WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Game of Thrones
The season 7 finale of Game of Thrones delivered the show’s most shocking twist yet – unfortunately, thanks to depriving fans of some key scenes, and asking them to ignore some of the biggest gaps in logic and storytelling in the show to date. Don’t get us wrong, plenty of fans will feel the trade-off was worth it for the big reveal. That’s likely the exact reason that the showrunners and writers decided it was a sacrifice worth making. But it’s hard to deny that the long awaited answer to the Jon Snow/Targaryen mystery wasn’t anywhere near as satisfying as it could have been.
The showrunners of Game of Thrones are between a rock and a hard place in this instance, since setting up the show’s final season as a potential feud for the throne between Jon and Daenerys requires a LOT of exposition. The mystery had been beginning to unravel in recent seasons – with Bran Stark having a vision of Jon Snow’s birth – but the season 7 finale dumped almost all of it in the show’s final minutes. So, how do you dump an entire book series’ worth of storytelling and reveals, knowing that some fans already solved the Jon Snow mystery?
Apparently, you do it by having characters know far more than they’ve actually been shown learning, have them investigate less than logic would suggest they should, and combine secret knowledge before the fans’ eyes.
Many jokes were made at Sam and Gilly’s expense when, in a previous episode, the former wildling showed her reading skills by cracking open the mystery at the heart of the entire series. For those who may have forgotten, Sam was busy transcribing scrolls and growing impatient with the Archmaesters’ inaction when Gilly discovered Rhaegar Targaryen’s annulment. For the fans who knew the larger mystery surrounding Jon Snow’s true parents, it was a massive bombshell. Not because Rhaegar Targaryen separated from his wife prior to his death, but because he married a new one at the same time.
It was a funny, excruciating moment the first time… but the season finale makes a strange twist. When Bran explains to Sam that Jon is actually a bastard Targaryen, not a bastard Stark, Sam corrects him, explaining that he had transcribed the account of Rhaegar’s annulment. While some will cry foul (again) and claim Sam is taking credit for Gilly’s discovery, the show itself reveals that’s not actually the case. For starters, Sam wasn’t paying attention to Gilly at all while reading, and the finale explains why: he had already transcribed High Septon Maynard’s journal. Which raises a far more serious question when examining potential plot holes, just what Sam knew, and when he knew it.
Apparently, Sam discovered evidence that the heir to the Targaryen throne annulled his marriage and took Lyanna Stark as his bride – the same heir whose kidnapping and rape of Lyanna started Robert’s Rebellion – and decided it wasn’t worth a second thought. Well, more accurately, the producers of the show decided the audience shouldn’t get to see that scene. We suppose that’s one way to guarantee a surprising finale, but it also makes Sam into an even wiser source of information than the Three-Eyed Raven.
There’s plenty we can forgive in the interest of a comprehensive exposition dump for the audience’s sake. Unfortunately, the meeting of Sam and Bran only goes downhill in terms of believability and artificial creation of suspense. As we mentioned before, Bran Stark was well aware that Jon Snow was a bastard heir to Rhaegar Targaryen long before Sam ever arrived at Winterfell. Again, that’s a moment of understanding that the audience didn’t get to see, with our perspective limited to Bran’s understandably confused vision of Lyanna’s death at Ned’s side. The good news is that the audience DOES get to see Bran look into the past for the wedding of Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen… once Sam tells him that it took place.
Again, the audience is to believe that Bran Stark used his powers (referred to as ‘Greensight’ in the novels) to learn the truth of his brother’s birth as the son of the deposed prince of Westeros, making him nephew to the coming Mother of Dragons, and… decided to never look any further? Not look hours, days, weeks, months, or years prior to her death to learn the slightest bit about how deep this deception goes? It’s completely unclear how the powers of Greensight work in the TV series, but the fact remains: Bran’s discovery that “Robert’s Rebellion was built on a lie” is a shocking twist, but one he could have discovered by looking at even a single day in her life.
In the end, fans are asked to overlook what is, honestly, an uncharacteristic gap in logic and serious suspension of disbelief for the sake of a twist. Some critics might say it’s a sign that the writers took too long to plant seeds of the mystery. Casual viewers might say it’s about time that this story started to wrap up in exciting fashion.
What do you think? Was this imperfect scene satisfying enough to accept the problems? Or do you feel like the writers kept you in the dark without warning?
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