“Game of Thrones” season eight was its most controversial season yet. Many fans of the show have been left disappointed by the show’s final season. Even with its flaws overall the season was a good enough wrap up for the stellar series that has kept so many people invested for over eight years. Though convoluted and lacking the stellar writing of the initial four seasons, this season of thrones has offered the best cinematography and editing in both its history and television in general.
“Game of Thrones” has been a generation defining show since its inception in 2011. For years, the concept of a show so graphic and complex in nature was simply unimaginable due to the limitations of television as an entertainment medium. “Game of Thrones” was essentially a proof of concept, one that meant that a large budget television show grounded in reality could be both profitable and popular. Now, the great experiment has ended with its final season concluding over eight years of story and buildup.
Game of Thrones is based off the popular book series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George RR Martin. While many are quick to make comparisons between the book and the series, it’s not fair to either series to compare them. Both are two completely different mediums that can’t tell their story in the same way. The show has done an exceptional job at adapting the massive novels into a cohesive show, managing to handle so many storylines will still keeping the audience invested.
The show has always been pushing the boundary of what was accepted in American television. George Martin himself has commented that he’s always aimed to bring newfound realism to the fantasy genre, both in story and in the way the world is showcased. Unlike other movies and shows, the world of Westeros is bloody, crude, and filled to the brim with political intrigue. The first four seasons of “Game of Thrones” showcased this newfound interpretation of fantasy the best. From the now infamous Red Wedding to the beheading of Nedd Stark in season one, the show has established itself to break genre conventions with realistic storytelling.
Ever since season six the show has been running without the books to guide them. The show’s principal writers, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been mostly running off crude pinpoints George left them to get to the final ending. This was unbearably noticeable in season seven where the once poignant storytelling and immersive dialogue were replaced with an empty shell of season whose primary goal was purely to move from plot point to plot point. This led to the beginning of season eight where seven years of buildup would hopefully finally lead to something.
The first episode of season eight felt like more of a novelty act of fanservice than a proper episode. The episode prioritized making some characters acknowledge each other more than writing anything substantial for the incoming battle against the white walkers. The episode is mostly carried by the amazing performance by the cast which has only gotten better in their eight years of working on the show. There are some problems with the characters though, several characters like Tyrion and Varys have completely become shells at this point of their former characters from the beginning of the show. The once witty and brilliant Tyrion Lannister is now an empty shell of a character despite Peter Dinklage’s still excellent performance. Other characters like Daenerys and Jon just lack charisma with each other. Whereas Jon’s first love interest and him had such good chemistry that the two actors ended up getting married in real life, Jon and Daenerys make every scene feel awkward or forced. Overall the episode was pretty rocky but forgivable since a reunion episode tends to never be the best in the series.
Episode two is the second best episode of the season. The best moments of this episode resemble the best moments of the first seasons of the show. The excellence of the cast is fully showcased in this episode with even characters like Tyrion now breathing the same life they breathed in earlier seasons. The knighting scene between Jamie and Brianne was one of the most touching scenes of the entire series and fully ended Jamie’s arc for me. There was one frustrating aspect of the episode that has become more and more poignant in “Game of Thrones” however. In many scenes an important character will often poise an important question or state an important fact, only to have the scene cut out before the other characters can react or answer. This was especially glaring on the final scene of the episode where Jon finally tells Daenerys the truth only to have the plot interrupting the scene killing the tension that it had set up. The scene was especially grating because just the episode before the show had done a good job with this sort of scene. When Sam told Jon of his heritage there was no cut out, there was only silence and finally Jon’s reaction. This is the right way to set up a tense scene and have the pay off be satisfying, not by having the scene cut out right before the pay off comes. Overall though the episode was very well made with some very good interactions between the characters.
Episode three is the now infamous ‘Long Night’. This was the most controversial episode among fans and critics drawing harsh criticism from both. To be fair to the episode the cinematography of the episode was extremely well done. Yes, the lighting was a bit too dark, but some of the best shots of the season were done here with a stunning attention to detail that only Thrones could master. The episode was tense and kept the viewers enthralled at the action and shocked at the massive battle taking place before them. The first glaring issue however, was the plot armor that many of the main characters received. Characters like Sam, Brianne, and Jamie were shown multiple times being pinned down to a wall or being clobbered by whites but would suddenly be safe and sound once the scene shifted. Considering that this event was supposed to be something akin to the apocalypse the fact that most of the main characters, who had been fighting in the front lines, survived was just laughable. This would typically be overlooked on other shows but this goes against the very nature of “Game of Thrones”. George Martin has stated multiple times that the point of thrones was to offer a realistic take to fantasy, this episode was the opposite of that. Then there was perhaps the most controversial part of the episode, the night king’s fate. To be clear, there was nothing bad about Arya being the one to kill the night king, however, it was handled so clumsy that it left a bad taste in my mouth once the episode closed. All the build up of the past eight seasons was essentially solved in a single episode. The fact that we learned nothing new about the white walkers or their motivations in their final moments made their entire existence anti-climactic. To be fair to the writers however, the white walkers were an extremely hard thing to write well. Even the author of the books has been struggling to write the books because of all these plot points that have to be resolved. Considering the six episode limit the writers gave themselves and the nature of the white walkers themselves an ending like this was the best we were gonna get, even if it was massively anti-climactic.
