Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers, speculation, and sports

[North of the Wall, Westeros] A seven-year odyssey has finally come to fruition with the opening of the long-awaited Winter Olympic Games on Sunday. The journey has been long, and often arduous. Notably, the Games’ steering committee has seen a significant shift halfway through the project. Founding Chairman George R R Martin’s increasing struggles with the administrative and logistical burden of the Games have been well-documented, and when it became apparent that Mr. Martin would be unequal to the task of keeping to the event’s unforgiving deadlines, the gentleman seemed to give up all pretense, dropping out to focus on local sports and other domestic endeavours. This meant that full steer of the Olympics fell upon the young shoulders of Dan Weiss and David Benioff. Both capable young men – perhaps lacking Mr. Martin’s attention to detail, but, we hoped – making up for it with their flair and decisiveness.

This flair and decisiveness were on display in abundance on Sunday, although the dearth of perfectionism was only too apparent throughout the scheduled events. We leave it to the reader to judge if this was a worthy tradeoff, although even the most disgruntled spectator would admit that, if, nothing else, it was a roaring and memorable day.

The Winter Olympics are nothing if not a vigorous celebration of athleticism, and Sunday’s abundance of running, climbing, skating, sliding, jostling, wrestling and fencing were true testaments to this spirit. Our correspondent reports on the major events:

Javelin Throw
Where the worthy but unsuccessful maester Qyburn failed in the Summer Games, the Night King succeeded in the Winter edition – and how! King’s world-record javelin throw has been the only talk on the town’s lips. The frosty projectile found its mark, instantly changing the dynamic of the entire Olympics and sending forecasters scrambling to revise their medal estimates. It must be pointed out here that King’s achievement, though athletically impressive, rests on somewhat indecipherable judgment. Pundits are stumped by King’s decision to aim for a smaller target moving at a great height with tremendous speed in a windy environment, as opposed to the larger target sitting stationary on the ground feet away from him – with seven riders perched on it to boot.

Snow Snake
This quite monumental event followed the javelin throw, and if this description is difficult to understand, the reader will make allowances for the shocked state our correspondent found himself in as the Night King followed up his awe-inspiring javelin throw with another seismic gamechanger of a performance. Continue to follow this space as we attempt to fully understand the extent to which this event has altered the Olympic landscape – it looks as though at least one colossal Summer athlete might now compete exclusively in the Winter games.

game-of-thrones-22

The Olympic flame is carried solemnly into the arena. The flame is lit at the site of the ancient Olympics and is carried on foot to the site of the modern Games, which is over three thousand miles (eleven minutes) away.

Skeleton
It was a matter of grave amusement that the white walker kabaddi match looked exactly as ill-advised in action as it sounded on paper. The controversial event, designed to curry the favour of sponsor Cersei Lannister, was doomed from the start and ended up deserving every bit of derision directed at it prior to the start of the Games. In fact, if the developments with the snow snake are any indication, all Jon Snow’s team would have had to do to persuade Lannister was to hunt a handful of ravens and leave them in the cold – in mere minutes, a flock of ice ravens would have been ready for dispatch to King’s Landing.

Multi-species events
Thoros of Myr put in a spirited performance in his freestyle wrestling match against an ice bear, but by far the most impressive feat in this category came in the incredible inter-species relay that featured Clovis, a raven and a dragon. It is not often that the same athlete holds records at opposite ends of the achievement spectrum, but this is precisely the situation Clovis now finds himself in – after registering the slowest recorded time in history for the rowing event, the youngster from Flea Bottom now holds the land speed record among mammals by virtue of his lightning sprint to Eastwatch in the first leg of the relay. We exchanged a few words with the exhilarated youth:

Congratulations, Clovis. How do you feel?

Oh, I’m not Clovis. I’m Gendry, bastard son of King Robert Baratheon – spread the word. It feels really brilliant. It’s been a tough few years on the bench, but I knew I’d come through for the lads when given the chance. I feel like I’m on top of the world, and I’m not just talking about the North being the highest latitude on the map! (laughs)

Walk us through what was going through your mind as you ran through the snowy wilderness towards Eastwatch.
I was just thinking to myself, boy – you only have a few minutes to trace your path back over a distance it’s taken the team days to cover, but you’ve got to pull through. Do justice to that stag blood, Gendry, I told myself! I knew that raven, and then dragon, would move with exponentially higher speeds, so I was confident that we’d complete the whole race in an hour tops.

