HBO Review: Game of Thrones (Season 8)

Didn’t see this one coming, did you??? Yeah, neither did I actually…I pondered it last night after the series finale ended and thought to myself, “I wonder if enough people still care about this show to read a review of the final season?” After much debate, I finally landed somewhere around Jon Snow’s sentencing (that is, about split but with enough votes to live). As you might have guessed, there are definitely going to be spoilers ahead in this one, so take cover if you must! Otherwise, let’s explore what went wrong together 🙂
The way I see it, after looking through my notes, there are six big things that sent season eight down the crapper for me. Now there were still many cool and “pay-off” moments in this season, but I’m talking about as a whole. Because watching a dragon burn a city to the ground doesn’t make King Bran the Broken okay by my reasoning (obviously I have some troubles with Bran…). You know what, change of plans. I’m going to first highlight some of the parts of this season that I enjoyed. Spur of the moment! Because there were several memorable scenes for me and maybe other Game of Thrones fans too, and those are worth mentioning rather than just flying past.
First, I actually really enjoyed almost everything in episode 5. I thought Benioff and Weiss did a great job writing the episode and dialogue, and the cinematography was incredibly stylistic. I even followed and enjoyed the plot of the episode, including Dany’s turn to burn everything. My favorite scene from the entire season was the few moments before and during the ringing of the bells, while we waited in anticipation with Tyrion and then watched the horror unfold. A stand-alone episode for me. Second, I liked where they took Arya’s journey and character arc. She has been hell-bent on vengeance ever since the first season when her dad was beheaded, and since then even spent the better part of a season being blind and beaten with a stick just to train with the best. She put everything she had into killing those on her list, and yet it’s the one she didn’t kill that breaks her stare. Sandor “The Hound” Clegane gets through to her in his final moments, and she realizes that she doesn’t actually want to die for vengeance. It’s a little weird that she decides to become an explorer instead, but I can forgive that since vengeance is kind of like an adventure to new land(?). Third, speaking of Arya, her killing the Night King was pretty epic. Fourth, Brienne’s knighting was another moment for me that showed a lot about how hard she fought and how determined she was to do right throughout the series. And to see it all pay off was a very touching scene (followed up by a lot of touching…eesh). Lastly, seeing Ghost finally getting booped on the snout by Jon! It’s about time, dammit! How can he disregard his Direwolf before sending him away like that??? Yes, that was something I think everyone was waiting for. There were probably more scenes or dialogue that I liked, but this is what comes to mind as I recover from a near-death experience and think through 6 hours of television.
On to what I didn’t like about this season, those things that ultimately played a large enough role in my dislike of the final six episodes. After 6 strong seasons of fantasy, politics, and enough lore to entice my continued viewing, I was ultimately disappointed by several turns taken by Benioff and Weiss when they ran out of source material for the show (everyone blames you, George R. R. Martin). And I will try to do enough justice to each in order to make my disdain clear and understandable.
1) There were only six episodes. Six. I mean, I could understand if it was the first season of a new series or that year during the writer’s strike (2007, I remember because I was super into House at the time), but otherwise six is simply not enough. And especially for a series-capping season, and especially especially for Game of Thrones! When I first heard the pre-determined number of episodes for the final two seasons I was hesitant but thought “You know what, if anyone can make it happen I trust these two knuckleheads to pull it off.” I was so wrong. The turkey just needed more time to cook…kind of like in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, where it looked delicious but there was nothing but bones and steam on the inside. The final season could have used even just a few more episodes to help us commit to threads like the mad queen and the crowning of a new king. They did too much telling and not enough showing of character arcs, backstabbings, and final moments.
2) The show disavowed almost everything to do with the fantasy genre over the course of the final season. Dragons, White Walkers, Melisandre/Red Priestess, prophecies, etc. Gone. All before the final 2 episodes. I understand that although it was always a “fantasy” series, the first couple seasons, if not following the main houses, tried pulling in viewers with visits to brothels, random character hook-ups, and nudie shots. I was glad to see the turn of focus toward more of the history of Westeros and Essos, and that was when I definitely got more intrigued with characters and choices made. But then there were virtually no prophecy pay-offs on anything set up throughout the series. And the thing that worries me most about the drop-off in fantasy focus is that Benioff and Weiss are currently tasked with helming the next Star Wars trilogy. And yes, they have plenty of source material to pull from, but I would really hate to see another movie full of nothing but Star Wars politics (I’m looking at you, prequels).
