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Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 7, “The Dragon and the Wolf”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 7, “The Dragon and the Wolf”

Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 7, “The Dragon and the Wolf”

At the start of “The Dragon and the Wolf,” the season-seven finale of Game of Thrones, the lengthy Dragonpit meeting between Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and their respective alliances reestablishes relationships and reminds us of long-simmering feuds with nothing more than a few brief conversations and glances. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) warily assesses Cersei while Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) violently dismisses his nephew, Theon (Alfie Allen). Meanwhile, the dishonored Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), unsurprisingly, finds it difficult to make eye contact with Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie). With the exception of the moment that Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) rolls a wight out of its makeshift prison, the entire sequence is notable for how it sees the episode zigging away from the spectacle that has increasingly defined this season and toward the show’s once-stubborn obsession with the art of diplomacy.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 6, “Beyond the Wall”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 6, “Beyond the Wall”

Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 6, “Beyond the Wall”

Far sooner than most of us probably expected, “Beyond the Wall,” the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones’s seventh season, sees Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) dragons doing battle with an army of White Walkers. It’s an action-packed moment, for sure, but its sense of thrill is ultimately unearned. Given how hard the series has worked to establish not only the stakes of Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) mission, which supposedly only he could carry out, but also the terror of the creatures beyond the wall (who seemed unstoppable in “Hardhome”), it’s almost ludicrous how Daenerys simply swoops down out of nowhere to save the day. There’s no handwringing about who might die here, and in contrast to “The Spoils of War,” which strikingly invited our sympathy for those on both sides of the skirmish at the episode’s climax, “Beyond the Wall” simply offers up a battle between CGI dragons and CGI zombies, to pulpy effect but no moral consequence.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 5, “Eastwatch”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 5, “Eastwatch”

Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 5, “Eastwatch”

“Eastwatch” picks up exactly where the last episode of Game of Thrones left off, with Bronn (Jerome Flynn) fishing Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) out of a river, and marks a turning point for the series, as it finally fully embraces its fantasy. To this point, Game of Thrones has carefully rooted itself in medieval lore and tactics (dragons-as-nuclear-bombs notwithstanding), but “Eastwatch” feels more like a heist movie than what’s come before. To some extent, this is a result of the ever-accelerated pacing: The journey is no longer shown, only the destinations, and character re-introductions are distilled into essential quips and action. But more importantly, it’s an episode that dials back from the epic confrontations that have filled out the majority of this season, choosing instead to focus on eight brave individuals and their almost certainly hopeless quest.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 4, “The Spoils of War”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 4, “The Spoils of War”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 4, “The Spoils of War”

As epic and satisfying as it is to finally see dragons and Dothraki face off against the Lannisters outside of King’s Landing, the more important battle of “The Spoils of War” is between Game of Thrones’s two types of storytelling. The first, which plagues the episode’s first 20 minutes, is the stuff of pure exposition: tactical discussions, cryptic premonitions, and theory. At best, the language occasionally crackles in the right hands, as with the way in which Mark Gatiss cloyingly portrays the Iron Bank’s representative, Tycho Nestoris. “Arithmetic, not sentiment” makes for the sort of too-calculated approach that can swamp an episode before it even begins. It’s not much better when Jon Snow (Kit Harington) invites Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) to view the obsidian tunnels beneath Dragonstone. Sure, there are cave drawings that show the Children and the First Men fighting together against the wights, but that convenient bit of ancient history simply isn’t compelling.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 3, “The Queen’s Justice”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 3, “The Queen’s Justice”

Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 3, “The Queen’s Justice”

There are currently two queens vying for control of Westeros, and the latest episode of Game of Thrones centers around the ways in which they rule. “The Queen’s Justice” is an effective summary of the various futures and beliefs for which the protagonists are all fighting for, but much of the episode feels as if it’s going through familiar motions. First there’s Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), stuck repeating the lessons of her father, Tywin. Her sense of justice is nothing more than revenge, and we already saw that play out in the far more masterful “The Winds of Winter.” And then there’s Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who stands in direct contrast to Cersei by distancing herself from her own father, apologizing to Jon Snow (Kit Harington) for Mad King Aerys’s evil, but then again, that’s also nothing new for her.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 2, “Stormborn”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 2, “Stormborn”

Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 2, “Stormborn”

Once upon a time on Game of Thrones, Oberyn Martell made an oath to Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), promising that her daughter, who’d been sent to Dorne as part of a marriage treaty, would be treated well: “We don’t hurt little girls in Dorne.” After Oberyn’s death, however, his vengeful lover, Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), did precisely that, poisoning the innocent girl. Now, months later, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) calls Ellaria to account for that, passionately arguing before Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) that they be more than indiscriminate murderers. It’s one of many callbacks to past actions that are brought up in “Stormborn,” an episode that’s not only packed with intrigue, intimacy, and insanity, but also with a richness of history.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 1, “Dragonstone”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 1, “Dragonstone”

Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 1, “Dragonstone”

Whenever Jon Snow (Kit Harington), the newly minted King of the North, seeks guidance, he thinks back to the words of his deceased father, Ned Stark. When it comes to whether he should punish the disloyal houses of Karstark and Umber, who fought against his rightful rule in last season’s Game of Thrones episode “Battle of the Bastards,” he chooses not to hold the children responsible for the mistakes of their parents, and bulldozes his way past the more vengeful desires of his sister, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner). Yes, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) has seized control of King’s Landing and summons Jon to take a knee before her, and yes, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) has finally returned to her ancestral home at Dragonstone, but “Yesterday’s wars don’t matter anymore,” Jon announces. Winter is here, women and children will learn to fight alongside men—a prospect fully backed by the fiery young Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey)—and gold is irrelevant. Only dragonglass (and Valyrian steel) can slay the marching armies of the dead.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 10, "The Winds of Winter"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 10, “The Winds of Winter”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 10, “The Winds of Winter”

The first three minutes of this week’s season finale of Game of Thrones set a somber mood—and with not a single word uttered, just the ominous tolling of a bell. That’s because words are somewhat beside the point. The trial of Cersei (Lena Headey) and Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones) has begun, and if one believes the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), everything about this moment has been predestined. And so director Miguel Sapochnik wisely echoes that sense of fate, orchestrating every shot to the gradual crescendo of a classical choir, and providing hawkeyed viewers with an abundance of foreshadowing.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 6, "Blood of My Blood"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 6, “Blood of My Blood”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 6, “Blood of My Blood”

After the emotional closure of last week’s episode of Game of Thrones, it was almost inevitable that “Blood of My Blood” would take a more subdued step back to reset the table for the next big event. The largest problem with tonight’s episode is that it either changes course so abruptly or restates certain theses so redundantly that it feels like a bit of a tease, especially for those who aren’t too invested in Samwell Tarly’s (John Bradley-West) storyline.

After a tense dinner in which Sam’s father, Randyll (James Faulkner), sternly judges his disinherited son and wildling “whore,” Gilly (Hannah Murray), Sam apologizes for not standing up to him, and then departs with his new family (Gilly and her son) in the middle of the night. “I’m angry that horrible people can treat good people that way and get away with it,” remarks Gilly, and while awful fathers aren’t anything new in the world of Game of Thrones, the show gains little by dwelling on them. Sam’s heroism and love for Gilly has already been well demonstrated up to this point, so these scenes seem like nothing more than a needless opportunity to reiterate Westeros’s cruelty.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 5, "The Door"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 5, “The Door”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 5, “The Door”

There’s been much talk of prophecy on Game of Thrones, but it’s usually in an abstract sense. After all, those who follow the Lord of Light, like Melisandre (Carice van Houten), have been wrong before, and the newest Red Priestess, Kinvara (Ania Bukstein), might be wrong about Daenerys being the chosen one. But she’s right when she tells a skeptical Varys (Conleth Hill) that God is never wrong, only sometimes misinterpreted by his messengers. Even more accurate is her observation that “Terrible things happen for a reason.”