No, not nudity, flashing breasts or jiggling buttocks.
Fanservice can be described as visuals designed to ‘excite’ the viewer. They come in many forms, most common through gratuitous nudity (not to say GoT lacks in that department!). Some other ways include through narratives and character interactions, usually in the nature of something the fans really REALLY want to see. It runs on hype and is fueled by a dedicated fanbase. The issue with Game of Thrones S7 is that it lands in the latter form of fanservice. I’m talking about the scenes where the writers and directors take oddly specific nods at the audience – In between moments of inside jokes, direct fan theory explanations, conveniences and contrivances, Game of Thrones Season 7 seems to be quite full of them.
One of the weaker season in the series, the shortest, and far beyond the reaches of being able to reference the books any longer. The show has gone off on a tangent, resorting to many action packed fantasy tropes that separated GoT from its mainstay genre counterparts in the first place. It’s gripping and dropped many viewers in the deep end for a journey through Westeros unlike any other medieval-esq fantasy drama of our time, save perhaps for Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) or i hope not, Eragon. Though unlike LOTR, GoT is visceral and unrelenting in it’s very real portrayal of a world and it’s people. The series has won a couple of highly acclaimed awards, including ‘Best Drama Series’ in 2013/2016 by the Critic’s Choice Television Awards and 12 separate awards at the 67th Prime time Emmy Awards for their fifth season. They were nominated for 24 at this one alone, setting the record for being the series with the most Emmy wins in a single year.
I do get the appeal of fanservice though- I really do. Writers of the show wanting to be in direct contact with the fans, to enjoy the lore and huge expanse of characters the same way we consume it. Even I admit, it is fun to join in with other fans and enthusiasts – commonality in shared excitement, it’s a vicarious experience with other viewers and the hype fever can be a very potent thing. Not to mention, the possible leaps in rating boosts with the already huge following the show has acclaimed over the years.
Despite the fans’ approval – the story, lore, characters and self-contained ‘rules’ of the world are common victims to fanservice. There ARE some cases where fanservice have been used justifiably – it is as rare as a magical birth of three dragons by fire. My experience of Season 7 was okay, but feeling ‘cringe’ in this series was something new to me. And yes, I didn’t even feel this terrible during the Season 5 Sand Snakes arc. I felt like my hands were being held through it all, and the narrative handled in such a way that reminded me of a 10 piece kids jigsaw puzzle rather than a 6000 piece head turner.So,
SPOILER WARNING AHEAD FOR GAME OF THRONES SEASON 7
Here are the Top 6 Fanservice Moments From Game Of Thrones Season 7 That Made Us Roll Our Eyes. In no particular order, but I did save the one that gave me quite the headache, for last.
1) Azor Ahai could be a prince OR a princess
Mellisandra makes a comeback in Episode 2 of Season 7. After being exiled by King in The North Jon Snow for the wrongful execution of Princess Shireen, she heads towards Dragonstone, requesting an audience with Danaerys. “The Long Night is coming. Only the prince that was promised can bring the dawn”, something Mellisandra specifically says, implying Danaerys’ role to play in the war to come.
“I’m afraid I’m not a prince”
Missandei steps in and explains quite plainly to the audience and her queen that the translation is not entirely correct. The noun has no gender, which makes the prophecy apply to either a “prince or princess”. Tyrion was right, it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.
Prophecies are, you know, a double edge sword. You have to handle them very carefully; I mean, they can add depth and interest to a book, but you don’t want to be too literal or too easy…. prophecies come true in unexpected ways. The more you try to avoid them, the more you are making them true, and I make a little fun with that.
Author George R.R.Martin talks about prophecy being unreliable and coded – with layers of double and even triple meaning. Interpretations are usually left open, Melissandra even followed the wrong king because of her own mistaken reading. By giving us this dry clear-cut translation of the prophecy, it goes against George’s own views on handling them – taking the mystery and magic out. Which also puts Dany and Jon BOTH in the spotlight position for endgame immediately and if they aren’t, well that is just a terrible reveal and a waste of time then. Am I disappointed that Dany has a shot at this Azor Ahai thing? Absolutely not, it’s good to have the female inclusion but is the clarification necessary and more so could the reveal have been handled better? This feels slapped on, as I hesitantly extend my hands to let the writers guide me through the rest of the season.
Perhaps this is ironically the misunderstanding from fans as well. English uses gender specific nouns, as per George’s writings and explanations on the Prince that was promised ,so you can’t really blame audiences for placing Azor Ahai only a real possibility for male characters. Could you?
