Oh dracarays! Things are gonna get a little heated cos I have MIXED FEELINGS. So, so many mixed feelings. And rather ominously I’m coming very late to this discussion cos I needed some time to get my thoughts ironed out.
Visually amazing, epic in direction, terrifying at times… it somehow still didn’t quite stick the landing and has left fans fired up. The biggest #shame for me is that yet another fandom has been left divided- which seems to be an unfortunate consequence of modern writing strategies.
Because it is obviously an active decision to wantonly betray what fans think will/should/might happen in order to subvert expectations. Yes, that old chestnut again. And no, I’m not simply theorising about the showrunner’s intent- they have openly said:
This is in direction opposition to GRRM’s view:
I think this episode is telling of those two different philosophies- though perhaps not for the reason you think. Cos I still believe Dany is gonna go Mad Queen. Yeah, I said it, I don’t think this is a complete surprise. There is plenty of evidence that she always had it in her:
HOWEVER, I think there is an excellent case to be made that this doesn’t fit with her character arc (look at me being difficult and taking the middle ground 😉). Namely, this is because they set it up to surprise the audience, rather than following a logical progression of the character. If Dany had spent ages at sea, if she’d lost loads of her loyal followers in an achingly long battle with the Southern Lords, if she’d not gone up North to effectively save the world- then there is a good possibility her freaking out and, ya know, murdering everyone in King’s Landing to win an unwinnable war could have made sense. But that’s a lot of ifs.
Partly this storyline fell victim of the rush to the finish line- yet mostly this came about because the writers didn’t want to tip us off that this could happen. So, they did the opposite of setting up a logical conclusion and put forward an alternate view of the character as a straight up hero- only so that they could then go “haha didn’t see that one coming did you?” Problem is THAT’S NOT HOW YOU TELL A STORY). That’s how you wind up a fanbase (see above for GRRM’s point). You should have proper set up and payoff- not begin the set up, veer off course and then go back to the original payoff (that’s some HIMYM ending shit).
And that’s to say nothing of Jaime’s character arc. To say I was crushed by it would be an understatement. Sure, I like the parallels of Jaime Lannister being freed (though it made me think he’s going to be captured much sooner ie in the episode where he miraculously dove into a river to escape dragon fire). Largely, I was PEEVED by his last scenes. It was endlessly aggravating to see him rush back to save Cersei- not the city- concluding “I never cared for the people, innocent or otherwise”. Erm wasn’t that why he killed the Mad King? What happened to his growth? And ugh it sucked that Euron was the one to take down Jaime- although it could be worse… it could have been a pile of bricks- oh wait…
All that said, the episode wasn’t a total bust. One aspect I particularly liked was how there were a trail of betrayals “for love”. From Sansa and her love of North to Varys and his love of the common people to Tyrion’s love for his brother- all suspects were implicated in some way. One slight problem is that there weren’t any real consequences for Tyrion’s betrayal here… I guess we’ll see on Sunday if he’s for the chopping block too.
The cinematography for the actual battle was astonishing- with callbacks to Lannisters vs Starks in the streets of King’s Landing, cries of “ring the bells” rising above the reeking bloodlust, and the sheer horror of it all (even by Game of Thrones standards). It was poignant to see Poor Jon caught up in it; it added a tragic touch every time Raines of Castamere was struck up in the background. In the end, we were left with images reminiscent of Pompeii and one sole survivor riding out #mypoorheart
It was just a pity none of the tactics made sense (why do they keep putting armies *outside* the gates?!) AND that it was all too easily resolved (cos dragons are basically nukes- so what was the point in pretending otherwise for a few episodes?) I wouldn’t even say this ruined the tension- I just think it showed how this was the wrong villain to conclude on and proved my point about NOT KILLING DRAGONS UNNECESSARILY.
Still, I can safely say King’s Landing going up in smoke was the perfect location for Cleganebowl. For everything that didn’t work in this episode it. made. so. much. sense. that no one won in this fight. It’s pretty much how I thought it would go and I thought the similarities to Mountain/Viper worked well.
I did really like how this tied in with Arya’s arc and her decision to walk away from her revenge- though I’m not sure it’ll go that way in the books. Sometimes I do feel like her character is used in all the wrong ways. We (obviously) missed all the Arya/Hound stuff on the road (begging the question of why have them on the road together anyway). And (obviously) she’s unharmed by the falling rocks, fire and soldiers. Regardless of how much I personally like her, that doesn’t add up.
Ultimately, this whole episode left me feeling kind of hollow. It wasn’t nearly as satisfying as it could have been; It didn’t ring true in the way it should. At this point I’m holding onto the hope that GRRM means it when he says the show and the books are very different entities. For the love of the old gods and the new, I wish that it hadn’t happened this way. Whether you agree or disagree with the outcome, the thing we can all agree on is that the execution is flawed. And that just about sums up my perspective. I. am. so. frustrated that what I thought would happen, happened, but it wasn’t done well enough to justify my opinion- and that is as big of a pain as being blasted with dragon fire.
So, what did you think of this episode? Happy, displeased or FIRE-BREATHING MAD?? Let’s discuss in the comments!