If you would like to read my individual episode reviews or any other Game of Thrones related content, click here. Due to the nature of the show, there will be minimal spoilers so for more story info, check out the episode reviews.
This was the beginning of the end after the announcement before the season that the series would come to an end after next season. With this news came a sense of urgency as storylines and subplots will start to reach their conclusions. We all know by now that the program has surpassed George R.R. Martin’s source material so it was interesting to watch where it would all go.
The other big difference this season was that it would be only 7 episodes which would be shorter than the usual 10 episodes (Season 8 will be 6 episodes). This obviously presents some pros and cons. Firstly, the season would have the same budget as previous 10 episode seasons which would mean greater production values but the shorter season may make the story feel rushed. Both were the case here although the latter became more evident closer to the end of the season.
The season started with all the characters in different places but it was clear that they would eventually come together to take on the upcoming threat of the White Walker while still preparing for the battle for the Iron Throne. Everybody was getting ready for something. Jon and Sansa rallied the North to help take on the White Walkers. Daenerys and her forces, including the Tyrells, the Greyjoys (Theon and Yara), and the Dornish, came together to help her overtake the Iron Throne from Cersei and the Lannisters. The Lannisters were getting ready for the battle ahead, however, they were not in the best position, or at least Jamie realized that.
Early in the season, we got to witness the first ever meeting between two of the most popular characters in the series with Jon and Daenerys. After being informed of his existence, Daenerys sent for him to meet her at Dragonstone. Once he learned that Dragonstone had the Dragonglass, Jon reluctantly accepted, leaving Sansa in charge of Winterfell. He hoped that along with the Dragonglass, she would be an ally in his battle against the White Walkers. They did not get along right away but she eventually came around as his value to her rose, becoming more than just allies (more on that later), as she lost her allies one after the other.
Daenerys did lose most of her allies but one of her biggest allies, Jorah Mormont, was still out there. The last time we saw him, he was afflicted with greyscale with no cure in sight. Luckily for him, he was in the Citadel where Sam happened to be. He volunteered to go so he could help Jon with the White Walkers. He learned very early on that it wasn’t going to be as easy as he thought. The other maesters, including Archmaester Ebrose (Jim Broadbent), were all strict and did not want to listen which frustrated Sam so he took matters into his own hands and cured Jorah of his grayscale before getting frustrated from his lack of progress and leaving (more on that later).
This season gave us a few more satisfying reunions with the return of Bran and Arya to Winterfell. Bran was now the Three-Eyed Raven and became cold and detached. He used his warging ability to track the progress of the Night King and the rest of the White Walkers. Arya was determined to complete her kill list but abandoned her quest and returned home once she learned of what happened at Winterfell. Their return was not incident-free, however, as Littlefinger tried to play the sisters against each other and failed.
The further the season went, the White Walkers became the more pressing threat, however, there was still some decent progress from all sides towards the Iron Throne. Thanks to the increased per episode budget, this season featured some impressive battle sequences. The series so far has usually had at least one big battle sequence per season, usually in the next to last episode of each season, but this season had arguably 4-5 sequences.
Examples of these sequences included an impressive sea battle (Episode 2), a siege at Casterly Rock (Episode 3) and Highgarden (also Episode 3), and a battle against an endless horde of White Walkers while on a frozen lake beyond the wall (Episode 6). All of those were great to watch with the most memorable of those being when a frustrated Daenerys took her dragons and an army of Dothraki to finally strike back against her enemies (Episode 4, behind the scenes).
As mentioned, Jon and his suicide squad of sorts went beyond the wall to capture a White Walker to show to Cersei to prove their existence and to get the Lannisters to help them in battle. Out of all the episodes, this one felt the most rushed which took away the impact from the adventure but it was still very enjoyable to watch. Ultimately, what happened here could have easily been covered in multiple episodes. This led to a satisfying gathering between all of the big names of the series in the season finale. While some reunited with one another, others were meeting for the first time. However, it all would not have been possible without some behind the scenes work from Tyrion. The gathering may not have been as long as it should have been, it did lay the groundwork nicely for next season.
Lastly, the question of Jon’s parents has been one of the biggest of the series so far and the answer was finally addressed this season although there has been enough speculation on the internet along with hints scattered across the series. We were afforded a glimpse last season through one of Bran’s visions but it was Sam who managed to find the truth. The question will now be when will Jon learn the truth and how will impact him for the remainder of the series.
The acting was excellent across the board with plenty of fun character moments throughout, beit character reunions or characters meeting for the first time or even some characters meeting their demise. The acting was strong during these moments, elevated by the considerable chemistry between most of the actors for the last seven seasons. There are too many performances to name but the core characters were all excellent with Dinklage, Coster-Waldau, and Heady perhaps standing out above the rest as Tyrion, Jaime, and Cersei respectively.
All were very compelling to watch and were all driven for different reasons. Tyrion wasn’t as devious as he has been in past seasons and was driven by his wanting to make the world a better place. Jamie was driven to protect himself and Cersei although they were drifting apart. Cersei wanted to stay in power and was willing to do anything to keep it while destroying anyone who would stand in her way. Daenerys has wanted the Iron Throne for seven seasons and had to learn to reign in her impulsiveness and to listen to others. Jon was driven to protect the North from what was incoming threat.
Overall, this was another excellent season that did a great job at advancing the story towards the finish line despite the shorter season. It could have had at least one more episode near the end but was still exciting to watch for the most part. There were still plenty of great moments to be had including a few battle sequences. Next season should be exciting and we’ll have to wait a little longer than usual as it isn’t expected to return until late 2018 or 2019.