Game of Thrones is over…
Now we’ll wait for the next global phenomenon to hit our screens. I think the last TV show I was this invested in was Lost back in 2010. Does anyone else remember Lost, a plane crashed on a tropical island that contained polar bears and a mysterious hatch in the ground? Like Lost, Game of Thrones has had it’s ups and downs and although I adore the show I’m still going to give it a fair review. This review will focus on the TV show but it will also contain elements of The Song of Ice and Fire book series of which the TV show is based.
Spoiler alert for The Game of Thrones TV show and The Song of Ice and Fire book series.
Like many others, I was first introduced to the show when series one, episode one, Winter is Coming was broadcast back in 2011. When we reached Jon’s stabbing at the end of series five, I decided that the year long gap before the next season was the perfect time to read the books. I received them for Christmas, read through them and was surprised to find how different they were to the TV show. They followed the same basic story (King Robert Baratheon dies starting the war of the five kings) and the same events (Jon being sent to The Wall and Daenerys hatching three dragon eggs) but there were extra characters with complex backstories, extra subplots that were expectedly woven throughout the narrative and even more family trees to digest.
During the summer of 2015 my Mother invited two of her Canadian friends to visit London and I was moved into the spare room to accommodate them. While I was camping in the spare room I discovered the Game of Thrones community on YouTube. These keen minds would analyse the chapters from the books, the episodes of the TV show, discuss complex theories and explain the complicated backstories of each house. They made the experience so enjoyable that I re-read the books and re-watched the TV show once more to see what I had missed.
The best element of the show, most notably in the early seasons, was the quality of the writing. The way the various plots were intertwined with each other was masterful. The credit for this should mostly go to George R.R. Martin because until the end of season five, the TV show was based of his books (although some changes had to be made, more on those in a minute). Martin is a well established story teller and had spent years crafting this epic in his mind. He only wrote four episodes for the show, (The Pointy End, Blackwater, Bear and the Maiden Fair and Lion and the Rose) so credit should also go to the two show runners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff for adapting a vast majority of the book series. What really impressed me was the sense of time and distance in the show. For example the character Janos Slynt was dismissed from King’s Landing by Tyrion Lannister in season two and reappeared at The Wall in series four claiming that it took him a season to make the trip from one end of Westeros to the other. I love little details like this as it adds a sense of realism to the show.
The second biggest attraction for many Game of Thrones fans, are the fight sequences or the battles. The show doesn’t glorify violence like many other historical films or TV shows but presents it in a realistic way. Some viewers have complained that the show is too violent and while most of these complaints are unfounded, because surprise surprise battles are violent, there are some scenes that go too far which I’ll touch on later. Characters such as Bran Stark, Jaime Lannister and Theon Greyjoy sustain life altering injuries that they maintain throughout the rest of their time on the show. In many other historical films the would be killed off or recover within twenty minutes. There are too many memorable battle scenes to choose from but if I had to pick three they would be Dany in the Pit, Hard Home and of course The Battle of the Bastards.
I also love the fact that show is bold enough to kill of their main characters. This is very refreshing when compared to the countless fake outs in other programs, particularly in the Superhero genres. When I first watched the show I wasn’t aware of the story and I was certain that Arya or maybe Syrio Forel would leap onto the stage, perform some Robin Hood type rescue and escape with Ned Stark. Instead, Ned was dead. I had heard of the phrase “red wedding” before I watched the episode but I didn’t know what it meant. As I witnessed the massacre, my mouth hung open, I was literally speechless. I love it when TV makes me feel like that. Even though there are resurrections in the show, such as the White Walkers creating Wrights and Melisandre bringing back Jon, each return is treated respectfully, sparingly and doesn’t hamper the main plot.
The Song of Ice and Fire book series is over one million words long and there are over two thousand characters (I think the exact number is two thousand, one hundred and fifty four but I could be wrong. Also I believe there are twenty two characters called Jon) so it is understandable that not every character could appear on screen. However it is a shame that some characters, such as Lady Stoneheart, Patchface and Victarion Greyjoy did not appear. Likewise it is a shame that some characters don’t appear as they do in the books. During the Battle of the BlackWater for example, in the books Tyrion Lannister gets his nose cut off. In the TV show he obtains a a cool scar instead. Cersei makes a meta joke about this in the scene below but it is clear why this change was made. It would cost the make-up department thousands of pounds to cover Peter Dinklage’s nose at the start of each day’s filming.
Another example is Brienne who has half her face bitten off by a character aptly known as Biter. In the TV show, this encounter didn’t happen. Many fans, particularly in the final seasons, were upset that Ghost, the dire wolf, wasn’t given more screen time or even given a proper goodbye by Jon when he marched to King’s Landing. The reason for this is that the dire wolf’s fur is difficult and expensive to animate so as the series continued the wolves became less and less frequent (on the bright side, at least Ghost survived!)
By far the biggest criticism aimed at Game of Thrones is the sexplanations and the rapes of several female characters. Sexplanation is the term used when lots of information is dumped onto the viewer while characters are either naked or having sex to keep the viewer interested. Most of these scenes happen in Little Finger’s brothel but as the series developed these aspects were dropped.
