Season 7 of Game of Thrones was bad. It was bizarrely paced, with plot devices that skirted perilously close to deus ex machina territory, requiring characters to forget things they should have remembered and fans to unlearn things they knew about the world. The effect was slapdash—invigorating set-piece moments (Dany astride Drogon, the great black dragon spitting fire on helpless Lannister troops) bookended by infuriatingly convenient plot turns (whole armies appearing out of nowhere; Jaime Lannister walking back to King’s Landing after the Loot Train Attack, unseen and unmolested despite thousands of Dothraki horse warriors roaming the landscape).
But it doesn’t matter. Not in any tangible sense. We’ve come too far, experienced too much, to not see the thing through. The book series on which the show is based is famously unfinished and threatens to remain so. Thus, to be a Thrones fan is to be a completist. The show is a global phenomenon — television’s most popular program (an average of 31 million people watched each episode) and its most pirated (Season 7 was watched illegally more than 1 billion times). It is, as my colleague Alison Herman pointed out, the last piece of TV monoculture. Season 8 could consist of the poop emoji scrolling for 120 minutes and episodes would still average numbers roughly analogous to the population of Malaysia. This prodigious popularity has deep roots. A Game of Thrones, the first book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, was published in 1996. The fourth book, A Feast for Crows, published in 2005, debuted at no. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. All of which is to say: Game of Thrones is critic-proof because of the immense weight of its momentum.
So, as we look ahead to Season 8, perhaps all the way to 2019, let’s take a moment to remember some of Season 7’s most iconic moments of epic action laced with bizarre badness. The weirdest, most head-scratchingly great-yet-sucky bits of Season 7:
1. Euron Greyjoy’s Wardrobe
Ruling suits Euron. Like, his suits are vastly freaking improved. When the King of the Iron Islands slithered into the throne room in King’s Landing for a meeting with Queen Cersei, gone were the drab, salt-stained linen frocks, overcoat, and the rusty breastplate he wore throughout Season 6. They were replaced by a Robert Smith–sex-goth-meets–Rick Owens vibe—black leather jacket with what appears to be kraken embroidery, black-on-black double-breasted shirt, and black leather trousers.
The Ironborn do not sow. But they do shop.
2. The Sex Boat
Fans of the show and of Martin’s books have been waiting six years and over two decades, respectively, for various mysteries to be revealed and plot arcs to be resolved. Chief among these: Who are Jon’s parents? When will Jon and Dany meet? Who will finally sit on the Iron Throne?
The first was answered in “The Winds of Winter,” the best episode of the series. Rhaegar Targaryen, the Mad King’s son and former crown prince of the realm, and Lyanna Stark, Ned Stark’s fierce and beautiful sister, were finally confirmed as Jon’s parents.
“The Queen’s Justice,” the third episode of Season 7, gave us the long-awaited meet-cute between the Wolf and the Dragon.
The third question has yet to be answered. But, with one epic season of Game of Thrones remaining, the theory I subscribe to is that the future ruler of the Seven Kingdoms is the child produced by Jon and Dany’s sex boat union.
It makes too much sense. Ever since his resurrection, Jon has displayed a troubling death wish—charging out ahead of his troops and attempting to take on the entire Bolton cavalry by himself at the Battle of the Bastards; leaving the North and going south to Dragonstone, a thing that never ends well for Starks; and the insanity of Bad Plan parts I and II (more on that in a bit). I think it’s unlikely that Jon will survive all the way to the end. I could see him sacrificing himself to defeat the Night King.
As for Dany—whose womb I expect, is, as in the books, [extremely George R.R. Martin voice] quickening—the long-established history of troubled Targaryen births is too much to ignore. Examples from recent years include Lyanna Stark, Jon’s mother, dying on the bed of blood; Queen Rhaella, the Mad King’s wife, enduring years of troubled pregnancies, stillbirths, and malformed children; Princess Elia barely surviving giving birth to Rhaenys and Aegon, her children with Rhaegar; and, depending on where you stand on the “Tyrion is a Targ” theory, Joanna Lannister. I don’t think Dany will make it, either. I hope I’m wrong.
