Game of Thrones Season Seven has just ended, and with it brings an end to one of the most divisive seasons for viewers. The high points of this season were some of the best of the entire series, but these peaks came with severe consequences that would never be present in author George RR Martin’s set of books. The season left me talking to other viewers who said “…but sure, it’s a fantasy show, they don’t have to be that accurate” – but this feels to me like a statement that goes against what the show has been about so far. A show based on its constancy and unpredictability threw a bit of its soul out for ‘good television’ – so it leaves you with the question, is good television worth sacrificing good writing?
Spoilers for Game of Thrones (and slight mentions to the book series too) from here onwards, for all four of you who haven’t watched the new season! Television shows or even movies that establish themselves off the back of a successful set of novels usually have a good footing once they have a good start – Harry Potter being the most famous example, but others also fit the bill. Usually however, these screen adaptations always have the roots from the books to fall back on. Game of Thrones, as everyone knows, no longer has this crutch to fall back on. The show very much developed from a solid base to a shaky platform of short-term planning.
The main comparison for this would be season two and three (or A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords) to the most recent season – the passage of time was weighted earlier on, the march of Robb’s army from the North towards King’s Landing took time and proved to have major obstacles in between. While any counter-argument would say, a whole army was moving south, it still felt like there was real length to their travel, and there was a realism brought to a fantasy series. Meanwhile in episode six of season seven, we see our suicide squad walk for roughly a day, and then Gendry runs back to Eastwatch, sends a raven to Dragonstone, and have Daenerys ride Drogon and her dragons beyond the wall in what feels like mere hours . George R.R. Martin compares the size of Westeros to South America, so to see half the continent being travelled there and back again in roughly a day, it feels cheap compared to the standards we were given previously.
The reward for dropping these ideals that were once present is that we can be given the visual feast of dragons coming down from the sky and destroying an army of the dead before what was likely the biggest casualty of the season. The CGI of season seven was magnificent – no doubt, but is it worth it? Well the simple answer is, it depends on you. Perspective is key as a viewer and I can’t stop you from enjoying big set pieces over consistency. For me though, I’d rather watch something where I am always thinking, this is good and follows the same tone and methods, instead of slapping together a convoluted excuse for things to be the way they are. I feel that shows or films should stick to what they’ve given up to this point, evolving is okay as long as it has a purpose, but cutting corners to rush the plot or force fan service is not good enough.
Another example of something being meddled with like this is 10 Cloverfield Lane. The majority of the film takes place in a bunker then in the last 20 minutes suddenly takes a U-turn and changes the tone and creates this new personality edge to our protagonist. This feels cheap and destroys what you’ve been given to this point in order to make a blockbuster ending – while this may satisfy some viewers, it just leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.
A visual spectacle can be rewarding, but the road to get there is as important. Do we sacrifice logic to be treated for a small amount of time? We can defend what we’ve seen, but when what’s been lost is something we have previously said is what makes the show or film special, it feels wrong. Just because you like something doesn’t mean you have stand by it even when it takes a tumble every so often, we can be critics, being critical should help make things better in the future. I can’t force your opinion on watching something spectacular that didn’t have any proper build up, rather than having something that was a slow burner with a decent pay off – but I will say would you rather have fast food or sit in a restaurant for an hour waiting for a meal? That’s your choice.