3 stars (season grade)
THE SHOW “Game of Thrones”
WHEN | WHERE Season 7 finale 9 p.m. Sunday on HBO
WHAT IT’S ABOUT The final episode of the seventh season is entitled “The Dragon and the Wolf,” presumably referring to the House “sigils” (or seals) of the Targaryens and Starks, respectively. But just about all HBO is revealing about the season finale is the length — 79 minutes, 43 seconds, making this the longest “GoT” episode yet. Other details that have leaked: Houses Lannister, Stark and Targaryen will meet to discuss the White Walker invasion, while Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) and Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) are expected to make appearances as well.
MY SAY To allay doubts, concerns or confusion, and to cut through the fog of battle, the hot breath of dragons, the cold grip of a coming winter, and also to set aside — for the moment anyway — some of the grumbling from the choir, the seventh season of “Game of Thrones” was almost great.
But you already know that. Here were the most lavish battle scenes in TV history. There was at least one episode (“The Queen’s Justice”) that ranked with some of the series’ best. Nothing felt halfhearted or halfway or half-baked. (Oh no, it was fully baked all right). The seventh was that go for broke, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead season that thrilled most fans and exceeded most promises.
Almost great, but not quite. Anyone who’s sampled some of the “GoT” seventh season flak out there knows one of the major gripes: Timing sequences, otherwise known as the “how fast does a raven fly” paradox. In last week’s episode, “Beyond the Wall,” Gendry Baratheon (Joe Dempsie) was dispatched back to Eastwatch, then ordered to send a raven south to Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) warning her that an army of wights is about to descend on Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and his beleaguered band of wight kidnappers. They had headed north to capture a dead man walking because . . . well, long story which you already know, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Gendry succeeds in remarkable fashion — a bit too remarkable for the purists — because Daenerys rides to the rescue on Drogon within a day or so.
This means that either Gendry was at least as fast as Road Runner of Looney Tunes fame, or that the raven had supersonic speed. Westeros is a big continent. This is not like going from one end of Long Island to the other, even with the traffic.
The director of the episode, Alan Taylor, dryly dismissed the nitpickers in a recent interview with The New York Times: “I thought, ‘That’s funny — you don’t seem troubled by the lizard as big as a 747, but you’re really concerned about the speed of a raven?’ ” then added, “That said, Gendry’s a really great runner.”
Foolish consistencies and crazy-fast ravens may well be the hobgoblins of little minds, but “GoT” purists do like their consistencies, foolish or otherwise, and “GoT” has rarely let them down. Based on George R.R. Martin’s still unfinished doorstop “A Song of Ice and Fire,” the author has paid extra close attention to logic over thousands of pages because everything — and everyone — is so tightly interlocked. One narrative misstep could have led to a cascade of other missteps, or the butterfly effect he has so long spoken of.
Martin knew exactly where he was going and what he was doing. This season, some have wondered: Do showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss?
By most appearances, “GoT” is cruising toward a glorious conclusion. While no book in TV history has enjoyed a more satisfying adaptation as this one, that doesn’t mean that “GoT” didn’t succumb to TV exigencies this season. It did and those occasionally wielded their own pernicious influence. Like Gendry and that raven, the seventh was in a big hurry. No time for subtlety. The bloodlust of fans must be served, a sprawling story must hurtle to conclusion. As such, spectacle sometimes trumped logic and story.
The key example of that, a doozy, was the trek north of the wall to capture a wight, which would then prove to Cersei (Lena Headey) that the Night King (Vladimir Furdik) did in fact exist, and that the Lannister forces must unite with the other kingdoms to stave the looming threat.
But why? Daenerys already had the ultimate killer app — those dragons — and the war with the Lannisters was already as good as won. As far as anyone knew, the war with the Night King was too (at least until we learned otherwise on last Sunday’s “Beyond the Wall.”) Who cares what Cersei believes?
When Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) made the suggestion during a war council, any fan could have easily offered a dozen better ideas. But Tyrion was enslaved by those TV exigencies. Jon Snow et al. had to go north to set up a spectacular TV set-piece, the slaying of the dragon Viserion in “Beyond the Wall.” Tyrion’s idea wasn’t merely bad, but “GoT’s” narrative logic was flawed. Moreover, Viserion’s death — horrible as it was — was robbed of some emotional power because he didn’t have to die after all.
Should fans of great TV and a great series care? Sure they should. We’ll all see if “GoT” makes some amends this Sunday.
BOTTOM LINE Gorgeous season flawed by some serious narrative missteps. “GoT” is no longer bulletproof, or dragon proof.