This had to happen, and while the final season of “Game of Thrones” did unfurl too quickly, methinks that critics of the final season are more upset over the fact that the series is over than over anything else.
I believe that I have yet to post a word about the now-concluded long-running HBO series “Game of Thrones,” but I’ve been watching it for years now. I was a holdout for the first four seasons, but then, because of all of the buzz, I caught those seasons on DVD, and then started watching each subsequent season as it aired (via HBO streaming).
I’m not sure why so many fans say they hate season eight.
Yes, the eighth and final season does have a pacing problem. That is, the first several seasons unfold gradually and leisurely, perhaps even too slowly for some, but they solidly establish the characters and fairly carefully chronicle the events.
Things start to pick up the pace in season seven, and then season eight, it’s true, could give you whiplash. Season eight is a bit of (OK, maybe a lot of) Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am!
I would love more of it to have been fleshed out, such as Dany’s (Daenerys Targaryen’s) turn to the dark side. There were signs of that possibility pretty much all along, but in season eight, she careens toward the dark side to the point that almost overnight she essentially resembles a medieval she-Hitler.
And, of course, there are logical inconsistencies in season eight. The second felled dragon is shot down by Team Lannister with ease, not with one ginormous arrow, or two, but (if memory serves) with three, yet the third and last surviving dragon, Dany’s favorite, Drogon, apparently can’t be shot down when Dany makes her assault on King’s Landing, and this isn’t explained.
And when Drogon climactically melts the Iron Throne in a fit of sorrow and rage in the final episode, it’s as though Drogon knows that it was her quest for this throne that ultimately killed his “mother” Dany. Have we really anthropomorphized a giant reptile? (True, once we accept the existence of fire-breathing dragons, then we can’t be too picky with logic, but still…)
On another note, I don’t know that illegitimate Queen Cersei Lannister’s death (in episode seven of season eight) is satisfying enough — it seems undeservedly quick for her, given all of the pain and suffering that she has caused others — but the fate of the other characters by the end of season eight seem more or less logical and fair.
I’m fine with Dany’s death. The way that she was going, she had to be eliminated, and she was so deluded that it’s not too inconsistent with her character that she apparently didn’t think that Jon Snow might skewer her. (On that note, it’s interesting that even raging fire couldn’t harm Dany, but a rather simple dagger could…)
Yes, Jon got screwed out of his monarchical birthright (and exiled [although exile seems to suit him]), but because the whole concept of monarchical birthright is eliminated by the (surviving…) heads of the houses of Westeros by the end of the final episode of the show, that takes at least some of the sting out of Snow’s screwing. (And we can acknowledge that “the wheel” finally has been “broken,” albeit not at all in the way that Dany had envisioned it would be.)
It had occurred to me that Bran Stark (the too-repeated moniker “Bran the Broken” makes me cringe; have the disability-rights folks said anything about this?) might end up as the king, and I’m fine with that choice, perhaps especially because that choice was made, more or less, democratically. (That is, it was made by the heads of the houses, not by the common people, which Sam Tarly suggests should be the case but then is promptly ridiculed by his aristocratic peers, even our heroine Sansa Stark.)
I only wish that Bran had been more developed before he was named king. He was fairly developed for several seasons (as much as you can develop a mystic with magical powers, anyway), but then he just faded into the background, and in season eight he returns, but he’s pretty much all cipher, which can wear on the nerves.
The problems with seasons seven and eight — mostly, their fast, let’s-get-this-over-with-and-wrapped-up-already pace — apparently stem from the fact that the showrunners probably should have waited until “Game of Thrones” creator George R. R. Martin had finished all of his books before they began the television series at all.
I mean, Martin doesn’t appear to me to be the picture of great health; all along there has been no guarantee that he’d even live to finish writing and releasing the full series of books, so, it seems to me, starting the television series before the book series was finished was quite risky.
But for all of its flaws, big and nitpicky, what a ride “Game of Thrones” has been! I don’t think that there has been anything on television before it, and I don’t think that we’re likely to see its equal anytime soon. (And spin-offs usually don’t equal their original material, do they?)
