Sunday night concluded the season of Game of Thrones with the greatest number of viewers by far--the season finale had over twelve million viewers, easily beating the nearly nine million who viewed last season's finale. At the same time, this has been the most critically disliked season with many reviews talking about the logical problems that are seriously undercutting character dynamics and development. Yet, "The Dragon and the Wolf" did have some good character material, though it mostly didn't come from any dragons or wolves but from lions.
Spoilers after the screenshot
Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) didn't have a whole lot to do this episode apart from deciding to show up to the big meeting on a dragon and then to fall for Jon (Kit Harrington), making sure that, whoever ends up on the Iron Throne, it'll probably be someone who likes having sex with blood relatives.
Jon's most interesting moment was deciding to stick to his guns and not hide his pledged fealty to Daenerys. He makes a good point that if people keep lying all the time, sooner or later people won't be able to trust anything and everything will break down. Though the opposing view, that the immediate threat from the White Walkers seems even more likely to do that, is good, too. It's a genuine conundrum.
Effective surprise is a tricky thing to pull off with characters and it demands that the audience have some kind of grip on their personalities beforehand. That's why the surprise in Littlefinger's (Aidan Gillen) execution was especially unsatisfying--the retconning of the Vale's loyalty was too recently implemented for people to think they'd easily believe Littlefinger's guilty of so many crimes just because Sansa (Sophie Turner) said so. It makes sense that Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) would be the only one who knew about Littlefinger's crimes but everyone taking his word takes too much as read. But, of course, the point is to get characters out of the way, not to explore characters. I keep being reminded I don't got my head right when I see things like the Unsullied and the Dothraki marching together and I find myself wondering how these two vastly different cultures get along and how Daenerys maintains her relationship with them.
By the way, I don't think Jorah (Iain Glen) has a single line in this episode. Is there anyone among those twelve million viewers who's disappointed the romantic tension that had been built up for years between him and Daenerys has just been entirely ignored this season? I think Glen's much better looking than Harrington, but I guess that's just me. It did at least seem like there was maybe a suggestion of Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) pining for Daenerys at the end, which was the relationship I was fantasising about more, so that was kind of nice.
But Tyrion was one half of my favourite scene in the episode. Here's where the surprise was effective--at first I thought, there's no way Tyrion could honestly expect to go into a room with Cersei (Lena Headey) and come out alive. But when he did, it didn't feel dishonest, it felt like I was seeing his genuine insight into an aspect of Cersei's personality that hadn't been totally clear before. That's the kind of surprise I like.
It's surprising given how much we know she hates Tyrion but it's believable because of how we know she feels about her family. Still, a lot of the credit has to go to the actors for pulling off the delicate balancing act in this scene. The tension when Tyrion goes to pour drinks for the two of them is great--he's gambled and he's won but he knows exactly how close it was.
It's slightly less effective when Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) makes the same gambit and I'd rather Jaime stayed by Cersei's side instead of going into exile, though maybe now that she doesn't have any kind of foil her character will transmute in interesting ways.
Anyway, I should mention the cgi was pretty spectacular. So, well done, digital effects people. Now that they've killed so many people off, I wonder who they'll kill next season.
Shit, they're through the Wall already. It's going to take Jon and Daenerys at least twenty five minutes to get their armies up there.
Twitter Sonnet #1028
An aviator tempted paper bags.
The quicker clock combined with gold and gin.
On all the marble toes are linen tags.
To choose the rising sand is not to sin.
In tears of melted plastic came the deck.
Forgetful hands return to gloves unknown.
Behind the careful tongue's a traitor tech.
And by a thousand lights the road is shown.
The sleekest shadow swam the aether up.
Escaped into a pocket shot through space.
In nervous ease she took her coffee cup.
Inside her cuff, an endless linking race.
The band affixed itself to straw for good.
A thousand tramping leaves the walking wood.