Spoiler alert: This column was written for viewers who have seen Sunday's episode of "Game of Thrones."
Last week’s episode of "Game of Thrones" was quite the stinker, but it makes so much more sense in the aftermath of what happened in Episode 5.
Sure, the writing was still quite atrocious and Sunday’s episode was closer to car-crash television or horror porn than it was an epic fantasy story in one of the most in-depth worlds ever created, but at least the episode was enthralling.
Dany going mad and razing King’s Landing to the ground is going to be the show’s signature moment when all this is over, and while many people were rooting for Dany to be this benevolent ruler, the path was laid for her to lose her mind from the very first season.
Granted, that doesn’t mean her murdering “tens of thousands” of innocents in the process of taking down King’s Landing is acceptable, and certainly the way the show got there was poorly written and even more poorly thought out. But in a sense, this episode could get away with abandoning parts of the lore because keeping track of lore would have minimized the chaos.
Dany losing it and destroying the city provided a platform for the one part of the show that hasn’t fallen off: The music in this episode was phenomenal, and the key drop in Dany’s theme was extremely unnerving, its use typical only in cases where Dany comes to save the day rather than destroy all they’ve worked for.
This season has been so simple to tear apart that it's becoming imperative to dote on anything positive. Turning Cersei into a sympathetic character was a poor character choice that doesn’t fit the rest of the show, but the writers did as good of a job as they could with that decision. It only kind of sucked rather than being the lowest point of the series (which is and will hopefully forever be last week’s episode; any worse will not be worth watching anymore).
The only way "Game of Thrones" ends any worse than the current foreshadowed end is if nobody takes the throne and they have a democratic vote on whether or not to switch to the city manager form of government and hire Hot Pie to run the city.
That actually sounds more fun than what is actually happening.
The plot armor on all of the characters is too thick. Arya shouldn’t have survived to escape the city, and one pep talk from “The Hound” Sandor Clegane should not have been enough to convince her that she didn’t need to kill Cersei. That was her main character arc for literally six seasons of television, and it got dropped due to a pep talk. A pop-up video style message from the showrunners saying “we wrote ourselves into a corner” would have been infuriating, but at least some sort of admission might absolve D.B. Weiss and David Benioff of some of their sins.
Other deaths in this episode include Lord Varys, who seemingly lost his ability to read a room when he asked Jon to try and take the throne. Fans should be gutted that a master of subtleties died due to his own impatience (and poor writing) rather than a good reason. Varys instead acted like a knacker and got burned alive for it.
The fight between the Hound and the Mountain was incredible, and the two tumbling to their fiery deaths out of the high tower of the Red Keep was a beautiful visual. The Mountain’s mangled face and imperviousness to things that should kill him were awesome. He looked like Frankenstein or a Marvel comic book villain and it was terrifying; the Hound taking the Mountain down with him was a great ending for the most compelling and anticipated fight in the series.
This week’s episode featured too many flaws in the storytelling for it to be considered anything greater than mediocre, but it was a great mess with incredible entertainment value. If it starred Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham, it would be a high-rated summer blockbuster rather than a disappointing penultimate episode to what was once a critically acclaimed fantasy series.
• MICHAEL URBANEC is a reporter at The Times. His temporary column Throne It Out There offers reviews and commentary on the episodes of the HBO series "Game of Thrones," which is in its final season. To contact him, call 815-431-4041 or email email@example.com.