Maybe Drogon destroyed the Iron Throne because he thought it fatally wounded Dani. It IS made out of a thousand swords, after all!
Sometimes, an opinion is so close to unanimous, it’s practically a fact. Such is the case with Game of Thrones’ disaster of a finale, a series that was so epic, it’s hard to believe it was the same show. The final season had already been panned by many, but also had a fair number of defenders, as well as some genuinely entertaining moments. Some enjoyed The Long Night, while others seethed that the long winter we had been promised for nearly a decade lasted less than two hours. (And yet there are STILL people that don’t believe in climate change!) I already wrote plenty about it all myself, and my initial opinion was mixed. After the second to last episode, though, I’d given up all hope on a remotely satisfying conclusion to the series.
Nevertheless, I’d spent much of the past month and a half on this thing- reading, analyzing, and writing- so of course I was going to watch the last episode. But I was watching with very low expectations- low expectations, as it turns out, that would not even be met. Not only did the writers just mail it in, they forgot to put the postage stamps on! To use an NFL analogy, it would be like watching the team you root for in week 16, after being eliminated in week 15. “Maybe there will be a great catch, or something else worth salvaging to see,” you think to yourself. Instead, your team loses 45 to 7, and the only touchdown comes from the star running back, who suffers a career ending knee injury when getting tackled at the endzone.
All those episodes, all those story arcs, so many of which were insufficiently answered at best, completely neglected at worse. In fact, I can only remember one which ended far more powerfully than it began, and was so minor in the grand scheme of things, most of us didn’t even know it was a story until well into the series. And it can be described in exactly one word-
THE BLAME GAME
After each episode (except the finale…hmmmmm), executive producers David Benioff and David Weiss- or D & D, as they’re commonly referenced as- would take a victory lap, in the form of an explanation on what the viewers just saw. As such, they were literally putting their faces on the final product, making sure everyone knew who to thank for what was arguably the greatest show on television. While it was widely known that George RR Martin (GRRM) was the literary genius behind the novels (at least for a while), the TV show was D & D’s creation.
Throughout most of the show’s existence, this worked out well for them. Things started to turn ever so slightly, when the show started to run past the content of the novels. Unlike Lord of The Rings or Harry Potter, the creators of the onscreen product had to largely come up with their own content, working only from an outline that Martin shared with them. Many people, not just book snobs, noticed the drop in quality, but for the most part, stuck with it throughout. Most still thought the show was very good, and were already way too invested in this thing, anyway.
So the years continued on, and GRRM still hasn’t release any new material. Eight years and counting, and he’s been working on TWO Game of Thrones novels…and other projects, as well! Weirdly, it kind of makes sense- part of GOT’s greatness was the way one story would divide into a multitude of stories. Apparently, this is how GRRM operates in real life, as well. A man with so much on his mind surely can’t concentrate on one thing, much to the detriment of the fans.
Back to the show…fairly recently, D & D apparently declared that they had enough, and wanted to wrap things up. While a show like Big Bang Theory continued on, years after its glory days, D & D were already thinking about their endgame, with the war of the seven kingdoms nowhere near a conclusion. (Ironically, The Big Bang Theory, a standalone sitcom with a secondary story arc, apparently had a better conclusion that Game of Thrones, which was BUILT around the conclusion.)
So here we all are, in May of 2019, and it’s undeniable- even for the relatively small group of fans who tried to defend season 8, at least prior to the series finale- that everything felt rushed. And there was a reason for that- because it WAS rushed! No need to go into too many specifics- we all know the deal by now. But if the writers had to have Dani take over Westeros and go mad (in that order), that’s got to be, at a minimum, a half-season, not a half-episode. Similarly, Jon killing her and having his fate decided by the leaders of Westeros is a multi-episode affair. The way the action (or lack thereof) went straight from Jon stabbing Dani, to debating what to do with prisoner Jon…
Wait, wait- Jon is a prisoner?! How did he get captured? And even if he DID get captured, how did Grey Worm- not exactly the most laid back character- resist from killing him right then and there? How is Jon alive at all? HE COMMITTED REGICIDE AGAINST A QUEEN WHO HAS A MILITARY THAT SPANS AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE!!! *exhales* Sorry, I’m getting into specifics. But seriously- the whole thing reminds me of an episode from the Simpsons heyday, where “Poochie the Dog” unceremoniously gets taken out of the Itchy and Scratchy show, and after his final scene, a quick graph shows up that says…
…and hey- in this intentionally awful plot explanation, at least the Itchy and Scratchy show had the decency to EXPLAIN what happened to Poochie! (More on this Simpsons episode in a bit.)
