Is ‘Game of Thrones’ Simply Taking a Victory Lap at This Point?

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: HBO)

Last weekend was our first taste of the post-Game of Thrones season seven world. No new episode, no new opportunity to see what happens next for Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, the Starks, and Littlefinger.

Not that Littlefinger’s doing anything noteworthy right now. Heheheh.

It’s going to be a long time until we get to see the final season of Game of Thrones, so for now, it seems like a good time to take stock of what we’ve seen, and to think about how season seven went down.

We’d been promised repeatedly by various actors and producers that season seven would be a big, huge, spectacularly emotional event that would leave us in tears, but while there were a few moments here and there that got us choked up, the whole series did feel awfully like the show was playing things safe.

Here, HBO has trapped the show in an enviable predicament: previous seasons of Game of Thrones were so good; so moving, surprising, disturbing, and exciting, that season seven had some big shoes to fill.

The big promise here was war – we were going to see heads roll, dragons burn people alive, and those we thought of as heroes embracing darkness. Season seven was billed as a showstopping event, as things got darker for Westeros as winter finally arrived.

Game of Thrones Dragons
Source: HBO

What we got was fine, but it was just fine. It’s hard not to feel like, at this point, the entire show has peaked, and everyone involved is simply basking in the glow of guaranteed success; taking a victory lap after Game of Thrones has already won the hearts of audiences.

Going into season seven, There were just a handful of episodes left to go, and nobody really had to work too hard to make it impactful. The show’s biggest successes were behind it.

This feeling manifests itself in a lot of ways – a lack of deaths, traditional the show’s trademark plot device. It feels strange that none of the big, important characters of the series die in season seven – we were convinced that at least one of the Starks might have bitten the dust.

Instead, a few important-ish characters met their end, but apart from a very sad moment with a dragon, there wasn’t much here to make audiences cry. This feels a bit odd – by this point, we all almost expect to be left emotionally drained by the end of a season of the show.

Similarly, the writing decided to start ignoring the passage of time within the show up to this point, stealing something of the realism and believability of Game of Thrones for the sake of big character moments that could now happen at an accelerated rate.

Again, this isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it does take something away from the show as a whole.

Dany and Jon
Source: HBO

Then there’s just a general feeling that Game of Thrones is coasting. It’s not easy to put an exact label on why things feel lackluster in season seven, but if even Rick and Morty Adult Swim is taking a jab at the show, it does feel somewhat like the show’s creative team are being distracted by other projects, and aren’t really concerned with making the conclusion of Game of Thrones feel as big and powerful as it could have been.

All in all, it seems that, as this show draws to a conclusion, nobody involved feels comfortable taking risks. Why endanger the popularity of a show by shaking things up, when the formula is already perfect?

Naturally, we’ll all have forgotten our hangups and concerns by the time season eight finally rolls around, but here’s hoping that when Game of Thrones does finally return, it’ll do so with a bit more fervor, and a reliance on storytelling, rather than shallow celebrity cameos.

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