The battle at Winterfell is approaching. Jaime is confronted with the consequences of the past. A tense interaction between Sansa and Daenerys follows.
Like last week, I wanted to follow up the livestream analysis with some additional thoughts and some summarising comments.
Like I said on the stream, it is a better episode than last week now that (most) of the reunions are done with. But it still takes about half the episode before a real sense of urgency about the coming battle is introduced as Tormund and company arrive and inform them of something they ought to have known: the dead will be here before the night is over. That they have not kept a better eye on the enemy is a highly improbable scenario and it feels like the writers did not have a good sense of how to get the tension to the right level without introducing an “oh dear, they are almost here” moment. The need to wrap up the show with eight seasons, essentially spending only three seasons (and two of them shortened, at that) on what two books are intended to cover, has sacrificed any attempts at slowly building things up and not just in this regard.
I also spent some time discussing redundant characters, like Davos the soup server, Grey Worm and Missandei, Varys, the Hound and Podrick. I feel like they, too, are a result of wanting to wrap up the show so fast. George is reluctant to let characters disappear without a conclusion to their story (often death) which perhaps is to blame for some of the expansion of the story as a whole. But when you see characters meander around aimlessly you understand why concluding story arcs on the character level as well is important and why it has been a mistake to leave no room for that. That leaves us with a whole heap of formerly useful characters that now just hang around, like Britain in the EU.
In terms of faithfulness to George’s world and story, a few moments that I did bring up during the stream are worth emphasising here. Some because they are good, others because they really aren’t. Calling Brienne “a knight of the Seven Kingdoms” was a very nice touch, connecting her to her ancestor Ser Duncan the Tall. And getting Florence + the Machine to sing their lyrics to “Jenny of Oldstones” was a brilliant idea that worked out really well.
But Bryan Cogman also gets a two big, fat red marks on his script for “They remember the last time Targaryens brought dragons north.” and for Daenerys saying that “everyone” told her Rhaegar was nice and yet somehow she also buys the idea that he raped Lyanna. Both were clearly lines/statements needed to achieve certain responses that otherwise would not occur and that points to a problem with the overall plotting, much like paranoid Sansa is indicative of needing characters to act in unnatural ways to force the plot down a particular path. There is unfortunately very little that is organic about the plotting of the show, so even when individual moments come out well, the bigger picture lets them down.
Still, this episode reaches a 6.5, maybe even a 7 and that is without dragon bonus points, although instead it gets a small Florence + the Machine bonus.