That leaves the potential fruit of their union upon S.S. Sex Boat. Whoever that may be.
3. Bad Plan (Part I)
The idea to send Jon Snow, the King in the North, and a handful of important men—including Ser Davos Seaworth, his Hand; Gendry, the last (as far as we know) surviving son of Robert Baratheon; Jorah Mormont, my Binge Mode cohost Mallory Rubin’s husband and a crucial adviser to Queen Daenerys; Thoros of Myr, who can bring people back to life; Tormund Giantsbane, eminent Free Folk leader; the Hound, who I just like a lot; and Beric Dondarrion, who’s died a bunch of times already so whatever—north of the Wall in order to kidnap a wight is just silly. It’s crazy. It’s a bad plan. That’s before we get to the part where no one in the raiding party had dragonglass weapons within easy reach and ready to go.
4. Bad Plan (Part II)
Part II is arguably worse than the part that began with sending a king to kidnap a zombie. Mostly because it completely hinged on trusting Cersei Lannister, a manifestly untrustworthy human being, to guarantee the safety of her enemies. Dany, Jon, and their key allies and supporters would present the captured wight to Queen Cersei in King’s Landing. This evidence would, they hoped, convince Cersei to join the battle against the White Walkers.
Even leaving aside the fact Cersei is, and is widely known to be, untrustworthy (for instance: she had recently blown up the Great Sept of Baelor and its surrounding neighborhoods, killing numerous noble men and women and religious fanatics that she had lured there, along with a great number of common people), Dany didn’t need to do this.
Even after the near-debacle north of the Wall, which cost Viserion, Dany still had two dragons left. Why not fly those two bad boys over the Red Keep and melt that thing like a candlestick? Minimum civilian casualties and unnecessary property damage; maximum expedience. This was a bad plan.
5. “Loooooooooooooooot Traiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin”
One of George R.R. Martin’s underrated talents is his ability as a namer of things. Here are some of his battle names: “The Field of Fire,” “The Battle of the Redgrass Field,” “The Taking of Griffin’s Roost,” “The Battle of the Blackwater.”
Contrast that with “Loot Train Attack,” the name of the engagement from Episode 4, “The Spoils of War,” which seems like a production title that stuck. With world-building, it’s the small details that often make the difference. No one in the world of Game of Thrones would call this battle “Loot Train Attack.”
6. No Ghost
Not to step on Mallory Rubin’s corner, but where the fuck was Ghost? Direwolves are semi-legendary creatures and the symbol of House Stark. You’d think that if Jon, against the wishes of his people and advisers, was going to travel south to meet the Dragon Queen, he’d bring his own fantastic beast. You know, simply as a flex. Why not take him north of the Wall on the Bad Plan raid? WHERE WAS GHOST?
Alternatively, Ghost not being in the show this year meant Ghost was never in danger. #PROTECTGHOST
7. The Battle of the Wall
The defenders of humanity are outmanned and outgunned. But they did have three crucial pieces of information at their disposal:
1. The Night King was definitely coming to attack the Wall.
2. When the attack came, it was likely to be in the general area of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.
3. Dragonglass kills White Walkers and wights.
OK. So when the Night King arrives, Tormund, Beric, my dudes, WHERE ARE THE DRAGONGLASS-TIPPED ARROWS? WHERE ARE THE DRAGONGLASS SPEARS? WHAT ARE WE DOING OUT HERE? ARE WE DEFENDING THE REALMS OF MEN OR ARE WE NOT? WHY ARE THEY NOT PREPARED FOR THIS?
And to make the Eight: “I SAW THE NIGHT KING, DAVOS, I LOOKED INTO HIS EYES!”
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.