Naturally, there are spoilers below. You have been warned.
It is no secret that Game of Thrones season 8 has been a disappointment. Teleportation, fan-service, plot armour, bad strategy, 'subverting expectations', and poor character development are but a few of the issues that Game of Thrones has faced after departing from the story of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.
It is a shame that Game of Thrones—a TV show that has broken records and changed how we perceive characters and stories—has been reduced to lazy writing. The issues that people are now complaining about in season 8 are not, however, new. If we look back to season 6 (2016), when the show first departed from the books, we can see the start of many of the issues the audience has with the show now; unfortunately, season 8 is the consequence of years of bad plot set-ups and writing. There are countless articles, youtube videos and podcasts explaining the reasons why Season 8 is awful (linked at the bottom), and unluckily for my friends and flatmates they had to bare the brunt of my anger.
My brother introduced me to a video a while back where one critic epitomised the pain of falling out of love with Game of Thrones and showed how each character has become just a shell of their former self, I think this rings most true for Season 8. However, as the series comes to its end tonight I thought it best to remain nostalgic and focus on the ‘best bits’ (...are there any??) of this season… maybe with a sprinkle of bitterness.
© Game of Thrones, HBO
Arya, played by Maisie Williams, has always had a clear, and frankly incredible storyline, as we see her grow, with the help of her incredible mentors, Ned, Syrio and now, Sandor (weep). Sansa, on the other hand, has not had mentor figures, but rather has grown through the abuse she has had to endure. It's beautiful to see the strong, smart and compassionate character she has become—and perhaps the only character D. B. Weiss and David Benioff (the writers) have not ruined (yet). Sansa, portrayed by the brilliant Sophie Turner, has witnessed how power can destroy and control and is perhaps the only character who can understand power. On the other hand, Jon Snow's storyline, played by Kit Harrington, has been ruined beyond repair and I hope he can have a somewhat justified ending.
The "Mad Queen" plot-line was a long time coming and honestly, season 8, episode 5 is the best acting I have ever seen from Emilia Clarke. It was touching, tragic and—dare I say—epic. I don’t particularly like the character arc of Daenerys becoming the Mad Queen, following the legacy of her father, and foreshadowing it for the previous seven seasons most definitely does not equate to good character development. Frankly, I am disappointed with the writing, but that does not take away from Clarke's extraordinary talent; from the death of Jorah—which was tragic yet wonderful—to the Mad Queen trembling with sadness, anger and fear above King’s Landing, she has played Daenerys beautifully. However, her character has had a bittersweet ending, as it became clear, through various interviews, that Clarke was not happy with Daenerys' character progression in this final season. I praise her for her ability to pull it off, despite the questionable writing.
© Game of Thrones, HBO
Let's return briefly to season 8, episode 3: the defeat of the Night King. The music was one of the best parts of the episode. The Night King’s theme is my new favourite part of the score, composed by Ramin Djawadi. The cinematography was also noteworthy, as was the acting. I particularly liked the moments between Sansa and Tyrion, as well as the brilliant way Maisie Williams executed Arya’s more vulnerable scenes. Emilia Clarke's scenes with Iain Glen were, however, the highlight for me and as I’ve mentioned before, I was never Dany’s biggest fan, but Emilia’s acting when Jorah died really changed my perspective. I still have the image imprinted on my mind weeks on.
However, none of this really makes up for the terrible storylines we have had to endure, particularly the little amount of deaths (plot armour). Game of Thrones was always brutal with its killing of big characters—from the beheading of Ned Stark in season 1, to the "Red Wedding" of season 3. In the previous seasons, we never got nice farewells or characters magically surviving: Ned never got to say goodbye to his family, Robb never had his child or managed to avenge his father, Ygritte and Jon never got to go back to the cave, but somehow Samwell Tarly, the underdog, survives a battle against a thousand White Walkers...right... I'll admit, the defeat of the Night King by Arya, the master of death, was somewhat poetic. However, the set up and development of this storyline was truly awful: the story of the White Walkers, which began in season 1, episode 1, was destroyed in one single episode and I can only blame the writers for this.
One moment that did stand out to me this season, however, was the deaths of Jaime and Cersei. The fan backlash was brilliant to witness. Everyone complained about how Cersei died a simple death. There was no visual savagery or gruesomeness, like the death of Joffrey, and I think it was perfect. This is authentic as the show gets. Game of Thrones was never like other shows, it never gave the audience what they wanted and killing a character that we have grown to love (Jaime) and a character we loathe (Cersei) in the same, simple way reminds us that there is no justice: 'when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground'. Maybe the cynic in me liked it. Once again, the music was beautifully moving and, with the Rains of Castemere score, it was tragically beautiful. Thank you Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau for playing two of my favourite characters so wonderfully for the past eight years.
© Game of Thrones, HBO
One of the most touching moments of this season, for me, was the final exchange between Arya and Sandor. As he held her head in his hand, I could not help but think of Ned. It reminded me so poignantly of little Arya trying to find Ned, and when they were finally reunited she looked up at him with fear and despair, but ultimately love. We rarely get moments where we see Arya as that vulnerable little girl again, and it’s been incredible to witness the strong badass character she has become, but getting those little human moments make her powerful moments even more poignant. Arya and Sandor have always had a complicated relationship, but he was best served in the role as her father figure, her protector. This is one storyline that has played out beautifully.
Although the season has been an absolute tragedy—and not in the good old Game of Thrones way— the show stills holds a special place in my heart. We have one more episode of the whole series, and as betrayed as I am over the last few seasons, I wont deny that I will still be up at 2am waiting impatiently for the Dun dun dun-dun-dun… to play.
Goodbye to the characters I grew up with, I hope George RR Martin redeems you and your stories in the remaining books. Goodbye Game of Thrones, and hello The Winds of Winter.
Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor
A few videos to fill that Game of Thrones size hole:
Video 1 -This is the video I mentioned, where the characters are described as shells of their former selves and the pain of falling out of love with Game of Thrones.
- Anything by Anamoly Inc is amazing
Video 7 - It seems the cast is not happy with how season 8 turned out either...