On Sunday, HBO wrapped what has arguably been the most divisive season of Game of Thrones. For as many critics, fans, and even an entire animation network who thought this short, seven-episode season included some of the weakest of the show’s history, there were those who still firmly believe Game of Thrones is as great as ever and want the haters, in short, to “stop nitpicking.”
But dissatisfied Thrones critics and ardent defenders alike would probably agree that this shorter seventh season could really have benefited from a little more room to breathe. Come on, who doesn’t want more of this show? Despite several super-sized episodes, this season felt very rushed in places, with huge jumps not only in logic, but in character building as well. It’s important to remember that the shorter episode counts—13 total for two final seasons—is a restriction show-runners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff put on themselves. HBO would let the show run forever. So with sympathy for Weiss and Benioff’s understandable desire to finish up the story in a timely manner, and with zero intention of picking silly nits, let’s daydream of some of the additional layers of storytelling we might have gotten this season if there had been more time.
ARYA AND LYANNA
During one of her many odd interactions with Sansa (we’ll get there), Arya brings up young Lady Lyanna Mormont as a threat to her sister. Arya seems to know a lot about the ruler of Bear Island—at least enough to know that Lyanna might not suffer any excuses of Sansa just being a manipulated child back in Season 1. So that means Arya has met Lyanna long enough to get an impression of her and we didn’t get to see it! Imagine something like the courtyard clash between Arya and Brienne only with two little pint-sized badasses. Before she disappeared after Episode 2, Lyanna said she wanted all the women in the North to train. Wouldn’t that have been a fun thing for Arya to do instead of menacing her sister? Fingers crossed for Season 8.
ARYA AND SANSA
Speaking of the Stark sisters, it became clear in the finale that Arya, Sansa, and Bran had at least one conversation—if not a few—off camera discussing their plan to take down Littlefinger. Not even finale director Jeremy Podeswa is sure of when. He told the Daily Beast that some of those frustrating Arya/Sansa scenes were genuinely the by-product of Littlefinger’s meddling. “Bran got involved,” he explains, “and he was able to answer a lot of questions and fill in a lot of gaps . . . but exactly when that happened is the question.” Bran actor Isaac Hempstead Wright confirmed to Variety that they even shot a scene that hinted at this:
We actually did a scene that clearly got cut, a short scene with Sansa
where she knocks on Bran’s door and says, ‘I need your help,’ or
something along those lines. So basically, as far as I know, the story
was that it suddenly occurred to Sansa that she had a huge CCTV
department at her discretion and it might be a good idea to check with
him first before she guts her own sister. So she goes to Bran, and
Bran tells her everything she needs to know, and she’s like, ‘Oh,
Our desire to see that scene—with Sansa, Arya, and Bran all figuring out how to hoist Littlefinger by his own petard—aside, the show’s desire to surprise us with a fatal Baelish twist means a huge moment went undocumented. In their final scene together, Arya and Sansa allude to their respective traumatic experiences over the past few years. Which means they already discussed, off screen, things like Arya seeing Robb’s corpse at the Red Wedding or Sansa’s agonizing marriage to Ramsay. Isn’t that something we would have liked to have seen? Sansa talking to her sister about surviving one of the most horrific scenes in Game of Thrones history? I know, I know, there’s no time.
The Red Woman exits the entire continent in Episode 3 and if we ever see her again it won’t be until Season 8. But wouldn’t it have been fun to see one more shot of Melisandre in Essos doing . . . whatever it is she has gone there to do?
THE PRISONERS OF WAR
Speaking of people who got cleared out of the way in Episode 3, that was the last we saw of Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand. We can assume, based on some exit interviews from actress Indira Varma, that we won’t see Ellaria ever again. She will, presumably, spend the rest of the series mouldering away in a dungeon much like Edmure Tully, the uncle Arya left to rot in a cell when she killed all the Freys at the Twins. But what of Yara? Last we saw her she was being paraded into the King’s Landing throne room and then . . . nothing. Actress Gemma Whelan called herself a main character of Season 7, so maybe we could have used just one more shot checking in on the state of Yara held captive by Euron. It would have given us even more reason to root for a Theon rescue in Season 8.
ARYA’S FRIENDS TALKING ABOUT ARYA
Of the seven men who went north of the Wall to grab a wight for Queen Cersei, five spent significant time with Arya Stark. Jon was raised with her, Gendry traveled with her before they were abducted by the Brotherhood (Thoros and Beric), who in turn lost her to the Hound. Any one of these five men could have paused in their explorations of their relative daddy issues to chat about the murderous little girl. Grant you, the Hound and Brienne chatted about her in the finale (and it was great), but it would have been nice for Gendry, at least, to ask Jon about the Stark sister he spent so much time with.
