It’s been over a week since we all saw the final episode of the TV series of the decade, and we had time enough to calmly discuss how we feel about it. We’re not too impressed by the last season, but mostly happy with how the story ended. What resulted from that is a short, story-focused two-shot.
Piotrek: Season 8 has some fans, but it’s been widely criticized, not only on the social media and genre pages, but also in such venerable papers as The Guardian and Polityka. There’s a petition on change.org, with 1.5 million supporters, to remake the entire season! And even if I’m not ready to go that far, I’m not happy with these 6 episodes. The Benioff/Weiss duo stumbled when they had no more source material to refer to, and now they simply failed. Good things were inherited from earlier years, or clearly part of the general outline they got years ago from GRRM, but how did they go to the endpoint? With a story clearly rushed, full of plot-holes and characters going against their nature.
Wimpy Jon, foolish Tyrion, passive Cersei… Dany suddenly losing her mind just because that’s what was needed for the final confrontation. GoT stopped developing organically, around its many strong protagonists, and started running a short hurdle race, to quickly tick off all the major plot points.
Ola: Agreed. Benioff and Weiss knew their destination, but not the road to it. They chose too many shortcuts along the way, and even though I can relate to the problems of such a big and lengthy production, spanning a decade, and I understand why the mechanisms of group thinking might have entered into this situation, so bound up in secrecy and the necessity to keep the story development to a very limited team of people, I still think it all had a detrimental effect which could have been easily avoided.
Piotrek: What I found immensely satisfying though, are production values and actors’ skill. The faults I see in writing mostly, and even if I judge Jon Snow as a wimp for most of the season, it’s not due to any lack of Kit Harrington, but rather because writers did not give him enough time to show his character’s dilemmas and feelings in a convincing way. Dany had a few wonderful scenes, but changed in an unbelievable way – Benioff and Weiss took too many shortcuts, trying to tie everything up in a season that should actually be the longest of them all, to sell us all the events they tried to pack into it.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had 10 episodes, with a mid-season culmination during the Battle of Winterfell, and then the final match of chess between Cersei and Dany, slowly losing control over darker parts of her nature?
Ola: Heh, sure it would 😉 I think even 8 would have been better. Everything needs to end one day, and I don’t think this series would profit from additional seasons, but 6 episodes was not enough to tie all the plot lines in a satisfying, conclusive way. The characters changed according to the dictate of the looming end, instead of evolving more organically in response to the situation around them. It was especially visible in the two main protagonists, Jon and Dany, and in Jamie, whose sudden change of heart really did not make much psychological sense. And of course we could go with the obsession theme, but it was curiously absent for the last few seasons 😉 Tyrion just seemed baffled for the majority of the season, as if he wasn’t sure what he’s doing there. I could really relate to him.
Piotrek: Now, maybe lets start with a quick look at episodes 1-5, and then take a moment longer to discuss how it all ended and how do we feel about it.
I was very happy with the first episodes. Slow start, a build-up to the battle of Winterfell, with all the heart-warming scenes from the night before… that was well done and largely true to the characters of our heroes. The battle itself, though…
Ola: Oh, the battle. The worst tactics ever. It sure looked good, the whole episode was an eye-candy, but it was totally illogical. By that time and after all the battles these GoT characters had fought over seven seasons of blood and gore it really didn’t make any sense to have them squander their strengths in such a stupid display of showiness. Well, that, or maybe they just wanted to get rid of Dothraki before winter came – you know, not enough food and shelter for everyone… But joking aside, however flashy Arya’s killing of the Night King was, it seemed very anti-climatic to see the biggest baddie of the whole show pricked once and turned into water together with his whole army. That’s it? Seriously? In that light, Theon’s death was just a waste – especially considering the miraculous survival of all the rest of the characters (excluding the Mormonts’ deaths, both of which were rather nicely done).
Piotrek: Yes, having dragons hover over the battlefield is no excuse for lack of realism, you just need to adjust the realism to include the supernatural factors 🙂
I don’t want to go into details too much, but I really liked Euron’s sea ambush. Something unexpected that made sense and change the situation on the chessboard, when we thought nothing stands before Dany and the ultimate victory. It was such a contrast to the sack of King’s Landing, when multiple batteries of scorpions failed to land a single arrow into Drogon. Heh… one of the most interesting aspects of Song of Ice and Fire was its medieval, low-magic world where we’ve seen, on the one hand, increase in supernatural, and, on the other, technological advance that situated it on the verge of early modernity. Long-term plans of the maesters were really exciting!
