Well… In the words of Sandor Clegane, f*ck me sideways.

Leave it to Game of Thrones to deliver a big second-to-last episode of the season that is simultaneously utterly predictable, intensely satisfying AND majorly frustrating. We got to see some insane action, deeply emotional scenes, an ICE DRAGON for f*ck’s sake…
But also gaping plot holes, the usual wonky timelines we’ve come to expect lately, bad decisions, worse advice, and two fan favorites who may or may not be regressing to their former annoying selves.

You know it’s going to be a long, rambling post when the opening paragraphs merit not one, but two f*cks. Suffice it to say there’s a lot to unravel, so here goes nothing:


Winterfell

Okay, first of all, what good is it to have the three eyed raven as your brother if he’s not going to do squat to contribute and is entirely absent while drama unfolds? No insight about the tiresome sister rivalry, no visions of Jon’s plight beyond the Wall, Bran is arguably the most antipathetic and useless character of the show, with Sansa tying with Arya for a close second in these last couple of episodes, at least on the surface.

I’m honestly not sure which Stark sister I’m more frustrated with. Both are acting like obnoxious idiots, with Sansa beating the whole Lady of Winterfell shtick to the ground and Arya being evidently duped by Littlefinger’s antics. You’d think it would have taken more to fool our little faceless assassin than a planted message, but apparently not. You’d also think Sansa would get over herself for once, but none of the torture (she makes a point of reminding us) she’s endured has instilled any humility in her puny adolescent brain.

Sansa
For one thing, this whole “I won the battle of the bastards” business has gotten old. All Sansa did was cleverly lead Petyr on, and if anyone should take credit for that, it’s her sadistic mentor, Cersei, who first taught her to use her feminine guiles to her advantage, and the fact that she takes after her dead mother, the longtime object of Petyr’s affections. The only reason Jon was losing the battle in the first place was the fact that she kept her correspondence with Littlefinger from him, sacrificing thousands of men in the process.

For another, she conveniently stopped protesting Jon’s decisions the minute he decided to leave her in charge of Winterfell, so the least she could do is publicly support him, even if she doesn’t agree with his choices, instead of undermining him at every turn. She’s smart enough to see that the Northern lords’ allegiance shifts at a whim, and that’s all the more reason not to encourage them to doubt Jon’s authority. Arya is right about her sister enjoying her new elevated status a bit too much.

And third, did Sansa ever stop and think how, exactly, she managed to survive every tragedy that befell her before adopting the holier than thou attitude that allows her to toss around such unfounded statements as ‘you’d never survive what I went through’?

It was Petyr who smuggled her out of Kings Landing, Theon who smuggled her out of Winterfell. How would she have fared without a little help from her friends? When faced with Joffrey’s sadistic tactics, she promptly betrayed her family and sent that stupid message that’s now causing a rift between her and her sister. She turned Brienne away and chose to stick with Littlefinger when they first fled the capital, and this led to her marriage to yet another sadistic asshole. Her retarded decisions caused most of the misery that befell her, so maybe, just maybe, Sansa should take it down a notch and not presume to know what’s best. Maybe she should think twice before assuming she’s the only one who’s seen hardships, and definitely think again before challenging Arya, who’s been entirely on her own for years now, at a much younger age than Sansa, and actually learned quite a few useful skills in the process.

Arya
Even so, we’ve learned to expect Sansa to act like an entitled brat over the years. Disappointing though it may be to see her act this way, it’s not nearly as frustrating as watching Arya act so predictably. Her over-confidence is making her careless – did she learn nothing from her blunder with the Waif in Braavos?

