Five Reasons the Game Of Thrones Finale Flopped
Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Well, it's been five days, and the dust (and ash, and flakes of charred skin) is settling after the Game Of Thrones series finale. Some people thought it was a fitting end to one of the most successful TV shows of all time... but many were left with a sour taste by the conclusion, feeling underwhelmed by the way in which it paid off the myriad stories and characters we have all been following (and loving, and loathing, and discussing, and lusting after) since 2011.
Over a million people have signed a petition to have the show's final season remade, and many millions more have taken to the internet to vent their frustrations. There is no doubt that, over its eight seasons, Game Of Thrones was a fantastic roller coaster ride, one of the most thrilling spectacles ever brought to the small screen, and no-one would question the commitment and effort of the writers, actors and other people involved in bringing it to life. But the vitriolic fan backlash suggests that, somehow, the final episode managed to seriously miss the mark.
But where, exactly, did it go wrong? I've tried to pinpoint the root causes and questionable decisions that contributed to the show's anti-climactic finale. Warning: major spoilers are lurking ahead...
Issue 1: The series wasn't long enough
I'm trying to focus on the final episode in this article, rather than season 8 as a whole, but I feel the root cause of the finale's feeling of chronic 'rushedness' was the fact that so much had to be crammed into just six episodes throughout the season... and why? Why couldn't the series just have stuck to its original ten-episode formula? This would have enabled so many stories to be more fully explored, motivations to be properly established, and some of the character's endings to perhaps even be delivered in earlier episodes - meaning that huge developments and decisions didn't need to be skated over so quickly in the finale.
The six episode limit was a self-imposed constraint that I just don't understand.
Issue 2: Bran didn't deserve the throne
Bran the Broken, who travelled beyond the wall despite not having the use of his legs, where he outwitted the Night King to become the Three-Eyed Raven... and then spent two seasons doing absolutely nowt. Fan-favourite Hodor heroically died protecting him so he could reveal a great truth to Jon Snow... a truth that Sam had already unearthed separately. But perhaps Bran could still be useful in the final confrontations with the Night King, or with villainous queen Cersei, using his somewhat ill-defined fortune-telling powers to predict the outcome of these conflicts, or to suggest strategic insights to the generals of the armies of the good?
Or maybe he would just sit around looking smug and contributing nothing while his friends were hacked to bits around him.
Despite all this, Tyrion implausibly decided that Bran was the best candidate to unite a shattered kingdom... and even more laughably, everyone agreed! (Except his own sister Sansa, who SURELY would have been a more deserving nomination.)
Issue 3: Not enough twists
One of the most appealing aspects of Game Of Thrones was its ruthless insistence that no-one was sacred. Yes, we grew to consider Daenerys, Jon and Tyrion as 'the untouchables', but that was only after a swathe of other seemingly invincible stars had been brutally slain (Rob, Joffrey, even good old Ned... remember him? All of them at one point seemed destined to make it to the show's finale, only to meet shocking and unexpected ends that had our jaws scraping the floor).
And yet the final episode, aside from Jon's predictable murder of Daenerys, was bereft of any such shocks. A focus on two huge and contrasting battles earlier in the season had killed off many of the show's remaining big players, but there were still enough major leaguers left for some unexpected betrayals, for one final big surprise... but as the minutes ticked by, I realised that this simply wasn't going to come.
I also feel that the absence of the Night King from the show's final throes was a massive misstep. After seven seasons of build-up, this terrifying character was dispatched far too easily in episode 3, leaving fans of the white walkers asking 'what was the point of all that?' An alternate narrative might have led to a four-way conflict between the armies of King's Landing, Winterfell, the Targaryen invaders, and the undead horde... but this was sacrificed in favour of a much more linear (and dull) denouement.
Issue 4: Limp endings for many key characters
Bronn... Arya... Jon Snow himself... all of these were characters we have followed since the very first series, awaiting with a mixture of trepidation and excitement the moment where they would meet their grisly demise.
Instead, they all just sort of... fizzled out. Arya inexplicably lost her thirst for revenge. Bronn laughably became the city's Master of Coin. Jon Snow... retired to go and hang out with Tormund?
Daenerys' death was moving, but the manner in which her fearful dragon just accepted it, disappearing into the mist with only a melted chair as testament to its vengeful wrath, felt hard to swallow. Surely Jon burning to a crisp beneath the hellfire of its breath would have made for a more fitting end? He could have staggered backwards, collapsing onto the throne, the audience gasping as his flesh and bones were liquefied along with the infamous seat of power.
Perhaps Grey Worm's response to his beloved queen's execution was the most head-scratching of all.
'I demand justice!! The blood of my khaleesi's murderer must soak the cobbles of this accursed city!!!'
'Or... how about we let Tyrion off scot-free, and Jon Snow is spared and exiled instead?'
'Yeah, that'll do. Now I'll just take my unstoppable army and quietly leave.'
Issue 5: Coffee-gate
Okay, so I'm kidding here. But it's perhaps the show's most scathing indictment that the biggest talking point of the entire final season was THAT misplaced latte...
What do you think? Have I got this right, or did you have other gripes I've failed to touch on? Or perhaps you thought the finale was perfect, and we should all stop moaning? I'd love to hear your thoughts, either in the comments or on Twitter @RichterWrites.
Until next time, at least we can be thankful that winter isn't coming... for a while!