Anghus Houvouras on the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones…
Spoilers. Lots of Spoilers.
If we’re being honest, the final season of Game of Thrones was always going to be a disappointment. If for no other reason than this fully realized world that we became so fond of would no longer exist. Sure, there’s going to be sequels, prequels and eventually more books… but for many visitors to Westeros, Game of Thrones will always be revered for what it has achieved.
Season eight has been a mixed bag for many. There are those who are defending the eighth and final season of the wildly popular fantasy drama. There are others who have gone mental and have become enraged by the choices showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (Or D&D as they’re often called) have made trying to wrap up this series.
Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t think D&D deserve a victory lap for this brief yet painfully redundant final season. Nor am I leading the charge of pitchforks and torches and signing insanely unrealistic petitions to have the eighth season completely refilmed. I am however disappointed in the five episodes I’ve seen and will share some of my random, disappointing observations.
1. There’s way too much happening…
Resolving all the various conflicts and storylines in six episodes always felt like a fool’s errand. The show had been seven seasons of intense, nuanced storytelling with occasional flourishes into the epic. So much of the show was built around the idea that ‘Winter is coming’. We all knew from the onset where it was leading, but it took some real leaps to get all the players on the board at Winterfell to finally challenge the Night King and it pretty much ended in the time it takes to get dinner at a Chilis.
Then, after one massive but super-fast war, the ‘heroes’ have to fight another major conflict. So two of your last six episodes are major conflicts that have been building for seven seasons. Apparently most wars in Westeros are fought and won in the time it takes you to fill out paperwork at a Doctor’s office.
You can’t have seven seasons of build up and one season of payoff. In its eighth season, Game of Thrones smothered the payoff. These characters and moments needed time to breathe. Six episodes was never going to be enough.
2. …and at the same time, some characters aren’t doing all that much
Jon Snow spends five episodes uttering the phrases: ‘I don’t want it’ and ‘She’s my queen’. Tyrion once again pleads with Cersei to end the war without bloodshed. Davos looks perpetually concerned. Euron shows up randomly to confront characters whenever convenient. Bran is still creepily staring at people and making bizarre comments about not really being Bran anymore to anyone who wanders into his line of sight.
There are moments where it feels like the creators of the show didn’t know where to go and forced characters together in an attempt for everything to feel predetermined. Some characters got some real progression in season 8. And by ‘some’ I mean ‘Arya and Sansa’. The rest are still miring in character flight patterns that never found a place to land. I wouldn’t call Daenerys becoming a murderer of innocent people a character development as much as a wild left turn that doesn’t ring true based on seven seasons of stories.
In this compressed, way too short season, Game of Thrones has ended up denying some characters a fitting end and repeating many of the moments from previous seasons.
3. Episode 3: The Rise of Vantablack
‘The Long Night’ was an amusing larf. Seven seasons of teasing ‘The Night War’ only to have the entire affair end over the course of evening. Many joked about how dark the episode was visually. I could hear Christopher Guest whispering “It’s like, how much more black could this be and the answer is none. None more black.” Yes, it was a murky mess. And yes, the battle plan was woefully stupid.
What disappointed me most about this episode was how it ended. Arya leaps into the air before being grabbed by the Night King, and she uses her ninja powers to stab him in the belly killing him and his undead army in one fell swoop. The Night War was won by a stroke of luck.
I had this thought after the episode ended. All these great thinkers came together to form a battle plan. Couldn’t they have had Arya pretend to be Bran, using her chameleon like face-swapping ability to lure the Night King in, and then shove a Valyrian blade into his sternum? The Night King clutches his wound and falls to his knees, only to see Bran stand up from his chair. Arya removes the face and the Night King is reduced to a few bags of ice.
It would have shown that our heroes had a plan. A plan that used all of their various skills to trick the Night King. Instead of just sending everyone out to the battlefield to have their asses handed to them. I’m not saying this is the exact plot point they should have used… but anything that would have turned the Night War into a strategic execution instead of a bunch of flailing morons waiting to die.
This episode exposes a lot of issues with Season eight: It feels like there wasn’t a plan. By the showrunners or the supposed ‘smartest people in Westeros’.
4. In conclusion
Game of Thrones was a truly great show for many years. Sticking the landing was always going to be a challenge. Unfortunately, the landing resembled a gymnast shattering both femurs after executing a near flawless routine. We didn’t get any further growth for favorite characters like Jon Snow and Tyrion. Cersei never really got the comeuppance we were waiting for, instead dying like Wile E Coyote after narrowly catching the Roadrunner. A few characters have been given some nice moments. Arya and The Hound’s relationship was rounded out nicely. Sansa has been given a few moments revealing the cunning leader she has evolved into.
But the reality is these characters haven’t been given the time to tie up storylines in a satisfying fashion and the epic confrontations we’ve been waiting for in the time it takes you to order and pick up a coffee at Starbucks.
And that, my friends, is disappointing.