[Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones through last night’s episode, “Beyond the Wall”]
We’re almost at the end of Game of Thrones Season 7, and it looks like the main drive for showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff has been to rebalance the game. They eventually reached a point where their big showdown wasn’t much of a showdown at all. Daenerys had three dragons, an army, a fleet, and the support of House Tyrell as well as Dorne. Meanwhile, Cersei was on the outs, and while the White Walkers were a threat, it stood to reason that ice zombies wouldn’t be too fond of dragons that breathe fire.
So season 7 has been all about rebalancing an overpowered character. Gamers are familiar with this kind of situation when a certain character turns out to be overpowered, and developers issue a software patch that weakens them in order to make the game more fair and interesting. While that’s a great solution in a video game, for Game of Thrones, it’s turned season 7 largely into a reset where Weiss and Benioff seem more concerned about the pieces rather than the story or characters. The show has become about more about trying to balance out the coming conflict rather than figuring out how to tell the most compelling narrative possible.
We’ve seen this all season. In the second episode, Daenerys lost her fleet and the Dornish army. In the third episode, she lost the Tyrells and the Unsullied were stranded at Casterly Rock. She made a bit of a comeback by toasting the Lannister army at Highgarden in the fourth episode, so with her dragons, she still had the advantage. So we had two episodes based around the dumbest possible idea that’s a betrayal of what we know about the characters all to get Daenerys losing a dragon to the Night King.
On the one hand, I understand that Weiss and Benioff, looking at the big picture, are trying to create a compelling narrative where we’re not wondering why Daenerys doesn’t win outright. If she has the most powerful weapons, then she should have no trouble defeating both Cersei and the Army of the Dead. The problem is that in their effort to rebalance the game, Weiss and Benioff have created a new series of cheats and sacrifices that make Game of Thrones a weaker show overall.
Think about all the things that have happened this season and how little it matters in terms of the character relationships. While it’s been neat to see Game of Thrones really use its CGI budget and bring out the dragons in full force, the show didn’t make its name on special effects. It made its name on character interactions, and while we got a good meeting between Daenerys and Jon Snow, some nice reunions with the Starks (that have now gone down the toilet), not much has changed overall. No ideas have really been explored, characters haven’t really given themselves any self-evaluation, and everything is being swept forward to an almost comical degree.