Episode four then begins to set up the true final conflict of thrones, the war for the iron throne. I didn’t have an issue with Cersei being the final antagonist of the story since at its core the story has always been about the political fight for the throne. This episode was maybe the most stagnant of the series with very little actually happening. It felt like episode one of season eight where instead of the characters meeting at Winterfell the episode followed them celebrating their victory and preparing for the next stage of the conflict. The show also began to sow the seeds for the mental deterioration of Daenerys. I actually did like the idea of Daenerys going mad and it makes a lot of sense if you look at the larger events of the show. However, the show didn’t do enough during its last two seasons to set up the fact that Daenerys was becoming a mad queen, or at least deteriorating at the rate that she was. The killing of both her dragon and best friend as being her breaking points would’ve felt natural if they hadn’t happened so anti-climatic and sudden. Speaking of anti-climatic and sudden, Jamie’s arc takes a nosedive this episode with him ditching his redemption arc and Brianne for his sister which was disappointing to see. His arc, in my opinion, did end after he knighted Brianne so I wasn’t as disappointed as most others but it was sad to see nonetheless. Overall this episode was a decent enough transition from the events of episode three but failed to build the tension and was honestly one of the more boring episodes of the past few seasons.
Episode five was my personal favorite episode of the last two seasons. The acting in this season was absolutely stellar with some of the best performances from everyone making their way into this episode. The destruction of King’s Landing was by far one of the best shot episodes in television history and showcased the horrors of war so well that I felt bad for Cersei in the end. Yes, the writing in this episode wasn’t great but this episode wasn’t truly about the writing, rather it was about the horrors that a long beloved character would bring to a city we had spent almost eight years in. One of the best moments of the episode was the Hound’s fight with his brother, the Mountain, finally ending Sandor Clegane’s arc in a shocking fight that was shot beautifully alongside the crumbling red keep. The deaths of Cersei and Jamie were disappointing mostly due to the relatively easy death they got compared to the other characters in the show. Euron Greyjoy once again showed he was practically useless to the plot and merely fought Jamie for no reason and died on the spot, ending the horrid handling of his three season arc. Still, even with the disappointing or anti-climatic moments of the episode, most of the episode was absolutely perfect music and cinematography wise and offered the best episode of Game of Thrones in both season eight and season seven.
By this point most people were extremely angry at the way thrones had gone. Many book fans were mad at it due to how they handled the night king, while many show fans were mad at the way they handled Daenerys. The final episode finally dropped to the collective sound of “meh” from the fans of the show. To be perfectly fair to the writers here I don’t believe any ending would’ve fully pleased everyone or not seemed a bit disappointing, however this episode of thrones displayed a lot of what made the latest season so disheartening. By this point the directors seem completely tired of the show and hope for it to end quickly so they can move on to other things. The episode focuses on wrapping up the new conflict of Daenerys becoming more and more deranged and has Tyrion essentially committing treason despite him condemning Varys to death for doing the same just the episode before then. Sure, the circumstances had massively changed, but it cheapens Varys’ death if Tyrion was just going to betray Daenerys anyways. Jon killing Daenerys was foreseeable but believable enough and was handled pretty well by the writers of the show. Everything after her death however seemed, weird. The tone completely shifts to the leaders of Westeros choosing a new king which is treated so casually it almost feels like a joke while you’re watching. Bran Stark becoming king wasn’t a terrible choice but it did feel unwarranted after Bran did essentially nothing for the entire season and who’s arc never had any real payoff throughout the larger story. The final scene in King’s Landing felt like a bad sitcom parody of “Game of Thrones” with the characters seemingly joking around while the city stands in ruins before them. Despite the weirdness of the later half of the episode the final sequence of the three stark children going their separate ways was very well done with the score once again taking center stage of the show. The finale summed up season eight pretty well: just okay and unfortunately just okay is a stark contrast to the amazing beginning of this series.
Overall the season displayed some of the best of “Game of Thrones” from an artistic standpoint but some of the worst from a merely writing standpoint. It stands as a rushed ending to a show that deserved a lot more. Perhaps it’d be a bit more forgivable but the writers had the option to do 10 seasons of 10 episodes each, meaning they could’ve fleshed out the story fully and had a more fulfilling ending, unfortunately they did not. Still though, this final season of “Game of Thrones” is still worth a watch and a good enough ending for a new beloved classic.