Warning! This blog is dark and full of spoilers
Season eight of Game Of Thrones looked perfect. The promotional materials and footage were incredible. After each episode, the “Inside the Episode” YouTube series would proudly, and rightly, showcase the blood, sweat, and tears that went into creating a visually stunning piece of television. Ramin Djawadi, the unsung hero of the whole series, continued to create breathtaking musical scores. The cast gave world class performances, and Emilia Clarke deserves all the Emmys.
However, despite all of these wonderful things, as the season unfolded it became apparent that something was deeply wrong. The once fine-tuned combination of intelligent story-writing, complex characters and talented cast and crew felt off key, like an increasingly out of tune violin. Characters we’d watched for a decade became unrecognisable, and the story felt too fast. It became clear that for the show to end the way D.B Weiss and David Benioff wanted, they had abandoned plot development, character arcs, narrative sense, and pacing – all things that ensured the show’s greatness in the first place.
It wouldn’t be a surprise for Daenerys become the tragic hero... if afforded proper storyline. Instead, Weiss and Benioff tried to convince us it was plausible for Daenerys to go from saving the humanity to committing genocide in less than two episodes.
It would be convincing for Jon Snow to kill Daenerys and join the Night’s Watch... if the explanation for his resurrection, and the continuing existence of the Night’s Watch, hadn’t been completely abandoned.
As annoying as King Bran is, it could be satisfying, if Bran had done or said anything of substance instead staring at people until they felt uncomfortable, or spending more time talking about his wheelchair design than the Night King’s motivations.
I’d have liked to see Cersei dying with Jaime... in literally any other way. Instead of giving one of the best villains in television history a final season they deserved, Cersei mostly stood around on a balcony, mute, smirking and drinking wine before eventually being crushed by some rocks.
Arya leaving for the west of the Westeros could be great... if we had any sort of pay off for why she spent literally seasons becoming a ‘Faceless Man’. Instead, we see Arya have sex with Gendry and abandon her life’s mission to kill Cersei. Sansa as Queen of the North would be faithful to her character... if she’d got there without abandoning her values by betraying her brother and putting him in mortal danger, while suggesting to the Hound that being raped made her stronger.
Tyrion and Varys were dumbed down to the extent they feel like different people. Varys’ decision to happily discuss treason with Daenerys’ closest advisors, which inevitably leads to his death, made absolutely no sense for the political mastermind of the entire show. Tyrion inexplicably betrays his best friend, and claims that Cersei, after seven seasons of tyranny and fratricidal behaviour that pushes him to support another Queen, isn’t a monster.
Even minor characters and plots made no sense – such as Gendry, who gets legitimised by Daenerys as Robert Baratheon’s trueborn son, making him a potential candidate for being king, in the same episode in which she is terrified of threats to her claim to the Iron Throne. The Dothraki reappear on screen, after viewers watched them all die, with Benioff and Weiss even confirming their deaths. Euron Greyjoy magically appears and inexplicably takes down Rhaegal, while Benioff says the happens because “Dany kinda forgot about the Iron Fleet” – despite her discussing it in the scene prior. A dozen scorpion ballistas easily take down a Rhaegal from a distance in episode four, but Daenerys flies Drogon into hundreds of them episode five, destroying them all completely unscathed. The geography of King’s Landing randomly changes for season eight, after the opening credits of every episode had explored the same map of Westeros for nearly a decade.
It feels as though Weiss and Benioff were about to finish a masterpiece but decided to set fire to it instead by ending it poorly and prematurely because they were bored and wanted to start their Star Wars films, or maybe as the books’ author George RR Martin said, “they wanted a life”. Despite Martin and HBO’s reservations about how short the season was, Weiss and Benioff powered ahead. In an interview they describe how “HBO would have been happy for the show to keep going, to have more episodes in the final season” which kind of makes this all comical because some of the huge problems with season eight could have been easily been avoided. The public and critical reception to the season, as well as various reactions from members of the cast, demonstrate how wrong Weiss and Benioff got it.
That said I still feel privileged to have witnessed such an epic piece of television. I still sat and sobbed my eyes out when Drogon tried to wake Daenerys after she died, and I still felt a heavy sense of loss when the final credits rolled. While the show deserved a better, the cast and crew gave absolutely spectacular performances, and we shall never see their like again. Game Of Thrones will always be remembered as groundbreaking television, and Sunday nights will never be the same again. Yes, it would have been great to have a final season that did the show justice but, alas, valar morghulis; and now our watch has ended.