This is a spoiler-free review.
“To the perils of self-betterment.”
“Game of Thrones” has a near monolithic status as the most popular and successful tv show of the last decade. As such, a lot was riding on its final season.
Hardcore fans and casual viewers alike developed numerous expectations for how the hottest show on the silver screen would end. In the show’s signature fashion, very few of those expectations were met.
For example, viewers who expected the coherent character motivations, competent visual storytelling or good screenwriting typically associated with the show were sorely disappointed.
Much went wrong with “Game of Thrones” eighth season, but the most aggravating problem was a sharp decline in quality writing.
The show has always been character-driven, with the plot forming out of the characters’ actions instead of the other way around.
Season 8’s writing flips this on its head, and as such loses much of what made Thrones special.
In exchange for clever dialogue fleshing out motivations and building tension to a natural climax, every character is spontaneously reduced to sock-puppet versions of themselves and rushed into whatever location or emotional state the writer’s checklist demands.
Every so-called “character moment” reeks of rushed storytelling. The ending was clearly written first with everything else shifting to fit it—the exact opposite of how a good story should be written.
This is all before the blatant disregard for seasonal character arcs and thematic build-up.
In character-driven media, the audience finds most of their engagement in their favorite character’s arc. This means that when an arc reaches its head, so too does the audience’s engagement.
Ignoring fan theories, the last seven seasons still established clear stakes for any series-ending conflict through the characters’ constantly evolving personal narratives. But since the show runners decided to write the story in reverse this season, every arc is interrupted, ignored or, at worst, reversed entirely. The script forgets everyone’s established personality traits, making “out-of-character” the new “in-character.”
As a result, the show’s most engaging feature—dynamic character arcs—climax in a way that ensures no ones’ favorite character receives a proper send off, which effectively trashes any audience engagement.
To be fair, the plot-points so eagerly rushed toward were hotly anticipated for nearly a decade.
But even the most heavily foreshadowed moments of the show, moments fans anticipated for over seven years, were given absolutely no time to shine. Winter came for all of an hour in a half, treated with the same love and affection as season 5’s infamous Dorne-arc.
To add a final, cold insult to injury, a show which once featured a quotable line nearly every episode now only produced one good quote in over seven hours of content.
A cast of fantastic and charismatic actors and actresses did everything they possibly could to save the script from itself, as did a terrific vfx team, but you can’t polish mud. It’s a good thing these talented people branched into other franchises when they did.
With the program’s fame for stunning twists and brutal deaths, perhaps the most surprising event was when writers murdering the show itself.