NOTE: Spoilers from throughout the seventh season of, “Game of Thrones” are present in this review
Game of Thrones has officially entered its home stretch with the coming and going of its shortened seventh season, leaving just six confirmed episodes for the remainder of the series in the upcoming Season Eight. Fortunately, even at a shortened seven-episode length, Season Seven of Game of Thrones was overall sublime, exceptionally setting the stage for the climactic battle between Westeros and the Night King’s undead army, with no shortage of shocking deaths, exciting action and continued political scheming, even as an army of White Walkers quickly approaches the Seven Kingdoms.
One of the main reasons why Season Seven of Game of Thrones is one of the show’s best seasons in years, even considering that there’s pretty much no such thing as a bad season of Game of Thrones by this point, is because of how effectively it managed to surprise the audience. Some season developments are predictable, of course, namely that the White Walkers finally get to The Wall (and quickly take it down!) by the end of the season, and we also finally learn the real backstory behind Jon Snow. Turns out many of the fan theories about Jon were exactly correct as well; He is indeed the lost son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark (the Tower of Joy flashback in Season Six already pretty much spelled this out, but still), and was entrusted to Ned Stark as the sole heir to the Targaryen claim to the Iron Throne. Even then though, we got an interesting surprise that fans didn’t expect, as it turns out that Jon, or Aegon Targaryen, if we go by his actual birth name, was legitimately conceived in wedlock, since Rhaegar had his previous marriage to Elia Martell annulled so he could marry Lyanna, meaning that Jon is the legal and valid heir to the Iron Throne!
This could present one last promising legal headache in the show’s final season to come, since Daenerys finally makes it to Westeros in Season Seven, making camp at Dragonstone to plot her proper march to King’s Landing so she can take the throne. Ser Davos suggests to Jon that he build a partnership with Daenerys, with Tyrion suggesting the same to Daenerys for her meeting with the King in the North, though Jon is initially hesitant to bend the knee, especially since Daenerys initially doubts the story of the White Walkers. Eventually though, Daenerys bears witness to the undead with her own eyes, losing one of her dragons, Viserion, to the Night King in the process! This was a shocking and brilliant way to provide a big advantage to the White Walkers, since the Night King revives Viserion as an undead mount, turning him against Westeros and Daenerys, and giving him a logical way to end the season by taking The Wall down. This also provided a logical way for Jon and Daenerys to fall in love, and eventually have sex by the end of the season, which is sure to get complicated once the secret of Jon’s parentage gets out!
It wouldn’t be Game of Thrones if some key characters didn’t buy the farm in Season Seven as well, and Season Seven was one of the bloodiest seasons yet in that respect! Among the casualties were: Walder Frey and all of his men, Obara, Tyene and Nymeria Sand (with Ellaria Sand permanently imprisoned and forced to watch Tyene decompose, after Cersei poisons Tyene with the same lipstick that killed Myrcella), Thoros of Myr, Randyll and Dickon Tarly, Olenna Tyrell, Benjen Stark, Littlefinger, and possibly Beric Dondarion and Tormund Giantsbane, whose fates are intentionally left uncertain after The Wall comes down. That’s a pretty hefty body count for just seven episodes, with some houses, namely Martell, Tarly and Tyrell, pretty much wiped from Westeros now! Most of these deaths were nicely dramatic and hit with plenty of impact, as expected, even if a few were duds, most notably those in, “Beyond the Wall”, which was the ‘weak’ episode of Season Seven, albeit still a mostly solid one, beyond some frustrating narrative contrivances.
The core Stark and Lannister families also got great forward movement throughout Season Seven, now that Cersei sits on the Iron Throne, and the Stark siblings have all started to return to Winterfell. Even Arya eventually abandons her quest to murder Cersei, instead opting to reunite with her family, where she becomes instrumental in the destruction of Littlefinger. Bran’s return also serves as a convenient opportunity to get other characters up to speed on things like Jon’s actual origin, and the reveal that Littlefinger is a traitor to the North, even if Bran’s sinking into the duties of the Three-Eyed Raven seemingly costs him his friendship with Meera. There’s a very satisfying sense of everything coming full circle for the show’s rapidly approaching climax, as the Starks have now come together, while Cersei finds herself surrounded by enemies, who must nonetheless petition her for resources after the White Walker threat becomes apparent. Jaime at least ultimately abandons King’s Landing to help fight the White Walkers, suggesting that he may have his redemption before the series is done, but despite Cersei’s many victories throughout Season Seven, it looks like she may be in the most vulnerable position with the coming of the undead.
With this seven-episode season, Game of Thrones provides an outstanding focus on quality over quantity, with only, “Beyond the Wall” trailing behind the other offerings to a small degree. Nonetheless, Season Seven often represents Game of Thrones at its most shocking, thrilling and intriguing. As usual, the show goes several extra miles, taking the foundation of bringing the White Walkers to Westeros, informing Westeros of what’s coming, and solving the mystery of Jon Snow’s origin once and for all, and layering so many awesome surprises and twists over that, which make this season anything but perfunctory. The series is in a very strong position as it heads into its final handful of episodes, either next year or in 2019, which appears to leave the current saga of Westeros poised to close out on a spectacular high note!
- Outstanding, intense action and warfare in several highlight moments
- Solves several lingering mysteries in a satisfying way
- Great feeling of Westeros, particularly the Starks, coming full circle for the series climax
- "Beyond the Wall" is a weak link among the episodes