Updated August 28
Game of Thrones, Episode 707: “The Dragon and the Wolf”
Original airdate: August 27, 2017 on HBO
Spoiler warning: This page contains descriptions of events in this and previous episodes.
The penultimate season of HBO’s hit ended with another extended-length episode on Sunday night, and critics are weighing in with their assessments of the finale as well as the seventh season as a whole. Below, we have collected some of their observations. Scores are listed (converted to our 0-100 scale if necessary) only in those cases where a critic explicitly graded the episode.
Extremely positive reviews
The A.V. Club
What’s so great about the episode is it takes its time.
It was, from start to finish, a beautifully realized 80 minutes of television.
[It] was arguably the best episode of this entire, paint-by-numbers season, even if all of the epic things that happened in its 79-minute runtime were things were events the audience already knew was coming.
[The] finale was ultimately, absolutely, and appropriately epic. With overlapping storylines of revelations, revenge, sibling allegiances and dissolution — underhanded and otherwise — and a seemingly unwinnable war that sees the still bickering factions in diabolical disarray due to the double play of everyone including her brothers Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and the savvy Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) by Cersei Lannister (a truly top notch and once again Emmy nomination deserving Lena Headey) as the Army of the Dead advance, the GoT season ender cunningly blurred whatever line remains between the small and big screens in a way that may be as game-changing as the HBO blockbuster’s plot themselves.
The 80-minute episode’s contemplative tone and masterful direction by Jeremy Podeswa gave every scene plenty of breathing room. This was a return to the very basics of drama — great writing, acting and direction — and was the best episode of the season.
What an episode. … [An] expertly paced and deeply satisfying finale, which allowed every storyline the time it needed to breathe while still providing the ultimate spectacle of The Wall falling to the Night King and his ice dragon.
While last week’s episode seemed to rush through big moments, “The Dragon and the Wolf” slowed things down considerably, delivering lengthy meaningful scenes filled with dialogue, deception, revelations, twists – and the most major characters ever assembled into one spot ever on the series. To cap it all off, we got a big action sequence that drastically changed the game board going into the the final season.
The zombie finale was sufficiently dazzling, and it was preceded by, at very long last, an episode that set up the stakes and the players’ methods in a manner that did more than hypothetical dithering. There have been some great moments in this penultimate season, and a lot of time spent on set-up. But the finale’s big moments proved that the show’s best days still lay ahead.
The episode left me riveted. It left me feeling more confident that this story might actually be going somewhere good as it heads toward its conclusion. It struck me as satisfying both in the ends it tied up and in the new ones it unfurled.
The A.V. Club
“The Dragon And The Wolf” is, unfortunately, laden with several stories that work on the macro level but fall apart when you consider the mechanics of the story in question. This is no truer than in the events at Winterfell, where the show provides a cathartic moment of Stark solidarity that does not bother to paint a logical picture of events.
The story is getting bigger, yes. But it is not at all clear that it is getting better. … [But] Game Of Thrones still goes wrong better than most TV shows succeed.
The Hollywood Reporter
The finale … combined spectacle and character in a way that most of this season has failed to do. It was still a clumsily structured episode in which one scene after another produced a “Wait, that doesn’t make sense” head-scratch followed by a “Oh, that’s because it was a twist” follow-through. It also had a few too many moments that were satisfying in fan-service-y ways, but damned if it wasn’t still satisfying as heck and that’s how Game of Thrones needed to end this season.
This conclusion was a reminder of just how bonkers and Top Trumps-esque Game of Thrones has become in its latest season, but when it looks this gorgeous, the dialogue exchanges are this pithy and the action is this jaw-dropping and enthralling, it’s hard to be mad about it.
Enough of these parting views of the Westerosi chessboard felt earned, sending this series off into its final offseason as a show worth returning to.
Sean T. Collins
But while it may have been the longest Game of Thrones episode ever, tonight’s colossal season finale – “The Dragon and the Wolf” – gets straight to the point, wrapping up storyline after storyline with ruthless efficiency. It forges alliances and breaks them, unites couples and splits them up, rewards some liars and punishes others. And most importantly, it builds up our hopes for a grand alliance against the darkness, then knocks it to the ground. In the process, the season finale deals out moments of happiness and horror straight out of the biggest GoT nerd’s dreams.
