The most anticipated season of television in history is here. Game of Thrones has been the largest and most popular show around the globe for the past five years, and with Season 8 it is finally coming to an end. With major finales like this one, extra pressure is put upon the showrunners to stick the landing one final time so the countless fans will remember the show with satisfaction and not disappointment. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the shows’ creators, have crafted seven great seasons before now, so all they needed to do was find a natural and well-thought-out manner in which to bring things to a halt. Did they succeed? The short answer is no, they did not succeed. Those who have been keeping up with the fan reactions will know that there is a public outrage over these final few episodes, and while I don’t believe the show is unredeemable, I do believe that the public has plenty of grounds to be angry.
While much about Game of Thrones that made it so revolutionary is reversed during this season, there is still much to appreciate. The special effects are still some of the best in the industry currently, and this makes the battle sequences have a grandeur that cannot be replicated. Along with the special effects, the cinematography continues to be excellent, and I would argue that it has never been better in other seasons than it is here. While the third episode, titled “The Long Night,” has problems involving visibility, there are plenty of other mediocre factors of that episode which make it so messy. For example, the choppy editing combined with the darkness makes it increasingly difficult to see where the main characters are and what they are doing. There also needed to be far more of an balanced progression regarding pacing and tone. It didn’t help that the battle is an hour and 22 minutes long, and by the end of it I was sick of the random carnage and stupidity that carried on throughout. These issues run through the entire season, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Along with the cinematography and visual effects, the acting has stayed excellent throughout this final season. Every actor in the show creates the best product possible with the nonsensical scripts they are given, which may be the hardest position to be put in as an actor. Peter Dinklage is remarkable here, giving an emotionally grounded performance even when the scenes he is in are ludicrous. The final episode of the series is his shining moment, and I would consider it to be one of Tyrion Lannister’s finest hours if only I wasn’t confused by every character choice. Some actors, such as Emilia Clarke and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, even manage to almost sell scenes that are complete betrayals of their character’s determined mannerisms, which is no easy task.
However, as everybody reading could probably tell, the writing for this entire season was atrocious. I respect showrunners David & Dan quite a bit, and the complete mediocrity of the final season doesn’t change the fact that they successfully helmed seven seasons of quality television. However, the last six episodes could have been pure fan fiction and the quality would be similar. The dialogue in particular is far worse than ever before. From Seasons 1 to 6, the entire reason people all around the world loved these characters was because each person stayed true to themselves while also developing new perspectives on the world they lived in. No character was used purely as a plot device and they were all three-dimensional. Now, it seems as if every character in the show has betrayed the values that the show built up from the very beginning with no explanation at all. Major characters make game-changing decisions in this season that are explained away with as little as one line of dialogue, and this is not acceptable when progressing any character’s path.
Game of Thrones is known for being one of the most unpredictable shows on television, and while many hoped it would continue this season, nobody wanted it to be at the expense of logic. It seems that the creators forced the unpredictability in this season simply for the sake of deception, but with no ulterior purpose. Events randomly happen that not only have no explanation or logic behind them, but also have no broad message to back them up. The lack of logic is never a good thing, but if the showrunners had a clear message they were trying to get across, then I could have at least appreciated the effort. In the end, I don’t believe there was any point or message to the unpredictable moments other than to “surprise” the audience. Just because I don’t see something coming doesn’t mean it makes any sense–a meteor could drop down from the sky and kill half the characters, but this wouldn’t be a compelling plot point because it is so out of left field. And no, some subtle foreshadowing involving meteors planted throughout previous episodes wouldn’t suddenly make it better.
One of the largest complaints about this season is that it moves at breakneck pace and never slows down. This sounds like it would be a good thing, but it instead means that the show never takes the time to let moments marinate or develop characters properly. A majority of the compelling characters act against their own self-interest by the end of the season without explanation. This could have all been avoided if they had slowed down the season and showed these characters’ mental progression, but since it is only six episodes they have no time to do anything but shove major event after major event in the audience’s face. Maybe if there were ten episodes then there would have been more time to develop characters? Honestly, the state of the writing is pretty bad to begin with so I’m starting to think that a longer season would have just prolonged the train wreck.
The first two episodes of Season 8, “Winterfell” and “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” aren’t the worst in the season, but they are somehow boring and rushed at the same time. Countless character moments happen within these two episodes that should be important to me as a long time viewer, but they feel thrown in as fan service without actual reason to occur. Why do all the powerful platonic relationships between a male and female character have to end in meaningless sex, diminishing the validity of the connection? There are also countless attempts at humor that simply don’t land. Tormund used to be a funny character, but by the end of the second episode he was cringeworthy and forced.
The third episode, however, is the battle episode, and this could only have been worse if the visuals were terrible. Thankfully they aren’t, but it’s hard to say the cinematography can save the all-around mess that is “The Long Night.” Without getting into spoilers regarding this action-packed episode, the only things I will say is that nothing makes any sense and every character is pointless (except Arya, but even that I have problems with). Nothing is thought out here, characters are teleported out of dangerous situations to safety, and at some point during all this action I actually got bored. I am dumbfounded by how badly they wrapped up certain storylines in this episode, especially when there has been a constant build-up for these storylines to play a major role in the endgame.
At this point in the review, I am simply sick of complaining. I could go on for pages and pages more about the mess that is Game of Thrones Season 8, but it would wear on my mental health and let’s be honest, nobody is going to read that. It’s doubtful that most people even got this far without zoning out. So I will just say this: Game of Thrones is not one of the worst seasons of television in history, but it is by far the most disappointing. Everything good about the show is thrown away for character deaths that make no sense, clichés that seem stolen from other works, and “big” moments that give the audience no satisfaction. The truly sad part about the utter mediocrity of this final season is that it is all because of the writing. All of the excellent work of everybody else in the show goes to waste just because David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (or whoever made the decisions behind the scenes) couldn’t write a good ending. I still appreciate how visually brilliant Game of Thrones is and always will be, but it can only do so much.
I give Game of Thrones Season 8 a C-.