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“Game of Thrones” Mid-season report

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As we hit the middle of the season, Game of Thrones accelerates towards an ending with each week’s installment gifts viewers with excellent storytelling and visuals. The plot has moved briskly as story strands are being knit together for what one can presume will be a spectacular ending. Spoilers ahead, so tread accordingly.

Season seven had big shoes to fill after season six’s finale, and with just four episodes, it has exceeded expectations. The focus on reunions and family shows how the writers understand that at its core this has always been a show about power, familial relationships, and the interactions of both. This season has eliminated most other notable families leaving three standing: the Lannister, Stark, and Targaryen clans.

Episodes one and two were seemingly slow compared to the next, as they focused on the set-up of the rest of the season. The following two episodes where more battle oriented but kept on the plot development succinctly. The biggest questions in the immediate aftermath of episode four revolves around Jamie Lannister’s survival after Bronn tackled him, the effects of the failure to pay the Iron Bank on Cersei’s plans, and how are the Lannisters always one step ahead. One last question is the fate of Robert Baratheon’s son Gendry; as Robert has been haunting the events of this season, this could be a clue to his son’s return.

There is a notable increase in the quality of the visual presentation of the show, but it has had an adverse effect on the overall product. With the need to show the Targaryen dragons in battle, the shows budget seems stretched thin; this has resulted in a shorter final two seasons and some less than awe-inspiring set pieces outside of battles. Even these battles have suffered, as the Unsullied occupation of Casterly Rock was quick and uneventful – though viewers would learn this had been planned – and a notable lack of any actual battle over High Garden.

Character-wise, the show continues to successfully center its focus on women. Lena Heady, Maisie Williams, and Diana Rigg have each had their chance to shine; Heady with her grim portrayal of cold, cunning Cersei, Williams’ Arya – a skilled assassin who stole episode one –, and Rigg’s Lady Oleanna whose ruthlessness was last seen in display at the end of episode three when she confessed that she ordered the poisoning of Joffrey. Even Sophie Turner has had a chance to show a different Sansa.

On the men’s side, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Conleth Hill, and Liam Cunningham perform admirably. Jamie Lannister has gone from villain to hero to reluctant, tragic figure; his arc might make him king slayer again. Varys continues to scheme, he may be who betrays Daenerys. Ser Davos shows himself to be a grounded figure through understated actions and advice to Jon.

While these episodes have been about the war for the crown, Brann and Jon constantly remind us of the threat from the north. Brann’s visions will lead to the discovery of many secrets such as Jon’s true heritage, the origin of the White Walkers, and the betrayals his own family suffered.

This season has lived up to great expectations having delivered constantly improving episodes and developing plot in the most satisfying ways. There are three more episodes to go, and then all viewers can do is wait for the final season to see who becomes the winner in the game of power in Westeros.

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