This post will actually be void of spoilers. I know, right.

I find myself in several pop-culture conversations daily. The most engaging debates usually involve 3 franchises: Marvel, Star Wars and more recently Game of Thrones.

The truth is, however, the quality of “Game of Thrones” this season has mostly adopted a consensus – great cinematic moments, bad writing/character development and a rushed pace.

I have been less vocal about the quality loss this season, however, because the most significant drop came one season prior. I’ve also been very vocal about show-runners Weiss/Benioff not being particularly skilled at their craft.

These last few seasons have been entirely dependent on direction and the technical expertise of their high-end crew. When I look back at what made the first few seasons so great, it can’t be simply summarized as “We ran out of book material.”

Unexpected – a good word to describe the twists and turns the series took. What made it unique was the vulnerability of the lead characters. No one felt safe.  Imagine how that affected us psychologically.

We’ve been fed the Hero’s Journey so often. To the point that we don’t expect the hero to falter in the middle, or beginning. Marvel has several unique characters, but psychologically, despite the high stakes of the plot and the cliche’ “near-death” moments of all these franchises, part of us still expects the hero to survive.

Early on “Game of Thrones” declared proudly and loudly: “This isn’t a hero’s journey, this is a story of war and politics, and it will be chaotic.”

The worst example of this in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is when Leia flies through space. Can I believe she has that power? Yes, absolutely. But considering that there were no hints or build up to her having this kind of connection with the force, it felt jarring.

Now if Leia is in danger, as a viewer, I won’t feel risk. The stakes in Disney’s “Star Wars” trilogy have been deeply damaged by this effect.

How does this tie into the quality loss? We have still lost several popular characters in this season in a lot of unpredictable ways. The truth is “Game of Thrones” never had the aura of “Anything can happen.” It had its own grounded set of rules and each season was formatted to build or foreshadow a defining moment.

So yes, without the books things sped up, people travelled quickly etc. The stroke of “risk” became much more broad. This reduces our investment greatly, when we start to get an idea of where the plot is going.