I was always adamant about not watching “Game of Thrones.” My friends have constantly harassed me about it since high school, but I never had any interest until finally my mom and I binge-watched it through the summer. I was obsessed; the show had everything you could want — dragons, zombies, romance, action and drama.
The final season makes me wish I had stuck to my anti-”Game of Thrones” convictions. While previous seasons have spent episodes on character and plot development, this season has cast aside previous writing themes in order to hastily close out the show.
The most egregious example of this is Season 8, Episode 3:“The Long Night.” Despite the New York Times praising it as “a masterpiece” that “exceeded expectations,” I and everyone I have talked to about it were left sorely disappointed.
The phrase “winter is coming” became iconic within the show; it was used in “Thrones” advertising and suggested that time was running out before the ultimate showdown between the living and the dead. We spent the entirety of the show waiting for this moment, and it painfully missed the mark.
In the first episode of the third season, Jon Snow announces that he would rather fight on the side of the living when he joins the ranks of the wildlings in trying to recruit them to venture south of the Wall to fight against the White Walkers. After that moment, Jon spends the rest of the show trying to get others to understand that the game of thrones is trivial to the real threat, the White Walkers.
Writers D. B. Weiss and David Benioff threw all of that in the garbage with “The Long Night,” as the battle spanned only one episode and was over before dawn. Beyond having to hold my computer screen six inches from my face to see anything with the horrible lighting, the lack of a real fight between dragons, significant character deaths and poor battle tactics made this a terribly disappointing episode.
That’s not to say there weren’t good moments; the scene of Dothraki fires going out while the rest of the army waited in silence was chilling, but the writers cannot rely on battle footage and cinematography alone.
For this season, it feels like the writers were trying to emulate the shock value of the Red Wedding, which has been widely praised for its gruesome twist, while ignoring the extensive development and foreshadowing that contributed to the success of the episode.
As a brief recap, Robb Stark first starts bonding with Talisa Maegyr in Season 2, Episode 6, and he is warned by Catelyn Stark not to forget his commitment to the Freys. He is then warned again in Season 3, Episode 5 not to alienate the Karstarks, which he ignores, losing half of his army and forcing him to go to the Freys for assistance.
The Red Wedding was the culmination of 13 episodes of Robb’s poor decision-making, resulting in his and Catelyn’s death. In contrast, Daenerys Targaryen had a maximum of one episode to show her increasing lust for power and fear of Jon taking over before she decides to burn King’s Landing to the ground. This is especially shocking considering her seasons-long crusade against slavery and her horror in Season 4, Episode 4 when Drogon kills a young child, leading her to chain away her dragons.
While we get a taste of her bloodthirst in Season 7, Episode 7 when she burns the Tarlys for refusing to bend the knee, this is still not enough development to justify her burning the innocent peasants of King’s Landing alive despite their surrender. This is no longer tactical, but rather personal. It’s a twist for the sake of a twist, with no backing.
The quality of characters and dialogue has also dramatically declined. Within the game of thrones, themes of explicit and implicit power are often discussed, with Cersei Lannister valuing fear and physical force, and Varys and Littlefinger choosing to play with information in the shadows.
In the first episode of Season 2, Varys tells Tyrion Lannister, “Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick. A shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow.” He is eloquent, poised and always seems one step ahead of the rest of the characters. In Season 8, however, this eloquence is absent, with gems like “cocks are important, I’m afraid.”
Many other characters have been similarly butchered, with Jaime Lannister saying he doesn’t care about innocents, despite killing the Mad King to protect innocent people. Also, Bran Stark’s character has access to all of human history and can warg into other people or animals, but instead he spends his time talking about wheelchair design, while Cersei, one of the most power-hungry and notorious villains within the show has had almost zero lines, spending most of her screen time sipping wine.
All of this would be somewhat forgivable if there wasn’t only one episode left. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, writers D. B. Weiss and David Benioff said that HBO would have been happy to fund more episodes, but the writers decided that was unnecessary. This has led some fans to speculate that the writers wanted to start working on the next Star Wars “Star Wars” movie, which will be released in 2022.
