Eight years ago Game of Thrones hit the small screen and quickly became one of the hottest series’ on TV, if not the hottest. It was big budget television with a massive number of characters, interweaving storylines, and big-picture mysteries that have taken multiple seasons to unfold. It has shocked fans, it has angered fans but in the end it’s still one of the most watched shows in history so it must have been doing something right.
No spoilers for the finale of Game of Thrones.
This final season had a tonne to get through, and it had to get through it all in 6 episodes, a task that seemed impossible. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have managed to bring it all to a close in that time but not without some sacrifices in story progression and pacing. This season didn’t astound me and blow me away, but it also didn’t disappoint or anger me. It ended with a good final few moments and made some good understandable decisions along the way, but the execution and build-up of some key plot points is where the season stumbles just a little.
The season has been the source of much anger, confusion, and disappointment among some fans with each episode turning more people to get on the bandwagon of hating the season. I’ve had my gripes with some past seasons of the show, but I’m not on that side of things here, I largely enjoyed every single one of the six episodes that we got this season and like how it closed out. The six-episode run is the best and worst thing about the season, it’s good because we get to avoid all of the filler scenes that littered earlier seasons, but it’s bad as the season lacks the time to set up big moments as smoothly as it could have, given more time. It’s a give-and-take situation where you just can’t have everything. That being said, Benioff and Weiss gave us everything they could in this season and I applaud them for it.
The opening two episodes of the season were fantastic, they’re the calm before the storm. Not a lot happens in terms of major dramatic moments but there are plenty of smaller character moments that I will not forget. There’s humour, there’s emotion, and these first two episodes deliver with touching character reunions and character development with not a single dull second in sight. These episodes encapsulate everything that the past seven seasons have been leading towards more-so than any of the episodes that follow. They make everything that has happened prior feel worthwhile and there’s a sense of ‘this is the end’ associated with them that brings out more emotion. They also gave us Tormund’s giant’s milk story which is his finest moment for sure.
That notion of having not a single dull second carries into the third episode which delivers a battle the scale of which has never been seen on TV. It’s a cinematic work of art and phenomenal in the sense that it filled an 82-minute runtime with a single battle and gave more-or-less every character involved something to do. It never lets up and is successful in paying off seven seasons of build-up in a largely satisfying way. I subscribe to the criticism that the episode was too dark, I get the feel they were going for, but it did make some of the action hard to see, specifically that which took place in the sky. This was the half-way point of the season and it left the last three episodes in a weird place as there was still a lot to close out and not that much time to do so.
This is where the issue of not enough time to develop stories did show. A lot happens in the final three episodes, and despite the fact that I like the majority of the decisions made and directions taken, there is room for improvement that could only have come from more time, not “better writing”. I, for one, feel like the decisions made by certain characters in the final episodes, specifically a major character decision in the fifth episode, are in line with who they are. There has been a natural build-up to these decisions, but as there has been limited time to do so, you just need to fill in the gaps yourself a little. That didn’t bother me, and as a result I saw the decisions as a natural development of character.
The season ends in a way that I liked. The final episode doesn’t play out how I would have expected. Certain characters go in directions I definitely didn’t see coming and probably would not have chosen. But this isn’t my story, it’s David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ story and they closed it out in a good and fitting way. It won’t please everyone but I feel like the majority will be satisfied with how the series is closed out.
As a whole, this season encapsulates everything Game of Thrones is and has been since it premiered back in 2011. It nails significant emotional character moments, it delivers on the big shocking battle sequences, and it subverts expectations to bring moments not many people would have seen coming. The story is predictable in the sense that you can read where it’s heading in terms of the big picture, but it’s the smaller moments that give the series its charm and that will shock and surprise you… hopefully in good ways. From a technical standpoint, this season is as good as it has ever been. The cinematography is incredible both in and out of the large-scale battle sequences. The music from Ramin Djawadi is still iconic as ever and accompanies every scene fittingly. So if the story doesn’t satisfy your needs from this season, at least you can be sure that these aspects will.
To speak to each of the performances will take forever but know that everyone you’ve loved in past seasons, who is still alive going into this season, is just as on point as before. Everyone gives this season their all, the commitment to closing out this story is there from everyone and it shows.
So, with that Game of Thrones has come to a close. It hasn’t done so without controversy and certainly hasn’t pleased everyone, although Benioff and Weiss have done their absolute best to get this done in six episodes. It may be the last we ever see of these characters, but it won’t be the last we see of Westeros as Game of Thrones has a number of spinoffs in the works.