I have not commented on this show since I stopped enjoying it a few years ago, although I love the source material and the first three seasons. I'll break my silence now because this episode represents everything Game of Thrones has become since season 5: magnificent visuals and production values, splendid soundtrack, excellent performances (even Harington and Clarke, who were a bit shaky in the first couple of seasons, have grown solid), some effective moments (Theon's last stand, for example, is legitimately moving)... and disappointing writing.
Martin's books are not Crime and Punishment but at least he can write coherent characters and themes; the show, on the other hand, ignores themes (it got Martin's romanticism exactly wrong, turning it into garden-variety nihilism), keeps pushing the reset button on character arcs (see Jaime after season 3) and gleefully ignores any logic that gets in the way of the desired outcome (the absurd Sansa-Bolton marriage, Dany's hilariously suicidal campaign against Cersei, the grotesque "wight hunt"...).
With this episode, the whole point of the series - selfish people waste time and lives in petty dynastic wars while the apocalypse is coming - falls apart. Cersei becomes the ultimate villain to defeat; the Night King (a bad guy manufactured by the show to be the "face" of the White Walkers) goes down like a wimp halfway through the last season.
And is killed by Arya. Don't get me wrong, I love Arya. Well, LOVED her in the first seasons, as she has become increasingly smug in the last years.
But why Arya? She has no connection to the Night King and the White Walkers plot. The three meaningful choices were Jon (involved in the Wall storyline since season one), Bran (whose subplot has the stronger ties to the supernatural) or Dany (as a foil to the Night King, the "fire" to his "ice", the good dragon rider versus the evil one, the messianic figure versus the diabolic one). All the build-up about prophecies becomes pointless gibberish now.
Arya killing the Night King is like Han Solo killing the Emperor; like Legolas riding to Mount Doom and destroying the One Ring; like Ron Weasley defeating Voldemort; like Hicks confronting the Alien Queen. It's pleasing in a "Yay, a character we like kills the bad guy!" way, but it doesn't go beyond that. It's shallow, empty, meaningless. There needs to be a deeper connection between the villain and the hero who defeats him.
Well, Arya was chosen for two reasons. One, because of fanservice, as she is loved by both fans and writers. Two, to subvert expectations.
Let me get this straight about "subverting expectations" (see also The Last Jedi). Any hack can "subvert expectations". Just throw in stuff that comes out of nowhere (Varys kills the Night King! Euron joins the good guys!). What's difficult is doing it in a MEANINGFUL way which, in retrospect, makes sense in terms of plots, characterization, themes.
The Red Wedding was a brilliant subversion of expectations: everyone was expecting Robb to avenge Ned but he was betrayed and killed. Still, looking back at his storyline, all the signs were there; it was the tragic but somewhat logic outcome of his mistakes and misfortunes.
"Subverting expectations" just because you can is typical of schlock. If the books will ever come out, I am certain that, for better or for worse, the Others / White Walkers plotline will have a completely different outcome (and Cersei will be toast well before the Long Night).
Now I wonder how the good guys will dispose of Cersei. *She* would have been the perfect target for Arya: a political villain defeated by an assassin, just like a supernatural villain should be defeated by a magical character (*cough* Bran *cough*).
Maybe now they'll go full circle and have Jon or Bran kill Cersei. You know, to subvert expectations.
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