Game of Thrones has been, without a doubt, one of THE best shows on television. A standard bearer in our platinum age of TV, the George RR Martin HBO adaption is one of the network’s biggest money makers. It’s IMDB’s top television program of all time, based on fan ratings, with a 9.5, tied with Breaking Bad. The show, once criticized for often being too misogynistic or for straying too far from the books by eliminating important characters (Lady Stoneheart!), is now getting new scrutiny. The production values and acting are still fine, of that there is no doubt. The writing has taken a drubbing, especially since season 6; the first of what many, including Martin himself, are calling fan fiction.

It’s no secret the show has passed what Martin has published. The writers are now working off Martin’s notes and outlines as they move forward. The result has been a mixed bag. I could spend all day listing grievances. The dialogue we get is obviously not Martin’s, and often it isn’t even Martin-esque. The pacing has been rushed. Characters are acting against established type. Oh, and who can forget the latest misgiving with the seventh season’s penultimate episode having an apparent disregard for the laws of time and space. People also blame it on the shortened seasons, trimming off three from the typical ten this year and four with a six episode season projected for its final season. I hate to tell you this, but these are all surface wounds, the root of the alleged bad writing goes much deeper.

GAME OF THRONES hit the cable boxes in 2011, hiding its fantasy roots under the guise of a political drama. Audiences quickly bought into it and propelled the program to the forefront of MUST SEE TV shows. Word of mouth spread quickly. I didn’t jump on board until season 3, myself, playing catch up, binging the first 2 seasons as quickly as I could. The one thing I noticed is you never saw a battle, you only saw the outcomes. No massive movements of soldiers on a battlefield, no epic trials on the field of honor. The fourth and fifth season finales upped that ante some, giving us glimpses into that arena. But it wasn’t until the sixth season that epic battles started taking precedence on the show.

The Battle of the Bastards last season gained high praise as one GAME OF THRONES best offerings. It’s also one of the laziest episodes of the series, from a writer’s perspective, and the root of all that is wrong with season seven. This pattern will most likely plague the eighth and final season. Essentially a recreation of the Battle of Cannae, wherein the legendary General Hannibal was defeated by Rome; the Battle of the Bastards is epic in scope but short on dialogue.

What we’re getting now is a televised interpretation of panem et circeses. Bread & Circuses, or more simply put, they’re giving us games to distract us from the real problem. It’s not going to get any better people. So far this season we’ve had naval battles, dragon battles, zombie battles. Next season we can expect more of the same as things wrap up. You see, I’m of the opinion that Martin didn’t give HBO shit to work with other than cliff notes on the back of a napkin. As a result, the writers are struggling to find content. This is why the dialogue sometimes sounds “fake.” But more so, it is why we are getting so many battle scenes and special effects shots. How do you distract people? You do it with explosions and big epic battles, Transformers style. Michael Bay has been hiding bad movies behind explosions for decades, and with great results. His coffers are full as a consequence, regardless of how shitty the movies actually are. The problem is GAME OF THRONES has become just that, a money maker for HBO, hiding its weaknesses behind epic battles. The witty dialogue and political intrigue are gone, replaced by a record setting 73 live fires and 20 live burns in episode four’s dragon attack. DRAGONS! LOOK! OOOOO! DRAGONS!