When Game of Thrones first premiered, some saw it as simply a cheaper replacement for HBO’s short-lived but beloved drama, Rome (despite the fact that Game of Thrones is a fantasy series set in a fictional world).
Little did anyone know how big the series would become.
With every passing season, the series grew more and more popular, the budget got even bigger and, in the end, it changed TV forever. Could anyone really anticipate Game of Thrones would have become what it did? Certainly not when the first novel was released in 1996. And probably not even when the first season premiered on HBO.
And now, our watch has ended.
Season 8 was disappointing in many ways, and yes, I believe that ever since the show got ahead of the books, the series had not been as strong. The first four seasons are excellent. Seasons Five and Six were still solid as well including some of the best episodes in the show: The Door, Battle of the Bastards, The Winds of Winter, and Hardhome, another top episode from the entire series.
Season Seven is where the cracks really began to show. It was a little rocky and rushed due to the shortened season, but I believed Season Eight would be great because Season Seven had the heavy job of getting all the characters where they needed to be for the final wars to come.
My fears were lifted when the first two episodes of the final season were terrific. The character moments made sense and who didn’t feel such happiness when Brienne was knighted by Jamie?
Then, my feelings began to change with Episode 3, The Long Night. This was the Battle of Winterfell, what many of us thought was the ultimate point of the story. The episode was sprawling, the battle sequence was so well directed by director Miguel Sapochnik (Hardhome, Battle of the Bastards, and The Winds of Winter), but then we reached the end of the episode.
The Night King was killed and evil was vanquished. The Long Night wasn’t so long after all. I felt so conflicted by the ending. The White Walkers being disposed of in a single episode felt like a rushed conclusion to a battle that was built up throughout the course of the show. I have no issues with Arya killing The Night King but I did feel empty by the ending. It felt too easy.
Episode Five is truly divided the fanbase, The Bells. Once again, Miguel Sapochnik directed the hell out of the episode. The episode was so well directed I didn’t realize my issues with it until after the episode ended. Dany making the decision to slaughter the city after they surrendered was always going to divide fans, no matter how well it was told, but did the show earn the turn from Dany?
That remains up for debate. I like the story development. There is evidence to support her turn and I firmly believe that George R.R. Martin has the same development in the books, but I don’t think it was fully earned because it was rushed.
Had it been handled better, I think most would see it as a bold choice. It’s like if the Star Wars prequels came out first and you didn’t know Anakin falls to the dark side. It could have had that type of effect. The tragic fallen hero.
After that, we arrive at the series finale. I was nervous, seeing how conflicted I felt about the previous episode. I was nervous to see if they could pull it off. Despite some rushed elements, I liked it. It wasn’t perfect, but I got closure from the character’s journeys. During the last montage, I started getting teary-eyed seeing where everyone ends up and a lot of it felt right to me.
If there are two things I love–great characters and a good ending. If there are great characters, I tend to forgive some plot elements, but I love seeing those characters get a great ending. I don’t care there are five endings to Return of the King. I simply want closure to the character’s stories. (So thank you for that, Peter Jackson)
Here, I got something similar. The plot didn’t always work and some of the character arcs would have paid off better if the last two seasons weren’t so rushed, but I got closure to their respective journeys. Some of it was expected and other parts were not. I didn’t get everything that I wanted, and that’s okay.
Game of Thrones was always a narrative about grey character, complex morality, and the conflicted human heart. The series was never going to end with a traditional perfect king or queen on the Iron Throne. The ending was always going to be ambiguous.
Did the characters make the right choice? We won’t know and that’s also okay. It’s open-ended and that fits the show’s style. We got some happy endings, some sad ones, and others we are probably supposed to feel conflicted about.
Is it all perfect? No, there are flaws, but I think the positives far outweigh the negatives.
What To Do With Disappointment?
The finale has come and it has been met with an incredibly divisive reaction. As I’ve written throughout the article I’ve had my own issues with season 8 and was divided within myself on how I was feeling with the direction of my favorite TV show, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed this finale season.
What do you do with that disappointment? It’s a question that I’ve been thinking about for the past few years. When disappointment rocks your world it is hard to know how to channel that energy.
There really isn’t one easy answer. I do know one thing though, making petitions isn’t helpful. No one is going to remake season 8 of Game of Thrones, no one is going to remake The Last Jedi and Warner Brothers is going to cast whoever they want as Batman.
Attacking the creatives with such anger and vitriol isn’t going to make anything any better. Remember, none of the makers of Game of Thrones set out to disappoint people and nobody forced you to watch the show for one episode let alone eight seasons.
So what should you do? Well, I can’t tell you what to do but there was a quote I read from famed comic book writer, Brian K. Vaughn. Vaughn was talking about the development of his most popular and successful comic series, Saga, and it’s relationship to Star Wars.
“I’m part of the generation that all we do is complain about the prequels and how they let us down … And if every one of us who complained about how the prequels didn’t live up to our expectations just would make our own sci-fi fantasy, then it would be a much better use of our time.”
I don’t share this quote in any sort of condescending way. I don’t even mean it in a “if you think you’re so smart you write a better story” kind of way. I mean it as encouragement. If you’re creatively inclined or just want to do something for fun, create something of your own. Channel your disappointment into creation. Look at what you think were the mistakes were and learn from them.
If you don’t want to create, go and critique, but do it in an informative and constructive way. Film essayist and host of “It’s Lit” YouTube series Lindsey Ellis has been digging into the harmful tropes of the finale on Twitter. It is an interesting critique that I encourage everyone to read.
If you don’t want to write a fantasy series or critique, then enjoy talking about it with your friends and family. Remember the good times you had watching it. I know one of the biggest things I’ll be remembering from this series isn’t even the show, it’s getting together with my friends every Sunday night, full of food, laughter, and conversation. Each new episode was always an event.
My Watch Has Ended?
It is sad to see Game of Thrones go. The story of A Song and Ice and Fire has inspired me tremendously in my life and my creative endeavors. The books reignited the love I have for reading and the memories I have with friends and family of those Sunday nights watching the series I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Regardless of how it ended, the effort was always there on the parts of the filmmakers and (yes) the writers. It’s hard to see it go, but Game of Thrones isn’t gone forever.
HBO is currently working on spin-offs of the series, one starring Naomi Watts that got the green light, and with any luck, the series will capture the hearts and minds of even half as many as the main series did.
We also have two more books coming, where it all started. The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring will show us George R.R. Martin’s original vision of the story come to an end. Will it be similar or different from the show?
Eventually, another show will come along to capture us. We may never experience a show that turns in to a true cultural phenomenon like Game of Thrones, but something will come along.
Fantasy is about to have a big explosion on television as adaptations of Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, The Witcher, The Dark Tower, His Dark Materials and many more are all coming to the small screen. Maybe one of those will fill the void Thrones left, or maybe that next big show will be a completely different genre altogether.
Until then, one thing is for sure, I loved the journey. Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire have made a major impact on me and the lives of millions.
Will I feel the same about the season or the finale after this article publishes? 2 weeks from now? A year? I don’t know, but to paraphrase Tyrion Lannister, Hand of The King, “Ask me again in 10 years.”