As we arrive at the end of the penultimate season of Game of Thrones, much of the credit given to its showrunners for significant improvements to Martin’s original draft of the story has to be qualified by the revelation that when they’re not working from his rewrites, they do a terrible job. With the one exception of the “Loot Train Battle”, this season has been about as much fun as watching slides from a good friend’s vacation. Sure, there’s some pretty locations, sure there’s some gifted images here and there in the show and sure, it’s great to see our friends having a great time in an interesting place. There is, however, no actual story. We, the slide watchers, have very little context for some of what we’re seeing. “Hey, that’s where Jenny almost fell off the cliff! Too bad I didn’t get a picture of that.” “Hey, that’s the restaurant we ate at that had the most amazing tuna crudo, but I didn’t get a picture of it.”
Aaron Bady brilliantly sums up how bleakly bad the direction of this season has become.
You might say: but they have to finish it up! They can’t possibly go for another six seasons at the same pace! Or you could be like the director of episode six, Alan Taylor, and say “Oh, who cares about distance and plausibility, you guys all love the show no matter what.”
I felt compelled after watching episode six to draft a completely plausible rewrite that would: a) fit in the same number of episodes; b) be no more expensive than what was on screen; c) require no one to act like an idiot or to do things that are wildly implausible.
So here we go.
This is to me the most important kind of “textual poaching”, basically how fans demonstrate a kind of ghostwriting of the main text. Not the extensions of fan-fiction or shipping, but a sober critical re-examination of how another text was possible even given the material limitations on its production.
Last season: After the Battle of the Bastards, Sansa flat out tells Jon Snow that she thinks she should be the Lady of Winterfell and he should be her general. The bannermen unfortunately screw it up and proclaim Jon Snow King of the North. He tries to appoint Sansa instead but they won’t have it. Sansa begins to brood and plot on how to become Queen, believing Jon is simply too much of a fuck up as a political leader. (Davos tells her about the events at Castle Black.) A minor adjustment, but an important one.
Arya kills the Freys. She visits Hot Pie while trying to decide what she’s going to do next, and hears about the current events at Winterfell, resolves to go there.
Daenerys lands at Dragonstone. She very sensibly moves her Dothraki and Unsullied primarily to the mainland and has them range threateningly towards the southeastern edges of King’s Landing. Her Tyrell and Dornish allies insist she immediately assault King’s Landing. Tyrion and Varys point out casualties and genocide and all that. The Tyrells and Dornish, annoyed, say that they’ll siege KL from the west, and when they’re in place, she’ll close the trap to the east.
They question Tyrion’s reliability and loyalty and demand that he prove he’s safe by sacking Casterly Rock. He agrees rather enthusiastically–he’s always hated the place anyway. DT and Tyrion agree to send some Unsullied fast march. Tyrion cautions against sending Tyrell and Dornish forces via ship, because “there’s an enemy fleet out there, we think”. Ellaria and Yara ignore him–what a twerp.
Euron ambushes them. The Unsullied take Casterly but they’re under attack from the sea–and they’ve got no artillery because the castle’s been stripped. Cersei and Jamie wipe out the Tyrells. DT despairs–are there no good allies for her in this shitty place?
Jon Snow, meantime, broods about zombies and sends *Davos* south to beg for the Dragon Queen’s help. To Sansa’s frustration, Jon Snow won’t talk much with his bannermen or give inspirational speeches–she has to do all the politicking. There are bannermen who are beginning to doubt–they don’t believe in the zombie thing, they think somebody’s got to solve the food thing.
Arya returns. She’s a bit disconcerted to find Sansa more or less in charge. Jon welcomes her but is plainly distracted and disconnected.
Sam’s plot as-is, including the magical Mormont cure, which is delivered by the end of Ep 3.
Loot Train. Mormont arrives at Dragonstone and there is much rejoicing. Davos arrives and DT and Tyrion wonder if they have a two-front battle on their hands or an even better alliance than they had before. But he wants help with zombies! This is stupid! Daenerys finally agrees: she won’t go herself with her dragons, because who knows what the dangerous Cersei Lannister might do. She says: ok, I will send my very best friendzone Jorah Mormont north to investigate. If he says: there are zombies! Yow! Then I come with dragons.
