It’s been a year but I’m still mad at Game of Thrones

Okay, I’m just saying, if you were given a blank check to write out however many episodes you wanted plus two years to do it…

Anyway.

Game of Thrones aired its last ever episode “The Iron Throne” on May 19, 2019. “The Iron Throne” was the last of six episodes in a poorly-received Season 8. Compared to previous seasons, Season 8 was considered a humongous flop, ending the series that was loved all around the world with a pathetic wilt instead of a satisfying bang.

When Game of Thrones was still in its early days, it was lauded as something completely new, a Lord of the Rings that took a different direction–no flowery language, more cussing, vulgar, violent, all of those things. And it seemed to work, its ruthlessness a clear indication that it wasn’t playing around nor was it trying to be a comforting tale of good vs. evil. Game of Thrones worked precisely because of its moral grayness, knowing full well that each character had the capacity for good and evil, for honor and dishonor, for justice and violence.

Not only that, but the way the characters were written and portrayed were superb. What made Game of Thrones so exciting to watch weren’t just the battles, it was how the characters interacted, how personalities clashed, how the niceties of nobility concealed bitterness or hatred as we saw often in Cersei Lannister while the truly unmerciful reared its ugly head without hesitation, as we saw in Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane. Action wasn’t the only star in this show, it was the political drama, the intrigue, the character interaction, and how they moved to resolve what they considered “more evil” in a climate where honor was often forgotten and almost everyone had done terrible things, no one character being all good.

What made Game of Thrones feel so realistic was that each character’s actions had consequences. When Robb Stark decided to forego his promise with Walder Frey to marry Talisa Maegyr, he met his unfortunate death in the now infamous Red Wedding. Ned Stark, despite being the most honorable man in the series, confronted Cersei with the truth and arranged for the Stark escape from King’s Landing too late, leading to his death. While honor is a virtue we should look up to, in a dishonorable world, it can often only hurt you in the end. Even Daenerys’ actions in Meereen had some pushback, showing that every action brought with it consequences.

Which was why when Seasons 7 and 8 rolled around, fans began to worry. While Season 8 is definitely the odd one out, we can’t deny that Season 7 had its own question-mark raising moments. These last two seasons practically just rode on the coattails of the previous six, trying so desperately to create an impact that just didn’t land as well as its predecessors. Seasons 1-6 were so well-done, well-acted, and well-written, that fans were shocked when they felt the whiplash of the next two. Where Seasons 1-6 succeeded in storytelling, leading up to big moments, and treasuring its little ones as just as important as the largely pivotal, Seasons 7 and 8 relied on just disjointed explosive scenes, plot twists that never earned themselves, and the constant fudging of the already established universe and characters many had grown to love.

Take Tyrion’s transformation for example. He’s brilliant, uses his wits to get out of sticky situations, knowing how well money talks and flapping his gums along to back it up. Tyrion is one of the smartest men in Westeros, only to be reduced to a bumbling idiot in the end, spending 30 minutes agape in the last episode, barely speaking, making terrible decisions, and trusting his sister for some reason. They completely destroyed his character and it was clear it wasn’t a deliberate choice, it was sloppy and a complete failure to use one of the most complex, interesting characters on the show.

Not only that but it seems D&D planted more seeds than they would have liked to grow, plucking them out and chucking them out the window with all the other forgotten storylines. Kinvara and the red priestesses? Dorne? Not a problem if you just don’t acknowledge them. Which is pretty terrible storytelling. Why place them there anyway if you have no intention of cultivating them just as you did with other storylines and other plots? It’s lazy and it’s clear they gave up. They could’ve figured something out in those 2 years but they didn’t, scrambling instead to finish what they could despite all the opportunities to stick a landing.

And the most disappointing part is they claim to care for these stories and these characters, for how they’ve changed over the years, over this terribly long war going on. They claim to care for, say, Daenerys who made a complete face heel turn in just a few episodes and one “previously on” segment. Her movement throughout the previous seasons showed a sense of justice but coupled with her desire for mercy and a want to lead and be powerful. This was consistent. If they wanted her to become a mad queen, they should’ve done it at the same pace as they did everything else, instead, it felt like everyone was on different speeds, she was on fast forward, Tyrion was on reverse, Cersei was perpetually on pause with wine at her balcony, and Jon Snow was that part of the DVD that skips and he just says “she’s my queen” over and over like a broken record. No one was on the same pace or wavelength any longer, no one character was developing at the same rate anymore, and that was what was jarring about a lot of the conclusions in the finale.

Even the actors were disappointed–and they didn’t hide it. Kit Harington openly showed this, so did Emilia Clarke. Conleth Hill, who played Varys, looked absolutely livid when they killed him off in the script reading. It was an entire mess, and even the cast knew it. It was unfortunate that they had to do something even they weren’t passionate about.

It may have been a year but yes, I still fume when I think of Game of Thrones. Because I know it used to be so good, that it had the potential to be even better, but outside influence kept it from being that. I’m mad because every fan waited years for everything to come to its conclusion only to be met with a miserable firecracker rather than the dragon-fire-explosive. And sure, some stories can’t stick their landings and the journeys are still exciting, but the journey practically gave out at the end, too. And that’s more disappointing than anything.

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