Ola: Well, I wasn’t so enamoured of Euron’s sea ambush, or rather of the amazing technological feat of crossbows mounted on ships which could simply disintegrate other ships at such distance. While I can suspend disbelief long enough to accept the possibility of killing a surprised dragon at first salvo, the destruction of a whole fleet in just few minutes is simply lazy writing. Not to mention the jumps back and forth through Westeros – journeys that lasted whole seasons now are made within half an episode.
Piotrek: For the final episode I have a few accolades. Daenerys’ final speech atop the stairs in King’s Landing was not properly prepared by preceding episodes, but was powerful and, together with what she said later to Jon, an end to her story I awaited for years. It draws obvious, historical and cultural comparisons…
Her death was… we can discuss, if the exact method would be real Jon’s chosen one, but I found it fitting. What followed… again we should have gotten more than the two weeks later shortcut.
Ola: Daenerys’ demise was satisfying. More poignant than I expected, a fitting and a bit ironic end within arm’s reach of that bloody chair she never got to sit in.
As for Jon’s imprisonment, see, that’s the confusing part. How long exactly do you travel, with an army, from Winterfell to King’s Landing? And what happened to seven years of winter? And how would such a big army survive in the ruins of a burned city? It just makes no sense, and the lack of internal logic prevented me from being invested in the final fates of the characters. I found Tyrion’s speech incongruent, more like carefully designed pandering to the series’ audience than something a medieval lord, no matter how intelligent and modern, would come up with. Seriously? Are we in fake news epoch even in Westeros?
Piotrek: The council of the surviving aristocracy of Westeros was too rich in jokes, not enough in serious discussion, and certainly should have included Jon. By that time his heritage had to be universally known, and he should have be listened to, given a chance to reject the crown. But the end result would have been the same, if perhaps a bit more satisfying.
Ola: Jon’s absence from the council of lords was all the more irritating for its lack of logic. I agree, by then everyone knew who he was and what it meant for the kingdom. This whole mess could have been easily avoided by adding one short scene – Jon’s official reveal as a rightful king and his subsequent, willing abdication.
Piotrek: Is Bran/Raven a good choice for the ruler? That depends. I need more context and I did not get it. He could possibly be a very good choice, and oversee the long period of re-building and technological advance in Westeros that is likely to follow the event of Song of Ice and Fire. There could be a potential for interesting follow-up series, a slightly steampunkish one happening 50-60 years in the future at the end of his reign… possibly more interesting than the prequels we’ll actually get.
Ola: I remain unconvinced by Bran’s storyline. I mean, we’re talking about the guy who said he has no emotions left and no links to humanity as he lives almost exclusively in the past. Is this really what you’d expect from a ruler of a country ravaged by several recent wars? A maester, sure. A king? Oooh, risky. A bit of mediaeval Big Brother, all things considered 😛
Piotrek:Yeah. GRRM will have to work really hard to justify that. TV show’s creators did not.
I love the maesters’ subplot and the idea that Westeros is a proto-renaissance world, long kept still by magic that now, largely defeated, could give way to progress… we have political changes towards more broadly distributed power, possibly an end of hereditary monarchy, birth of science, nobility largely slaughtered on the battlefields unable to keep such tight control over the lower classes as they used to. Interesting times ahead!
Ola: Yeah… problem is, I’m no longer interested 😉
Piotrek: Apart from the new king, the rest of the surviving protagonists met with largely satisfying and logical fates. Sansa makes a great Queen in the North, one character that grew on me the most. Arya does not become a lady, but goes on a less bloody adventure. The new council largely makes sense, although I could never understand the appeal of Bronn, and don’t know how or why he would get there.Unsullied found a mission that made them leave Westeros. Altogether – a bit more of a happy end that I expected, but with so many tragedies along the way – a deserved one, perhaps?
Ola: Bronn was a joke that just lived far too long. Arya’s fate elicited a snort from me. I don’t see redemption for her, a trained and willing killer, even as a discoverer of New World – though in our world there was definitely enough killing there to sate even her. I enjoyed Sam’s and Brienne’s endings, though. And, quite surprisingly, Sansa’s. She’s unexpectedly grown on me 😉
Piotrek: What makes me hopeful? Most of the weaknesses of Season 8 were avoidable, and could easily be fixed by a decent writer. Say, GRRM, when he finally gets to finish the novels?
Ola: Well, Pollyanna, keep dreaming! 😀 This time, though, I might dream with you 😉