For a TV show as universally popular as HBO’s fantasy epic, the heated fan backlash to Game Of Thrones Season 8 has been equally surprising as it has been predictable. On one hand, the series’ infatuation has reached fever pitch racking up a record-breaking viewership — around 1 billion viewers across 180-something countries! On the other hand, many Thrones devotees were profoundly disappointed with the final season. Like an echo chamber, Season 8’s fan backlash has resounded around the internet loud and clear, much akin to the adverse reactions of other modern pop culture fanbases (Star Wars, Alien et al).
From the slow build-up of the Battle of Winterfell. To the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it demise of The Night King. To the overblown debacle dubbed “Coffee Cup-Gate.” And finally to Daenerys Targaryen burning a bunch of innocent people alive in the streets of King’s Landing. Yes, clearly Game Of Thrones Season 8 has left many fans both lukewarm and divided. All of these problems were further compounded, however, when a recent petition surfaced to remake the final season with “competent writers”, which not only went viral, but managed to accumulate a staggering 900,000 signatures in just two days. Ouch.
The negative reactions to Season 8 didn’t stop there, though. Compared to other seasons in the show, the eighth installment also went on to receive the lowest critical ratings on Rotten Tomatoes — a 52 critic score — as well as one of the lowest Metacritic averages — a 74, at the time of writing.
That all being said, I think it’s finally time to call a truce. It’s finally time to stop waving those pitchforks around. Come on folks, let’s all just talk about it. Because you know what? Game Of Thrones Season 8 was actually a pretty damn good send-off to one of the best modern TV shows ever. With over eight years of world building, character development and layered fantasy storytelling, Season 8 capped everything off fittingly. Sure, it may not have been perfect, but there’s a lot to love about David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ TV adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s best-selling novel. And I’m here to outline why. Obviously, we’re going to be heading into spoiler territory from here on out, so if you’re yet to watch the final six episodes, be warned!
Daenerys’ Tyrannical Downfall Was Always On The Cards, No Matter How Much We Didn’t Want To See It
A big part of what makes Game Of Thrones work as well as it does is how it eschews some of the traditional fantasy tropes of yesteryear and revitalises the genre with a gritty, more “grounded in reality” tone. Of course, it’s hard to nail this more realistic feel with dragons flying sky-high and undead monsters rising from beyond their icy graves, but somehow, series creators, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, found a welcome middle ground between high fantasy and stark realism.
As a result, the showrunners were never afraid of making audiences feel uncomfortable, sidestepping happily-ever-after tropes with a more serious take on the well-trodden swords-and-dragons template that had come before it. From incestuous relationships, grizzly Red Weddings, to poor ol’ Theon having his pecker cruelly lopped off, the series has never shied away from the brutality of life across The Seven Kingdoms.
One of the most criticised scenes — as well as one of the most uncomfortably distressing scenes from the whole show — is Daenerys’ tyrannical downfall which came to a blood-splattered crescendo in the latter half of Season 8. As you probably remember, in Episode 5, Cersei Lannister’s army surrender, only to be obliterated in
hot cold blood by Khaleesi’s fire-breathing pal, Drogon. Worse still, many of these victims were innocent mothers and children. Yikes.
Those rooting for Team Daenerys had something of a rude awakening as these merciless actions were a bleak reminder that even the purest of hearts can only withstand so much pain, misery and heartbreak before snapping angrily. Losing badass bodyguard Jorah Mormont, half her Dothraki army, two of her loveable dragons, as well as witnessing her trusted advisor Missandei being beheaded, across an epic journey that spanned the entirety of Westeros, it’s clear that the pressures of these great adversities had finally gotten the better of her.
Clearly, not only were these awful acts foreshadowed many moons ago (her father must’ve been called The Mad King for a reason, right?), but throughout the entire series, she had always promised to “take back what’s hers with fire and blood”. I mean, I’m not sure about you, but those words sure sound pretty familiar, huh? Isn’t that exactly what The Mad Queen delivered in Episode 5? It certainly may not have been a happy ending for The Dragon Mother, but her overarching arc made sense in a tragic way, even though folks were left cold and super uncomfortable with her final narrative conclusion.
