Game of Thrones, eh? Season eight. What a piss-storm, you might say. Two years and almost half the episodes of a regular ol’ normal season back when it was about whispers and back rooms, not the “Dracarys” drinking game – two pissing years and all this rushing, teleportation, character arcs spun to circles, beats that are too predictable and then too rug-pully, so much that you see the fabric fray because the showrunners are, after all, the people who wrote Wolverine Origins, and they’ve been adrift for a couple more years than the two they took to make everything perfect and have, you might add, failed to do so.
Game of Thrones. The sensation. Burned to ruin, left for dire wolves to gnaw in the annals of the internet, eyeing each other feverishly over the bones. You might say.
I don’t actually share the full “My God, what an abortion” perspective. I do not want to throw Benioff and Weiss out into the cold like one of Craster’s babies. Season eight is . . . alright. At the top end, it’s good, never amazing. At the bottom it is, indeed, a betrayal to logic and emotional consistency. Well before Daenerys’ flip to the dark side, a lot of fans called bullshit. The wight plot was absurd. Tyrion’s failings were even more incongruous; his brain seemed to have vanished with his Westserosi passport in season five. Now we’ve had a piling excess of dumb – dumb Varys, dumb cavalry charges, a dumb-diddly-dumbass Lannister reunion in the Red Keep that has snuffed out the show’s best character development.
And yet, plenty of coolness. The cinematography. The acting. Arya’s pug face of death. If the writing has been much less than it could’ve been, the production talent has never been more singular.
Once this article is published, the finale will almost be here, and Game of Thrones will move further to the scale of ‘disaster’ or ‘oh yeah, right, yeah’ in our cultural consciousness.
So how do you feel about the ending? The ending to such an engrossing, massive televisual schematic which, for a while at least, deserved every bit of attention it received? An end that, I suspect, will be just as messy, odd, fast-paced and half-satisfying as what’s preceded it for 12 episodes?
On the completion of his Dark Tower books, Stephen King gave a warning: “Should you go on, you will surely be disappointed, perhaps even heartbroken. I have one key left on my belt, but all it opens is that final door, the one marked. What’s behind it won’t improve your love life, grow hair on your bald spot, or add five years to natural span (not even five minutes). There is so no such thing as a happy ending. I never met a single ending to equal ‘Once upon a time.’”
We suppose, perhaps crave, a conclusion that deepens whatever came before it. The last rattling cough of a narrative can speak to everything else, the preamble, the getting-to-know-you stage of fiction and the humps of associated challenges, but it’s only been done several times well. TV is built for longevity. Novels and films and short stories work either due to their completeness, or their emboldening to leave things as they are.
We don’t afford television the same luxury. Not thinking on the journey to get there, lumped with myriad production issues and nervous writing and making sure actors are there for the duration and endless, endless speculation on how it will all end from the get go – that is the nature of the medium. Endings are so hard to land because they are so far from the glint of the new, of the conversation that can, in good circumstance, lift a story to an exalted place in our culture where so much time and talk is invested that closure is craved, not cherished.
Few deliver. The Wire bowed to Greek tragedy and suggested cyclical patterns we can never undo. The Sopranos left us with the squeal of a door hinge for a question mark. Breaking Bad brought Walter White to his knees, yet asked us to forgive him marginally in the guise of an M60. Lost, Heroes and Dexter fucked up spectacularly. Deadwood never got to end at all. The only satisfying-on-all-cylinders finale I can think of is Six Feet Under, and that involved the conceit of death as the primary story, so finality was as inevitable as a shrivelled flower in a vase.
Game of Thrones is assuredly plagued by bad decisions this season. But it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying what came before it, and what is left. The glory years are gone; hype has blown what is left out of proportion. Still, wack in seasons one to four and have a blast. It doesn’t matter. Imagine the tale as an organic beast, one that didn’t know an end was here and leaned into potential, the moist earth of a meal it couldn’t see.
By the way, I’ll be covering the last episode soon so do check back. Valar Reviewis.