While I was watching all the seasons, I made an effort to watch the making of most of these episodes. I especially appreciated the “Inside the Episode” sections tacked onto the end of each installment during each season. I wonder if this was a detriment to my viewing experience. I saw how the sausage was made and therefore, could only see the production side of the story, not only the narrative. Perhaps by the time I reached season eight, I saw how expansive it had to have been for the production to film six episodes over nine months and at different locations at night.
At this point, I just wanted to complete the series. And that I did. This season, while shorter (and longer due to four ninety-minute episodes), tried as best as it could to provide the viewers with closure. The Long Night. Cersei’s Downfall. Daenerys versus Jon Snow. Those were the three main stories the viewers wanted and they received them. Were they satisfied? No. Was I satisfied? Hard to say. I hadn’t watched the show from the beginning, but I did love the first six seasons. I think if I could choose, I would throw this season away, even though there were some pretty epic moments this season.
Let’s dig in. I had seen the first episode of season eight out of order (the first Game of Thrones episode ever) and was confused. Seeing it with all the necessary knowledge led me to understand that this was another episode of reunions and throwbacks. That beautiful, loving hug Arya and Jon share when they see each other under the red tree. Bran seeing Jaime Lannister after having last seen him at the beginning of the series. The opening sequence of Daenerys and Jon Snow arriving with the Dothraki horde and Unsullied mirror the very first time we meet the Lannisters and Robert Baratheon, with his men. It’s another strong opener.
When I first watched this episode with hardcore fans, they said it was a boring episode because nothing happened. But that’s the case with this show. Many of the moments that are the most thrilling are banter between the villains we love to hate and the good guys we root for. It’s mostly dialogue. Yes, there is action – the wall coming down, people being executed, and sex (of course), but the manipulation is about 75% of the “action” on this show anyway.
However, this season, due to the nature of its conclusion, followed a pattern, which made sense. Big Action! Aftermath. Big Action! Aftermath. It’s what this series has been doing since the first season when Ned Stark was decapitated during episode nine.
“The Long Night,” the third episode of the series – the one in which Arya Stark bests the Night King – is by far the darkest episode I’d seen in the entirety of the show’s history. I had all the lights off in my home and yet, I could barely see any of the action – all the wights fighting the Dothraki and storming the castle. Was that on purpose? I mean, how could we follow if we couldn’t see anything? As much as I am a huge Arya Stark fan, his anticlimactic death made it hard to keep caring about the rest of this show. I mean, I had a few desires for some of the characters on the show, but after this episode, my energy and joy of this show waned. Maybe that’s why people noticed that there was a Starbucks cup during the aftermath episode of “The Long Night” because everyone was watching to finish watching a show that they’d given so much time and energy.
By the time Daenerys destroys King’s Landing with fire (after Cersei’s men had surrendered), I found the Mother of Dragons as petty. Also, maybe with more story (more episodes), she might have been more reasonable? I think that’s the optimist in me that wanted to support Daenerys’ wrath against Cersei still. I mean, Cersei is the worst, right? But I was still feeling her wardrobe this season! The only thing I cared about when she was on the screen quite honestly.
By the time we reach the end and Jon Snow professes his love for Daenerys albeit she is his aunt and then he’s banished to the Wall (where there’s no longer anything to protect), it was at this point, I took to my phone. That’s what I do when the show on the screen isn’t capturing my attention because the story is lacking and I feel there’s a missed opportunity to have done something more with the material they had. I can see how folks were so unhappy with the season that they created an online petition to redo the season. While that’s not a good use of anyone’s time considering all the shit happening with kids in cages at the border and these abortion laws, I see their concerns.
I think the show got too big and they ran out of the story. The showrunners wrote a season based on a flimsy outline George R. R. Martin provided based on what he will write when he finally completes the rest of this series. It’s not their fault. They could only do so much to stretch out the little story.
While I’m glad I watched this show, I can relate to how culture writer for the New York Times, Wesley Morris, felt while devouring the show in five weeks: “…I have no claim on this show. I don’t feel like it’s mine.” I don’t feel like I can claim this show coming so late in the game. Like in the Bay, they call new and sometimes fans of the basketball team, the Warriors, bandwagoners. If you don’t go hard, who are you anyway?
I watched Game of Thrones for the culture of it. To see what the hype was about. To see what the show was saying about culture. What’d I learn? The hype was warranted. It’s a dope show. I bet the books are more involved and better. And we get more stories for all the characters.
You know, after watching, I think the “might” read the books has changed into a “will” and will be placed on my TBR pile.