3) What purpose did Euron Greyjoy serve the show? He killed his brother to lead the Iron Islands (and what was left of their fleet at that point), took out a dragon, injured Jaime Lannister, and went around telling everyone he screwed the queen. That’s it. And that’s not enough to warrant a new character at the end of the second to last season. His character served almost no purpose in the overall story, and his actions that did count toward something should have been tasked to someone else who we had built a connection with over the years. Big misstep here.
4) The mostly lost episode of “The Long Night” due to the lack of lighting during filming, which translated to plenty of dark, shadowy images running across television screens around the country. It wasn’t only me, and I know this because I talked to plenty of friends and scanned the internet for related articles from fans who were angrier than me. The episode, when originally aired, was difficult to watch because it was so dang hard to see what was going on. I get it, it was a long “night” battle. But if the only thing I can clearly make out on the screen is fire, there’s a problem.
5) As you already know, I have a few problems with Bran. But these last two points really describe why. So first, it seemed as if Bran’s pointless journey was almost completely closed and written off in the fourth episode. Good, I was okay with that. No more Bran…WRONG. No, instead of leaving his arc finished, they decide to bring him back to a thriving, vibrant life and elect him ruler of the realms! Oh yeah, and everyone is also totally okay with his first act as king being the liberation of his sister’s kingdom…okay, like that’s believable. Anyway, I will say that I haven’t read the books, and supposedly he is a pretty big, important character there. But this show is not the books! I don’t know how many times tv series/films go wrong in this way, but just because there’s something in the source material that you are basing a show on doesn’t give you the option of leaving it out or changing it and expecting the final result to appeal in the same way! Ugh. So maybe it is more fitting for his book character to be king, but the GOT adaptation doesn’t deserve it.
6) My last quip with “Bran the Broken, First of His Name” comes from what the show has given us throughout the series. Every time someone took the throne (or attempted to win support for the throne) because they thought they would be the “best fit” (e.g. Cersei, Danenerys, Stannis, etc.) we jeered at them for their disregard for human life. BUT BRAN DOES THE SAME THING AND NOBODY CARES?!? He was the three-eyed raven and supposedly was so withdrawn from his humanity because of his ability to see past and future (to some extent), but he admitted to knowing he would take the throne! “Why do you think I came all this way?” He’s a horrible little dude! He did nothing to change Dany’s murder spree, and granted we don’t know if he can warg into dragons, but he could have at least told someone to attempt to save the city. It’s all guesswork at this point, but I’m mostly frustrated that everyone is okay with him rolling his chair across all the dead citizens to accept a position he sees himself most fit for. What a punk.
There was one other thing I thought they did to an extent that was interesting in the final season, and that was giving main characters almost exactly what they wanted but in a way that they didn’t expect. They sort of did this throughout the series too, but I noticed it a lot in the final sequence of shots following the main cast around their new roles. Dany broke the wheel…a little, but it cost her her life. John finally gets to be free from people asking him to do things, but it means going back to the Night’s Watch. Tyrion lives a luxurious life where he can presumably do most of the things he always wanted, but it’s as the Hand of the King and he also has to work and be helpful all the time. Sansa gets to rule as Queen of the North, but she also has to live with an ugly past that it took to get there. Arya continues on an adventure, but she’ll do this one without revenge on her mind. And Bran…meh, who cares.
So I guess those are most of my thoughts on the final season of Game of Thrones. This also puts HBO on the board for what I expect to be its only tally in my streaming reviews battle, unless I get hooked on the first episode of Big Little Lies…I didn’t catch the first season and the new trailers for season two look really good. I’ll let you know what comes of it. Thank for reading another looooong post, I hope you enjoyed it! Let me know what your thoughts of the final season were in the comments below. Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s