(This will have spoilers for previously-aired episodes. Avert your eyes if you care.)
“Everyone hates this final season!”
I’ve noticed. Entitled nerd rage has been a thing over the last few years.
“Oh, come on. Benioff & Weiss [the show’s creators] are terrible hacks!”
Are they? They not only story-edited your favorite episodes, but they wrote most of the episodes that fans and critics both love. “Battle of the Bastards” (the second to last episode of season six), “Hardhome” (the third to last episode of season five), and “The Rains of Castamere” (the infamous “Red Wedding” episode, second to last of season three)—all written by Those Guys.
“Okay, but the show ran got terrible when they ran out of George R.R. Martin’s books!”
Are you sure? The show started blending in original work as early as season five, and had just about fully parted ways by season six. You can make the argument it was better in earlier seasons, but there were terrific episodes in later seasons that didn’t have much in the way of blueprints from the novels.
“You’re not saying you like where this is all going, are you?”
I like what I think they’re trying to do, I just don’t think they’re doing it well.
They’ve said that they knew the “story beats”—the major plot points—of the final season as far back as season three. As shocked as people seemed to be by Daenerys’s tyrant turn, she’s had a cruel streak for as long as she’s been a major character, sometimes pulled back from villainy only by the counsel of others. Cersei says in the first season, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die,” but most of what we’ve seen since then—culminating with Dany’s tragic arc into supervillainy—suggests that, to borrow a line from another story, the only winning move is not to play. If there’s an overriding theme to this epic, it’s more old-fashioned than it lets on: a lust for power corrupts. (This is arguably why the Night King turned out not to be the Final Boss: he wasn’t playing the game of thrones, after all. Thematically, the final battles must involve those that are.)
“If you’re not blaming the show ‘not doing it well’ on the writing, what are you blaming it on?”
Oh, it’s the writing. It’s not the major story beats, it’s the banana crazypants pacing. The show has jettisoned years of magnificent character work to become a dragon-themed roller coaster, all because the creators decided they had to wrap things up in “70–75 hours” total.
And so, so many of the things fans and critics have been bitching about might have worked with more breathing room. No weird time compression between events! Time to develop Dany’s descent into madness beyond a weird voiceover montage in the “previously on…” segment! No pressure to have characters make stupid decisions just to get them in position for the next plot event! No shoving critical plot and character moments off-camera! Explaining why the hell Jaime spent six seasons on a long redemption arc only to apparently throw it away because “Sorry, I just remembered I’m still awful after all!”
(Actually, I don’t think that last one is explainable.)
The most maddening thing is that I’ve never found an explanation for why they made the choice to race toward the ending as fast as possible. Would have making seasons seven and eight both 10 episodes, for 80 hours total, truly have been that onerous?
“So can they stick the landing in spite of all this? Where does it go from here?”
I don’t know, and a few seasons ago that would have been exciting. This season it fills me with sigh. I expect them to go for a “you didn’t see that coming!” note, and I expect it to be something that’s defensible based on the arc of the entire series—but no, I don’t think they can stick the landing.
Dany on the throne. Arya enters. Jon enters. Dany rises. Greyworm rises. Arya draws a sword. Jon draws a sword. Greyworm readies his spear. Cut to black. Credits.