“Game of Thrones”: The Most Disappointing Ending to a Great TV Show
By: Ashley Zhou
Who will win the Game of Thrones and who will die? Who is the Night King? Who will sit on the Iron Throne? These were the questions that people have asked since “Game of Thrones” debuted in 2011. From the very start, the show stood out amongst other shows and fantasy films as one that was driven primarily by its characters and their actions. Nothing was sacred and even the most heroic and admirable actions had terrifying consequences. Memorable examples include Eddard Stark’s beheading due to his stiff honor and the Red Wedding massacre incited by Robb Stark marrying his true love rather than holding up his political agreements. “Winter is coming” became the show’s tagline and built up to Westeros’ ultimate threat. When the show’s eighth and final season debuted, everyone was clamoring for the inevitable showdown between the Night King and the rest of humanity and the fight for the Iron Throne between the three possible heirs. Fans yearned for their theories to become true and favorite characters to finally get what they want and deserve. The sixth episode would be the one to end a decade-old cultural phenomenon.
Did the final episode hold up these expectations? Disappointingly and astoundingly, no.
To be fair, the disappointment is not merely the product of the episode itself, but of the season as a whole. The third episode, “The Long Night,” gave us an anticlimactic ending to the evilest forces in Westeros and the fifth episode bizarrely changed one of the most beloved characters into a genocidal maniac. Characters and character arcs were dumbed down or thrown out the window and entire plotlines were left incomplete or forgotten. All of these disappointments accumulated and bled into the final episode, in which major plot holes were left unanswered and the answer to who would sit on the Iron Throne came out of nowhere.
Season 8 did have some solid moments. Theon Greyjoy’s character arc was one of the best arcs in the entire show and one of the only ones that ended satisfyingly. The excellent acting managed to somehow uphold the scripts, particularly on Emilia Clarke and Lena Headey’s side. The cinematography and directing continued to be excellent; “The Long Night,” despite the extremely dark lighting, was one of the most well-shot battles in cinematic history. Ramin Djawadi knocked it out of the park with the music, especially “The Night King” and “A Song of Ice and Fire.” The gorgeous production design really shone in conveying the total destruction of King’s Landing. However, none of these positives were enough to redeem the writing, which was the biggest sticking point of the show.
Many fans pointed out that the showrunners needed George R.R. Martin (G.R.R.M) to write and oversee the scripts as he had done in past seasons, and while I don’t personally advocate for this given how much effort G.R.R.M. has been putting into his own unfinished series, I do agree that the showrunners failed to understand how G.R.R.M. writes stories and what made people love his writing in the first place. In the “Inside the Episode” videos after every episode, the showrunners have clearly expressed that they wanted shocking moments in the final season like the Red Wedding and have tried to justify them by explaining away foreshadowing moments from the past seasons. However, these shocking moments don’t work emotionally, especially when they contradict themselves within the same season and have characters be the complete opposite only episodes before. It also doesn’t help that the showrunners have forgotten a lot of story and world details, from the minor such as Jon’s pet direwolf to the major ones (ahem, Euron Greyjoy’s fleet).
Up until this point (or arguably up until Season 7), Game of Thrones has consistently delivered on its storytelling and slowly built up to the final moments of the show with promises and hints that characters will fulfill certain expectations and that their arcs will pay off in a satisfying way. There were buildups to potential revelations about the connection between the Night King and Bran Stark and the long-awaited “Cleganebowl” and Jaime’s role in reclaiming his title as Kingslayer by betraying Queen Cersei. Instead, nine years of character building have led to stupidity and utter bewilderment. There was no reason for the Night King to kill Bran other than that he’s oh so evil, Cleganebowl was poorly executed and undid both Arya and Sandor Clegane’s character arcs, and eight seasons of character building were completely undone when Jaime not only didn’t betray Cersei but died comforting and reassuring her that nothing else mattered except for their love for each other.
It is rare that an utterly unsatisfying conclusion of a great story can ruin an entire series (see “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Sopranos”) but “Game of Thrones” has achieved exactly that. This is incredibly hurtful, given how brilliant the first six seasons were in subverting everyone’s expectations and building the world of Westeros with its strict rules and wide cast of characters. Let’s hope that G.R.R.M. finishes “The Winds of Winter” and “A Dream of Spring” soon so we can see the story and ending that was meant to be.