Note: This piece contains spoilers. Do not read if you haven’t finished Season 7.
It’s all over but the waiting. Game of Thrones’ seventh season—likely to go down as the most polarizing in the HBO series’ history—concluded in an icy blaze (and with a super-awkward sex scene) Sunday night, setting up an eighth season that might not begin airing until 2019. That leaves fans many months to look forward, and think back on what we just witnessed, including …
Change of pace: A lot has been made of the show’s tempo shift in Season 7, from meandering crawl to sudden charge. It reached peak absurdity in Episode 6, when viewers were left bickering about the airspeed velocity of messenger ravens and Gendry’s best times in the mile. It’s obvious why it happened: Unlike author George R.R. Martin, show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss actually want to get this done in our lifetimes, and they had to compress the time frame significantly to reach the finish line. At times it wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. The major characters have (finally) connected, and the plot lines have been trimmed down to the essentials heading into Season 8.
Aegon’s lineage: Keep calling him Jon Snow if you want, though that’s a bit like referring to Aragorn as Strider at this point, no? It took far too long for GOT to “reveal” what we’ve basically known for years—and Aegon himself still doesn’t know—but we can stop speculating about parentage and start wondering how characters will react to his incestuous hookup with Aunt Danaerys (which took place, oddly, amidst a Bran monologue). Here’s hoping the show moves past such concerns quickly—many things are different in Westeros, after all—and gets to more interesting issues, namely how Danaerys will react to Aegon’s royal claim and whether she’ll give birth to their child.
Who we lost: Littlefinger, Viserion the dragon (though he’s still getting airtime), Benjen Stark, the Queen of Thorns, Thoros of Myr, the Sand Snakes, Randyll and Dickon Tarly and all the Freys in the world. Not a particularly high or illustrious death count, by Thrones standards, though Littlefinger’s Episode 7 exit certainly put some shine on it. Considering he triggered the entire story in the first place—and that many had surmised GOT might come down to Littlefinger vs. Varys—it’s surprising and sad to lose such a key villain before the stretch run.
The Dead: As we’ve always expected, Game of Thrones will come down to a Great War, between the armies of Westeros and the Army of the Dead. Fans of zombie movies might rejoice, but there’s a real danger Season 8 could devolve into all-out action at the expense of the human interaction that has made the story interesting. The Night King might be a badass, but he’s not a terribly interesting one, and his mindless hordes are even less so. In the end, life vs. death’s got nothin’ on Cersei vs. Tyrion.