‘The higher you rise, the harder you fall.’ You must be familiar with this quote, and perhaps nothing else describes Season 8 of Game of Thrones like this.
With House of the Dragon just around the corner, Game of Thrones Season 8 has once again become the talk of the internet. The series finale is known for all things wrong and has instilled a certain sense of skepticism in people as they wait for the Targaryen-centred spinoff.
Although it has been a while since the show ended, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the final season and see if my perspective of it has evolved with time. Unfortunately, I still stand by what I felt while watching the end credits roll for one last time. However, there are a few things that I realized while looking back that I didn’t in the immediate aftermath of the show.
So, why was Game of Thrones Season 8 bad? Why did it tarnish the legacy of one of the best shows of all time?
Season 8 of Game of Thrones seemed rushed and didn’t give the characters enough time to grow and gain closure. Furthermore, the writers fell into the trap of subverting expectations and made various character arcs extremely underwhelming.
The Sudden Change in the Show’s Pace
Game of Thrones has always been known for its slow and organic pace. Even a conversation between two people as they walk through the woods has immense significance in the characters’ development.
Until Season 2 or 3, people were not used to the pace, and it became a deciding factor for them to continue the show or leave it midway. Those who stuck around experienced incredible pay-offs in Seasons 4 and 5, perhaps even 6.
As the show gained prominence, it became known that it is slow and takes the much-needed time to develop characters and evolve them such that they organically fit into the puzzle.
Considering how people liked to hop on trends when the series became a global phenomenon, people accepted this and binged through the seasons to get ready for the next one. In fact, people who had left the show midway (I being one of them) decided to give it another shot and loved it immensely.
Overall, the show’s pace became its identity. So, when Seasons 7 and 8 came out, it felt very different from everything we’d witnessed so far. Although people couldn’t point it out well enough in the seventh installment, it became abundantly clear in the final one.
Characters that took so much time and effort to go from one place to another were cruising through different terrains in no time. Daenerys’ dragons, who were presumed to be invincible, started dying in quick succession. Let’s not even talk about Daenerys’ transition from a just ruler to the Mad Queen.
I could dive into the intricacies and pinpoint many other aspects and subplots that stand testament to this fact, but you get the idea. The question remains why did it happen? I think there are two primary reasons for it.
I. Diversion from the Source Material
George R.R. Martin recently said that by Seasons 5 and 6, and definitely with 7 and 8, he was out of the loop. However, we didn’t have problems with the former because they followed the books.
With Season 7, things started to feel just a little bit out of place. People couldn’t tell why, but the story and character arcs had started to feel a little less engaging than before. If you are a hardcore fan, perhaps go back and check out some of the episodes.
You’ll see how the screenplay doesn’t have as much grit as the previous installments. There always used to be this crippling tension on the screen, and Season 7 didn’t make us feel that.
By the time we reached the final season, there was so much the writers had to work on—the different characters, subplots, pre-existing prophecies, and more. Perhaps there were too many threads for the creators to tie them all neatly.
Instead, we saw a chaotic mesh, and everything seemed unrecognizable. It was an end that seemed so abrupt that people over the internet raged and demanded a remake with a different ending.
II. Budget Constraints
By now, it must be pretty clear that, from the story’s perspective, the series had become too good for itself. It had reached its peak, and surpassing that became impossible. The same holds for the budget. After Season 6, we all learned about the episode cut-downs, which worried us.
As it turned out, our concerns were justified. Due to budget issues, the writers had to wrap the story up quicker than they wanted to. However, the pace wasn’t the only problem. There was so much more that went wrong.
The Art of Subverting Expectations or the Lack of It
For the uninitiated, subverting expectations is a writing tactic used to surprise an audience and challenge what they thought would/should happen in a story. A few good examples of this would be Psycho, No Country for Old Men, and Jordan Peele’s Us.
Before the final part came out, there were already theories floating on the internet about how things would end for various characters. Here are three of the most popular ones:
- Jon Snow would become the King of the Seven Kingdoms.
- Jamie would kill Cersei.
- Night King would be the show’s main villain.
Now, we know what happened in each of these cases, and it was disheartening. But I can make a calculated guess about why it went down the way it did.
The writers would have been aware of the fan theories on the internet. As a result, they didn’t want the ending to be predictable. After all, the show is also known for its erratic nature. Characters drop dead when you least expect them to.
So, a natural mindset would’ve been to give the fans something so different that it would shock them. The only issue was that to create such an impact, the execution and the writing needed to be absolutely perfect.
Everything needed to be organic and feel like it was meant to be. Sadly, it was far from it. The show’s pace didn’t help the cause, and the way the characters behaved didn’t help it either.
Jamie had started transforming in Season 3. Throughout the next four seasons, he developed more humanity than perhaps even Daenerys. So, him still loving Cersei for who she is, seemed pretty illogical and unbelievable.
The same goes for Daenerys. We know that being a descendant of the Mad King, she has darkness beneath all the good. But to unravel it within minutes seemed shocking but in an underwhelming manner. It would’ve been poetic to see her downfall, but that certainly needed time.
Finally, Bran becoming the King of the Seven Kingdoms just seemed absurd. He was meant to be a character who was beyond mortals. He had already risen above politics, the lust for power, and the need to rule people.
Jon Snow was supposed to become the king. He started off as a bastard and went on to become a fighter, a leader, and a king who understood people and justice. Instead, he was sent back to the North to rebuild the Wall and take care of a Night Watch that didn’t serve a purpose anymore. After all, the White Walkers were gone.
These instances are perfect lessons on how not to try and subvert expectations. If I take a step back and look at the predictability aspect of the stories, I think people would’ve been much happier with their fan theories coming true.
If I look at films or shows in the recent past, fan service seems to work well if done right. Spider-Man: No Way Home and Better Call Saul’s final season are great examples of this.
In retrospect, although fan servicing would’ve been highly uncharacteristic of the show, it would’ve led to a much more satisfied audience. So, is there going to be another season to change it all?
Is Game of Thrones Season 9 coming? Was it canceled?
Game of Thrones was never canceled. It was decided at the end of Season 6 that Season 8 would be the last, and there would be no Season 9.
Instead, the studio started working on the spinoff, House of the Dragon, which is set about 300 years before the events of GOT. Reportedly, George R. R. Martin has been more involved in House of the Dragon than he was with the final installment of Game of Thrones. So, hopefully, it is a spectacle worth witnessing.
About House Of The Dragon
House of the Dragon is the prequel series to HBO’s blockbuster Game of Thrones based on George R. R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood.
Set three hundred years before the events of Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon will show Westeros under the Targaryen family’s rule before the dragons went extinct. It will follow the Dance of the Dragons, the Targaryen civil war between siblings Aegon II and Rhaenyra, who fought for the throne after the death of their father, Viserys I.
Directed by Ryan Condall and Miguel Sapochnik, the show stars Paddy Considine as Viserys I Targaryen, Emma D’Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen, Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower, Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen, Tom Glynn-Craney as Aegon II Targaryen, Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower, Steve Toussaint as Corlys Velaryon, Eve Best as Rhaenys Velaryon, Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria, Fabien Frankel as Criston Cole, and Graham McTavish.