There is so much to say that I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Game of Thrones, mostly because I’m a die-hard book fan. I enjoyed the first season (though definitely still had issues with it), but starting in season 2 the plot and characters started to diverge so radically from the books that I was getting very, very annoyed. With the introduction of Dorne and the exclusion of Arianne Martell, I quit watching the show entirely, because it was just painful to watch by that point, but I started tuning in again on and off during season 6, mostly just watching the Sansa Stark scenes. I watched season 7 a bit more closely but still not religiously, but with everyone talking about the final season and me having serious FOMO all the time, I decided to watch every episode.
Before I get into my grievances with the final season (and there are…grievances), I just want to say that despite everything, I’m just so amazed with what this show has achieved. It’s been a decade-long labor (I started watching this in high school!), and while the writing has often been sub-par, the show has done absolutely incredible things in set design, acting, music, and cinematography. And more than that, it introduced high fantasy into the mainstream cultural zeitsgiest in such an unprecedented way! A Song of Ice and Fire is a classic high fantasy series that started in the late ’90s, and now it’s one of the biggest worldwide phenomenons in television history. It’s inspired so many emotions – yes, including anger – but I’m so in awe of anything that can bring people together in such a massive way that I can’t help but be appreciative and thankful that this show existed. I can’t believe it’s over.
I think we all know that the final season has been a bit of a mess in a lot of ways. It’s interesting to think about, because Benioff and Weiss have stated that they’re staying true to what GRRM regarding the ultimate ending for the characters, but it’s difficult to know just how loyal they’ve been to his vision. It also seems that, even if they’ve stuck closely with the outcomes GRRM provided them, they had no clue how to get there in one season, and so slapped together six episodes featuring amateur characterization, writing, and plotting.
First of all, they did Daenerys SO dirty. Like, I’m not about to argue that Daenerys was the mother of kittens, especially after reading this blog about Dany’s arc in A Dance With Dragons, but the way the show portrayed her descent into madness was incredibly juvenile. It’s bad writing and a failure of craft, period. I get that Dany’s state of mind was in tatters after losing Missandei and yet another dragon (which…totally ridiculous and unnecessary by the way but I’ll get into that), but to kill innocent civilians for no reason at all? I’m not saying Dany hasn’t done ruthless things before, but usually those actions have been for one of two reasons: either to achieve a very specific end, or to get revenge on people who deserved it. What did the civilians of King’s Landing do to deserve what they got? What exactly was Dany achieving by burning them all alive? The answer to both questions is absolutely nothing.
To back up a little bit, I’d like to talk about the logistics of the lead-up to Dany burning King’s Landing. Benioff and Weiss brazenly said that Dany “forgot” about the Iron Fleet and didn’t see them from the sky, which…okay. Even assuming that Dany and all of her advisers “forgot,” and that Dany somehow didn’t see them, how does it make any sense that they were able to kill one of her dragons and defeat her fleet, when in the next episode Drogon makes quick work of them all? Literally nothing had changed in the span of these two episodes, and yet somehow, Drogon is suddenly a weapon of mass destruction (as the dragons are supposed to be!), when in the previous episode he was totally incompetent. It makes no sense. And this isn’t even getting into the logistics of the battle at Winterfell with the Others, which also made zero sense logistically. (Y’all have TWO DRAGONS. Why send out your cavalry charging into the darkness with no idea what they’re about to face? Who planned this thing, kindergartners??)
Then to have Dany murdered by Jon in one of the most anti-climactic scenes I’ve ever seen…again, I don’t necessarily think this is the worst ending, because Dany has always been a tragic figure, a warrior queen. To quote the blog I linked above: “This is the tragedy of Dany. She achieved peace. And then she decided war felt better to her.” While this quote refers to Dany’s struggle to rule in Meereen, I think it applies to Westeros too – Dany is the fantasy equivalent of a third-culture kid. She doesn’t really belong anywhere, not truly, and I don’t think she would have had an easy time ruling peacefully in Westeros and butting heads with everyone. But to just rush all of this development and cram it into three badly-written episodes? Nah.
Also, just a sidenote: the scene where Drogon is nudging Dany and trying to get her to wake up is high-key the saddest thing I’ve ever witnessed on television in my entire life. I legit started sobbing.
Regarding why Drogon burned the Iron Throne and not Jon, am I wrong in believing that dragons recognize who is a Targaryen and who isn’t, and that they can’t really kill Targaryens unless explicitly ordered to do so? To me that was why Drogon let Jon live, not because he thought the Iron Throne metaphorically killed Dany. But also, I love that the Iron Throne was destroyed; that actually feels like something that would happen in the books. But from there, I kind of expected the Seven Kingdoms to split up in to Seven Kingdoms again, or to rule as a council rather than choosing a king.
As much as I love that Sansa is Queen in the North (and y’all, I SOBBED at this, because our girl deserves this so much), it also makes absolutely no sense that none of the other houses demanded independence as well. Are you seriously telling me that Dorne, the kingdom that resisted Aegon the Conqueror longer than anyone else, is just peachy with letting the North get their independence while they’re still under the yoke of the Seven Kingdoms? What about the Iron Islands? Like, what is even the point of destroying the Iron Throne if you’re just going to replace it with another throne?
Which brings me to Bran. BRAN. This is literally the most random ending; were Benioff and Weiss high when they decided to do this? This is one of those instances where I’m suspicious about how closely they stuck with the ending of the books, because I cannot believe that GRRM would put Bran on the throne. I did like Tyrion’s whole “people love stories” bit but nobody has a better story than Bran? Come on. And how on earth are the other kingdoms not freaking out about the fact that the Starks get their northern independence and the Iron Throne? Y’all are seriously telling me that everyone is just peachy with all that? Nah. As soon as shit calms down a bit, the “Six Kingdoms” are gonna explode into civil war.
Also, logistical sidenote: so the Unsullied just…left? I guess I could believe that, but what about the Dothraki? They were just cool with leaving even though their Khaleesi was just murdered? They’re just totally chill? Sure. That seems believable.
The entire trajectory of season 8 has been so messy and lopsided. Think about the showdown with the Night King, another anti-climactic disaster dressed up to look cool. Like, sure, the battle (what we could see of it anyway) was intense, and Arya delivering the killing blow was badass, but step back and think about it and none of it makes any sense. The whole series has been building up to the Others being the biggest threat facing the entire world, implying that petty political squabbles are nothing in the face of this global threat and yet…the Night King dies just like that and all is just fine? What the hell was the point of all that build-up, then? Why on earth wouldn’t you have the two major storylines of the Others and the Iron Throne converge? This was just…bad writing.
Speaking of weird decisions, since when is Arya’s goal to be Ferdinand Magellen? What happened to “a girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell and I’m going home”? Why are all the Starks separated in the end? Why is Jon heading off with the wildlings when the Unsullied have left and he can chill in Winterfell and no one would care?
There are other miscellaneous grievances I had with the final season and the final episode in particular, but I’m just too exhausted to go into them. At this point, I just really, really want GRRM to publish the final two books so we can see how all this really ends.