“Game of Thrones” has now seen seven finales, ranging from mildly dramatic to mind numbingly shocking. The best finales answer the biggest questions of the season while simultaneously asking the questions that will drive the action of the following season, doing so in a thrilling way. “Thrones” has closed seasons with mass murders, chilling zombie scenes and fiery displays of power, so there’s a lot of anticipation before every finale. With only one more finale left to come, the season seven finale may not rank number one when compared to others, but it gave the audience many things they wanted, holding back just enough to make the undetermined waiting period until the final season that much more painful.
Season seven performed well in terms of plot. The driving question of the series has always remained the same: Who will end up on the Iron Throne? But much of season seven was dedicated to smaller points, which allowed the finale to be satisfyingly conclusive in many ways. What do Arya and Sansa plan for each other? Will Cersei agree to a truce? Will Jaime remain loyal to her? Has Theon really changed at all? How will Jon and Daenerys interact? Will Jon and Dany do more than “interact”? Neatly tying up all these threads compares nicely to the first season, which tied up many threads relating to the death of Jon Arryn while setting up the next season to delve further into the War of Five Kings.
In terms of drama, the season seven finale provided. Cersei stole the season six finale with her terrifying explosion, which couldn’t have been improved even if nuclear weapons were involved. Nothing beats an expected action that’s carried out in a totally unexpected way. The closest equivalent from season seven was the clincher at Winterfell. Sansa’s cold justice may not have been as visually stunning as Cersei’s fiery revenge, but it was an expected action carried out in an unexpected way. Plus, nobody likes Cersei, so a victory for her may be shocking, but a victory for Sansa and Arya against Littlefinger–two well-liked protagonists against an evil, manipulative, power-hungry monster–that’s gold (similar to the satisfying death of Tywin Lannister, another deserving wretch, in the season four finale).
Judging shock value, the latest finale wasn’t spectacular. There were a few zingers–Cersei’s plan with the Golden Company, Jon’s non-bastardness, Viserion’s return–but we’ve seen better. Knowing Cersei, her conniving side projects aren’t too surprising, and Jon’s legitimacy may have been startling, but it throws a wrench in Daenerys’s plan for Westerosi domination. In terms of shock, season six’s Jon Snow reveal was more exciting than the season seven continuation on the same theme. Furthermore, the supposed murder of Jon Snow in season five was an even bigger shock than anything to do with his heritage.
Jon’s supposed death in season five also makes cliff-hangers a hard category for season seven to contend with. Jon kept talking about the huge threat the White Walkers pose, but North of the Wall only wildlings and polar bears were at risk. The threat has increased now that the Night King used his zombie dragon to blast through the Wall that’s stood for six seasons. This development has put audiences on the edge of their seats, a position that may be uncomfortable to maintain for a year or so until answers are finally provided. Given that this was the next logical step for the plot to take, we’re hanging off the cliff, but we’ve got a pretty good handhold. Ending the season with the White Walkers is a nice throwback to the season two finale when Sam was huddled behind a rock and the White Walker kindly ignored him to continue toward the Fist of the First Men.
The last thing that the season seven finale has done well is lay the groundwork for the final episodes. Will Cersei’s plan work? Will Dany lose more dragons to the Night King or will the good guys succeed? How will Jon (and more importantly, his newfound lover) react to the knowledge of his parentage? Perhaps we aren’t watching our characters sail to new lands, like Dany in the season six finale or Arya in the season four finale. There was no recent battle to reel from, like the Battle of the Bastards right before season six ended, or the Battle on the Blackwater which preceded the season two finale. Yet, the second-to-last “Game of Thrones” finale has given fans a conclusion with as many strengths and weaknesses as all the conclusions that have come before.
Alex Houdeshell is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.