2) Gendry, still rowing that boat?
In Episode 5, Ser Davos heads back to King’s Landing to pick up Gendry – lovable blacksmith, Robert Baratheon’s bastard son and oh did we forget to mention he was last seen in Season 3 Episode 10? He has not been spoken of or referred to once since rowing that damn boat off into the distance which lead many to believe that the writers just killed him off, or didn’t bother to continue with his story arc anymore.
Ser Davos meets up with Gendry where he works, making a very specific remark that just took me out of the moment. “Wasn’t sure I’d find ye”, Gendry turns his head slowly.
“Thought you might still be rowing”
How does Ser Davos even imply this? For all he knew, Gendry could have been back in King’s landing by Season 4 episode 1 and no one would be the wiser. If there was one thing good about this, ‘Gendry rowing the boat’ became a meme – and oh a fabulous meme it is. The point of the meme was for audiences to highlight the inconsistencies with attention to their characters – central characters going missing, slowly phased out, etc – focus being placed on Gendry in particular. More than just the young blacksmith, even Brandon Stark was missing for most of a season. By the writers acknowledging the meme, it becomes an inside joke that is quickly dated, their admission to the mishandling of characters has the same level of approval as saying
“Yeah about Gendry, we did cut him out for most of the show whoops. Though it’s okay, because we call out our own flaws through an internet meme and all laugh about it”
Even actor Joe Dempsie took to twitter on June 18th, 2014, tweeting, “Still rowin’…#GoT.”
— Joe Dempsie (@joedempsie) June 18, 2014
3) He didn’t rape or kill her, they were in LOVE
It started with Robert’s Rebellion, also known as, The War Of The Usurper. While the story can be a little lengthy, the parts with Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark goes a little something like this. During Sansa Stark’s visit into the family crypts, Petyr Baelish comes along and tells her the story of the aunt Lyanna she never knew or met.
I saw her once; was a boy living with your mother’s family. There was a great tourney at Harrenhal, everyone was there – the Mad King, your father, Robert Baratheon. Lyanna, she was already promised to Robert. You could imagine what it was like for me, a boy from nowhere with nothing to his name, watching these legendary men tilting at the lists.
The last two riders were Barristan Selmy and Rhaegar Targaryen. When Rhaegar won, everyone cheered for their prince – I remember the girls laughing when he took off his helmet and they saw that silver hair, how handsome he was. Until he rode right past his wife Elia Martell and all the smiles died. I’ve never seen so many people so quiet. He rode past his wife and lay a crown of winter roses on Lyanna’s lap, blue with frost.
How many tens of thousands had to die because Rhaegar chose your aunt?
“Yes he chose her, then he kidnapped her and raped her“, Sansa replied. Petyr lets out a small smirk.
They’ve established and implied through numerous scenes in both the show and books that Rhaegar and Lyanna’s relationship or whatever it was, caused the lives of tens of thousands in Robert’s Rebellion. By hook or by crook, they helped bring the intensity of this war to full scale. Their ambiguity of affection towards one another works in this regard, by emphasizing that even if it was for love, prophecy or something much more sinister, the characters while even never being on screen, retains a layer of 3-dimensionality. By giving their whole backstory and narrative a romeo and juliet-esq screen, it drives a simplistic “love is everything” theme home.
Cut to Season 7 Episode 7. Bran after being clued in by Sam, hops in vision to see both Rhaegar and Lyanna getting married.
“Robert’s Rebellion was built on a lie. Rhaegar didn’t kidnap my aunt, or rape her. He loved her, and she loved him“
The music swirls, cutting away again to a shot of Dany and Jon, showing parallels for their obvious affection for one another at this point. I hate to repeat myself, but the theme of love they try to push forward does not minimize the amount of death and destruction caused by the war in the first place. For a series that long prides itself in writing characters as people, the myth and mystery of Rhaegar and Lyanna’s ‘love’ becomes fact to audiences, falling victim to romantic fantasy tropes. Love, does not end well in this series. Has the death of Robb Stark not serve as a cautionary tale on choosing love over duty?