SAM AND GILLY
We all know why it was Gilly, not Sam, reading about the annulment of Rhaegar Targaryen in one of the dusty books found in the Citadel. Her new-to-this reading style meant that while she was learning the information out loud, so were we, the audience. The structure of that scene led to some fun memes and think pieces about women being ignored by men from the Thrones fandom. But this was a problem later in the season, when Sam met with Bran and passed off the annulment information Gilly read out loud as his own. Now Sam isn’t just a careless boyfriend, he’s stealing all the credit!
Sure, there’s an innocent explanation here. Sam said to Bran (and you might have missed it) that he had transcribed the same journal Gilly was reading out loud earlier in the season. In other words, before she took in the information he had already absorbed it through transcription. But that’s easy to miss. The gendered think pieces have now become, in some corners, a full-blown character assassination on Sam, and that’s a shame. Why not have him say something to Gilly in the scene they shared about already knowing full well how many shits Septon Maynard took or, alternatively, have Gilly in the room with Bran so that she could share an excited look with Sam about what they both know. Either way, some serious harm was done to Sam’s reputation, all because there wasn’t time to include Gilly in the narrative.
SAM AND JON
While we’re on the subject of Sam, maybe this is a wish that should have come to pass a whole season ago. In this year’s premiere, Sam made an exciting discovery about Dragonstone sitting on a massive cache of dragonglass. He immediately fired off a raven to his friend Jon who is . . . not lord commander of the Night’s Watch anymore but, rather, King in the North and living at Winterfell. Which means that at some point Sam had to find out, at minimum, that Jon broke his Night’s Watch vows and abandoned his post and at maximum that Jon was murdered by his brothers, was resurrected, and now considers his vows null and void. Sam finding out his best friend came back from the dead would be a rather important thing for us to see, no? And we probably should have seen it in Season 6.
JON AND THE POND
Speaking of the incredible, unkillable Jon Snow. It would have been nice to have gotten some sense of how he managed to emerge from that freezing pond unscathed after being pulled down into the icy depths by the Army of the Dead. Unless, of course, he just literally can’t be killed? If that’s the case, it might be kind of fun to watch him try. Montage for next season?
Otherwise a little—one kick to a zombie head?—would have gone a long way here.
THE EMPTY HOUSES OF WESTEROS
Game of Thrones is, understandably, trying to boil down the action to a few key players. Nonetheless it’s impossible to ignore that some huge geopolitical events happened to the lords of Westeros this season. The ancient and powerful Houses Frey, Tyrell, and Tarly (unless Sam decides to get back into the lording business) have been wiped out. Not to mention Dorne is currently leaderless. Who will take over their massively influential positions and command of their armies? In other words, which way did the Westerosi power swing after these mass assassinations left several strongholds empty? When Cersei calls “all” the Lannister bannermen in the finale, whom is she referring to now? In other seasons this would have been the subject of much debate, but this year there was no time.
GHOST AND JON
According to producer Bryan Cogman, they shot a scene before Jon left Winterfell where the King in the North said goodbye to his loyal direwolf companion. We all know that the direwolves have been largely cut from the show to make room for dragons. (And that scene with Jon and Drogon on the cliff was incredible.) But it would have been awfully nice to see Jon at least say goodbye before trading in his wolf for a dragon all season.
How did Dany’s most important general and his many soldiers get from stranded and frustrated at Casterly Rock in Episode 3 to patiently waiting for her outside the walls of King’s Landing in Episode 7? I have no clue. Grey Worm wasn’t mentioned once in the intervening episodes. We never saw Missandei worry about him (in fact she disappeared for a while) and we never saw Daenerys make any plans to retrieve him. So, possibly, he just marched himself and thousands of hungry troops across the continent. It would have been nice to have seen something about this!
Also welcome would have been time for reunited lovers Missandei and Grey Worm to exchange one single, solitary glance of happiness or relief at seeing each other again in the finale. No dice. Not even when they were right across from each other in the Dragonstone map room.
You know who would have been helpful during a daring mission to fight ice zombies north of the Wall? How about the one other guy (besides Tormund) who was by Jon’s side the last time he met the Night King. Fine, it’s okay that there was no room for Edd during the “Beyond the Wall” episode, but one last check-in with Castle Black (such an important location for so long!) after Episode 1 would have been nice. Instead it was Tormund and Beric, not long-serving brother Edd, who got the shows-topping reaction shots as the Wall fell.
Literally anyone ever saying Rickon’s name even once. And, no, a Dickon joke doesn’t count. Maybe when Arya and Sansa were standing in the Winterfell crypt they could have spared a thought for their littlest brother who was important enough last year for Jon to risk the necks of all his men during the Battle of the Bastards.
Game of Thrones: 13 Things We Wish There Had Been Time for in Season 7 – Vanity Fair