We're four episodes into Game of Thrones' truncated penultimate season, and I'm Not Entirely Pleased.
On one hand, plot points that the show has been teasing since literally the first episode have finally happened--Dany is finally in Westeros with her dragons--which is undeniably exciting. But the episodes released so far have also been strangely flat and lifeless, featuring unusually poor dialogue and acting (I suspect the latter is a consequence of the former).
The battle scenes are a prime example of why this season isn't really doing it for me. Game of Thrones has come to be known for big, expensive battle sequences that far outstrip anything else on TV in terms of budget and production value, the standout being last season's "Battle of The Bastards".
That scene was the culmination of a two-season-long standoff with the show's most loathsome villain, and a major turning point in the saga of the Stark family that began all the way back in episode one. Given how brutal Game of Thrones can be, you knew* there was a very real chance that the Starks would lose and we'd have to watch Ramsay Bolton butcher a bunch of our favourite characters for shock value.
*(Okay, in hindsight it's obvious that wasn't going to happen, but the show did a good job of making it seem like it might)
By contrast, the two big battles this season (and given how expensive these sequences must have been, I seriously doubt there's another one coming) have been random, fairly low-stakes clashes. One major character momentarily seemed to be in danger; the cliffhanger ending implied that another one is in mortal peril. He's probably not, since at this point the cast has been whittled down to characters who obviously have a role to play in the climax of the series and/or are walking plot triggers that have yet to go off.
That's the thing, over the last season or so Game of Thrones has quietly ceased being a dark, grounded story where there are no heroes and villains and anyone can die at any time, and has become the kind of fantasy story its source material was meant to be a refutation of: a low-stakes action-adventure romp featuring near-superhuman badasses who can't die before their story reaches a suitably dramatic moment.
At this point, I'm just left wondering what the endgame is. Do out heroes defeat the white walkers? I'm not sure how satisfying I'd actually find that. People have floated the possibility of a bleak ending where all the bickering over power finally comes back to bite Westeros in the ass, everyone dies, and our last shot is the Night's King ascending the steps to the Iron Throne. The internet would have the biggest meltdown in history, but I'm kind of hoping that's where we leave off.