Well, the long, slow burn is worth it, I think. Two episodes to go and they have no choice but to pack those final two hours with explosions and adventure. Thanks to eight talky episodes, they've established the ensemble pretty well. It was kind of a backdoor way to establishing an ensemble but, nonetheless, it's paid off.
Given that we're now fully in line with the third act of the first book, though, all the background political shit is, indeed, pointless. We're going to get all that next season...the constant diversions with nothing for the characters to do this season was silly.