Alright, lets talk about it. And by “it” I of course mean how what was arguably the greatest show ever made turned into a mere CGI spectacle without any real substance.
First off, since Season 8 is literally the most divisive thing in pop culture since “The Last Jedi”, so let me make my opinion on the entire series very clear. For its first four seasons, GOT was as about as close to perfect as it could be. Amazing character development fueled by pitch-perfect writing? Check. Political intrigue that was fascinating to watch? Check. Plus, the fact entertaining spectacle that we have never seen on TV before? Absolutely!
Then season 5 happened. It was still great television, but this was mostly a meandering season where nothing all that great happened, a “filler” season if you will. “Hardhome” was great, but then it was ruined by a hilariously forced season finale of “killing” Jon Snow when everyone knew it was a ploy just to have a shocking cliffhanger.
Season 6 was a comeback story for the ages. After Jon’s return, 5 was an entire season where each episode built upon itself with great writing until we got to the last two episodes of the season – “The Battle of the Bastards” and “The Winds of Winter.” I’ll be honest, outside of a couple of episodes of Breaking Bad, these were the two best episodes of TV I’ve ever witnessed.
Season 7, my friends, is where things started to be….different. For some reason the two last two seasons of probably the best show ever were squeezed down into just 13 episodes instead of 20. I’m sure the makers and everyone at HBO had their reasons, but they just aren’t good ones considering what we got has been a letdown after the peak of season 6.
Let me explain.
In short, the cramped seventh season had bad pacing and everything felt incredibly rushed. The adventure behind the wall was an incredibly stupid idea that in hindsight meant nothing to the overall point of the show other than to have Daenerys lose one of her dragons to the Night King so The Long Night battle was more even.
NOW, let’s get into season 8. Let me be clear: I was actually okay with this season for the most part. The first episode was a throwback to old-school GOT as a classic first entry setting the stage of the season. I LOVED the second episode. Full character arcs were reached (Jaimie’s, Davos’, Theon’s, Brienne’s, Jorah’s, etc) in an incredibly moving piece of TV that served as the perfect “pregame speech” for the biggest set piece in the history of the show.
I actually liked The Battle of Winterfell. Things were incredibly hard to see, but it made sense considering the setting and the enemy. So, it was expected. Arya’s moment may have been a bit fan-servicey, but IT MADE SENSE. All the episodes concentrated on her training, and only that, were all obviously for a purpose, and wow was it such a great moment. I could care less if the Night King didn’t get his due credit as a character considering that…you know…he isn’t even a character in the books!!
When I first watched episode 4, I honestly thought it was the best of the season. It took everyone by surprise with some incredibly shocking deaths. I didn’t really get why all the hate was flying around online.
Then, this week happened. I’ll come out and say it: This was absolutely the worst episode in the history of Game of Thrones. It was so bad that it actually made the fourth episode the second worst entry in the show’s history.
It all starts with Mad Queen moment.
Let’s clear up the (mostly) useless debate concerning the decision to make Dany the true end-villain of the show. The hate for it as NOTHING to do with the actual choice, its about the execution of the moment. The disdain has NOTHING to do with all of the foreshadowing that has went into this moment. Anyone who is truly a GOT fan or regular viewer has always known this was the endgame. Period.
In the sequence of events of this season, it made no sense. While the seeds had been planted earlier, the actual “plant” (Dany’s evil in this metaphor) did not even start to grow by the end of season 7. Heck, everything seemed relatively fine with her when season 8 started. She seemed pretty over the first loss of her first dragon and sure, she didn’t like Sansa, but neither did anyone with a pulse until the sixth season of the show. With the focus for three episodes being all on the Night King, we didn’t get a hint of her going fully mad yet even with the death of most of her Dorthaki army and Jorah (RIP bro).
That leaves *checks notes* exactly an episode and a half for her to descend from vengeful ruler status to full-on genocidal maniac who literally cares about no one but herself. Losing Jorah? Yea, she was crushed, but this is also the guy she kicked to the curb multiple times already in the show if you want to use past seasons as evidence in this debate. Most of the Dorthaki are a tough loss and she obviously cares about them, but the decision to have them take on an entire army of the undead that outnumbered them by at least 3 to 1 has me questioning just how indispensable she (and the show writers) viewed them.
Episode 4 featured what is now the obvious idiotic death of her second dragon. Think about this for a second. People on ships from over two miles away went 3 for 3 in hitting this thing, but when Dany wants to take on an entire city and bay full of these giant crossbows no one can land one shot??? I don’t care if she took a better angle with Drogon or if he was flying faster. He even flew directly at some of these giant crossbows and no one even got close to connecting?? Sure.