On top of that, the ever-popular trope of avoiding any meaningful discussion that would actually advance the plot just to produce more conflict is getting very old: Arya coming clean about the faces was cool (and downright intimidating), but she could have easily one-upped Sansa’s self-important attitude by explaining what she did with those faces the minute she returned to Westeros. What she did to Meryn Trant back in Braavos, for that matter. While Sansa was too busy letting Petyr do his creepy thing, Arya not only trained to be one lethal teenager, but she actively took revenge on several hundred people who betrayed her family. Instead of pointing this out and maybe arriving at the obvious conclusion, that they’re both on the same side, we’re back to the same bullshit bickering of Season 1. Sansa knows enough to not underestimate her sister now, but instead of earning her big sister’s respect, Arya has only managed to instill fear in Sansa. And fear makes people do unfortunate things, like turn to Littlefinger for counsel.
Still, it does feel like Arya is playing some sort of a long con here. I can’t accept that she’s gullible enough to fall right into Petyr’s trap, and my guess is that the younger Stark sister does have something up her sleeve – a plan Sansa is still clueless about. I also loved her digs at Sansa (particularly the ones about little Lady Mormont). So even though both their arrogant attitude annoyed me, I’m willing to let go of these minor gripes and wait it out, and hopefully GoT won’t let me down.

What puzzles me is Brienne’s role in all of this. Is Sansa simply sending her away so that this three-way game of cat-and-mouse can play out to her advantage? Littlefinger obviously knows the tall blonde won’t hesitate to chop him in half at the first misstep, so it’s no surprise he’s advising Sansa to send her away. Is Sansa that big of an idiot as to blindly heed his advice, or is she playing some sort of long con herself? Her treatment of Brienne is suspect, and I’m leaning towards option #2 simply because of her terse way she stands her ground and ignores Brienne’s objections.

If this is just careless writing, sending Brienne to Kings Landing would be a huge missed opportunity: If Cersei expects the lady of Winterfell to accept her invitation and Sansa wants her troublesome sister out of the way, what better way to kill two birds with one stone than send Stark Jr off to the capital along with her collection of masks so she can rid everyone of the evil queen once and for all? And if Sansa continues to treat Brienne not as the loyal knight she’s proven herself to be, in all respects if not in name, but merely as yet another underling she can order around, I’ll be pissed. At least Arya gives her the respect she deserves.
I’ll also be pissed if this is all just a cheap plot device to rekindle the Jaime-Brienne romance. Sansa’s comment was too on the nose, so again, it’s either lazy writing or just another red herring. Either way, I’m still shipping Tor-ienne, hard. Out lovely ginger Tormund deserves to get the girl as far as I’m concerned.

Dragonstone

Tyrion has been a pretty useless Hand since they all landed on Dragonstone, and if it weren’t for Peter Dinklage’s excellent performance I’d already be bored of him. (In fact, it seems the writers have given their best material to Davos this season).

As much as I can appreciate his loyalty to Dany, the fervor with which Tyrion is trying to protect her seems a bit unrealistic – or at least unfounded. What has Daenerys done, so far, to prove that she’s such a perfect fit for a queen – their only hope, in fact? It’s not as if her stint as a ruler in Meereen was so successful; far from it. In her entire story arc, all she’s been consistent at is demanding that people accept her as the rightful ruler of Westeros solely by the strength of her name and her powerful army of foreigners and dragons.

Jon has been doing more for the realm than Dany ever has, but Tyrion is content to leave him out there to die, along with Jorah, because Dany is apparently going to break the wheel.And yet, since arriving at Dragonstone, all she’s done is invade the Westerlands, destroy their food supply and roast Lannister and Tarly soldiers alive, destroying a historic house in the process. Are we supposed to accept her decisions as superior simply because she could have done much worse things? Everything she had done up to this week had served her own singular purpose; in that respect, she’s no different than Cersei. Tyrion might understandably want to fully support his sister’s opposition, but advising her to turn her back on Jon and Jorah, who wouldn’t have endangered themselves in the first place if not for his stupid plan, was a huge faux-pas in my book – much worse than doling out a death sentence to the Tarly men, which he seemed so broken up about last week.

