It's hard to send any hate Game of Thrones' way, especially now that fans know that they'll have to wait until 2019 for the final season. However, according to a poll conducted by WinterisComing.net, it seems the most hated episode of Game of Thrones Season 7 was by far "Beyond the Wall." This isn't a huge surprise since the penultimate episode of the season launched a slew of think pieces about the accelerated speed of Season 7 and the seemingly sloppy leaps in logic that were required to make "Beyond the Wall" work. However, there's a lesson to be learned from the criticism that the most hated episode of Season 7 received — the Game of Thrones writers should use this hour as a guide for what not to do in Season 8.
Just in case you need a refresher, "Beyond The Wall" is the episode that found Jon, Gendry, Tormund, Thoros, The Hound, Jorah, and Beric venturing beyond the Wall to capture a wight. The plan itself was flimsy, but it wasn't helped by Gendry's lightning fast running speed, Daenerys' ability to fly across Westeros in less than a day, and the Night King's super convenient dragon-sized chains. Game of Thrones is notoriously detail-oriented, but in the penultimate episode of Season 7, the show ignored logic in order to propel the plot forward.
The desire to move the plot along quickly now that there are only a few hours left is understandable, but it shouldn't come at the expensive of the characters or require a huge suspension of disbelief from the viewers. Seeing Westeros shrink in order to move Daenerys into place just in time to save Jon Snow (and lose Viserion) appears to have taken some people out of the experience of watching the show — and that's never a good thing.
One Winter is Coming commenter summed up some of the episode's most glaring problems succinctly. They wrote,
"You can't have Gendry run an unknown number of miles, send a raven all the way across a continent, and then have Dany fly back across that continent to show up right in the nick of time after what appeared to be about one day. It was absurd."
Rather than simply writing off the criticism of "Beyond The Wall," the show can learn from the outing going forward. Despite its flaws, the hour still had some wonderful moments —namely the banter between the men who all had to put aside their differences in order to survive the harsh environment they were venturing into in order to capture a wight. It's notable that the moments that worked were all grounded in character. Game of Thrones can pull off pure spectacle better than almost any show on television, but its heart lies in the complex characters who drive the fantasy plot.
When Jon's motivations for going on a dangerous mission to capture a wight seem flimsy at best, or Arya and Sansa are left floundering in a plot where they're fighting against each other for no clear reason, the series as a whole suffers. Reportedly, there are only going to be six episodes in Season 8. Each one of those hours has to count, but rather than strive to make the action bigger than it ever has been before, Game of Thrones would be better off keeping the battles intimate and the characters' motivations clear.
If the writers only take away one lesson from "Beyond the Wall," it should be that bigger doesn't equal better. Dragon deaths, beloved characters being surrounded by wights, and last-minute rescues by long-missing characters don't amount to anything if the storytelling is inconsistent. In order to stick the landing, Game of Thrones needs to avoid accelerating the story simply because the end is near.
Focus on the characters, make every battle count, and avoid leaps in logic, and Season 8 may be able to end without having its own "Beyond the Wall" catastrophe.