reunion with Jon is a long time coming, and Theon’s efforts at redemption are honorable. All good, yes? But getting kneed in the groin five times and then beating a guy because it’s apparently the only move the other guy has? And the rest of the Iron Islands crew cheers for him after? Come on. That could have been much better to see if they cut the groin shots from five to one and eliminated the cheering. We get it! A knee to the crotch doesn’t hurt if you’re castrated. But it just drives home this fact: Benioff and Weiss aren’t just spelling things out for us—they are reading it aloud to us. It underestimates the audience to staggering degrees.

Photo Credit: HBO

The biggest misfire is everything that surrounds Jon Snow and Daenerys. Although I personally think Jon and Daenerys’s connection has been poorly telegraphed, it’s an expected outcome, and I’ve been ready to give in to the inevitable. But the garishness of having their familial relationship as a voiceover while they have sex is as cheap as it comes, like an obnoxious neon sign pointing at something we should think is tawdry and titillating. And it comes at the tail of a pointless scene where Samwell and Bran share information about Jon’s lineage that everyone has basically known for multiple episodes at this point. Sure, it wasn’t “confirmed,” but the only confirmation we need is Jon finding out. Who cares about an entirely separate conversation that happens between Sam and Bran (and also somehow proves Bran isn’t completely omniscient?). I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: How stupid do the showrunners think we are?

I will say that there were glimpses of greatness in this episode. The little things stand out. The brief scene between Tyrion and Jaime had more warmth than we’ve seen in ages. Cersei’s threat to kill Jaime had my heart seize in my chest for a moment. The Hound smirking when Brienne tells him how Arya needs no protecting. I also loved Jaime riding north on his own, after finally breaking free of Cersei. It all makes me long for when this show made me feel things. It also means I can’t squash that little bit of hope that things will get better.

Photo Credit: HBO

For all of my complaints, this season closed with a horrific scene of the sacred Wall being destroyed, the one mystical feature that remained constant, the one thing that all of Westeros relied on, failing at keeping the White Walkers at bay. It’s a bold set up for the final season, in the kind of all-bets-are-off way that leads me to believe I need to leave all expectations behind come next season.

Other thoughts:

  • What the hell was that thing with Tyrion listening in on Jon and Dany? There has been zero suggestion that Tyrion has feelings for Daenerys (and frankly, how insulting if that’s the case).
  • I could not care less what Jon’s real name is, except to make Pete & Pete jokes. Jon’s the worst now, isn’t he?
  • Littlefinger’s death was supposed to be triumphant, but was just sort of anticlimactic. Remember when Tyrion strangled Shae and shot an arrow through his father’s chest before escaping in a box? Those were the days.
  • Finally, thank you all for reading these and watching along with me! Until next year (or the year after at this rate).

The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones premieres in 2018.

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