At the same time, Tyrion seems hell-bent on figuring out who succeeds Dany after she’s gone, which Dany naturally perceives as terribly premature and downright bizarre at this juncture. What it is, however, is his not-so-subtle attempt at establishing the novel idea of democracy in Westeros, since she has no children to succeed her on the throne. Both the Night’s Watch and the Iron Islanders, whom he mentions as examples, have their own, much more pluralistic way of choosing their leader. So as much as his efforts might appear suspect to Dany, I can’t possibly imagine his intentions are sinister, nor that he’s lobbying for the position himself – even flip, if she continues to ignore his advice, as she finally does this week.

Tyrion’s progressive views on politics is not the only reason I can’t really hate on him too much this week: as susceptible as he is to doling out dubious advice, he’s also terribly perceptive when it comes to sniffing out his queen’s potential suitors. The scene where he points out what Jorah, Drogo, Daario and ‘this Jon Snow’ have in common worked brilliantly, not only because he’s completely right, but also because Emilia Clarke hit it out of the park this week: her expression when Tyrion suggested Jon’s fallen for her was so wonderfully high school girl you-think-he-likes-me? it almost made me giggle.

I do wish they’d stop with the dick jokes though. “He’s too little for me”? Really? Oh well, I guess watching him slay those wights later in the episode changed her mind. That, and ogling his abs err, badass scars.

Beyond the Wall

Which brings me to the stupidest plan ever devised in Westeros since Catelyn’s bonehead ideas that capturing Lannisters was a good way to go….

… but was ultimately saved by the amazing effects shots and the shock factor, but also the stellar dialogue.

I’m not gonna lie, I thought this whole let’s-capture-a-wight-and-bring-it-to-Cersei plan was retarded from the get go. But if this is what it took to give us that spectacular battle and to bring the dragons into the mix, giving us a taste of what the final stand between the living and the dead will look like, then hell, I can get behind the stupid plan. I was sad to see Thoros go, and even sadder to see the dragon dead – and then undead – but man, I was on the edge of my seat throughout the whole thing and I loved every minute of it.

I even loved the glaring plot holes – one minute the ice breaks, the next it’s safe for the wights to walk on. A few wights fall on Tormund and he comes away more-or-less unscathed, but they are otherwise super fast and absolutely lethal. Valyrian steel and flaming swords really struggled to bring that zombie bear down, but had no trouble taking down multiple wights at a time. The first group of Wights acted more or less human in battle, the big horde that followed were crazy rabid 28 Days Later-type zombies. And then, of course, the hilariously cliché movie trope: the wights waiting their turn to attack our very outnumbered band of survivors. Even TWD zombies are known to swarm and overpower humans, and these ice zombies actually have some form of intelligence (demonstrated by those industrious zombies at the end, and the gigantic chains they so conveniently just happened to have handy in case a big ass dragon fell through the ice).

Oh, and: whatever happened to the dragonglass weapons Jon had forged at Dragonstone? Shouldn’t they all be carrying them? Isn’t that why he stayed on the island in the first place? So how come the Wights didn’t just disintegrate on contact unless they were struck by Jon’s sword?

Even with all these ridiculous plot holes, the battle was quite a sight. I especially enjoyed watching the ice melt instantly when Drogon breathed fireballs onto the oncoming Wights, so I can’t really fault the effects work, just the logic: Dany was riding Drogon and was then grounded for a while until all the survivors could climb onboard. One of the other dragons got taken down by the Knight King’s ice spear. What about the third dragon? Why couldn’t he just incinerate a few more wights while Drogon was otherwise occupied? Why not stick around and save Jon? More importantly, why did the Knight King target this dragon, who was in flight and the furthest away, while Drogon was basically a sitting duck and much closer?

