When Game Of Thrones is at its best, the show delivers a combination of drama, intrigue, suspense, intensity, action, and storytelling that’s unrivaled on the small screen and almost every other screen. GOT is the gold standard when it comes to delivering the goods and with some small exceptions throughout the way (pour one out – or don’t – for the Sand Snakes), GOT has been uniformly excellent. For that reason, when it was announced that Seasons 7 and 8 would only have 13 combined episodes left rather than the expected 20, the show’s executive producers and writers David Benioff & D.B. Weiss were for the most part given the benefit of the doubt that they could stick the landing and end the show on the same high note that it’s been on since the pilot episode.
However, after this last week’s episode, Benioff & Weiss are starting to make fans question whether they can bring this one home.
As the penultimate episode of the season, “Beyond The Wall” should have delivered on par with prior epics like “Baelor,” “Blackwater,” “Rains of Castamere,” “Watchers On The Wall,” and “Battle of the Bastards” that took place before the finale in their respective seasons. Instead, viewers are left with questions not only as to the minute logistics of the show, but also how GOT could rely upon such flimsy plot devices to get us to the dramatic result of Dany losing one of her children and having the Night King resurrect Viserion for his own evil purposes.
Normally, I’d say that if you’re letting logistical issues & conflicts like “where did the White Walkers get big giant chains,” “why did the wights refuse to cross the water but had no problem going into to drag out Viserion,” and “how fast do people and ravens really travel in Westeros” get in your way of enjoying the show, then you are clearly nit-picking a little bit. It is a show with dragons and ice zombies, after all. But there’s no way to have a plot point revolve around our characters waiting for rescue and not explain how things happened ridiculously fast. It makes no sense why Jon and the “Fellowship of the Wight”, didn’t bring ravens with them like the Night’s Watch did on range missions beyond the wall just in case they ran into trouble. It also makes no sense for them to not equip themselves with dragonglass arrows or other weapons to give them a better advantage. It looks like Jorah, Tormund, and others were equipped with obsidian weapons, but using obsidian arrows to keep back or hit the White Walkers from afar would have helped immensely in the final battle.
Ultimately, for all the stunning visuals of the battle between the Westerosi Avengers and the White Walkers, all of it was too convenient and rushed, including everyone’s favorite Stark uncle, Deus Ex Benjen appearing for a hot second just to sacrifice himself for Jon’s escape. If Benioff & Weiss didn’t have enough material for more episodes, I would understand the pacing more. As is, it feels like they’re trying to cram too much narrative into too short of time and in the process, are showing the seams connecting the plot points in a far too sloppy fashion.
About the best that can be said for “Beyond The Wall” is that it perhaps set up some really great moments to come. The summit at King’s Landing previewed in the scenes for next week looks like it could be an all-time GOT moment. To have that many main characters in one place should great some stunning fireworks. Also, it will be really interesting to see the Night King potentially ride over the wall on Viserion and maybe later face off against Drogon and Rhaegal. However, it’s hard to get past how stupid of a mission it was in the first place for Jon and Co. to try and steal a wight to convince Cersei to join them. It was pointless and cost Dany one of her dragons, which is more valuable than anything Cersei & her allies can provide. It’s evident that Benioff & Weiss used the shaky plot points from the past two episodes to set up the season finale and delay the ultimate resolution of the human conflict in the show between the competitors for the Iron Throne so that the final season was not one long fight against the White Walkers, but this was a tenuous way to go about it. There is still plenty of time to right the ship, but the clock is ticking.
If GOT wants to match up to the final season of Breaking Bad, which is arguably one of the greatest seasons of television history and probably the best pulled-off ending to any TV show because it combined breakneck pacing and intensity with expertly refined narratives, then Benioff & Weiss are going to have to show us that the groundwork they laid this season was worth the stumbles along the way. The past may be written and the ink already dry, but in order for GOT to complete its run as the GOAT, it’ll have to get the final pages just right.
Quick Messages On Scenes from “Beyond The Wall”
Contributed By: Scott Chandler