4) ‘Cleganebowl’ basically being confirmed
Fans everywhere are delighted with the possible reemergence of Cleganebowl, the affectionate title given to the more than violent and estranged sibling rivalry that The Hound, Sandor Clegane, and The Mountain, Gregor Clegane have. As children, Gregor shoved his younger brother’s face into burning coals, giving him a permanent scar and a fear of fire (which was questioned later on in his calling to the Lord of Light/ Brotherhood)
It happened during the opening scene of everyone gathering at the Dragon’s Pit. Minus the absence of Danaerys who has yet to arrive, you have your meeting of the century – character dynamics and interactions are flying off the charts, even I have trouble keeping track – ‘Wait, why do they hate each other again?”
Sandor Clegane without being prompted, walks abruptly up to Gregor. I could feel the writers trying to find any possibility they could to cram this scene in.
“Remember me? Yeah you do. You’re even fucking uglier than I am now – what did they do to you? Doesn’t matter, that is not how it ends for you brother. You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known.”
This confirms the long awaited fan theory. Was it well done? No. Was it necessary to reveal Cleganebowl this way and at this moment? Absolutely not too. It’s awkward, and in this short but quiet scene I can imagine the other cast of characters going around looking at each other going “hey so uh… shall we just let them, is no one going to mention how off beat the timing for this is?”
5) Uncle Benjen?? UNCLE BEN NOOOO
Like Gendry and his proverbial boat, Benjen Stark was last memorable sometime in Season 1, taking Jon towards the wall and parting ways there. He was not seen again until Season 6, Episode 6 saving Bran and Meera though now changed. Touched by the ice sword from the White Walkers, he was doomed to turn into one of them, save for the help of the Children of the Forest. He parts ways with them both on Season 6, Episode 10 – but hey, at least we know he is alright and alive (somewhat). With his confirmed return, perhaps he will have a role to play in the war to come? We still have not seen that sweet reunion between Jon and his uncle Ben right?
In a bit of a sticky situation, Jon is separated from the rest of the team as he leaves himself behind to fight off the remaining horde. Here he is left to freeze, surrounded and alone. How will he survive? We know Jon won’t die, we are no longer afraid for his death because the invisible plot armor has taken center stage for a while now. Even if he is to be axed off, he will be one of the last to go. That I can assure you. Uncle Benjen, swoops in to save the day deus ex machina style, saving Jon so suddenly, I swore to myself this is the only reason he was kept alive.
RIP Uncle Ben.
6) What’s an Annulment?
“What’s an annulment mean?” Four words words spoken by Gilly that I can’t get out of my head. It started off innocuously enough, but quickly dove into a flurry of exposition and pandering to the audience so tactless and dry, I thought to myself, when did the show turn into this?
“It’s when a man sets aside his lawful wife” – Sam says, he looks annoyed explaining to her. Gilly and Sam are at Old Town, going through some books when she comes across the diary of High Septon Maynard, who supposedly recorded everything he did from his own bowel movement to well, this –
“Maynard says here that he issued an annulment for a Prince Rhaegar and remarried him to someone else at the same time, in a secret ceremony in Dorne. It that a common thing?” – Gilly
The silliest reveal done in the series by Gilly, tagged on as something that Sam “got annoyed with”. He brushes it aside, but for the writers, the damage was done. In one fell swoop,Maynard becomes a central bit of plot convenience – who just so happens to be detail oriented, who happened to issue the annulment for Rhaegar and who happened to remarry him at the same time no less, in a secretive ceremony….in Dorne. These are all details for fans and fuel that just affirm Jon’s more likely-than-not status of being an eligible heir to the iron throne.
It’s clumsy, and paired together with the “he didn’t rape or kill her, they were in love” narrative as pointed out in point 3, it puts Jon in this impenetrable plot armor and raises him up even higher as the golden boy of the show. Bran even encounters this sometime is season 7 before his vision of Rhaegar’s marriage to Lyanna. He “needs to tell Jon” he says. He needed to tell Jon, that he is a ‘Sand’ not a ‘Snow’ – a name given to bastards who are born in Dorne, like how a Snow is given to bastards born in the North. It’s another very specific detail Bran mentions, as if to highlight the fear in the minds of fans; How could their beloved Jon Snow ever be king if he is not legitimate? How could he ever have a shot at the Iron Throne?
I guess it is satisfying for fans to see their boy who came from nothing, have his entire blood, legacy and heritage be something special he was never aware of. Fans anticipate the reveal so much. On top of prophecies losing its ambiguity, deus ex machinas, acknowledgement of memes and the worst offense of all, turning the story of Rhaegar/ Lyanna and Jon/ Dany into this tropey romeo/juliet-esq and chosen one narrative – Game of Thrones Season 7 has lost its punch in favor of being in fan’s favor.