It is strange to consider that the show runners decided to include their infamous rape scenes as the programme has also been praised for it’s portrayal of female characters in a male dominated world. It could be argued that the strong woman of the series were a big pull for audiences particularly with the emergence of the MeToo movement. At multiple times the show has used rape to advance the plot, such examples include Jamie’s rape of Cersei over their son’s corpse (Jesus, this is a fucked up show) and Khal Drogo rape of Dany in season one. Sansa, in particular, became a victim of these scenes. For context, Little Finger had kissed Sansa without her consent and then sold her onto Ramsey Bolton who he know would abuse her. On their wedding night Ramsey rapes Sansa while forcing Theon, her half brother, to watch. There was no need to this scene to take place as it adds nothing to the plot. The audience at this point already knew who Ramsey was and how subservient Theon had become to him. Sansa was finally developing a backbone and learning how to play the Game of Thrones, only for this scene to remove that element of her character.
As a result of having such a wide cast, some characters’s development is stunted or fails to materialise at all. Once again, Sansa falls victim to this. She doesn’t do anything of her own will that add to the plot until the end of series five when she lies to protect Little Finger. As I said above, this development was retconned when she was abused by Ramsey. I will admit that once she became the Lady of Winterfell, even though her power was diluted by Jon and Dany, Sansa is finally able to hold her own. Rickon Stark was constantly in the shadow of his siblings (he’s the youngest Stark boy and was killed by Ramsey after being absent from the show for two series. Don’t worry if you don’t remember him, nobody does) and never really outgrew his childish behaviour.
Perhaps the biggest downfall of the series is yet to come. Now the TV show has been completed, The Song of Ice and Fire book series may never be finished. George R.R. Martin is a terrific writer but he is… slow. He promised us the next book in the series, The Winds of Winter, back in 2014 but this has yet to be released. Martin claims that he rarely writes more than eight hundred words a day and that the following day he edits half that amount. He writes on an old DOS computer which isn’t connected to the internet and many people fear he will pass away before he finishes writing the series, leaving the story unresolved. Martin is 70 years old and morbidly obese so these fears aren’t unfounded. Martin has counted these fears by saying he can write whatever he chooses to and during the time between A Dance with Dragons and the end of the TV show he has written Dunk and Egg and Fire and Blood: History of the Targaryen Kings. Martin does have a point, he is not chained to The Song of Ice and Fire Book Series and as an author if he chooses to write something else, we as readers, should respect that.
Going back to the TV show, I think the biggest disappointment was the quality of writing in the final two series. No longer guided by Martin’s source material, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff were left to write their own scripts. I think the first time the writing nosedived was when Jon and friends decided that to convince Cersei to have a ceasefire they should bring her a zombie to prove the threat of the Nightking is real. On the surface this plan sounds fine until you realise that Cersei already has a zombie, The Mountain, and there is no guarantee that the captured zombie would survive the journey south. This decision lead to the episode Beyond The Wall where Jon and twelve others had a Wile E. Coyote adventure in the wilderness, forcing Dany to break the previously well established laws of times and distance to save them.
Other questionable moments include the Battle of Winterfell (which looked cool but lacked any real substance) and the disastrous Battle of King’s Landing. Although the show writers had been told by Martin how the book series would end, they decided to go a different route with their TV show. This isn’t bad in itself but without Martin’s source material to guide them they became hopelessly entangled with the show’s previous continuity.
But I think the worst thing… was the fan backlash.
Before the final episode had even aired a petition was being circulated online demanding that the cast and crew reunite to re-film the final series. I will happily admit, I was disappointed with some aspects of the final series and I would change them if I could.
- I think that the climatic battle should have been against the NightKing and his army of the Dead rather than Cersei.
- I think Jamie should have killed Cersei to redeem his character rather than trying to protect her.
- I think that Cleganebowl (the fight between The Hound and the Mountain) could have been improved if Sandor has used Beric Dondarrion’s flaming sword.
But overall I was satisfied with the final episodes I was happy with where each character concluded their story. It made sense for Dany to turn evil, it was foreshadowed as early as season one and I love a dark twist!
But even if I wasn’t happy with these outcomes, if I was completed devastated with the ending I wouldn’t DEMAND anything. I think, perhaps, that this outrage comes from incorporated aspects of the book series (such as Maggi the Frog’s prophesy that Cersei would be strangled by the hands of the “Younger Brother” or that Azor Ahai, a legendary chosen one, was a reincarnated Jon or Dani) that people expected to be answered in the TV show. The fan’s behaviour reminds me of Joffrey, whining and shrieking around the Red Keep and I think it says a lot about the society and the culture we live in.
I’ll award the TV show nine red dragon eggs out of ten.
For better of worse I think we shall all remember Game of Thrones.
And now… our watch has ended.
Thank you for joining me.
If you are an avid Game of Thrones fan and want to know more about Westeros I recommend that you check out Alt Shift X’s YouTube Channel. He talks through each episode and goes into theories such as Tyrion being a secret Targaryen or Vayrs being a mermaid. You can find Alt Shift X’s channel by clicking anywhere in this sentence.
What did you think of the finale of Game of Thrones? Did you love it, hate it or were simply okay with it? Let me know what you think down below or on social media and I’ll see you next time.