The last season of HBO’s megahit series Game of Thrones has been received with disappointment rather than excitement. Although the production value of the movie-length episodes is higher than ever, and visually the scenes, the tempo and the audio are on another level completely – the writing is being critiziced from many angles.
So, as a series fan, I too am left wondering if the series is cutting corners from other aspects, leaving a lot to be desired in regards to the main characters‘ final fates and how the game of thrones itself plays out.
[WARNING: There are spoilers for season 8 and the final episode beyond this point, please don’t read on until you have watched the final season.]
There’s a lot to consider so I’ll divide my arguments into some key points:
Useless side characters. The main criticism here is that a lot of potential character arcs have not been played out as well as they could have been. (E. .g. direwolves, the Golden Company, Dorne and many more.) For book fans, the criticism drives the comparison between the book series and the TV series, which I find redundant at this point, but even within the series itself, the last two rushed seasons have wasted some really good side characters.
Sudden deaths. Another crucial letdown were the deaths of beloved and hated characters alike, suddenly taking from us Missandei, Varys, Cersei and Jaime, and finally Dany. GoT rarely leaves viewers with warm and fuzzy feelings or lets us enjoy charaters after we’ve started liking them, but many of these came without the build-up other sudden massacres have had and thus also felt too rushed and not played out to their full potential.
Yes, Cerseis character is despicable and needs to die, but even the way they chose to minimize her dialogue (Lena Headeys payday in regards to the amount of lines she had to deliver must have been massive) had already had started deteriorating. Sansas confrontation with her would have been nice but again, this is Game of Thrones, so the fact we didn’t have the satisfaction of seeing Cersei die slowly and painfully is no real surprise. Her final minutes were spent watching her home be destroyed and she did have a silent mental breakdown, so that’s not a delightful way to go either. Props go to the actual fact she wasn’t bloodily slaughtered – been there, done that, you know.
Jaimes relapse is explainable as well – an addict tried to leave the dark side but couldn’t save himself from his sisters grip when he knew she was in fatal danger. What happened is not what he promised to do last season but a man with an addiction can relapse any time. The fact that those two deserve each other was highlighted in their shared demise. However, this is not where Jaimes character arc was going beforehand, so although apologetically logically possible, we again have a case of sloppy writing at hand.
Danygate. There are many aspects to be considere here. Danys madness was inevitable and her death by Jon was something one can regard as necessary to break the tyrant-overthrown-by-the-next-tyrant-wheel. Drogon… maybe being the independent creature he is (although he seems to have been quite the pet in comparison to George R. R. Martins dragon depiction) is letting out his anger on the iron throne since it cost him his brothers and his mother? That the throne needs to be destroyed and that Dany needs to either fully descend into madness (dangerous for the entire realm) or that she needs to die is justifiable, however the execution was without any or extremely short build-up, appropriate character development and failing suspense balance.
The good. We do have to appreciate every choice regarding visual and audial aspects of this last season, it has been nothing short of epic and awesome in that sense. It was a smart choice to film short YouTube clips, because the fans never get enough GoT footage, so expanding the initially short commentary videos into nicely edited longer ones was a great choice in my opinion. The viewer gets so much more appreciation for details (the library in Kings Landing, the scorpions, the loot train attack and ice lake scenes from S7 and so on and so forth).
These episodes have been wonderful to consume from the perspective of how the individual scenes and camera points were crafted. The battles have been phenomenal. The music is simply breathtaking. The length of the episodes still leaves a viewer wanting more and excited for the next one.
However. It is also my belief that this instant gratification of finishing one part of the story in one episode changes the strategy of suspense and the viewer can’t fathom the series-like nature of the season anymore. From a cinematical standpoint I absolutely understand the long episode choices, but from a suspense perspective it doesn’t work anymore.
Of course the fact that characters die and their whole narrative has been useless seems very disappointing – but only if you view them from a standpoint limited to the season or the episode. For example, my biggest wtf moment in episode three was Melissandre just appearing out of thin air in the middle of The Battle of King’s Landing. If you widen your perspective, her whole reason of existence is/was to help kill the Night King and end the darkness, which she successfully fulfilled.
(Now that was a satisfying episode.)
Conclusion. On the whole, however, regardless of one’s perspective of one season or all seasons, series lover or book fan, all of those perspectives leave a lot to be desired from seasons 7 and 8 of Game of Thrones. So when word got out that the writers are now on board a Star Wars project and decided to give a shorter form than HBO originally asked for, I wholly blame their sloppyness and egocentrism for the epic letdown that was season 8. I also now tend to believe the whole YouTube BTS narrative was carefully crafted to divert attention from the atrocious writing choices those two made during the final seasons and episodes.
So – unfortunately – yes, Game of Thrones has insulted our intellect by letting it do the work of filling the plotholes, not using its full narrative potential and just focusing on explosions and visual (and audial) effects to wow the audience, and rob us of a full length ending to a marvelous fantasy series that could have been executed so, so much better.