There were glimmers of greatness in the extra-long episode that delivered a mixture of spectacle and character beats that closed out an otherwise uneven season in the fashion to which Game of Thrones has made us accustomed.
The longest Game Of Thrones episode yet was also among the most breathtaking and incident-packed. At the end of a spectacular yet uneven season, The Dragon and the Wolf was also a stirring return to Westeros first principles as the Hollywood bombast of recent weeks was replaced by a solid 80 minutes of betrayal, nudity and skulduggery in dimly-lit rooms. Not that it had ever truly been away but it was good to welcome the old, happy-stabby Game of Thrones back with a vengeful gleam in its eyes.
It was a satisfying season wrap-up and set-up to the final go-round.
I confess to feeling a little cheated by this extra-long season finale of Game of Thrones, even though I was broadly satisfied with its biggest story decisions. It was especially strange that the first half of the action existed only as a sort of long con, with the second half basically refuting everything that had come before.
Arya’s killing of Littlefinger feels like another key moment that George R.R. Martin gave to the TV writers, who had no idea how to pull it off. Like with the dragon death in Episode Six, it just feels like a rush to the twist with no real thought as to how they got there. Instead, it takes away from the weight of these key moments. … If writing a season of television worthy of the story Martin began can be considered success, then Game of Thrones’ seventh season was a failure. Faced with the immense challenge of being stewards of his work, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss have been unable to recreate the magic that turned Game of Thrones into such a phenomenon.
The New York Times
While it had plenty of enjoyable moments and blue fire-fueled spectacle, and effectively set up next season’s culminating clashes of the living, the dead and the old venal forces of cyclical destruction, narratively speaking, the finale largely checked off boxes that have been broadly telegraphed throughout the season. … For much of this season … it felt as if the story was driving the characters instead of the other way around.
But after this season, the showrunners have something to prove. They need to deliver a finale that makes up for the 7 soft episodes we’ve just seen, and provide not just spectacle but a rediscovered gift for surprise.
[The finale] was, like a lot of this penultimate season, a collection of strong individual moments in search of a story worthy of them. … The wights flooding through the huge hole where Eastwatch used to be at least ups the stakes for the story Benioff and Weiss plan to tell in these final six episodes (and however many total minutes they wind up running). But that in turn only lowers the stakes for any story not directly related to it.
“The Dragon and the Wolf” is the worst season finale Game of Thrones has ever cooked up. … Yes, there was good stuff sprinkled throughout, and I dug how the first two-thirds (set at an elaborate meeting featuring almost all of the major characters) felt like a really awkward corporate team-building retreat. But overall, the episode left me a little listless. … There have been far better and far, far worse seasons of Game of Thrones than season seven, but there have been few that felt as much like they probably could have been collapsed into an hour or two of screentime.
Nina Shen Rastogi
The worst-case scenario I can imagine for season eight is this dynamic, writ large: that we get to the end of nearly 80 hours of GOT and emerge scratching our heads, thinking, “What was all that for?”
The Washington Post
It was the fitting conclusion to a frustrating season of this series, which pulled far-flung characters together, dispersed them again to confusing effect and dropped plenty of tantalizing information only to treat us as if we weren’t smart enough to figure it all out for ourselves. I felt horribly tense throughout this episode of “Game of Thrones,” but for the first time, I felt like the series was undermining the potential of George R.R. Martin’s novels rather than giving them the lean, mean edit that was revealing their best qualities.
I’m really sad to say that “The Dragon and the Wolf” ranks somewhere near the bottom of Thrones episodes for me, and certainly at the bottom of Thrones finales. … Mostly, I just want to be way more excited for Season 8 than “The Dragon and the Wolf” left me.
The defining flaw of Season 7 has been that character work previously grounded in years of material has been pushed, far too quickly, to new and more convenient attitudes, so this is not exactly a new problem. But this issue extends beyond simple character work. If this simple made-you-look was how the Littlefinger arc was going to end — and how the Cersei plotline in this episode was going to end — then wasn’t everything before it just a dramatically inert waste of time? What’s the point of storytelling, if the end result is just pulling the rug out from under the audience a few times in quick succession?
What do you think?
What did you think of last night’s season finale, and of the entire 7th season? Let us know in the comments section below.