Davos says: ok, I will come back too–but first I want to go fetch a kid from KL that I know, and I’ll smuggle a message to Jamie Lannister written by Tyrion telling them to surrender, put ’em off guard, right? Jamie Lannister receives the letter. Qyburn later steals it from him and shows it to Cersei.
Sam leaves the Citadel.
Sansa decides to have a disloyal bannerman punished harshly when he is heard openly speaking against the Starks. (Littlefinger put him up to it.) Arya witnesses the punishment without seeing the original provocation and becomes convinced that Sansa is damaged and is endangering the Starks.
Guess who’s coming to dinner? The Hound, Beric and Thoros show up at Winterfell. Sansa and Brienne do not trust them, throw them in jail. Arya is conflicted. But spying around she begins to discover what is making the bannermen restless: it’s Littlefinger. She consults with Sansa and hears the truth about what happened in Episode 4. She and Sansa ponder what to do–they can’t displace Jon or act completely independently of his nominal authority! But Jon won’t talk, he’s still obsessing about the zombies.
Davos, Jorah and Gendry show up. They decide to go to Castle Black with Hound, Beric, Thoros to show Jorah some zombies. Jon insists he has to come. Sansa is worried–does she have the authority to hold off the restlessness, esp. if Littlefinger is up to no good? But the Knights of the Vale are especially uncertain in their loyalty, and she needs them.
Jon and Company leave for Castle Black.
Bran returns about two hours after they leave and does all the weird stuff about seeing his sister’s trauma, etc. Littlefinger gives him the dagger and gets freaked out.
In meantime, Dany roasts the Tarlys and Tyrion is of many minds.
Cersei and Jamie have a conversation about a baby and loyalty.
They get to Castle Black. There’s a guy dying of cholera. Dolorous Edd says, wait a day to see a zombie. Jorah sees a zombie and says, fine, let’s send the raven to DT. The horn blows. There’s a giant army of a million zombies at the gate. They change the message to the raven, HELP NOW.
DT comes north with three dragons–Jorah says! And yeah, zombies are real, she roasts them, and then, bam! the Night King wounds but doesn’t kill Viserion.
The Magnificent Seven go out the gate in a doomed attempt to save the wounded dragon by keeping the zombies off of it. Much battle, DT is freaked out and just stays perched on the wall in terror. But after Thoros dies and some redshirts she sees that Viserion is going to die no matter what. She risks it and goes in with Drogon to choppa them out. They all get on the dragon–including dumbfuck Jon Snow–and the Night King gets ready for his second kill of the day. Then Benjen shows up and does the heroic last stand thing and distracts him. DT and the Magnificent Six escape intact on Drogon. They fly to Winterfell to confer.
When they arrive, the castle has erupted into unrest because Littlefinger has made his big play–he’s trying to force Sansa to marry him and to overthrow Jon. Littlefinger didn’t really plan on two dragons arriving, though.
Cold open: Arya takes out Littlefinger. Sansa and Li’l Mormont talk the bannermen down. Jon bends the knee to DT, DT appoints Sansa Queen of the North and asks Jon to come with her south as her chief general. They do goo-goo eyes at each other and then sneak away that night to consummate their relationship.
Ravens arrive: Euron has landed Iron Islanders at Casterly Rock to kill the Unsullied, Cersei is burning all the crops of the Reach and the Riverlands to force everyone to surrender. DT decides she has to go south and try to convince Cersei to sign a truce, and to bring Jon Snow with her. Jon surprises everyone when he leaps on Rhaegon and is able to ride him. Suddenly, Bran rolls into the courtyard to explain the real story and suddenly Sam and Gilly show up to say, “Yeah, that’s it man, it turns out Jon is a Targ.” Jon and DT look at each other and realize that they are nephew and aunt.
Just then, everyone senses that something strange has just happened–the winter wind blows insanely, there’s a bizarre light in the skies, and an odd howling noise. Turns out the Night King just used zombie Viserion to destroy the Wall. Castle Black is a ruin.
Jon and DT tell Sansa: you hold out as long as you can. We’ll be back with the biggest army we can get and two dragons. Sansa, Arya, Sam, Beric, etc., get ready for a big last stand. The Hound asks to go south–“I hear my brother is still around, the cunt.”