Game of Thrones, Season 7 (2017)

(On Cable TV, July-August 2017) As Game of Thrones moves farther and farther away from the outline left by George R.R. Martin and closer to a conclusion mandated by contract renewals, its nature changes. This season has to make do with three fewer episodes than previous years, speeding up the rhythm to deliver spectacle in nearly every instalment. The plotting gets more conventional, the characters are all brought together (climaxing in a final-episode summit in which a good chunk of the main players are finally all face-to-face for the first time), and there’s a sense that the series is putting together all its pieces in place for the finale. It works on a breathless scene-to-scene basis, but don’t ask too many questions once the end of the episode arrives—much of the drama is predicated upon TV requirements rather than conventional logic. (For a show in which nearly everything was shown, Season 7 palms numerous scenes in order to set up dramatic reversals—most notably in the Sansa/Arya/Littlefinger arc.) Still, there’s a lot to like in the result, whether it’s dragons finally showing up for extensive action sequences, numerous call-backs to the accumulated history of the show’s characters, very funny fan-service, and some examples of ruthless justice long delayed. Who cares if this isn’t George R.R. Martin’s story any more … fans better brace themselves, because a conclusion is coming.

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