And Now, Our Watch Has Ended: A Game of Thrones Review
Hey everyone! Tidesiren here, and with the end of a decade-long adventure, I thought it appropriate to address the dragon in the room…
In 1991, George R. R. Martin started on a journey that, little did he know, would change cinematic and film history. Nowadays, most storytelling begins in books. His first book, A Game of Thrones, was published in 1996 and thereafter, followed four more installments to the medieval story lines of over a dozen characters in different locations throughout the world he created.
Originally a play write, Martin composed A Song of Ice and Fire in hopes that it would be used someday. When David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were signed with HBO, they immediately brought Martin to the team where he could approve scripts and story lines of his creation being brought to the screen. Martin was also able to give some of his music its day in the sun.
The first season of the television adaptation, Game of Thrones, went off without a hitch, averaging in 2 million viewers every Sunday night. Through this new-found love on television, writers and directors worked together for a decade to bring this epic fantasy to life on the big screen. Each season catching the attention of more and more fans, watching anxiously as the plot unfolds. By season five, with over 6 million viewers, the show’s story surpassed the books, and a path of unguided characters started to come together. Season six had 7.5 million viewers, on average, and season seven, with only seven episodes, broke records. Season seven’s second episode attracted 9.27 million viewers. But even with George R. R. Martin’s approval of the story lines, without the books to guide them, the series began to lose momentum. Despite a view count of 13.7 million, the rating for season seven’s season finale was a mere 5.7 million.
After all those years, all those numbers, who can say they were there, part of the statistics? As someone who has been there from the start of season one, sneaking out of my room at night to watch each episode from behind the wall of our living room, while my parents watched, it’s really neat knowing I was part of those numbers from the beginning. I continued to be part of that demographic through college, tuning in each Sunday, and making new friends out of other fans, joining in viewing parties. Even moving to Colorado, with trips back and forth from Arizona, California, and Utah, I made sure to follow the story, no matter where I was. I even ended up delaying a trip home from a comic book convention in Palm Springs on the same night as the season seven finale, just to make sure I could avoid spoilers and be part of discussions later.
After that season seven finale, knowing one last season was left, people were already asking in August of 2017 when the next and final season would be airing. The expected date was Summer of 2018. But in Spring of 2018, news leaked about a film schedule change, and due to getting the right look for the season, the release date of our eighth season was pushed to Summer of 2019. This way, directors could get the autumn to winter transition on screen.
We waited 596 days (yes, I did the math!) for the return of this epic fantasy’s final season, and it has become the most watched TV series of all time, on HBO. Season eight alone, was the most expensive season of any TV show in history to film. And with an audience of over 17 million just for the season premier, the season showed promise in both intensity and heartbreak, as all our favorite characters’ stories come to a close. The weeks seemed to fly by and with only six episodes for the final season, it wasn’t long before Game of Thrones fans worldwide got what was long awaited.
For those of you who have seen this season already and are familiar with what happens, you should know exactly to what I am addressing. For those who are unfamiliar with it, I’m going to do my absolute best to avoid spoilers here. So, bear with me. Maybe it will inspire you to want to reach the end even more?
Last week’s episode, “The Bells,” was heartbreaking, in several ways. We were lost and confused by someone when they totally deceived their character development which had been building since season three. We were made to feel terribly sad and mourn for someone we spent the entire series hating. We were mislead to believe someone would have a special meaning with a specific white, or pale, horse. We were completely over a particular advisor and his terrible advice… but the biggest betrayal and most shocking turn of events were when someone, who had spent the entire series trying to do what was right, made a complete 180° flip, and slaughtered a city.
Episode reviews from fans and friends alike expressed great grief of the distortion of so many characters, and all the build up of each story line shaping each character into the people they needed to be. Some saw this as always to come, but those who have been with the series from its beginning, or longer than binging all episodes at once, saw this as a destruction to the growth and maturity of the characters. This was seen as seven years of episodes and character development down the toilet, only to find that they reverted back to who they were in the beginning? Who they always were?
Fans were heartbroken. Being one of them, I took it upon myself to binge seasons one to seven in the week since “The Bells” to the series finale “The Iron Throne.” I can honestly see where some fans are coming from, saying this result was hinted all along through the whole series. We can agree that the outcome in “The Bells” wasn’t entirely unexpected. Seeing all the episodes of Game of Thrones in a row, with less time in between definitely helped me see what was hinted as it was a little more noticeable, being more frequent in a shorter amount of time. (Versus maybe once a week, and sometimes two or three times in a season.) But then again, I will agree the turn to the result was abrupt and not totally earned. Through the series, we see this particular character battle inner demons of what they ultimately want, and we see them overcome those demons, evidently doing what was right without too much effort. In “The Bells,” the conqueror got what they wanted, and the snap without immediate reason, wasn’t believable or honest to their character. Even if it was to be an inevitable part of the story, because it was so sudden, it didn’t work.
That may just be my (and several millions of other fans’) opinion, but it is what it is, and all we had left was seeing how Game of Thrones writers were to end the series, in the very last episode. What ends will they leave loose because they were determined to cut this successful series short? What further injustice will fall on which characters?
“The Iron Throne,” aired on March 19th, 2019.
When so much ruin has been brought down on the characters we know and love, there is only so much someone can do to salvage the story. There were two directions this could have gone: one of redemption and one of forgiveness with the goal to rebuild. The latter was what played out on screen, and we were cut away from someone we had hoped would come back and show us their real character for a better built future. It was sad to see the level of dishonesty to a once beloved persona and for more betrayal, something they had their whole life, to be their downfall. Even if this was to be the demise of this particular character, respect can be given to a falling character, and it has been done successfully before. The perfect example? Avengers: Endgame. I’m avoiding another spoiler, in leaving that open for interpretation. So, I guess if you haven’t seen it, you should! Even after our character falls, respect and credit could be given where it is due. It can be hard for some to see that when a mistake made out of emotion shadows all the good someone, anyone, has accomplished.
Family names will end forever with some characters left over, those who stay are the ones who help rebuild the six (yes six) kingdoms, and those who leave are off to build their own happiness with no battles left to fight.
Many are hoping George R. R. Martin will finish his books. So, we can read and receive the ending we hope will be more fitting for our favorite characters. He is currently working on his sixth installment The Winds of Winter, and has been for nearly eight years, now. So, it sounds like if we want to read the books to get that pivotal payoff, we have a while to wait and speculate. Until then, we do have the Game of Thrones spin offs to look forward to! And I’m hoping there won’t be any time or length limitations in exploring these stories!
After much thought and research, I’ve found that it was an unsatisfying and clumsy, but tolerable, end for those who were left, after a decade of this epic adventure and fantasy.
Oh, and Bran is that guy who doesn’t do anything to contribute in school group projects but gets an “A” anyway.