Even somehow forgiving all this nonsense, how did BRAN end up ruling Westeros? I have yet to see one person defend this, let alone in a way that makes sense. (The actor himself thought it was a fake script, setup for a laugh.) The only explanation that remotely makes sense is that’s the way GRRM has it planned out, and D & D wanted to honor that. If that’s the case though, he has thousands of pages to set it up, whereas D & D had “Tyrion”- or whomever that morose character that Peter Dinklage was playing at that point- unconvincingly try to explain it in a few sentences.
As of this writing, most people are laying the blame for this debacle at D & D’s feet, with some occasional grumblings about GRRM’s going nearly a decade without releasing a new book. So does the novelist deserve a bigger piece of the pie in the blame sharing? When the TV writers turned A Song of Fire And Ice into a long running TV series, did they expect him to be done by now? Did they have any indications to the contrary? The backlash feels more like something seen in sports, like when a heavily favored team loses in the playoffs, and everyone blames the coach. But without any background information, we just don’t know how this came to be. Hopefully, someday we’ll here more about this debacle. Maybe THAT can be GRRM’s next novel!
WHO OWES WHAT TO WHOM
As this is playing out in real time, there’s an interesting existential debate going on, regarding how much the fans are “owed” by the writers, particularly GRRM. On one hand, this is a universe HE created, HE worked on, and HE took chances with. The reason we all flocked to Game of Thrones in the first place is because of HIS genius. So does he “owe” us anything now?
Getting back to the example of Poochie and the Simpsons, that episode came out at a time when the Simpsons had been on TV for a while, and some fans were grumbling that it had lost its edge. (Oh, if only they knew!) Word was spreading to the writers via message boards that there was some grumbling going on. Having the public react en masse like that was a fairly new phenomenon, as the internet had only been mainstream at that point for a few years. (Again, if only they knew.) Comic Book Guy, representing disgruntled fans, told Bart that he believed Itchy and Scratchy “owed” him. Bart, representing the writers, complained to Comic Book Guy that cartoons provided entertainment for free, and if anything, Comic Book Guy owed THEM. The response was the now famous, and very applicable to GOT’s series finale…
THIS TIME IT’S DIFFERENT
Bart had a point about the entitled fans, but it’s not entirely applicable to Game of Thrones- and not just because HBO isn’t free. Just like with The Big Bang Theory, the Simpsons is a standalone show, where viewers tune in to be entertained for a short period of time. Any continuity is icing on the cake- not many care a whole lot about the consistency of the storylines, as they’re mainly just designed to keep the jokes going. There have been controversies here and there, such as when Principal Skinner was discovered to be an impostor, but it didn’t take away from the series as a whole, and CERTAINLY didn’t negate all the greatness that preceded it. With Game of Thrones, the main “unwritten rules” are the same ones we apply to series like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings- from Day One, we’re going on a journey that will lead somewhere. And when we get there, wherever “there” is, we are promised it will all make sense- and in GOT’s case, “it” was a lot!
So, we absorbed all the storylines and characters, along with a lot of emotional wreckage along the way. Each episode was judged on its merit, but it was always understood that it was just a small point on an arc. I’m trying to find the words, but I just can’t, and since a picture is worth a thousand of them, here’s something that’s been going around-
Truth be told, the warning signs have been there for years. South Park’s GOT parody is primarily famous for its “Wiener” song and the jokes that go with it, but in hindsight, the part that was best lampooned was right here, way back in 2013-
I guess the best way of saying it is that if you watched Game of Thrones with a soap opera mentality- just enjoying all the drama and action as it came, not knowing or caring much about the future- it was fantastic, with far more great moments than bad ones. But, if you watched it expecting to walk out of the journey as satisfied as you walked into it, you probably should have listened to Butter’s advice, and gotten out when you had the chance.
“I’d Like To See YOU Do Better, Random Blogger!”
