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Game of Thrones sucks at killing characters, is great at killing time

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The show has too much to gain by stretching itself out.

Spoiler alert!

This recap is intended for folks who've already seen the episode, and will include a description of its events!

Welcome to my favorite kind of episode, the "Game of Thrones needs to buy itself a bit of time because this story is stretched out to hell" hour.

I'm not saying this was a bad hour of television — it had its moments — but no one involved with Game of Thrones has any reason to deliver a tight narrative. Everyone is watching the show. Everyone is buying the books. We're going to get a few episodes where a self-contained loop closes, and a character is back on the path they should have been on hours ago.

But alas. This was never a series that believed in brevity, in any format.

This hour seemed content to deflate much of the tension that had been built up in the previous episodes of the season. The Mountain finally shows off that fact that he's immovable, if you'll forgive my pun, but Tommen gets rid of the option of trial by combat. Cersei is rapidly running out of moves, but Qyburn has a bit of information about that pesky rumor. You know ... that one. About that person. Ahem.

GoT s7e8 2

And the Riverrun situation is also resolved, but without any of the set pieces or payoff of the conflict we were expecting, or even hoping for. The scene between Brienne and Jaime was interesting, but the verbal showdown between Jaime and Edmure was even better.

"How do you tell yourself you're decent, after everything you've done?" Edmure asks. For a few moments it seems like Jaime will once again wrestle with his darker impulses, but nope. He's leaning into his role as a villain, and is willing to do whatever it takes to get back to Cersei. Edmure looks into the abyss and flinches; he simply orders his way into the castle and tells the men to lay down their swords.

That's the end. The Blackfish helps Brienne and Podrick escape, and then turns back to fight until he dies. He expects it won't take long, and his end happens off-camera.

"He died fighting, my lord," the nameless soldier tells Jaime. I was reminded that Westeros isn't a world for heroes, even if we want it to be. This show has made me too cynical; I don't think this sort of thing is interesting anymore, instead I'm just left wondering if the Blackfish is set to return in some form.

She's a Stark. And she's going home.

It's also interesting how often characters are bringing up Catelyn Stark, right? It looks like someone else may be coming back from the dead.

Arya is another character who took a very long place to get to where she's going, and for now that destination is just a sense of purpose. She's a Stark, and she's going home.

She's more formidable now, and she has a few more kills under her belt, but I was maybe a bit too annoyed by the change in her wounds. Arya was near death at the end of the last episode, but now she's well enough to run and fight effectively with just a bit of bleeding. We're reminded that people are expendable on Game of Thrones, but our heroes can survive some pretty inhuman wounds if the story demands it.

There's also the weird detail that the Waif more or less seems to be channeling the T-1000 through that whole chase scene. It's nice that Arya is headed back to the show's main story, but it's kind of a bummer it took this long to get her there and her journey contained so few surprises.

Late in the episode The Hound reunites with Dondarrion, and they also seem like they're headed back to the main story as well after they take turns executing the men who killed the preacher and his followers in the last episode. It's another anticlimactic resolution after a taste of Clegane using that ax on a few fools, but why not spend multiple episodes putting someone through five minutes of character development?

Daenerys returns to Mereen, and we just get a glimpse of her dragon flying away from a situation in which it would probably have been pretty frickin' helpful. But hey, dragons are expensive to show onscreen, and we can't wrap up any of these storylines in a timely fashion.

This wasn't a bad episode, and there were some fun bits of dialog, but Game of Thrones is still suffering from the fact it doesn't know whether it wants to be a fantasy series or to subvert those expectations. Right now the important thing seems to be that the show is stretched out for as many episodes as possible, momentum be damned.

Odds and ends

  • "You're shit at dying, you know that?"
  • "The most famous dwarf in the world." There are plays and everything, Tyrion. You don't even know.
  • "Please tell his High Holiness he's always welcome to visit." We waited all week for that. Worth it.
  • "Let's hope it doesn't come to that."
  • "Anyone not drinking is disrespecting our queen."
  • Is there a punchline to the joke about the honeycomb and the jackass?
  • "Don't die for pride when you can fight for your blood."
  • "I prefer chicken." Leaning a bit too hard on that fan service, there.

Telltale's Game of Thrones - TV Cast Featurette