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One of the curious things about the new age of perpetual media is the way franchises, and series persist well past their definitive moment in time. The most obvious example of this is, of course, The Simpsons, a series that passed its moment of genuine relevance decades ago but has continued on as a part of the pop culture oxygen supply regardless. That’s kind of the place where a lot of big name franchises have ended up in their final installments, like Harry Potter at the 8th film or the last 2 Hobbit movies- they still made money but they didn’t set the trend or a significant impact and mainly existed so that all the confirmed fans could see how things ended.
That feels like the best description of where Game of Thrones is at this moment in time, a series entering its final cycle well after its days of relevance have waned and basically just throwing all the fireworks on the screen to celebrate actually making it to the finish line. There’s nothing overtly wrong with that approach, it’s a worthwhile goal, and I’m hard pressed to blame any series for just running out the clock after doing as much as Game of Thrones has. There are, however, risks about getting too complacent and they shine through a little too clear in this first trailer for the penultimate season of Game of Thrones.
This is usually the place where I add a recap of the story so far, but Game of Thrones is one of the most byzantine series out there so we won’t be getting too deep into things. At the same time, this is the 7th season of the show and nearly its conclusion, so I don’t think anybody interested in a trailer breakdown is looking to jump on at this point. Either way, this season is certainly making it easier on recappers by condensing down a lot of the show’s ongoing plotlines into one or two more easily managed stories.
The story has been handily paired down to 3 major players with a smattering of secondary players circling the main action. Firstly there’s Cersi, long time series antagonist and newly debuted super villain and queen supreme of King’s Landing, Dani, the exiled sole heir of the previous line finally returned to Westeros with an army at her back and 3 dragons, and Jon Snow, free from his vows to the Knight’s Watch and rechristened as the new King of the North.
The main clash this season is between the two reigning queens Cersi and Dani, with Cersi having been thoroughly set-up as the evilest villain possibly so her death can be justly righteous and gory when it comes. It’s weird that her defeat feels like a foregone conclusion at this point, but that really is where we are now, worlds away from the show’s origin as the series that would shockingly kill off its main characters left and right.
Overall, this season looks to be much more of a descent into the fantasy tropes and trends Game of Thrones was originally intended to subvert. We’ve got Dani’s paragon of virtue backed up by fan favorite Tyrion all lined up to obliterate Cersi’s font of wickedness, complete with her questioning brother Jaimie to be the obvious traitor waiting in the wings to kill his sister. Even without the simple fact Dani has three invulnerable, flying, fire-breathing monsters to do her bidding Cersi’s defeat seems every bit as foregone as Ramsay Bolton’s death last season.
Maybe that’s just the price the series is paying as it expands in scope. The first few seasons were so zeroed in on the palace intrigue and shifting alliances that the moral ambiguity had room to blossom. Now that the show has moved on to address the fate of the entire world the kind of scheming and skullduggery that facilitates character death and moral compromises just can’t compete. As the trailer itself says how much can Little Finger’s schemes or Cersi’s plotting really matter when an army of zombies and snow demons is descending on everyone.
That seems to be the primary role of Jon Snow’s story this season, uniting the North under one banner to prepare it for the war against the dead. The promotional materials have also promised a reunion of all the Stark children, which does feel like something legitimately special given how much we’ve watched these kids grow as actors. This is particularly the case for Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner, who’ve easily emerged as the show’s biggest success stories.
However, even the war against the ice zombies feels a little token and perfunctory this season now that the dragons have entered into the mix in force. As far as we’ve seen, there’s nothing in the realms of men that can stop or even slow the dragons down and, as far as we’ve seen, the Whitewalkers don’t seem to have anything that could take them down either. This is a consideration that’s been hanging over the series in my mind for a while, the fact the dragons pretty much rob the conclusion of any kind of tension.
There’s not even any threats to Dani’s control of them raised as anytime someone else has tried to take the dragons for their own the beasts wouldn’t cooperate. Maybe this is the part that will change, in the books there was a whole subplot about a magic horn that allowed for control over the dragons, which would definitely raise the stakes of this outing quite a bit. There’s also plenty of referenced but unseen creatures in the books that could be a threat to the dragon-like Kraken, giant Ice Spiders, and a living metal colossus so if the creators really wanted to, they could have some of those monsters pop up.
Honestly, though I doubt we’ll see either of those elements, largely because that would require hampering Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys in some way and there’s no chance of that happening. For whatever reason Daenerys has become the series, infallible prime hero, a figure outclassed only by Batman regarding being a completely tone deaf power fantasy that remains incredibly popular regardless.
I’ve made my comments on Daenerys before so I won’t drag this out but suffice to say the changes made to her character from the book have all been for the worse. She’s a blatant white savior archetype who exists to elevate people’s of color out of savagery and a slave trade of their own making. She hasn’t been presented with any real obstacles or legitimate setbacks since season 3, and the show has bent over backward ruining or killing any character you might root for instead of her.
I admit, my distaste for Daenerys definitely holds me back from getting fully excited for this season, especially given how much this looks to just be her victory lap and mop up before the REAL climax next year. I understand that women heroes sell well these days, I just don’t think that being a woman who wipes out entire cultures so she can use their people as her personal army to retake her inheritance is rife for any #Feminism mythmaking.
I mean, maybe a few years ago when this was the best we could do but in age of Rey, Supergirl, Michael Burnham, Jessica Jones, and Wonder Woman a problematic character steeped in racist tropes like Daenerys just shouldn’t fly. I’ll admit there are characters in this I’d like to see more of like Arya and Cersi and I am interested to see the dragons finally cut loose, it’s just a shame this new season seems like yet another fawning tribute to the show’s ugliest element.
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