I spent the first ten minutes of Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 4 sulking that the Night King and his army of White Walkers are no longer with us. The cheesy toasts and back slapping and strained merriment in the mead hall as everyone celebrated their unlikely – very unlikely – escape from the most evil army ever assembled did little to lift my disappointment.
If you wanted to be generous, you could say that all this bathos was a clever illustration of the Duke of Wellington’s dictum that “Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.” But to my jaded sensibilities it was all about as lamely predictable as those scenes at the end of Scooby Doo where the guy who runs the fairground rips off his monster mask and explains that “If it hadn’t been for those pesky kids…”
Still, it did get more eventful. Most notably during the unexpected and brutally one-sided sea battle between the Euron’s mighty black fleet with its heavy gauge dragon-killing prow-mounted ballistae and Daenerys’s smaller fleet carrying Tyrion, Grey Worm, Varys and co. Dany herself was not aboard, of course, because she was riding top cover on one of her two dragons.
Which does make you wonder, slightly: how come, from her lofty vantage point, Dany was yet able to be surprised by those giant arrows-from-the-blue, several of which wiped out one of her two remaining dragons? Does nobody do tactics or reconnaissance in Westeros? Since when did the dragons – formerly a war-changing superweapon – become so wimpish and vulnerable? And if Dany is so imperious, reckless and deeply attached to her dragon children, then why did she show such restraint after one of them had been killed? Why didn’t she go instantly round the back of Euron’s fleet with her remaining dragon and burn it to oblivion?
This final season, I’m afraid, gives the impression that it has been thrown together far too haphazardly and desperately by writers who just don’t get the product in the way that George RR Martin did. It’s as if everyone involved has just had enough and wants to get it over and done with, but is at a loss to come up with an ending that will do any justice to the previous seven-season build up.
With the White Walkers gone they badly need another villain – several, preferably, besides Cersei and her implausibly powerful wicked sidekick Euron. And it looks like, rather strainedly, they’re busy trying to insinuate Dany into that role.
“But what if she turns bad?” everyone keeps wondering. Which means of course she will.
Now admittedly Daenerys has always been a bit of haughty missy, imbued with those fascistic tendencies so many would-be do-gooders seem to have. But I still wasn’t buying all that manoeuvring in this episode where the writers strove to persuade us that she’s a wrong ‘un. There was for example, no earthly reason why Dany should have insisted on her committing her exhausted forces to battle so soon after their confrontation with the White Walkers.
It’s obvious that Sansa was right – they needed a rest. In fact this tortuous arc being imposed on Daenerys made me sympathetic towards her than I have been since she was prostituted by her brother to the Dothraki in Season One. She is being set up for a grisly end – and it’s not her fault.
Then there’s the Cersei problem. If she’s really as ruthless as she’s supposed to be, why would she have squandered the perfect chance to wipe out all her opponents in one fell swoop. There they were, what’s left of Dany’s Unsullied, arrayed in ranks within easy ballista distance of the ramparts. Cersei could have killed them all in a trice.
Instead, she contented herself with lopping Missandei’s head off – for which much thanks. Missandei was becoming ineffably tedious: every time I saw her I could just imagine her as a woke student leading some Yale or Cambridge campaign to ‘decolonise the curriculum.’ Now, at least, it will give Grey Worm the excuse to pull his finger out after his fairly lacklustre showing in last week’s battle with the Walkers and get his revenge hat on.
Other characters? Tyrion is still in underused, ineffectual drunk mode; Jaime’s sexual relationship with Brienne was gratuitous and unsatisfying in every way; the surviving Dire Wolf Ghost was once again completely wasted: looking sad and unappreciated he has now gone off north of the wall with Tormund, without so much as a friendly pat goodbye from his master Jon.
I could go on, but let’s be honest, this season is a very pale, rushed, ill-conceived imitation of what has gone in the early seasons before. Roll on episode 6 so it can all be over and we can quickly forget this season – then nostalgically remember Thrones as it used to be, back in its Red Wedding heyday.