With two episodes left, it’s very clear to everyone involved – the producers, the audience, the actors and the set designers — that we need to pump the gas on Game of Thrones. Great War down, Last War to go, no time for stray coffee cups on the dining table, it’s time to kill off characters, move the focus to King’s Landing and break some damn hearts. In other words, all the things that make the show riveting.
Well, maybe not all of the things. Politics and drama have always been a part of the show’s success, as fans quibble over who’s killing who, who’s got more power, what this character is likely to do or not do. The one clan that seemed most successful at it were always the Lannisters, with scheming Cersei, sarcastic Tyrion, and murderous Jaime. But now, in season eight, Tyrion’s all heart, with his well-meaning mistakes and constant bids at loyalty, fealty, peaceful negotiation. Jaime’s on redemption road, addicted though he is to his ‘hateful’ woman. So Cersei has taken her brothers’ traits for herself. She is the masterful manipulator, the sardonic insulter (so much for ‘breaker of chains,’ that’s gotta sting), the sister who’d send Westeros’ most accomplished killer to off her siblings. So the characters who were the best at playing the game have been reduced to the character best at it.
But wait, someone invariably always cries, there’s some real drama happening in Targaryen-Stark land. The Jon and Dany romance and tension and succession hullaballoo is reaching a fever pitch, supposedly. As I’ve said before, the romance between the two isn’t exactly titillating. Their drama isn’t a secret, as Varys pointed out, because if Sam, Gilly, Bran, Jon, Dany, Sansa, Arya, Tyrion and Varys know, then it’s information, not a secret. And sure, that information is dangerous, in the hands of the people who know how to play ‘the great game.’ But the Starks have a poor history of playing that game.
Ned lost out on being Hand of the King, choosing honor over gamesmanship. Jon may be a temperate leader, but that didn’t stop him from being stabbed by the Night’s Watch, and it didn’t help him negotiate with Cersei in season seven. Arya certainly prefers some good old fashioned murder to accelerate the political scene, but only when it lines up nicely with her revenge quest. Sansa’s got to be the best player of the game, but how has the show made use of her talents? Taking Littlefinger to task was awesome, but part of the closing of his character arc. She’s spent much of her time making sour faces at Dany and trying to convince Jon of things he can’t be convinced of. Sansa’s playing the game, by and large, with Northmen, maybe a few lords of the Vale. When everyone already loves you for your family name, there’s not much intrigue to be had. No, compared to earlier seasons with the Lannisters, the Starks are still novices at the table.
So, no time for intrigue, no time for Ghost, just action and heartbreak and death, death death. The last of the Starks and the last of the Lannisters on opposite sides of a battlefield, with a dragon, Bronn and Arya for wildcards, just for kicks. It’s lamentable, surely, that the political maneuverings once so powerful to watch have fallen by the wayside. The only option feels like war, and speculation over war is purely who dies, who wins, and who rules. Everything else is just details, and in season eight, I guess details don’t matter anymore.