Anyways, that episode concluded with Missandei’s death. I was actually mostly okay with this, that is, until it was the main motivating reason behind her turn into a genocidal manic. Think about it. The two biggest reasons why she actually made the turn is because of 1. Missandei dying and 2. Jon Snow turned her down. Uhm……what??? The show runners specifically said after the episode that Jon turning her down is what caused the final straw to break, so don’t argue against that. I must have missed when Dany become a hopeless romantic at any point in this show after she lost Khal Drago, but sure let’s move the plot forward.
What’s most infuriating is that the battle was won before she went mad queen. She sensibly and specifically went out of her way to take down the soldiers and not any civilians. Dany then has a clear and easy path to the red keep to kill Cersei. Remember, specifically burning the red keep is something Dany wanted to do in season 7. Cersei was the woman who killed Missandei in front of her. The woman who was in her way of breaking the wheel which is what the breaker of chains always wanted to do. Cersei is the immovable object in Dany’s way and now she has her open shot.
And what happened? For literally not one single good reason she spends the next 30 minutes barbecuing the city and never even specifically aims to take down Cersei. WHAT SENSE DOES THIS MAKE??????? Oh, I know. It was shock value. You “didn’t see it coming” because we thought she was going for Cersei, but instead she killed millions of truly innocent people. The writers were so hell-bent on breaking our hearts that they forgot that making something “shocking” doesn’t make it sensible or justifiable. Sure, it has entertainment value, but that has never been the point of this show at least before they got way ahead of the book series.
Everyone at the Red Wedding, Stannis’ death, Tywin’s death, Hodor’s death, and everyone in the Sept of Baelor died sensibly and devastatingly. These were the iconic moments of a show that always took our breath away because GOT gave the appropriate amount of time and care into building these moments.
In the biggest and most important moment of the series, the show completely forgot what it was. Do not use foreshadowing as an excuse here. Dany has never truly snapped like that before. Use any moment of the show that I know you’re thinking of, and I promise you its not even in the same galaxy of the spur in the moment decision that is killing millions of truly innocent people because….she heard bells ringing?
If I’m going to point out a problem, believe that I’ll find a solution to it. Here is what should have happened, some of which comes from Albert Burneko of Deadspin:
- Don’t kill the second dragon in episode 4. Have Jon and Dany go off on a separate mission to go get Yara and her army which were supposed to be waiting to assist Dany (lol the writers forgot).
- Still have Missandei executed in front of Dany at the end of that episode.
- Dany and Jon on both dragons do what Dany did by herself in King’s landing before she went mad, only quicker. Then, as they take a moment to pause after winning like she did, Euron who is manning a covert crossbow somewhere in the city (maybe in the ashes of the Sept of Baelor) lands a one-in-a-million lucky eye shot on the dragon that Jon is on, instantly killing it. This is one of the only ways for humans to kill a dragon according to the books. There is precedent for it, and it would have made sense. Also, this makes Euron way more important in the story,
- Dany sees Jon go down with the dragon believing he dies once they hit the ground. THAT’S what causes her to go all mad queen and kill everyone, partially because she thinks there are more covert crossbows in other buildings. We actually have a reason for her snapping now, and it’s pretty justifiable compared to the crap that we got.
- We still get the pleasing Cleagnebowl, everything else happens with the exception that Jamie Lannister kills Cersei himself as he then takes his own life considering he can’t outrun his past. That way, we don’t completely ruin the last seven seasons of his amazing character arc, he truly fulfills his prophecy, Cersei dies in the worst way imaginable for herself instead of being killed by architecture as she is embraced by the man she loves, and Jamie becomes the “Queenslayer” in death.
- In the finale, Jon Snow emerges from the rumble, and he sees mad Dany killing more citizens of King’s landing along with Tyrion. Jon tragically kills her as she realizes in death that he did not actually die and a smile crosses her face. He then goes back to Castle Black in desolation having unfortunately fulfilled his prophecy, never to be seen again.
- Gendry then takes the Iron Throne with Arya who has a new outlook on life with no one else to kill, and they rule together with Bran as the Hand of the King (who could be better at that then him???) as Sansa rules the North.
Boom. You get an extremely devastating and soul-crushing ending THAT ACTUALLY MAKES SENSE. All character arcs are fulfilled, and you get a resolution that isn’t completely pleasing (hermit Jon, tragically dead Dany), but the wheel still gets broken in a satisfying way that fans of all characters can appreciate more than what we are getting now.
To be fair, this is still an amazingly shot and impressively acted piece of TV. The cinematography from episode 5 may have been the best in the series. But that’s what the show is now: just an entertaining spectacle without any depth remaining. It is ending as a hollow, irredeemable, and unlikable show similar to how the always-true villain has been made out to be.
If you like where the show is at now, that’s great. I’ve learned to not tell people what they should or should not be liking. I’m only just explaining why I like or dislike it. It’s awesome you have found joy in it, that’s great to see. But for me and for so many others the Game of Thrones was not played effectively in the end. Instead what really got played, was us the audience.