REVIEW: Games of Thrones: The Complete Seventh Season
With the news this week that the eighth and final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones won’t air until 2019 comes just as Games of Thrones: The Complete Seventh Season arrives on disc tomorrow. The digital editions have been out for some time and if any season bears repeat watching it is this one.
One advantage to the bloodshed and character demises over the last few seasons has meant that the survivors all get larger roles, meatier scenes, and characters we’ve longed to see together actually share the screen. The episodes are longer, but there are fewer of them to enjoy. Perhaps the biggest downside to this is that events have had to be telescoped, stretching and then breaking the show’s internal logic.
No matter how the producers spin it, there was really no way for episode six to work once the White Walkers surrounded our hardy band of warriors. Of course we knew what was coming, we knew that Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) would arrive on her dragon to rescue them in the greatest arrival of the cavalry moment in years.
The shorter season also cost some characters a chance to breathe before they shuffled off stage, notably the sand snakes (Indira Varma and her daughters). Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and his visions also gets short-shrift but that is more than made up for by the arc involving his sisters, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams), especially as they are manipulated by Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen). Some of their exchanges caused much chuckling.
Everyone has been moved around Westeros as the true threat has finally been exposed. And yet, there remain schemes within schemes, wheels turning as we see Cersei (Lena Headey) cutting deals with the Iron Bank and overseas alliances in anticipation of life after the White Walkers’ defeat. While it makes sense to be prepared, she may also be underestimating the size of the threat coming from the North.
As secrets have been revealed to the audience, but not yet the characters themselves, we also see the inevitable consummation of lust between Danerys and Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) leading some in the audience to go, “ick”.
After the men have brooded, slashed, and hacked their way into this mess, the tide has turned and it has pretty much fallen to the women to clean up their mess. The fun of the final season should be the culmination of the moves made during this rather satisfying seventh with Cersei, Danerys, and Sansa all in positions of power with vastly different objectives and alliances. It’s a shame Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) won’t be around to see it after her incredibly dignified death in episode two.
We’re in uncharted here since the television series is far past where the events of the source material, George R.R. Martin’s stalled Song of Fire and Ice novel series, left readers. As a result, we have no way of determining how much of this is Martin’s original scheme and how much a product of the producers. They have certainly maintained the flawed characters and expansive world but as they are left to their own devices, there are far fewer surprises than earlier seasons.
The episodes come in a variety of packages with our reviewing the four-disc DVD edition. The transfer for audio and video is superb and will reward viewers.
The most welcome extra is the separate disc packaged apart from the season set (for a limited time): Conquest & Rebellion: An Animated History of the Seven Kingdoms. This is an animated history of the Seven Kingdoms with voices provided by Pilou Asbæk (Euron Greyjoy), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister),Aidan Gillen (Littlefinger), Conleth Hill (Varys), Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen) and Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark). The focus is on Aegon Targaryen’s attempts to conquer the Seven Kingdoms and was written by show writer Dave Hill. Essentially, this is a 45-minute expanded version of the Histories and Lore shorts, found in the box set.
The extras contained within the box set include: From Imagination to Reality: Inside the Art Department, a two-part featurette (46:25) that concentrates its attention the new sets, including Dragonstone, Casterly Rock, Highgarden, and the Dragonpit.
Fire & Steel: Creating the Invasion of Westeros (30:02) has the cast and crew talking about creating this sequence.
There are Audio Commentaries for every episode with cast and crew including producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, Jacob Anderson, Gwendoline Christie, Liam Cunningham, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, and others.
Histories and Lore are seven animated shorts that provide the history and background for storylines including The Dragonpit, Highgarden, Prophecies of the Known World, the Rains of Castamere and more all narrated by cast members.
In-Episode Guides-In-feature resource that provides background information about on-screen characters and locations.
For those who buy the series digitally, available through iTunes and UltraViolet, there’s one more bonus: “Creating the North and Beyond” looking at Jon Snow’s trek north.