Game of Thrones - S8 finale

2019-05-21 13:02
Peter Dinklage in a scene from 'Game of Thrones.'

WARNING: The following review contains a few unavoidable spoilers regarding the Game of Thrones season 8 finale.


George R.R. Martin's best-selling book series A Song of Ice and Fire is brought to the screen as HBO sinks its considerable storytelling teeth into the medieval fantasy epic. It's the depiction of two powerful families - kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars and honest men - playing a deadly game for control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, and to sit atop the Iron Throne.


Most big stars eventually burn out and collapse under their own sheer weight. This has also been the case with the final episode – and in fact the whole 8th and last season – of HBO's Game of Thrones that ended in an unfortunate meltdown and became a victim of both its own success and viewer expectation that it simply couldn't sustain for a fitting finale.

Like Seinfeld, Lost and Little House on the Prairie (that literally in the end blew everything up), David Benioff and D.B. Weiss decided to burn everything down – with the help of a dragon – in a disappointing viewer expectation scorched earth approach; leaving viewers who had invested their time, money and effort for close to a decade in a story, with few satisfying answers.

Even worse, the final season and final episode of Game of Thrones provided few answers that "made sense" given earlier character motivations and plot development. It even failed to make good on the original, central premise: Who will get to sit on the Iron Throne? (Spoiler alert: No-one, but in another unearned twist not because there were not any Westeros candidates left.)

It is a great TV show marred by a bad final 6-episode season and an unsatisfying conclusion – like going to a restaurant, ordering chocolate cake because it's on the menu and the waiter returning to tell you it's not available. The ending damages the build-up and viewing journey that came before it.

The slow derailment of George R.R. Martin's TV adaptation became evident around the 6th and 7th seasons and became very clear during the 8th season where almost every episode was worse than the one before. It will impact the show's standing and legacy as a truly great TV show.

Knowing that Game of Thrones ends in a way in which it kept moving further and further away from what it once did best, will have a very negative impact on its rewatch value under fans and consumers of the story, its binge-watching potential and the sale of solid-media like DVDs and BluRay discs. Fewer people will want to collect and keep it.

The last episode and the final season will definitely rank among the least satisfying series conclusion and endings of all time. Viewers are left wanting "better" for the characters – not better circumstances for them but a better motivation, set up and plot, and explanations for why and how they all ended up where and how they did.

If there isn't logic and sticking to the in-universe rules for characters, coupled with a roll-back of character development and a sudden lack of agency for several main characters as what Game of Thrones did in its final season and episode, there can't be an acceptable and logical conclusion in the end.

Watch Game of Thrones if you've never had before or the final season and ending, but be warned and know that it doesn't just run out creatively but that it eventually collapses in on itself entirely – creatively and production-wise.

Mistakes like a modern-day coffee cup and a plastic water bottle in episodes' scenes and the too dark battle of Winterfell that neither the producers nor directors noticed during filming - not the editing booth or anyone else in post-production - the abrupt and unmotivated character changes, and multiple unexplained things like The Wall suddenly being whole again, are all symbolic of how almost everyone involved with Game of Thrones' final season just checked out from caring to make the show make sense.

Probably more concerned about the next job and whether there's a gig at America's Got Talent or wherever, the loser is the viewer who gets short-changed with an ending that needed more care and more episodes. The conclusion of Game of Thrones suffers from a lack of proper narrative structure, a forced plot and a forced end-point that in turn forces characters to suddenly change. It leaves too many gaps and unanswered questions.

Multiple scenes, story-arcs, plot points and story and character development have been set-up since the first season and continue to wind throughout the various seasons, to which there are no pay-offs in the final season and the last episode. It leaves viewers empty and wondering: What was the point?

The characters and story of the Game of Thrones TV version will always remain beloved and have made a permanent, global pop culture imprint, South Africa and Africa included.

We will continue to love them ("You know nothing Jon Snow") and continue to love to hate them (oh, Cersei!), despite the Lord of the Rings-esque ending as they literally sail and walk off into the sunset and the snow.

The end of a TV show doesn't need to answer or pay off everything, but Game of Thrones is not as good as it could have been because it provides less, and less fitting, answers that what a sprawling fantasy magnum opus like this should.

We've lived with these people. Parts of us died when they (and some dragons) died. We've journeyed with them and the Dothraki to strange new worlds and lands and watched them not just fight against a common foe but battle each other.

For years we patiently waited for winter to come. Yet, in the end, we can't help but be disappointed when we finally got to see what happened with and had to say goodbye, to the Snow.

Episodes of Game of Thrones broadcast on M-Net (DStv 101) are currently available on DStv Now and Showmax and will be followed by the broadcast of a 2-part “Making of” documentary showing what happened behind-the-scenes.

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