And so we did. Big props to the whole team, and special shout out to the special theory of relativity, it’s really helped us out this season.

Indeed, congratulations go out to you all. Last question, what geographical location did you pass on to the raven? I mean, how did the dragon know exactly where to turn up for the finishing post considering it’s just a big expanse of snow up north?
Sorry, mate. Gotta take off. Cheers!

maxresdefault (1)

Tormund Giantsbane (R), comforting teammate Sandor Clegane (L) after the latter’s disastrous timing in curling

Equestrian
What a remarkable sight, to see the retired Benjen Stark galloping through the crowd to extricate Jon Snow from disaster in the nick of time! It boggles the mind that, in an expanse of unmapped, inhospitable land roughly as large as Canada, Benjen should have happened to be in the same square mile as his nephew at the same instant in time. Onlookers were, however, befuddled to see the older man dismount his animal and transfer ownership of it to Jon. Being a perfectly normal-sized, healthy steed, the horse should have easily accommodated two riders. One struggles to find justification for Benjen’s actions, other than to say that the occasion must have gotten to him. It just goes to show that the pressure of sport can give even Coldhands cold feet.

Special Olympic Events
Sadly, the Games’ sole paralympian declined to participate in this week’s events despite the wealth of expertise and all-encompassing knowledge that would have granted almost certain victory to any team that he chose to ally himself with. Sources tell us that Mr. Brandon Stark is dealing with some mental health issues in his home town of Winterfell.

170820-gameofthrones-dany-jon

Daenerys “Dany” Targaryen (L) warming up for the Snow boarding event

Long Jump
And now for something completely different, we end with a short account from our film and television correspondent, who was assigned to cover the jumping event and turned in this eccentric piece that we are nevertheless compelled to publish:

“In 1977, the fifth season of the iconic sitcom Happy Days featured a landmark moment. The Fonz entered a water-skiing contest – and literally jumped over a shark in the sea on his water-skis. It was supposed to be another ultra-cool notch on the post for a character who was the epitome of cool. Trouble was, an earlier episode had featured Fonzie undertaking a dangerous motorcycle stunt that left him badly injured – this ended up being a moment of realization for the character, of the value of life and the stupidity of bravado. The subsequent stunt with the water-skis, so blithely executed, undid all this character development. It would forever become enshrined in television history, by giving rise to the phrase ‘Jumping the shark’. From TV Tropes: “Jumping the Shark is the moment when an established long-running series changes in a significant manner in an attempt to stay fresh. Ironically, that moment makes the viewers realize that the show’s finally run out of ideas. It’s reached its peak, it’ll never be the same again, and from now on it’s all downhill.”

Game of Thrones started out with complex, morally ambiguous characters, but these have now delineated into clear camps of good vs. evil, with only a handful of exceptions. The Night King is now becoming the primary antagonist, and his motivations are unclear at worst and one-dimensional at best. The cloak-and-dagger political maneuverings of warring humans are increasingly taking a backseat to a far simpler, and flatter fantasy of the army of the dead and its assault on the living. Death really is becoming the enemy as Beric Dondarrion said this week, but for the series. Week after week, we now have near escapes and just-in-time rescues for our heroes. In ‘Beyond the Wall’, Thoros of Myr gets mauled by a wight bear and walks about 5 km with all his entrails intact – he succumbs eventually, but he had no business staying alive that long. Tormund Giantsbane is overcome by a swarm of zombies and we think he’s done for, but he’s somehow saved at the last minute. Dany and the dragons arrive at the exact second everything seems lost, and later so does Benjen. Jon Snow drowns in the middle of a white walker Kumbh Mela and still somehow makes it out alive. Jorah almost slips off a dragon but hangs on. I could go on. This is a trick you can use once (as they did so brilliantly with Jaime Lannister two weeks ago), but not more. Is this the same show that beheaded Ned Stark, crushed Oberyn Martell’s skull and evaporated Margery Tyrell without batting an eye? Make no mistake, by objective standards Game of Thrones is still nowhere close to bad, but it’s definitely starting to fall short of the very high benchmark it has itself set. This is a landmark series, one of the all-time greats, and so it has earned some benefit of doubt. But the doubt is growing in my mind – I am starting to fear that we’ve jumped the dragon.”

Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars