The Race of the Iron Throne

game72017.47: Game of Thrones Season 7 (2017)

Well, it certainly wasn’t Game of Thrones‘ best season. Which is a pity, but in many ways it was inevitable. The trouble with stories is how they end.

In a sense, a story’s end is almost arbitrary. I often think about films or tv series and about their endings. A film might end in a moment of victory or validation, but I often consider what happens afterwards, after the film fades to black and the credits roll up, the story of the film is over but the meta-story, if you will, beyond that, continues. The trick for a screenwriter and a director is in finding a satisfying place to end a story, but it’s always an artificial ending, that meta-story continues.

And of course finding that satisfying ending, it’s a real trick after 30, 40, 50 hours of story in a tv series. Particularly for Game of Thrones and its complex, sophisticated plot and its huge roster of characters. How does one find an ending to match all the dreams and fantasies, all the theories and fan-fiction created worldwide over all those years when the series has become a phenomenon, and from even before that, over the decades of the books being published? Indeed, it strikes me now that Game of Thrones rather cheekily perhaps gets two bites at the cherry, with the HBO series first and, hopefully if time allows, the book series second. It gets two attempts at a satisfying conclusion.

HBOs solution, after a fashion, is that rather than spend three or four years and astronomical sums of money to produce two gigantic ten-episode seasons for the concluding two runs, instead they will condense the spend of a ten-episode season into seven and six-episode runs respectively, thus ensuring huge visuals and scope to hopefully bring things to a grand climax. Unfortunately this rather spoils the other aspects of the show- the sense of scale of the geography, the character beats, the political machinations and various interludes that fans grew to enjoy.  The irony of those of us who complained at the interminable pace of some seasons/episodes while the HBO show waited for author George R R Martin to write and publish another book over the years , now complaining of the ferocious pace of the show now that it has given up on waiting and has gone ahead and leapt beyond the leaden pace of his typewriter, isn’t lost on us. Be careful of what you wish for, eh?

In any case, I return to my original observation- how in the world will Game of Thrones possibly end in a way to satisfy everyone, or even the minority, of its huge worldwide fanbase? It simply can’t, and I think this is the lesson of  season 7. I am not going to write a negative, hateful review picking out all the plotholes or weak scripting or terrible coincidences that insult fans who have watched and enjoyed this show for so many years. There were many spectacular moments in season 7, and it is easy to forget that, HBO or not, this is a television show, not a huge Hollywood movie, and what it manages to create and put on screen is really wondrous and for all its faults this is one of the very greatest entertainments ever, of any format. It is just that season 7 has saddened me a little, and left me a little more reluctant than expectant, for what season 8 brings us next year (or the year after, who knows?). Game of Thrones was extraordinary, indeed still is extraordinary, but it also became a little more ordinary with season 7. Like we just experienced some kind of reality-check.

Because with only six episodes left, and where season 7 has left us, there is little room for many character moments ahead, or for learning who/what the Night King is, what drives him, what he hopes to achieve in slaughtering all the living with his army of the dead or what he intends for those lands yet beyond the oceans (I suspect it would involve turning said oceans to ice and simply walking across). Or what happens when the general story-arc is over and what happens to the (surviving) characters ten, twenty years later.

I had hoped, after all the teasing since the very first moments of the first episode of season one, that the Night King might be fleshed out, as it were. Or that once the Game of Thrones was over, and someone finally sat victorious and uncontested on the Iron Throne we might see the result of that years, decades after. We won’t. Because six episodes is surely a headlong rush of battles and treacheries and victories and deaths that will be thrilling and spectacular but it’s only six episodes. And if the seven episodes of season 7 teaches us anything, it is that six episodes won’t be enough. Maybe ten episodes, or any number of episodes, wouldn’t be enough. That there is the conundrum. Just how do you end Game of Thrones?

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One thought on “The Race of the Iron Throne

  1. I think the problem with the pace is they’ve left it so long that we’ve all got used to it — at this point it’s not been fixed, it’s just been changed. It’s a shame the budget and schedule issues have made them decide to make fewer episodes, because I imagine these 13 spread out to 20 would probably put the pacing back in line with previous seasons.

    As for how to end it, they’re kind of hamstrung by their story being a story — unavoidably, it has to fit into some of the moulds of how stories go, otherwise people will complain about it being unsatisfying (online commenters already spend more than enough time moaning about deus ex machinas that aren’t!)

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