As much as Kim Kardashian would love to have you think different, it was once the case that nothing had quite broke the internet like Game of Thrones. Amongst its many accolades was that of most illegally torrented show of all time, as each episode’s release was a regular earthquake for pirate sites across the net. Yet, as is so often the case with brilliant television, how the mighty have fallen. When GOT began, its unflinching portrayal of debauchery, war and Machiavellian brutality made it a refreshing experience for audiences – the Lord of The Rings your mother didn’t want you to see.
Most famously, the show got through main characters faster than Katie Price gets through partners, and made axing core cast-members fashionable. GOT’s writing and production matched Westeros itself – a vast, gripping and unpredictable landscape, in which nothing was sacred. However, during the final season, very little of this grit and excitement came through. “The Long Night” for example, was heavily anticipated, built up to ravenous viewers as a battle to rival Helm’s Deep, which it certainly was not. Despite featuring impressive cinematography and some choice performances (such as Kit Harrington’s), the episode tried to pass off a string of relatively insignificant character deaths (Edd, Lyanna Mormont) as the bloodbath of pivotal figures that viewers craved.
Overwhelmed by hordes of previously near-invulnerable White Walkers, main characters seemed to temporarily lapse into God-mode – more of the same deus ex machina writing GOT has served viewers since the start of season seven. Even the deaths of major characters felt somewhat underwhelming, only cutting characters that had already been redundant in the plot for some time, and were well past the prime of their arcs (i.e. Beric, Varys and Melisandre). To many it seemed the writers, much like Theon Greyjoy, had lost their balls.
Insufficient brutality aside, pacing was a major issue for the season. Whoever made the decision to cram the crescendo of 67 episodes into 6 was profoundly misguided, because the season felt more rushed than Pollock gals on their way to JuJus. The final faceoff against the Army of the Dead, the Battle for King’s Landing and the Iron Throne’s ultimate taker could easily each have had a season dedicated to them, and it is unsurprising that viewers were baffled at the audacity of producers, attempting to cram it into less episodes than every season previously.
Ultimately, the result of this was seven seasons of anticipation ending in anti-climax, and viewers leaving the show like many of Little Finger’s employees; screwed, and unsatisfied. Built up as the almighty deity of death and destruction, the Night King is defeated because he missed a teenager’s left hand, and Cercei’s death by rubble wasn’t nearly brutal enough to give anyone any sense of catharsis or karma. Compare this to the way Joffrey’s death was beautifully eked out, choking and spluttering on his own blood, after seasons of cultivating the audience’s hatred – a death so satisfying, it made most of us question our humanity.
Looking back at how the show used to be, it’s clear what this season lacked. Even major turning-points in the plot seemed ad hoc, lacking any meaningful build-up and just thrown in for the sake of finally finishing the show; most evident of which being Daenerys’ hissy fit, in which the Breaker of Chains became Joseph Stalin in about 10 minutes. The plot-point was clearly designed solely to give protagonist Snow a justifiable reason to kill Daenerys’, but it just came off as all-too-convenient, transparent, and lazy writing. Little more than a mad dash to the show’s resolution.
In short, the final season of GOT was sorely disappointing. Audiences expected a biblical ending to the show they’ve loved for eight years, but instead got the half-baked, neutered and anticlimactic bastard child of R. R. Martin’s story. This said, the responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the writers and producers of this season, as there were a whole host of impressive performances across the cast, but unfortunately this can’t make up for poor writing. But perhaps part of the fault lies on us an audience, bestowing unrealistic expectations on the show’s ending, as is always the curse of brilliant television.
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