Trying to juggle so many sub-plots at once, Game of Thrones really needs to be airing 15+ episode seasons to deal with each of them properly (I’d be fine with that), but if anything is cutting down to fewer in coming seasons.
It’s a shame, because when an episode dips into just one to three plot strands (e.g episode 9 ‘The Battle of the Bastards') it’s incredibly successful and you get the depth you want, but when it lurches around Westeros and Essos - five minutes here, five minutes there - you feel like you’re getting the TL;DR version of the scene, the end result of zealous script editing.
The final episode of season 6 - ‘The Winds of Winter’ - got off to a good start, opening on Cersei’s trial - the tension building with a brilliantly ominous organ score. As Cersei very much chose violence, it was a shame we didn’t get to see Margaery ever show her hand, nor see Tommen ever actually speak his mind, but the King’s Landing blast was a treat for the eyes and made you hoot on your sofa as Cersei calmly sipped her wine, looking on with glee.
Tyson’s ‘Hand of the Queen’ scene was also quite touching and the Tower of Joy flashback wrapped up nicely - adding to the rousing atmosphere in Winterfell as various houses declared Jon Snow King in the North regardless of his parentage.
Elsewhere, however, it all felt a bit rushed. Melisandre was quickly exiled despite her good work at the Wall, Sam was swiftly dumped in a library and Arya got such clinical revenge for the Red Wedding that it didn’t really pack an emotional punch. Merely removing her mask, stating her name and slicing Walder Frey’s throat, the death scene came with none of the satisfaction of, say, Jofrrey’s or Ramsay’s.
It’s unfair to say that Game of Thrones is only ever setting up for the next episode/season a la Lost, given how impressive and emphatic the Battle of the Bastards was, but it is a little guilty of centring on ‘what happens next’ rather than ‘what happens’.
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