The sixth season of Game of Thrones might have been the most explosive in the series, but showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have a mountain of a task in making sure things keep going strong. It can’t be easy considering the sixth season finale was easily the high water mark for the entire series. But at this point, is there anything that can actually make a Game of Thrones fan stop watching? The answer is “probably not,” but these four reasons could definitely make someone give pause.
1. Inconsistent pacing
Pacing has always been a potential issue with Game of Thrones and you could easily make the argument that pacing is the series’ biggest weakness. Of course, pacing problems are unavoidable when you’re dealing with a series that features so many characters and so many parallel stories. When pacing has been a problem in the past, the light at the end of the tunnel was always the fact that we know (or want to believe we know) that everything will smash back together for an epic conclusion. This is why Arya Stark’s often tedious adventures in Braavos were more tolerable than they could have been. We knew she would be back in Westeros.
On a larger scale, the sixth season of Game of Thrones also presented a problem that will again present itself when the seventh season begins. With only thirteen episodes left in the series according to showrunners Benioff and Weiss, there’s not only a sense that there’s a lot of material — maybe too much — to cover in that time, but that it might require an unsustainable pace. After all, by almost all accounts the sixth season was the best yet, presenting exciting material from a variety of stories from beginning to end.
Can the seventh season keep that up? Should it? Considering that some of Game of Thrones‘ best scenes have come from the smallest moments it would seem that Benioff and Weiss will soon find themselves having to manage the series’ breakneck pace with the smaller, political moments that are the building blocks of the show. Is it impossible? Absolutely not. But it’s not exactly an enviable position to be in after the explosive sixth season.
2. Treatment of women
Before the sixth season, Game of Thrones’ treatment and depiction of its female characters was mired in controversy due to liberal use of female nudity and rape. Sansa Stark’s rape scene in particular, became a lightning rod of attention when the directing and writing of the scene seemed to orient viewers into the perspective of Theon Greyjoy rather than Sansa. But anyone watching season six will have quickly noticed that some of these complaints seem to have been heard.
With less gratuitous nudity and less gratuitous sex, it feels like the showrunners were actively trying to change their ways even if some scenes — like a penis shot of a character we don’t know — felt completely pointless.
3. White Walker no show
Game of Thrones has only thirteen episodes to finally get the White Walkers south towards the action, but the problem is that it isn’t just about getting the Whiter Walkers into the fight anymore — frankly, it’s about making us care.
The most memorable villains in the series have always been human characters with very human desires that are somehow understandable. So far, the White Walkers are relatively devoid of character. They’re faceless in the figurative sense. We know they want to bring destruction for reasons dating back centuries to the First Men, but do we really care? Can they really be the central villain in Game of Thrones’ conclusion and add up to a satisfying ending?
The showrunners have time to do the White Walkers justice, but the worry is that their entrance into the show’s finale will be akin to a sort of faceless disaster rather than an ending featuring a compelling villain like Ramsay Bolton or Cersei Lannister.
4. Predictable finale
This one’s the real wild card. For six seasons now, Game of Thrones has staked its reputation on subverting the story for viewers. Unlike most films or television shows, in Game of Thrones characters good and bad die with little regard. This creates a sense of danger that anyone in the story is one step way from death. Yet, the sixth season might have felt strange for one big reason: the good guys kept winning and the bad guys kept losing.
There were exceptions of course. Cersei became queen and Littlefinger is still out there plotting, but all in all the good guys came out relatively unscathed. So the question on a lot of people’s minds is whether the end of the sixth season signals Game of Thrones’ push towards a classic ending where the good guys win.
It may seem like heresy for fans of the show, but at the same time you can’t exactly make a series where all the good guys keep losing all the time. At a certain point, the viewer feels like they deserve a little good news after having been blindsided by so many terrible things.
Of course, this could all be a big build-up to giving viewers the ultimate Red Wedding-like moment. Don’t forget Daenerys Targaryen’s vision in which she saw a destroyed Great Hall in which neither snow or ash billowed down from a collapsed roof.
Is that a vision of what will be George R.R. Martin’s final masterstroke of brutality? Maybe we want the happy ending after all.
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