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SPOILERS! But who hasn't seen Game of Thrones. Come on.
Think back to the ninth episode of season three, when Robb Stark was preparing to marry Queen Talisa. A huge crowd had gathered to watch the festivities, and it seemed that the King of the North was headed for a happy ending. Other fan favourites were in attendance, such as Robb's mother Lady Catelyn, but that did not stop the shocking tragedy from unfolding. Robb, his new wife, and his mother were all savagely murdered at the hands of Walder Frey. This, for me especially, was one of the most shocking moments I have seen in any television series, and it highlighted the fact that the show was not going to rest on its laurels. The killing of Eddard Stark in season one was not a fluke. This show is brutal. And it made it clear that it was going to continue to sacrifice main characters in the most heinous way possible.
This attitude continued throughout the show, with Joffrey Baratheon's death at his own wedding just a season later. It was these unexpected deaths and unforeseen twists that kept audiences on the edge of their seats and captivated Game of Thrones from just another fantasy tale into something the likes of which that we have never seen before.
Even when the deaths were not all that shocking, Game of Thrones was still finding ways to keep us on the edge of our seats. One such method came with the immense battle scenes within the show, which were topped by the greatest episode of television I have ever seen: "The Battle of the Bastards." This entire episode was an edge-of-your-seat experience that left viewers breathless and saw the demise of another great Game of Thrones villain: Ramsay Bolton.
The last two seasons, however, have felt different, and I don't think this can be placed solely on the fact that the episode run is shorter. I think last night's episode, "The Long Night," arrives on the back of two build-up episodes, one of which was very poor and the other was poignant and touching. I will explore these episodes in more detail later; for now, I will focus on the Battle of Winterfell.
Since the first episode of Game of Thrones, it has been implied that the Night King and his army of white walkers are the series main antagonists. After last night's episode, however, it seems that we have been misled. The episode was strong, the visuals were incredible, and to film the biggest battle in TV history is no easy feat. However, the plot was so full of holes that it was hard to stay invested. How Arya managed to sneak through an army of white walkers to attack the Night King is completely illogical. Sansa, Tyrion, and all the other important characters not being seen by the white walkers in the crypt made no sense, and the situations that some characters survived seemed illogical.
Over the course of the episode, Jon, Jamie, and several other characters found themselves surrounded by herds of the undead and somehow, against all logic, survived. This is not the Game of Thrones way. For a show that has never been afraid to sacrifice main characters to come to the biggest battle in its history and have Theon be the main death is a huge letdown. Before the episode, fans were anxious for the fate of characters such as Samwell Tarly, Brienne of Tarth, and The Hound, but no matter how terrible the situation these characters found themselves in, they all escaped relatively unscathed.
With the Night King's death (unless he is somehow resurrected), it seems that Cersei is going to be the villain of the finale. This feels undeserved, and much less compelling. Now that winter has come and the Night King has fallen. All that remains is the battle for the throne, and given that the last battle was for the fate of all human kind, the war for the throne feels anti-climatic. I also think that should Jon or Daenerys win the throne, the show will surrender all aspects of the incredible suspense and shock value that lifted the earlier seasons to such incredible heights.
The show is also losing elements of realism. In season seven especially, the size of the Seven Kingdoms seemed to shrink significantly. Armies were arriving at cities in single episodes, as opposed to the realistic multi-episode journeys that we saw in the earlier seasons. Don't get me wrong, the show is still of an amazingly high standard, but I think there has been a clear dip in quality in the last two seasons especially. There are still three episodes left and I truly hope that the final episodes will not only explain who exactly the Night King was and his reasons for targeting Bran, but also provide more twists and turns in the battle for the Iron Throne. Queen Sansa, anybody?