Game of Thrones: Series 8 Review
There is an overall sense of satisfaction with Game of Thrones' finale – yes, that satisfaction may crack under close examination, but the emotional arcs land
Few shows take such divisive route to their conclusion – especially not one with an endgame built in from its very first moments. The finale Game of Thrones delivered is firmly serviceable. There were flashes of brilliance – of long-awaited payoffs, prophecies fulfilled and what could have been had the preceding two-and-a-half episodes not squandered years of character development and deliberate plotting. Some questions remain annoyingly unanswered and a few characters have been given baffling endings that contradict earlier statements and reveals. However, ‘The Iron Throne’ feels the truest to each plot point and personal motivation since this series’ second episode. There is an overall sense of satisfaction with this finale – yes, that satisfaction may crack under close examination but the emotional arcs land. For the first time since Robert Baratheon was crowned, all feels well in Westeros.
On a more cynical note, it does not matter how good, bad, or crowd-pleasing the final episode – indeed this final season – has been; the game was won in its earlier seasons when Game of Thrones built an audience of millions who were drawn in by George RR Martin’s plot twists and multifaceted figures. Granted, the showrunners had to prune Martin’s sprawling garden of interlocking characters, plots, and complicated motivations down to an end, and no route they would have chosen would have pleased everyone.
However, many choices felt confusingly arbitrary and wiped characters clean of seven series of development. Jaime Lannister, one of the show’s most complex and well-drawn antiheroes, is a particularly egregious example: after fighting for the living, he is reduced back to a selfish scoundrel in his final appearances. Additionally, Mad Queen Daenerys may have been seeded in earlier seasons but without the conviction required for the penultimate episode’s descent into hellfire. Much of the collective passion surrounding Game of Thrones has been for these fascinatingly imperfect people; reducing many of them to shadows of their past instead of ploughing forward into the rich, relatable groundwork that had been so lovingly laid.
Game of Thrones is far from the only runaway success / cult classic television programme to go downhill in quality as it went on (Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twin Peaks – before The Return – come to mind). It may, however, be remarkable in the sense that there was an end goal in sight from the very start and they still managed to spin out in incoherent, poorly-explained directions that scrambled back to a neat ending at the eleventh hour. This dip in quality can almost be forgiven in shows extended past their Best By date; Game of Thrones, however, feels sloppy.
While it's far too early to tell if Game of Thrones will hold up in television history, it has provided some beautifully shot battles, Twitter-melting plot twists, and beloved characters that have become pop culture mainstays. Its concluding season may not live up to its promise, but it finds a sense of peace for its survivors. If Martin ever finishes The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, it will be fascinating to see how the Seven Kingdoms fare in comparison. Until then, our watch has ended.
Game of Thrones: Series 8 is available on Now TV; the final episode is broadcast 20 May, Sky Atlantic, 9pm