Be warned: There are SPOILERS as big as the Mountain beyond.
Because it was Game of Thrones, Season 7 was objectively entertaining. But it wasn't perfect. Far from it, in fact. Season 7 of Game of Thrones felt weird, and it wasn't just the presence of Ed Sheeran in Westeros. Over the course of six years, we have come to expect a level of quality out of the HBO hit unrivaled by virtually any other show. Those expectations didn't do the showrunners any favors, because it made the weird parts of Game of Thrones Season 7 all the more glaring.
Ed Sheeran's cameo actually is symbolic of the overarching issue that plagued Season 7: they abandoned their own formula. Despite being a fantastical world full of dragons and ice zombies, there has always been a sense of realism in Game of Thrones, carefully constructed over the past six seasons and responsible for ensnaring so many fans. Their grasp on that realism became tenuous in the penultimate season; let's hope they can recapture it in the eighth. Still, it behooves us to examine all the problems with Season 7 of Game of Thrones.
The Entire Season Was A Means To An End
There was a lot of questionable decision-making in Season 7, as well as some glaring departures from the established realism (relatively speaking) of Westeros. Most of this existed solely to set up the Battle for the Dawn, the final confrontation between humanity and the White Walkers.
The plan to go beyond the Wall to capture a wight and bring it back was, at best, ludicrous, and its execution was all too easy. Was that really the best way to go about proving the existence of the White Walkers? Could Dany really have found her allies so quickly stranded on a frozen lake? Or did that all happen just so the Night King could get an undead ice dragon, take down the Wall, and begin his invasion of Westeros? (All within, like, two episodes.) The smart money is on the latter, as the uneven pacing and stymied character moments of Season 7 reeked of cinematic table setting.
The Stark Sister Drama Was Completely Contrived
Never before have characters behaved so stupidly and irrationally as Arya and Sansa Stark in Winterfell. In fact, their interactions were simply unbelievable. Neither Stark woman trusted Littlefinger, and yet the show spent half the season setting up a scenario in which he successfully managed to pit one Stark against another.
This all led up to the trial—which was, admittedly, memorable. It seemed Sansa was about to condemn Arya, but she suddenly turned the tables on Petyr Baelish. Here's the issue: at some point, the two must have planned this or come to an understanding, but it was off-screen. Why couldn't the audience see this part of the story? To force the drama that unfolded—"force" being the operative word.
Because They've Stopped Killing Off Main Characters, The Tension Has Evaporated
In both "Beyond the Wall" and "The Dragon and the Wolf," the audience didn't believe for a second that any of the main characters were going to die. Tyrion walking into Cersei's lair and bidding everyone farewell was a transparent attempt to fool viewers into thinking he might actually die. But we knew he wouldn't, because the show has stopped killing off main characters.
That's one of the elements missing now that we've all moved beyond George R. R. Martin's storyline: the tension from the knowledge that anyone could die anytime—reinforced by the fact that main characters did die frequently—is almost entirely gone. Not even Yara is dead! Characters are protected by plot armor now, and it robs the series of some much-needed drama.
When Jaime fell into the river after charging Drogon, we could have had a real moment of terror. Instead, we were just left wondering what contrived way Game of Thrones was going to save a 180 pound man wearing a full suit of armor from drowning. (The answer: just kind of having a dude pull him out of the water.)
Reunions Are Virtually Meaningless Because Of Their Frequency
In "Eastwatch," we got three major reunions: Davos picking up Gendry (who hasn't been seen in four seasons), Tyrion seeing Jaime again, and Jorah reuniting with Daenerys. But wait, there's more! Jon and his crew make it up to Eastwatch (presumably through a wormhole) where Jon sees the Hound again for the first time since Season 1. Meanwhile, Gendry casually confronts the Brotherhood without Banners. "They sold me to Red Witch," he informs Jon in a totally-non-expositional way.
While these latter two instances aren't examples of supposedly "meaningful" reunions, the first three certainly are—and that's not even to mention Tyrion and Bronn's off-screen reunion. They were good friends, remember, and, at some point, their banter was a highlight of the show. In the past, when major characters re-crossed paths, it was seminal. Now, it's so commonplace that these scenes have lost most of their gravity.