We’re now just a mere few hours away from the premiere of the final season of Game of Thrones, so it’s time for me to finally get my act together and review the penultimate season!

RELEASED: July 16th 2017 – August 27th 2017
SHOWRUNNER: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
WRITTEN BY: David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman & Dave Hill
DIRECTED BY: Jeremy Podeswa, Mark Mylod, Matt Shakman & Alan Taylor
MUSIC BY:  Ramin Djawadi
Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Aidan Gillen, Liam Cunningham, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Nathalie Emmanuel, Gwendoline Christie, Conleth Hill, John Bradley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Hannah Murray, Kristofer Hivju, Rory McCann, Iain Glen, Carice van Houten, Indira Varma, Alfie Allen, Jerome Flynn, Joe Dempsie, Richard Dormer, Paul Kaye, Daniel Portman, Vladimir Furdik, Joseph Mawle, Pilou Asbæk, Anton Lesser, Hafpór Júlíus Björnsson, James Faulkner, Tom Hopper, Mark Gatiss, Jacob Anderson, Diana Rigg, Gemma Whelan, Jessica Henwick, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers, Keisha Castle-Hughes & Jim Broadbent

After six seasons, Daenerys Targaryen finally arrives in Westeros, taking up residence in her family home of Dragonstone, and beginning a war against Cersei Lannister for control of the Seven Kingdoms. Meanwhile, Jon Snow, the King in the North, leaves Winterfell in search of allies to help against the army of the dead, while the Night King continues to accumulate power as he and his armies march on the wall.

Much like season six before it, season seven of Game of Thrones delivers a lot of pay-off and fan-service over its shorter runtime. We’ve been watching these characters grow for sixty episodes, and here, we finally get to see the majority of the cast come together at some point or another, revelling in their shared history, and setting things up for both the battle against the Night King and the Wight Walkers, as well as the battle for control of the Iron Throne.

This is never more interesting than when Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen are together; the ‘Ice’ and ‘Fire’ from the title of the book series, respectively. As our two heroes, we’ve spent six seasons rooting for them, but in season seven, Game of Thrones manages to twist things up not with shocking deaths (although there is a bit of a cull when it comes to cast members, provided their plot-armour doesn’t necessitate they make it to the very end of the show), but by making you question the characters you thought you knew. There aren’t any abrupt changes in characterisation, but all the henious things characters have done – acts you’ve cheered on when they’re been directed at more villainous characters – suddenly seem to become so much more questionable when they’re directed at characters you’ve grown to love.

And while the character interactions perhaps aren’t as strong as Game of Thrones has entered its final few series’ as it was way back at the start, the characters have been successfully built up over the years to a place where you don’t need every bit of writing to be in depth and intense; you can stop to enjoy a fantastical action sequence, and accept that this time around showrunners Benioff and Weiss are aiming to hit you more with the ‘wow’ factor than they are hoping to get Emmy (/BAFTA/Golden Globe)-worthy performances out of their actors.

But what the show occasionally lacks this time round in hard-hitting drama, it makes up for in explosive action set pieces, as armies clash, dragons reign fire down upon unsuspecting victims and the living and the dead tussle in a battle for control. Episodes like ‘Spoils of War’ and ‘Beyond the Wall’ are especially evident of this, as they offer up huge action sequences the likes of which we’d never have seen in seasons one and two, and while they very rarely kill off anyone of note (because of that aforementioned plot-armour), they are tense and exciting nonetheless. In fact, I think ‘Beyond the Wall’ may be one of my favourite episodes in the entire show. It’s evocative of everything Game of Thrones gets right – fascinating characters, a wonderous and awesome (in the original sense of the word) locale, incredible tension, terrifying enemies.

All-in-all, I give it:

I can’t wait to see what season eight has in store.

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