With the opportunity for more episodes, the rushed storylines and abrupt ending becomes unforgivable. Heading into the show finale this weekend, we are waiting on a resolution for beloved characters like Tyrion, Arya Stark, Sansa Stark and Drogon to name a few, as well as the power struggle between Jon and Daenerys. The writers also need to give some conclusion regarding the future of the Seven Kingdoms with King’s Landing razed.
That’s a lot for one episode, and I’m skeptical that the writers can pull off a good ending to a disastrous season.
S2, E1 – Dany heads across red waste
S2, E4 – Dany finally reaches Qarth
S2, E5 – Bran dreams of “the sea”, aka ironborn, coming to Winterfell. Theon then arrives to take it over.
S2, E6 – Bran and Rickon smuggled out of winterfell. Also, Robb starts falling for Talisa, Catelyn warns Robb that he promised to marry a Frey daughter. Also, Dany’s dragons are stolen.
S2, E8 – Robb and Talisa sleep together for the first time. Dany’s dragons still stolen
Tyrion Lannister to Cersei Lannister: “I will hurt you for this. A day will come when you think you’re safe and happy, and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth, and you’ll know the debt is paid.”
S2, E9 – Battle of Blackwater, wildfire introduced with 1 unmanned ship spewing it, taking out tons of ships, Stannis v. Tywin, shows Tywin’s ruthlessness and brains.
With Stannis’ forces gaining ground and the Lannister men losing confidence, Tyrion rallies the troops and leads a successful counterattack on the Baratheon forces battering the Mud Gate.
S2, E10 – Bran and others start to head north. Robb decides not to marry Frey daughter, weds Talisa. Dany in the House of the Undying. White walkers and army of Wights are coming.
S3, E1- Dany reaches Astapor in Slavers bay, tries to buy unsillied.
S3, E2 – Rickard Karstark. Rickard bashes Robb for forsaking any possible marriage alliances by marrying Talisa. Jojen appears to Bran in a prophetic dream and tells Bran that he is the three-eyed raven.
S3, E4 – When the battle is over, Daenerys gives the Unsullied the choice of leaving or staying to fight for her as free men. Each and every soldier stays and the army marches triumphantly away from Astapor. “A dragon is not a slave”
S3, E5 – At Riverrun, Rickard Karstark decides to exact his revenge on Jaime by killing his kin, the captive Willem and Martyn Lannister. Robb is livid when he finds out that Rickard has murdered the two defenseless young boys and, despite Catelyn, Talisa and Edmure’s warnings that the Karstarks will abandon his cause if he executes Rickard, Robb does just that. Later, when nearly half of Robb’s army has left Riverrun, Robb and Talisa discuss how to move forward. They ultimately come to the conclusion that Robb will have to make nice with the Freys in order to recruit enough soldiers to have a chance at sacking the Lannister stronghold of Casterly rock.
S3, E6 – At Riverrun, Robb meets with Walder Frey’s sons, Black Walder Rivers (Tim Plester) and Lothar Frey (Tom Brooke), to discuss a possible alliance. Robb agrees to formally apologize to Walder Frey, gift Harrenhal to him and marry Edmure off to his daughter Roslin (Alexandra Dowling).
S3, E7 – Dany is saying she will destroy Yunkai if all the slaves aren’t released.
On the road to the Twins, Robb’s army is delayed by a rainstorm, a setback that Catelyn insists Walder Frey will see as a personal slight. That night, Talisa tells Robb she is pregnant.
S3, E9 “The Rains of Castamere”- Dany sacks Yunkai. Bran wargs into Direwolf to help Jon. After arriving at the Twins, Robb fulfills his promise to publicly apologize to Walder Frey, but not without Walder getting in some lecherous jabs about Talisa. However, when all is said and done, Walder welcomes the Starks into his home as his guests. At the altar, Edmure is pleasantly surprised to discover that his bride-to-be, Roslin, is much more stereotypically attractive than the rest of the Freys and the wedding ceremony goes off without a hitch. Robb, Talisa, and Catelyn die. Took more than a full season for this to play out, with Robb being warned multiple times.