Fair enough, fictional skeptic. Let’s start out by giving D & D the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say they wanted to stay as close to GRRM’s vision, still unknown to the public, as they possibly could. And let’s assume that given that he has thousands of pages to fill in, whereas they only have a few hours, it’s literally impossible for the story to live up to expectations. Fair enough. That STILL does not excuse the atrocity that was the series finale, where characters wandered around for a third of the episode, like a kid starting a 500 word book report with, “I really really really really really really enjoyed it.” On the contrary, they should have been trying to figure out how to fit TOO MUCH into the short span of time, not stretching it out! It felt like they had short timer’s syndrome. It’s way too late now, but just thinking here and there over the past couple of days, I strongly believe this would have made a better series finale. I’m not even saying it’s good- I’m just saying it’s better. You decide. Here goes…
Everything up until Tyrion getting captured stays the same, minus all of the walking around. (In MY version, the characters have some work to do!) Arya convinces Jon that they have to rescue Tyrion. Jon is reluctant, (“She is my queen! And my aunt! And my maybe girlfriend!” etc. etc.) but goes along with it.
Next scene- Jon encounters Greyworm. Jon tries to reason with Greyworm about Dani’s madness- he used to love her, but he has to kill her. Greyworm shows the slightest bit of acknowledgement that Jon is right, but ultimately out-Jon’s Jon. (“She is MY queen!”) They battle.
Cut to Tyrion jail cell. Jon shows up, explains that he killed Greyworm, and that he’s going to free Tyrion. Along comes Dani, to remind Jon that Tyrion is not just a Lannister sympathizer- tryingto reason with Cersei, costing Missandrei her life, then freeing Jamie- but is an ACTUAL Lannister! Jon reminds Dani that she burned innocent people. Dani reminds Jon that this is the place where those innocent people cheered his father’s beheading. Jon is moved by this. Dani says they can rule together. Tyrion looks horrified at what’s unfolding. Jon and Dani go into kiss, and then…Jon stabs Dani. Dani screams. Hearing the screams, Greyworm (?!) and Jon (?!!!) come running to the scene. Everyone is looking at each other in disbelief and/or disgust. The “Jon” who killed Dani reveals himself to be…Arya! The faceless man trick! The real Jon goes running over to Dani. Dani says, “What have I done? I just wanted the world to be a better place!” Jon says, “I know.” Dani says, “You know NOTHING, Jon Snow,” and dies.
Okay, NOW we cut to the scene with the leaders of Westeros. In this script, GREYWORM is the prisoner. The group need to figure out who the next ruler of Westeros is going to be. Bran says that the Lord of Light brought Jon back to rule Westeros. Sir Davos responds, “Yeah well, the Lord of Light’s been wrong before. Personally, I don’t think much of the (c-word).” Uncle Tully gives his dorky speech, Sansa dismisses him. Everyone smirks. Sam takes a sip of his Aquafina, the audience has their comic relief. They decide Arya is to be queen, as she slayed the previous queen. Arya doesn’t want it, saying, “That’s not me,” and winks at the camera (or not), gives it Sansa, who has shown her political depth and skill to be worthy of ruling. Everyone agrees. Greyworm is pardoned, and to not go to war, he is given rule over King’s Landing. Greyworm, being Greyworm, sneers and says that the moment he is released he will be going to war with Westeros. THEN Sir Davos gives his “too much war already” speech. Tyrion reminds Greyworm of Dani’s original goal to be a liberator. To break the wheel. The wheel has been broken. It’s up to Greyworm to build a new one. Greyworm is moved, but reminds everyone that the queen’s death will not be forgotten by the Unsullied, Dothraki, etc. etc.. The group decides that Jon will take the fall for the queen’s death, much as Ned Stark did all those years ago, for a cause greater than himself. Jon will be banished to the wall as “punishment” for what “he” did. (And yes, he gets to pet ghost.)
Gilly leaves Sam, as she’s been plotting her revenge for the perfect time all these years, for leaving her in that brothel. Also, because she has options now. Arya goes west to discover the Game of Thrones version of America. Jon goes back to The Wall, looks at the gaping hole and says to the Justin Turner lookalike, “Okay- we’ve got work to do!” Out in the distance, a dragon flies towards the screen, which goes to black. The words, “GAME OVER” flash. Roll credits.
MOVING ON NOW
That’s it. Hopefully we’ll have some other non-narcotic entertainment to get addicted to soon. Until then, enjoy the rest of your lives, everyone!