As the biggest show in the history of television, to say Game of Thrones had a lot to live up to in its final season is quite the understatement. The show, by design, features a plethora of characters, each with their own personal journeys, stakes, and tribulations to overcome. Showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff had to carefully orchestrate a worthy conclusion to all of these character arcs in a meaningful way. In some cases, the final season of Game of Thrones delivers the epic, conclusive set pieces and character pay-offs in droves, though often stumbles on its way to the Iron Throne.
Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for the entirety of season 8, including the finale. If you have not watched the whole season, turn back now then return once you have.
Season 8 kicks off with Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen forming an alliance following a surprise attack beyond the wall that left one of Daenerys' dragons in the possession of the Night King, who took it upon himself to resurrect the dragon as one of his own. Additionally, Bran Stark - now the expressionless Three-Eyed Raven - and Samwell Tarly uncovered the truth behind Jon's true heritage as the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, with his real identity revealed as Aegon Targaryen. Tensions also arise between the seven kingdoms in Westeros as the threat of the White Walkers bringing The Long Night draws dangerously near, and the characters have to put aside their differences in order to combat a common enemy.
With a handful of the players off the table, the game is now funneled into the singular goal of overcoming the White Walker army and making sure that the threat doesn't consume all of Westeros. At least, that's what many expected would happen for a majority of the season anyway. In reality, the prophecised Long Night arrives for, quite literally, one single night, as the White Walker army - Westeros' greatest threat - is dealt with in one episode. This wouldn't have been an issue had the battle not been built up for seven seasons, but it's debatable whether or not the cold war was worth the one-night stand. This is a problem that persists through most of season 8's episodes, unfortunately, as we're hastily rushed towards massive twists and turns in the plot without any time for the viewer to digest the events.
It's far more egregious when you look at Daenerys' turn as the Mad Queen in episode 5. While her turning into the tyrannical dictator of Westeros was something that was constantly hinted at and teased in previous seasons, it didn't come as a surprise to me that she would eventually turn to the dark side. Unfortunately, the execution of it all left a sour taste in my mouth. Big, critical moments like these pop up quite frequently in season 8, but since the episode count was dwindled down, it's hard for the show not to feel like it was speeding towards its climax and checking off boxes of what needs to happen to get from Point A to Point B, without any proper downtime in-between.
Everything comes to a head far too quickly, then almost disappears the following episode in favour of setting up the next big set piece or major story beat.
Miguel Sapochnik deserves all the praise for directing these juggernaut episodes with as firm of a creative fist as the messy script allowed him to have.
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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14 April 2019
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