The Stakes In The Final Season Were The Highest They’ve Ever Been and The Battles Didn’t Disappoint Either
Game Of Thrones has always focused on how mankind is forever divided by our obsessive and unending procurement of power. However, Season 8 finally helped to buck this trend… well, for the opening half, anyway. For a first in the series, the majority of Westeros’ greatest adversaries set their petty problems aside to form an alliance to battle the undead together. Seeing arch nemeses, Jaime Lannister, taking up arms to fight alongside John Snow and Daenerys was a memorable highlight, and a beautiful sight to behold. I know, I’ve got a tear in my eye, too.
Not only were the battles well choreographed and visually stunning, but the haunting music that imbued both the buildup and the action was also some of the best the whole franchise has to offer. Tense and foreboding, Ramin Djawadi’s original orchestral score for Season 8 is another clear standout that deserves praise. Add to this, the set-pieces’ great sense of tension, the rhythmic ebb and flow of the battles, and the thoughtful visual symbolism that’s peppered in along the way — like the Dothraki’s swiftly snuffed out flames of hope, and Drogon destroying the Iron Throne, to name but a few — the final season is without doubt one of my personal favourites from the entire series.
Ending A Long-Running TV Show Was Always Going To Evoke Sad Feelings
Sure, it would’ve been nice to have had a few more episodes to help the many characters’ different narrative arcs breathe a little more. In doing so, it would’ve alleviated the somewhat rushed feeling that overshadows some of the final season. Nevertheless, what we got was still terrific. Plus, as the old adage goes: good things always have to come to an end, eh? Indeed, trying to tie together over eight years of loose plot threads was never going to be an easy task. But personally, I think Season 8 did a valiant and surprisingly satisfying job at wrapping up the show’s myriad of diverse characters in a mere six episodes.
John Snow goes full circle and returns to beyond the wall as a protector of The Seven Kingdoms. Like a fantasy Robinson Crusoe, Arya sets sail for the unexplored western region of Westeros, having fulfilled her journey to become a cold-blooded badass. Sansa becomes the peaceful, diplomatic politician she’s always strived to be and is rightfully crowned Queen of The North. While the gentle and wise Bran “The Three-Eyed Raven” is “democratically” elected to be crowned King, by the Lords of Westeros — an unforeseen choice but a placatory one nonetheless. Elsewhere, Tyrion is deservedly named Bran’s Hand, and Bron, Brienne, Ser Davos and Samwell Tarly are bestowed important higher-up roles as the King’s advisory committee.
Essentially, watching things come to an end is always a mostly sad affair. But thankfully Season 8 did manage to smuggle in some welcome levity and some much needed light and hope, especially after the darkness of Episode 5. Ending such a beloved and long-running TV production was always going to break hearts, no matter how you
stab cut it. The big man himself George R.R. Martin puts it well: “Whenever a show ends, and the longer the show lasts, the harder it is.” Well said, George.
The Effort That Went Into Such An Ambitious TV Production Shouldn’t Be Understated
Following the show’s end, the profound sadness that this long-running TV production has left us with is a testament to how impactful Game Of Thrones has been on our lives and popular culture as a whole. But let’s not forget the amount of blood, sweat and tears that has been poured into every inch of the series’ 73 episodes by those who helped make it happen in the first place. Not only was it the most expensive television series of all time, but much of the jaw-dropping action sequences from many of the meticulously orchestrated battles would easily give Hollywood a run for its money.
Chris Newman, an Executive Producer that worked on the fantasy epic show sums it up well: “The way Game Of Thrones is developed is every episode has as much in it as any feature film. But we do it quicker and for less money.” Isn’t that crazy, huh? I’m not sure about you, but I’m just super thankful that something as creatively ambitious and distinctly memorable has graced our lives and hasn’t devolved from a once-great show into a rote, by-the-numbers weekly letdown that’s churned out ad nauseum. (I’m looking at you The Walking Dead!) Let’s be honest: We all deserve better than that.
But how about you? Tell us. Were you disappointed with Game Of Thrones Season 8? Or did you have fun with it? Don’t get me wrong. If you didn’t like Season 8, then that’s totally fine by us… but you’ve got to admit that it’s at least been one hell of a wild ride, right?