And really, how many times will the show use the ol’ deus ex machina plot device to save Jon’s ass? While I enjoyed the (much anticipated and very predictable) scene where the dragons show up to save the day, and as much as I appreciated the callback to the Battle of the Bastards, right down to the muted battle sounds and Jon’s hopelessness before help showed up, I thought Benjen arriving just at the nick of time was a bit too convenient, given that this was the second time in the span of a few minutes that someone saved Jon’s ass out of nowhere. Wouldn’t have it been much cooler to have the third dragon stick around and whisk him away, LOTR eagles-style (especially since we already got our ROTK tribute when the ice cracked all around the rock our group was standing on, swallowing a bunch of wights and forcing the surrounding ones to stay back)? And are we supposed to assume that Jon is now freeze-proof, much like Dany is fireproof throughout the show? How else did he survive in that freezing lake – and the conveniently re-emerged at exactly the same spot he’d dropped Longclaw?

Oh well. I guess I can look past all that because not only was the battle absolutely spectacular, but every bit of dialogue was also spot-on (and this is mainly why I’m still harboring hope that the scenes at Winterfell were written well enough to suggest a deeper game at play than the continuation of the Stark sisters’ rivalry).

The expedition beyond the Wall also gave us humor, dialogue perfectly in line with each character, and a lovely scattering of c*nts throughout, courtesy of Sandor Clegane.
I loved the exchanges between the Hound, the Brotherhood and Gendry, especially Tormund and Sandor’s scenes, and it was about time Jon and Jorah discussed the elephant in the room (Jeor Mormont’s valyrian steel sword). And let’s not forget how the writers are just plain f*cking with us now: the rowing champion of seasons past is now the marathon runner of season 7. Gendry will be built like a boulder by the end of the show – oh wait: maybe they’re beefing him up so he can be the one to beat the Mountain after all? Har har.

Speaking of callbacks to previous seasons, it had been a while since we’d heard the ol’ ‘The Night is dark, and full of terrors’ incantation, and I must say, it sounds a hell of a lot better spoken in Beric’s magificent baritone.

In effect, aside from the original premise of the plan, everything about the characters’ interactions worked for me, and I even loved the emotional scene between Dany and Jon on the boat, icky though it may be.

I know most people expect them to bone on the way to Kings Landing and if those looks and all the handholding are to be taken as signs, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do hook up. They’re both young and hot after all, and they’re not even aware they’re related – not that this has stopped the Targaryens before, quite the contrary in fact. Add to that Tyrion’s advice about a marriage alliance, which must be on the back of Dany’s mind, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t think of Jon as ‘too little’ right now, knee figuratively bent and all. And she called her Dany – I mean, really? Now you’re just pandering, dear GoT writers.


So what does this all mean for the endgame? I was fully convinced that we’d have some major character deaths to contend with by now, with Cersei and Littlefinger topping my list. Yet here they are, Cersei more powerful than ever, Littlefinger still moving behind the scenes, both very much alive.

Instead of coming closer to a resolution for the Iron Throne conundrum, we got our first taste of the Dragons Vs. Zombies battle. It’s satisfying, but what will it mean for the overarching game of thrones? Are we getting a cliffhanger finale with the stakes raised higher than ever, and then a phrenetic 6-episode arc where everything’s happening all at once? Or are we (hopefully) dealing with the ice zombies first, so we can get on with the real intrigue of the actual game of thrones?

Also: is this what GRRM envisioned, or are the showrunners doing their own thing by now? Benioff and Weiss have been doing a decent job of it so far – and it’s not a small undertaking either – but putting the final pieces together with no detailed roadmap is a huge ask, and with the story drawing to an end, it’s no wonder a lot of it has become predictable at times, tough to swallow at others.

With all its faults, this has been a very entertaining season so far, and I don’t expect the finale to be anything but spectacular. I’m still hoping for the odd unexpected death – we’ve had surprisingly few of those this season – but if the idea is to just keep the kill count to a minimum and then deliver the chaos in season 8, I’m fine with that too.

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