GaMEH of Thrones
Season six of Game of Thrones wrapped up this week and we have a lot to say. Be forewarned, however, that we weren’t as hot on this episode as the rest of the internet apparently was, so ready your pitchforks accordingly, if you must.
Let’s start with the good. This chapter in Cersei Lannister’s story came to a satisfying conclusion this episode…there’s a clear beginning, middle, and end to her arc, as well as a clear direction as to where the next chapter will begin next season. Cersei has effectively eliminated all opposition in King’s Landing, securing the crown for herself. Cersei, though, as always lacked the finesse of her younger brother, and it’s almost laughable how shortsighted she is. Yes, the High Sparrow and Margaery Tyrell were her sources of grief for the time being, but her lust for power blinded her to the outside elements that are obviously still at play. Even Jamie is disapproving of her actions, driving a great divide between the two. Even on a technical level, this arc was great. The lead-up to the wildfire was clear, but there were so many moving pieces that the payoff wasn’t obvious until this episode, when Lancel runs into the tunnels. The visual of the green explosion in the otherwise red(ish) King’s Landing was striking.
Unfortunately, everything else this episode was a let down by virtue of it being the most predictable chunk of storytelling since, well, last week’s episode. Dany has been promising us for six years that she is going to head to Westeros, and while the first three were necessary for her to develop as a leader, the middle two were frustrating, and this year was entirely unnecessary…the only reason she got taken by the Dothraki was for her to twiddle her thumbs until the Greyjoys could arrive and offer her boats. She didn’t really grow at all this season, so it was a big waste of time. Couple this with the absurd notion that Tyrion would be inspired by Dany. What? Dany was missing since the beginning of the season…the same period of time wherein Tyrion was going behind her back to decry her leadership skills and make arrangements with the Masters. I’m not sure what she’s done to earn Tyrion’s unwavering loyalty. Luckily, the Tales from Essos are winding down, and we’ll finally get some payoff to this story.
Of course, we haven’t gotten our payoff yet, which means we are still in the “set-up” portion of the story for many of these characters. I joked on Twitter earlier that Game of Thrones could air it’s final episode and still find a way to be nothing but set-up. This episode devoted an unbelievable amount of time reminding us that characters exist and are loyal to certain factions. Dany is loyal to herself and is going to Westeros! Olena Tyrell doesn’t like Cersei Lannister! The Sand Snakes also don’t like the Lannisters! Winter is coming! Petyr Baelish wants to be king and loves Sansa! These are all things we know but are reminded of anyway. We’re being beaten over the head with constant reminders rather than actually advancing the plot.
The plot advancements that we do get, likewise, are done in the simplest and most obvious way possible. Take Arya, for starters. Ignoring the fact that we had two entire seasons devoted to, what appears to be, nothing but a face-changing ability, Arya goes undercover in Walder Frey’s castle and kills him. That’s it? She just…does it? You may argue that the audience wants to see Arya be a bad-ass assassin, but having her do things so effortlessly and in such a straightforward manner makes it boring. Let’s contrast Arya this episode with Walter White in the Season 4 finale of Breaking Bad (spoilers inbound for the rest of the paragraph, of course). We all wanted Walt to take out Gus. But who in the audience could have predicted that Walt would poison a child so that he could convince Jesse that Gus was trying to turn the two against each other, discover through Jesse that Hector Salamanca hated Gus after the two exchanged blows in cartel business, convince Hector to make a bogus tip to Hank in order to convince Gus’s assistant that Hector is talking, leading Gus to walk into Walt’s trap wherein Hector is strapped to a bomb that kills Gus. This, of course coming only after the first several attempts to neutralize Gus failed.
There is a certain excitement to watching a character run into problems that we, as an audience, don’t know to get around. We end up rooting for the protagonist and the victory is even more sweet when it comes around. Arya simply appeared at Walder Frey’s side and murdered him point blank. Sure there is a bit of a “YESS!!!” factor when Arya reveals her true face, but it’s so short and lacks all build up. It’s the simplest A to B route that could be taken, so it ultimately falls flat in the grand scheme of things.
As for Jon Snow…I’m not really sure if I want to criticize the story here or not. Yes, it’s finally revealed that Lyanna Stark is Jon’s true mother, and that Rhaegar Targaryen is likely Jon’s father. This reveal wasn’t shocking at all, but to be fair, this was the single most speculated on piece of trivia since the books started being published almost two decades ago. It’s hard to fault a show for confirming something that fans were bound to guess right eventually. Points, I supposed, should be awarded for the show not treating it like the plot-twist of the century.
The idea that we are getting two more seasons of this show is daunting, if I’m being honest, because storylines are starting to feel their weight. Sure, many of them are likely going to consolidate as more paths cross. Let’s hope the showrunners have answers going forward and, more importantly, that those answers are better than the ones we can come up with ourselves. I’d like our heroes to have more clever solutions to more complex problems. Given the clear-cut nature of this season’s big moments, the show has never quite regained that “pull the rug out from underneath you” spirit that the early seasons had.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I should save this for a full season review…
Alex Russo likes to talk about television. You can read more of his insane ramblings on Twitter.