10 Times Game Of Thrones Chose Style Over Substance

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For much of its run, game of thrones pushed the boundaries of television storytelling in a number of ways. It boasted complex and tangled storylines spanning dozens of characters that required viewers to pay attention and take notes. It also includes some of the best visuals and flair of any TV show.



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With its vast budget, game of thrones put on a great show for fans and provided them with wish-fulfilling moments, largely without sacrificing the quality of its storytelling. A few times, however, the show sacrificed logic, depth, and even its basic realism to fit in with what was cool.

ten The Absurd Tactics of the Battle of Winterfell

The most anticipated confrontation of all game of thrones was the one between the forces of the living and the White Walkers. One of the show’s longest-running storylines, the tension between the two sides built and built — aided by clashes in episodes like “Hardhome” and “Beyond the Wall” — until the Army of the Dead finally reaches Winterfell in Season 8.

The protagonists’ plan to confront them was lacking. Designed to provide shock moments and increase tension, it included such things as light cavalry charging the enemy head-on without support, catapults held in front of fortifications, and most of the army having to fall back through a trench in fire. Even the styling failed, as the episode was literally too dark for the audience to perceive much of the battle.

9 Drogon melting the Iron Throne

The iconic and menacing Iron Throne was one of the show’s most enduring symbols, both in- and out-of-universe. Characters plotted, fought, betrayed, and risked everything for the chance to sit on them, with struggles for the throne shaping most of the game of thrones‘ narrative. When Jon Snow slew Daenerys Targaryen in front of her, he opened up to a quick death at the breath of his dragon, Drogon.

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Drogon, however, ignored the man who murdered his mother and instead ignited his fire on the Iron Throne, melting it into slag. The moment was clearly designed to portray the throne as the real force behind Daenerys’ death, but the idea that Drogon would prefer poetry to revenge was unlikely for many viewers.

8 The Hound and Brienne had an unlikely match

game of thrones‘ The first four seasons were more faithful to the books than the back half of the series, but they made some significant adjustments to the storyline. One notable change was the circumstances behind the dog’s apparent death. He found himself in a duel with Brienne of Tarth, both seeking to protect Arya.

The idea that Brienne would accidentally wander Arya into an entire realm, in a short amount of time, seemed very unlikely. This highlighted the moments as one of the show’s most obvious gimmicks. At times, the style paid off, as fans were happy to see two of the show’s best warriors do battle, and many considered it a good ending to Arya’s story with The Hound.

seven The one-sided battle of Yunkai

Although he had his very stylized moments, game of thrones often showed realistic combat. Factors such as supplies, equipment, and numbers were crucial to victory, just as much as skill or motivation. This slipped into Season 3 when Jorah Mormont, Gray Worm, and Daario Naharis infiltrated Yunkai to mistake him for Daenerys.

The episode briefly took on the qualities of an action movie, with the three soldiers facing multiple times their numbers without injury. Even with their superior gear and training, they took on far more numbers than characters could usually survive on the show, all to deliver an engaging fight scene that saw the city fall to Daenerys.

6 Euron’s Ambush Against Daenerys’ Fleet

One of the more interesting political points of the past few seasons was that the Greyjoys allied on both sides. Yara and Theon provided Daenerys with much of the Iron Fleet and the ability to reach Westeros, while Euron became Cersei’s admiral and a key player in Westeros’ defense.

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Their biggest clash comes when Euron ambushes Yara’s fleet en route to Dorne. Although this is an epic fight, many elements feel stylized at the expense of common sense. Euron’s massive fleet appears almost out of nowhere unseen. In the fight’s most infamous scene, Euron joins the fray, straddling a massive boarding board and screaming.

5 The Wall of Corpses in Battle of the Bastards

Season 6 spent its entire length preparing for a fight between the armies of Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton for control of the North. It came in “Battle of the Bastards” where Ramsay skillfully outmaneuvered Jon’s army, trapping them between his own spearmen and a massive wall of corpses.

However, the corpse wall strained the suspension of disbelief. Ramsay created it by indiscriminately shooting his own men and Jon’s, causing their bodies to pile up. It happened so quickly and so perfectly that many found it unrealistic. Although more of a spectacle than just a circle of spearmen, it remained one of the least believable elements of a beloved battle.

4 Everything about “Beyond the Wall”

Where many episodes of game of thrones merely advancing storylines and building the series’ growing plot, “Beyond the Wall” proved to be a high-profile affair. The main objective was for Jon Snow to assemble an elite team of warriors to go north of the wall and capture a wight to use as evidence of the threat of the White Walkers.

The entire episode was heavily stylized, more so than usual for the series. Events felt designed around exciting possibilities, rather than what made logical sense. In the most notorious case, Gendry traveled hundreds of miles to send a letter across half a continent to Daenerys, who replied the same day. He facilitated a daring rescue, at the cost of making distance meaningless.

3 The Raising of the Sons of the Harpy in the Daznak Pit

The main antagonists of Daenerys Season 5 storyline were the Sons of the Harpy, Meereen loyalists who wanted to reestablish slavery. Their threat surfaced in the fighting pits, as they staged a mass uprising by the hundreds, hoping to kill Daenerys when she had few bodyguards. However, the scene became controversial among fans.

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The overly ominous soundtrack, the Sons of the Harpy’s seemingly limitless reinforcements, and their one-shot attacks were clearly designed to escalate the tension. In the end, dozens of them held the protagonists on edge, but attacked them one by one to build the stage, rather than rushing in all at once.

2 Death of the Night King

In the heart of the Battle of Winterfell, the defenders were openly routed, most buried in a tide of ghosts, with Theon Greyjoy dying as Bran’s last protector. As things looked at their darkest, Arya Stark saved the day by appearing behind the Night King and engaging him in a brief struggle, killing him with a Valyrian steel dagger.

The scene quickly became iconic, but didn’t place much emphasis on substance. Arya, rather than using face-altering abilities, simply sprinted through a horde of wights and White Walkers, while screaming like a banshee to reveal her presence.

1 Cleganebowl prioritized its visuals

“Cleganebowl” was the long-awaited showdown between Sandor “The Hound” Clegane and his brother, Ser Gregor “The Mountain That Rides”. Teased in the first season, there were hints throughout the series, and it finally happened in the eighth season. However, at this point they were just fighting to fight, with Sandor openly admitting that his revenge was pointless.

The fight turned out elegant, taking place on a staircase in the collapsing Red Keep, as Drogon devastated King’s Landing in the background. On the other hand, it lacked the poignancy of many of the book’s predictions, where Sandor fought for a greater reason than revenge. Nevertheless, his style paid off, as many fans still loved the scene.

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