They say Misery loves company and right now, Annie Wilkes has a lot of it as we hear the familiar refrain of disgruntled, entitled fan[atics] flinging their shit at the walls over the fact that “Game Of Thrones” – “Game Of Thrones” mind – has had the temerity to subvert their own personal expectations and not deliver them the plot points they’d come to expect, nay demand to satisfy their own solipsistic headcanon.
There was a time when fanfiction was the kind of weird cousin to nerdom – frequently crazy, often salacious and every so often brilliant, but a knowingly unofficial offshoot of an established franchise that was there for other fans to take or leave as they chose. Now, somehow, we’ve ended up in a toxic quagmire of entitled idiosyncrasy where, to some, if a show or movie doesn’t deliver what they wanted and expected, they’re incapable of chalking it up to experience and moving on and become locked in a bitter spiral of demanding a production do-over or, god help us, the release of some quasi-mythic alternative version that probably doesn’t even exist.
I’m not here to say “Game Of Thrones” hasn’t dropped the ball now and again and I think its generally acknowledged that the quality of the show’s storytelling has dropped since the last few episodes of season six where it feels like David Benioff and D B Weiss finally realised they couldn’t wait for George R R Martin to drop his next book any time soon and would have to proceed without the full guiding text in order to tell the story. Since then, the series has been beset by pacing issues, truncated character arcs and a general lack of the fierce, fluid and unforeseeable narration which had been the hallmark of previous years. But even if the quality has dipped, it’s done so from such a dizzying height that it still holds its head high above most of the rest of television and even if you’re one of the signatories of this spectacular toys-out-of-the-pram embarrassment, you can’t dismiss that for at least the first five seasons, “Game Of Thrones” delivered some of the most scintillating, thrilling and exceptional television in the history of, well, the medium.
In some ways, Season 8 is the ultimate expression of a trend in the show that’s been apparent for some time. Benioff and Weiss are, undeniably, excellent television adapters, turning Martin’s multi-narrator, rambling prose into a taut and shockingly compulsive tapestry of storylines but without the richness of the original texts, it’s clear that left to their own devices, they are clumsy and inelegant storytellers. By necessity, Season 8 has moved away from a plot driven by machinations and manoeuvring of the characters to an approach where characters are buffeted around by the need to get a shift on and wrap up the plot. As a result, many things feel underserved, abrupt or just plain ignored and at first glance, character actions feel inorganic and inauthentic. The first three episodes of the season are a good example where, having spent two years pivoting us away from the battle for the Seven Kingdoms and towards the greater good of the battle between the living and the dead, we got two episodes of slow build up followed by the actual cathartic battle, the release of two or three seasons or portentous, doom-laden prophesising being over and done with, in a single episodes whose chief attributes were a conspicuous lack of any kind of military nous and being too dark to properly see how bad the tactics were in the first place.
For me, though, the series took a huge swerve back to being the show I’ve loved and reviled in the thrilling, heart-in-your-throat action of “The Bells”. Yes, it required some reflection after the first watch to really accommodate some of the twists and turns which may seem sudden but are actually pretty consistent with everything we’ve been shown to date, the problem being again that there’s a lack of elegance to the storytelling which feels like we’re being short-changed but only because we’ve been so lavishly spoiled before.
There’s still a lot riding on the final episode, due to air today/ tonight/ tomorrow but however it shakes out – and whoever ends up on the Iron Throne – we should be grateful for the show in its entirety whether or not we like how it ended. It’s been spectacular and, like Marvel’s 22-movie Infinity Saga, it may be some time before we see anything like it again.
And if, even after the ash has settled, you’re still burning with injustice at some perceived personal snub from a multi-million-dollar television production which owes you nothing, just take it on the chin, pick up a pen and write your own perfect ending. After all, valar ēdruta botagon!