The Bullet Point Effect Of Post-Martin Game Of Thrones

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Daenerys and Tyrion strategize how to conquer Westeros.
Daenerys and Tyrion strategize how to conquer Westeros. HBO

What a shift Season 7 has brought to Game of Thrones. For both book readers and show watchers, the endgame of A Song of Ice and Fire always seemed impossibly far away. In the books, Dany remains in Essos with a giant battle looming there before any chance of her returning to Westeros. Not to mention that there is little hope that Winds of Winter will be arriving in bookstores anytime soon. The show as well, for a long time, was hewing to the pace that the books had set. Mining the expansive lore that George put into his work to create their storylines. With the show now past the books in every single storyline, you can feel it shift dramatically. Though we may never know the truth of it, I would guess that George has provided them with all the major plot events, but little more than that. It is clear they are still following his roadmap, but now that map is reduced to only the largest landmarks.

While the show has always proved expertly adept at riffing on what George laid out, they are far more timid when tasked with creating their own storylines. This has never been more clear than in Season 7, where that timidity seems to have led to a point where they no longer attempt to create any storyline that is off of the roadmap. What we’re left with is a show that is only those giant landmarks with only the bare minimum of setup in-between. The murder of the Freys, the destruction of Yara’s fleet, the sieges of Casterly Rock and Highgarden, a Dragon being unleashed in battle, each one of these could have been one of the cornerstone events of a Game of Thrones season. Now, we get one such event in every episode. With so many massive events occurring this season, it is in retrospect shocking that they moved to seven episodes instead of the 10 that made up every other season.

What we’re left with is what I like to call the bullet point Game of Thrones. We get the massive reversals with more frequency than ever, but rarely get the quiet scenes in between. The moments that set up our expectations and the stakes of those reversals are the ones make the show resonate over time. Likely, the showrunners feel that they have tanked up on so many of these scenes in earlier Seasons that they can ride on the major events to the end. To some extent, this is true. But in other cases. it doesn’t quite work out that way. One of the most exciting things of last Season was seeing the alliance form between Dany, Yara, and Ellaria. I was excited to see this alliance of three strong women go up against the powers of Westeros. It almost made the butchering of the Dornish storyline worthwhile. Yet before this alliance could achieve anything, or at least exist long enough for us to care about it, it is destroyed by Euron’s fleet that could never logically exist. In moments like this, the show undercuts the work it is doing. With things moving so fast, and every episode bringing a cataclysmic shift to the status quo, we are left not caring about any new alliance or connection.

From Ned’s death to the Red Wedding, Game of Thrones is known for these momentous reversals, but they are memorable simply because the status quo felt so established and powerful that no one could imagine these turns happening. With no status quo to care about, we cannot care about a reversal of it. We are left with watching the bullet points get checked off, enjoying the cool sets, costumes, and VFX and waiting patiently for The Winds of Winter so we can get the full story.

Game Of Thrones
Too Much Is Never Enough
Once you start watching Game of Thrones, you won't be able to stop.
  • Fully realized, intricate world
  • Compelling characters
  • Plot twists you won't see coming
  • Lots of ground to cover if you're new to the series
  • Don't get too attached to anyone
  • Two words: Sand Snakes
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