In all honesty, I didn’t have as many qualms as most did; at least, I didn’t have nearly as many as did so many who stated their rabid disappointment so vociferously in any number of online outlets. My chief complaint with the last season and one-half was that it seemed like the events were unfolding at a rapidly increasing pace. Up until Season 7 and 8, the writers and showrunners seemed to exercise a great deal of caution in how events unfolded, a sentiment that was tossed out of the window (or wiped from existence via dragon’s breath); and everyone was able to get from one side of the kingdom to another when similar activity was vastly drawn out previously. It felt like they were rushing toward the finish line, sprinting for the big finish, and all nuance was lost.
I can’t say if this sentiment kinda/sorta tapped into what others were feeling. Most of what I recall was a huge measure of angst over a few characters and their ‘predictable’ fates … and all I could reply online was “Haven’t you been watching closely? Did you really think all of this was on track for some fairy tale climax?” Alas, nothing ends well for most folks in the Seven Kingdoms, and I thought the George RR Martin Fantasy/Drama certainly reinforced that reality in its closing moments.
As I’ve opined a bit in this space with respect to the sequel/prequel House Of The Dragon, this narrative has been a huge, huge, huge mess. It’s been filled with disposable characters, men and women of little import who show up for a scene just to be dead before the credits roll, and an incredible number of time jumps that – sadly – require a bit of tiring exposition to remind viewers exactly where, when, and why we are. Sigh. Episode 8 – “The Lord Of The Tides” – which aired last night began after clarifying it was – ahem – six years since we’d seen these folks last, and it unspooled as yet another tiresome affair of family shenanigans, royal duplicitousness, and a beheading thrown in just for good measure.
As a critic, I do try to avoid plot rehashes. I just don’t think they typically serve any analytical point – except, perhaps, to point out narrative deficiencies, so I’ll dispense with that, except to say that clearly Episode 8 was meant to serve as a counterpoint to the last time all of these men, women, and children were drawn together in the exceptional Episode 7. As I wrote in my review of “Driftmark” (found here), the writers had finally (gasp!) achieved a high point to an otherwise dismal inaugural season: the families were gathered in one big dramatic showdown that rather brilliantly set what I felt was finally “a plot” in motion. Alas, “The Lord Of The Tides” did little to strengthen what had come before, instead choosing to erase the blackboard and put all players (and the audience) back at square one.
In fact, the writers have truly run out of gifts at this point, as Episode 8 appears to have finally put the nail in the coffin of King Viserys Targaryen, a chief mover they’d been somewhat sadistically killing over the course of the whole affair. Actor Paddy Considine, you will be missed as – from a critical perspective – you’ve been plotted out as the only person in these Seven Kingdoms to be both understandable and relatable. Now that you’ve been freed of torture from the writers’ room, I’ve absolutely no idea where they might take this increasingly nebulous Fantasy, though I suspect they’ll rather quickly set their sights on someone else to punish. It would seem that’s all they have in their creative tanks.
While Considine has been dragged through costume, make-up, and CGI trickery, the significant other players – ahem – cast as contemporaries have remained ageless. In fact, actor Matt Smith – his Daemon Targaryen serves as the king’s brother – seems to be de-aging, regressing to the point of remaining eternally spotless while, at least, those around him might cast a fresh wrinkle or two. It’s almost become a bit of farce, and I’m wondering if – flash forward five more seasons – the audience might find out that his character was a ghost, a spectre, or a ghoul who secretly sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for boundless youth. While others have been recast out of necessity for the age difference, Smith remains gainfully employed.
Again, is this a charade?
Whatever premise what was ever given to ground this show in this particular television universe, I’m certainly hoping it gets shared with viewers fairly soon. Otherwise, I suspect even they might be wishing for a speedy death to this endless angry chattering.