“Thrones” not only was a television show, but it became intertwined with American culture. (In my personal vernacular I even use “Game of Thrones” as a verb, meaning to work behind the scenes to try to influence an outcome, usually when you can’t operate in the open, for political reasons.)
An example of how “Thrones” intertwined with American culture is how the objectification and sexual mistreatment of women in the first few seasons was roundly criticized, and in later seasons was curtailed. (Coincidence? I think not; over the years there definitely was a synergy between the show’s creators and the show’s audience.)
For another example, you know that had Jon Snow been made king after Dany had been offed (by Jon!), feminists would have screamed to high heaven. I mean, that would have been too soon after Billary Clinton didn’t become president, no? Why can’t a woman ever run the show? (And if she does run the show, why does she have to be evil, like Cersei, who got to where she did by lying and cheating [including murdering her rivals]?)
On that note (feminism), it seemed to me that both Brienne of Tarth and Arya Stark were displaying some lesbian* (or at least asexual) tendencies, so it disappointed me a bit that both of them ended up with heterosexual love interests, if even only briefly. Must everyone be heterosexual? (There are at least two other bona fide lesbians in the series, though, Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand [OK, the later is bisexual, but still…].**)
It also seems to me that feminists might have been up in arms also had Sansa not been made queen of the North, newly made an independent kingdom, as it had been in the past. I was OK with that choice, but, sociopolitically (in real life), after Dany’s death, didn’t Sansa kind of have to get something? Feminists would have been outraged had she not.
And it was fitting, of course, for Arya to go off exploring at the end. Perhaps there will be a spin-off about her adventures. (In the final episode of the show, if memory serves, Tyrion Lannister pontificates that Bran’s journey is the most interesting of everyone’s, but Arya’s, I think, probably is the most interesting of them all.)
Finally, my favorite character of “Thrones,” I think, was Tyrion. Not only did actor Peter Dinklage do a great job with the character, a basically good guy from a really rotten family, but the character was well developed, even though the character was neglected in much of season eight (until toward the end of the season). And Tyrion has no magical powers or magical beasts at his disposal; indeed, he has had to overcome having been born an “imp” (again, activists, why haven’t I heard you on this?).
After Tyrion, I think, my favorites were sorceress Melisandre and “Master of Whisperers” Varys, who, like Tyrion, are string-pullers. All three of them make mistakes, but overall I find their behind-the-scenes intrigue to be more interesting than the in-your-face heroism and big acts of the likes of Jon Snow and Dany. (Again, though, Arya is interesting, too; she has some in-your-face heroism [she kills the Night King, after all!] and plenty of behind-the-scenes intrigue. [Ask Walder Frey.])
If Bran had been fleshed out a lot more, as I had hoped that he would be, I’d have liked him more, but his statement in the final episode indicating that he had known all along that he would be made king made him seem kind of like a dick. (It does, however, perhaps explain why the Night King specifically was after Bran.)
Alas, “Game of Thrones,” with all of its hits and misses, is over. Yes, as I hinted, there are to be spin-offs. No, season eight does not need to be re-done. I mean, yes, it could have been done better, but it won’t be re-done, so one’s energy is better spent elsewhere (perhaps as by trying to lose one’s virginity and/or moving out of Mom’s basement [Kidding! (Not really…)]).
“Thrones,” like its characters, is imperfect, but like so many of its characters, is unforgettable. It has been a grand achievement of art and culture, the likes of which we aren’t likely to see again for a long time.
While I was glad to have the fates of the ever-dwindling cast of characters*** finally determined, at the same time I’m sad to see the series end — as are, no doubt, even its most vocal critics.
**As a gay man I wasn’t thrilled that “Thrones'” two biggest gay male characters, Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell, are killed off, but in the end, it’s a television series… And sometimes when a member of a historically oppressed group is portrayed as being victimized, it draws attention to the fact that that group needs to stop being victimized in the real world.
***Shout-out to actor Jack Gleeson, whose Caligula-like villain Joffrey Baratheon (actually 100 percent a Lannister, of course) probably was the show’s most delightfully despicable.