Judging by the Twitter reaction, you’re forgiven if you thought the latest episode of “Game of Thrones” would be roundly panned by critics. But writers who have been following the show — particularly those writers who have read George R.R. Martin’s books — have a more nuanced take on Sunday night’s scorching of King’s Landing. Warning, spoilers.
The Boston Globe’s Matthew Gilbert
“There were ‘touching’ moments everywhere in this well-lit battle episode — and I put quotes around that word because, with the final season’s hasty pace and sudden personality shifts, only a few of them truly landed. There were pairings from beginning to end, one-on-one confrontations and farewells that had been brewing for much if not all of the series.” Read the full review.
The New Yorker’s Sarah Larson
“For every minute of Arya stabbing the Night King, or of Tormund Giantsbane sloshing his wine horn around the Merriment Hall, we have a million years of exquisitely wrought character arcs being shattered into ice cubes and forgotten about, recently deflowered and sobbing in a courtyard, unceremoniously flambéd on the shores of Dragonstone, or vanquished by falling rubble.” Read the full review.
The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg
“As ‘Game of Thrones’ rushes to its hasty conclusions, there are plenty of things to quibble over. The show is revealing just how many of George R.R. Martin’s plot threads were the most scarlet of red herrings. This inexplicably mad dash to the finish line is forcing characters through wild transitions that would have been allowed to flower more naturally in previous seasons. And some much-hyped encounters between characters couldn’t possibly live up to years of breathless Internet speculation. But ‘Game of Thrones,’ and Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ novels have always been about family. And on that score, the final season, and this episode in particular, are hitting many, many high marks.” Read the full review.
Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson
“A Daenerys heel turn from hero to villain was always going to hurt no matter what, and it makes for bad, gendered optics when coupled with Cersei’s terrible leadership and Sansa’s austere suspicion of Daenerys’s (and her paranoia in return). But could the show have given viewers a bit more warning? Without the benefit of the internal monologue from the books, how could the HBO series have better prepared us for this?” Read the full review.
The New York Times’ Jeremy Egner
“But just because the outcome wasn’t surprising, that doesn’t mean the result wasn’t spectacular. While the siege that led up to the King’s Landing apocalypse was plagued with some of the same strategic implausibilities and geographical confusion that has been an issue for much of this season, what followed was a terrifically and terrifyingly rendered decimation of a city.” Read the full review.
AV Club’s Miles McNutt
“The fact that Daenerys Targaryen committed these acts does not betray the arc of her character, but it is the kind of development that requires nuance that the ensemble spectacle of the series just might not be built for, and which the show certainly never achieved.” Read the full review.
The Atlantic’s Lenika Cruz
“In its rush to deliver a wild reversal—or, if you want to be charitable, subversion—of everything the show had established about Dany’s deep-seated goodness and sense of justice, Game of Thrones all but destroyed her character. Where some viewers might see a satisfyingly awful upending of expectations about Dany’s supposed goodness, I see an unearned negation of the identity she spent years building for herself.” Read the full review.
The Atlantic’s Spencer Kornhaber
“With just six episodes this season and seven in the previous, there hasn’t been a long enough runway for Dany’s murderous departure. Still, the pieces of her decision-making apparatus were all on-screen, even if the show hasn’t put them together all that sturdily. Yes, there’s her ‘Mad Queen’ lineage; yes, there is the quite noxious suggestion that she scoured King’s Landing out of some emotional jag. More important, though, is the strategic principle that Dany has learned time and again: Fear works.” Read the full review.