It is fair to say that Game of Thrones has been one of the most ambitious and successful shows ever made for television. It has captivated millions and some could regard it as one of the greatest television shows ever made. At the time of writing this article, Game of Thrones is halfway through its final season and the reaction has been mixed. How can a show that is beloved by so many end with a whimper and not with a bang. My own reaction is a bit more positive than most, however I do understand the criticisms that this season and a few previous has been given. I wrote an earlier article on why season 7 was disappointing which you can read here.
Has It’s Popularity Damaged Its Own Success?
There has never been a show like Game Of Thrones, it has captivated audiences and it has becomes a huge cultural influence. Everytime a season or episode is about to air, the whole internet is ablaze with theories, leaks and suggestions. It’s like the whole internet becomes a Game of Thrones forum for about 6-10 weeks. For over 9 years, the twists and turns on who sits on the iron throne has made the internet abundant with theories and anticipation of the conclusion of the show has skyrocketed the hype of the final season.
Hype for a show can be a show’s biggest blessing but it could also be its biggest downfall. This season was delayed because of the huge budget and time needed to film. It was also announced that the 8th season would only have 6 episodes but instead they all would be feature length. The season was also rumoured to have the biggest continuous battle ever to be filmed with some remarking that it would bigger then the Battle of Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. The final season was hyped to max. This is the end of one of the most popular shows ever made for television and how do you end it and please the fans? Every episode now needs to be an Avengers: Endgame because if it isn’t it would not meet the expectation of the fans.
The Battle of Winterfell was a gigantic battle that raised the bar for television. Millions of dollars spent on that episode and so much work and effort put into it and all I see on social media is how dark the episode was. I do not envy the writers of this show because whatever you write it almost seems certain that it will not please fans. I think season has been solid but as the episodes keep on airing people are counting down to the end and the final straight of this show is not pleasing quite a few people. Everyone that I have spoke to has their own way on how they would end the show and that’s the problem. The fans are so invested, so hyped and full of anticipation to finally see who sits on that Iron throne in the end. I guarantee that the final episode will anger many people because their pick did not sit on the throne.
It is slightly poetic that the audience’s interaction and investment in the past is what made Game of Thrones so successful and well received that 9 years later, the same audience investment is one of the reasons it has garnered a more negative reaction to the show. HBO relied on audience investment and now it has stabbed them in the back in a very Game of Thrones way.
6 Episodes – Too Fast and Furious?
A usual season of Game of Thrones is 10 episodes and this brought a slow and methodical pace to the whole season but it worked well for the political betrayals and family conflicts that was key to the show’s success. It would take ages for things to actually happen. It was the build and anticipation that would lure fans in. The show would keep teasing fans and ending on cliffhangers to pull the audience back for next week. One of the criticisms of season 7 was that things happened too fast and you had no time to take anything in. It was all style over substance and Season 8 seems to tread in the same footprints of the predecessor. Having only 6 episodes to conclude this mammoth show, it’s all packed into quick moments that leaves no time to emote or feel for the characters. There is no downtime for season 8 episodes and there is not enough episodes to focus on individual side characters.
Season 8 is like fast food. It is quick, tasty and looks good but in the next thirty minutes you just feel empty and wanting more. Whereas the earlier seasons was like that roast dinner that took the whole Sunday to make, cut and prepare the vegetables and slow cook the meat. It may take twice as long as fast food but it fills you up. Food metaphors aside, Season 8 is a good example of style over substance. Game of Thrones has never been about the giant battles and huge set pieces, at its core it’s about the well written characters and political games that are played. It definitely helps adding dragons to a show but it never needed it. The Battle of Bastards is a great example of how to mix the two, a brilliantly shot battle that had so much on the line because of two seasons of build. 6 episodes does not seem enough. This season needs 8-10 episodes to allow the audience to fully take in this emotional journey. If you squeeze in all these big moments into 6 episodes it just lessens the impact of the moment.
Adapting is Different to Creating.
Game of Thrones is based on the hugely popular George R.R Martin book series, A Song of Fire and Ice. Well the issue is that this book series is not finished. Even though fans have flocked to the internet and raged to George RR Martin to finish the final books but at the current time it seems like the book series is far from completion. Many theorise that the point that Game of Thrones, the television show, started to decline was when the TV show overtook the books. Now there has been creative freedom for the television show. Like any adaptation there is huge differences between both mediums, however it is different to adapt than it is to create.
David Benioff and DB Weiss are great adaptation writers however some have criticised the direction of the show when there is no George R.R Martin influence. Now this is not the fault of Weiss and Benioff as they cannot see the future of when the books will be written. However it has impacted the show to the point that Game of Thrones is no longer an adaptation but a variation to the book. An alternative timeline if you could call it that. To lose the connection with the book does impact the material. The worst thing about the Hobbit films was the bits that were added that were not in the book, that awful love triangle in the Hobbit being a good example. Benioff and Weiss has maintained the tone of the show to a degree but it has become a bit more fan service than the shocking stories that Martin wrote. Less risks have been taken and the shows plot has become a bit more predictable.
An End of an Era
Whatever the outcome, whomever sits on the iron throne, we can at least say that we get to witness the end of the golden age of television. Game of Thrones blurred the boundaries between cinema and television. Television has become cinematic in how it is shot and produced. Some maybe disappointed at how it is ending and some maybe mad at how far the show has fallen in quality. I think the criticism has been unfair and HBO’s flagship show is still producing high quality episodes. The Battle of Winterfell will become iconic as time marches on and it is fully appreciated. As we sit down and embrace the finale and more than likely be shocked by how it has ended just realise that this is the end of an era. The end of an 9 year journey. There will not be another show like this ever again. In the same year as the end of the Avengers Endgame Phase and the Star Wars 3rd trilogy, this will be an emotional year, but what a time to be alive.
urnēpter morghūlis (All Shows Must Die)