Game of Thrones is over, long live Game of Thrones!
The show may not be “the best tv series ever made” (at the moment, if you are curious, it’s number 6), but certainly has been one of the most watched. The last episode was followed by some 50 million people, not counting pirates (who were probably way more).
But arguably, it’s been the most talked about: it seemed as if every news outlet and blog elbowed to join the debate dissecting every single plot twist and character development, week after week, creating a level of expectation that frankly was impossible to satisfy.
Netflix series are released all-in-one and therefore are great for binge watching; while the HBO flagship kept the classic weekly release, which left enough time after each episode for fans and critics to analyze and debate absolutely everything.
My two cents about all the discussion?
YES there was a big change in the way the story was told, happened approximately around Season 5. The best analysis I could find about what happened is here, so I won’t repeat it now (TL; DR: big story vs personal stories). It’s not about “quality” – production value has been incredibly high right until the very end – and the show didn’t become “shit” all of a sudden (please don’t say that, or you have never seen shit. We have a newborn baby at home and I know what I am talking about). The storytelling focus has changed, at some point, and that caused confusion.
AND — I think things have gone too far. This was a TV show, folks!
It was always meant for entertainment. The moment we started to charge it with expectations of political-social-environmental-whatnot commentary, each of us adding our individual spin, it became heavier and heavier, and eventually stopped being “fun”. How can you make 50 million people happy?
Rant mode: ON. Have you considered that – maybe, just maybe – the showrunners got tired of their own creature also because of US? Each episode was analyzed under a microscope from every possible angle. Of course all its inevitable faults would be magnified and discussed, discussed, then discussed some more. They decided to move on*.
People feeling a strong sense of ownership for what they love is nice and all, but honestly the “fan culture” is getting to a point where its fumes are toxic. Calling the showrunners “lazy”, “incompetent”, “idiots” (really, now? IDIOTS?); fans attacking each other because they have a DIFFERENT OPINION on one episode? Come on. This is entertainment (and / or art), it’s supposed to be perceived in different ways by everybody. They run the show, they call the shots. We are the audience. Our choice is to watch it, or not. We don’t get to complain, we are not entitled to a great season of GoT every year. All we can do is, if we do our homework, to learn maybe something from it. Especially from what we don’t like. And carry on. “But it’s my favorite show! They can’t do this!” They can, look, they just did it. Write your own fiction. Maybe you’ll get famous, I really hope so. But if your life sucks, work to fix it, don’t blame it on a movie or tv series. Rant mode: OFF.
* and moved on to Star Wars, so when speaking about toxic fandom, good luck with that!
So here is my closure with this long, rich story that started 8 years ago.
I will not talk about the show I wish I had seen. I will not complain, or get personal. I will discuss the show that was aired, the things I liked, the things I didn’t. It doesn’t mean it’s “all shit” and it doesn’t mean “I am right”. It’s just one opinion!
I will rank the character endings – at least those who made it to season 8 – from my personal worst (0) to my personal best (10+).
AND: it’s my personal ranking! Agree, disagree? Write it in the comments but be kind and don’t take it to a personal level! I don’t write for people to agree. I write to organize what I think, and maybe we can have a good conversation.
Let’s start with the worst of the worst. The Night King. He was supposed to be the Big Bad Guy, the mega villain of all villains. Turned out to be more like a Magnum (yes, the ice cream): cold outside but with a big soft heart. Like, we have literally been preparing for seven seasons and a half for him to arrive; he is immune to dragon fire (the nuclear bomb of Westeros), rides a zombie-dragon, can raise endless minions to fight for him, and… couldn’t see that “Arya raining from the sky” was the weather forecast for Winterfell? The lowest point of the season, in my opinion bringing down one notch the effectiveness of the entire series. Grade: below zero, so low it gets frosty. Got the pun? Ah, ah.
Melisandre. Completely useless in season 8. Her contribution in the Battle of Winterfell is to cast a cosmetic spell and send the Dothrakis to their death (but no worries, they resurrect in ep6); then she sets a completely useless wooden barrier on fire; then she gives an equally useless (and wrong) advice to Arya, about “closing green eyes” that we will never get to see. Then she, somehow, decides to walk away and die. Useless. Grade: 1.
Beric Dondarrion. I never liked him, and never understood his game, anyway. At least he got to travel and see the world before dying – for the last time. Grade: 1.
Dolorous Edd. I didn’t notice he was still alive after all that happened. Well, at least he is not complaining anymore. Grade: 2.
Qyburn. Enough with him, already. At least he confirms the stereotype that science without ethics means trouble for everybody, and all that. Grade: 2. After all, Palpatine did it better.
Missandei. It’s a pity she got relegated to a unidimensional “Dany’s best friend” role and didn’t really have a chance to shine in this season. Or do anything, really. She gets killed just so that Cersei can prove a point (which point, go figure), Dany gets really mad, and thousands of innocents die as a consequence. She calls it “liberating”, I call that overreacting. Grade: 3.
Davos Seaworth. Irrelevant. Survives (only the gods know how) every battle and disaster, and since he can read and write now, gets a career advancement and ends up as Great Admiral, or something like that, for the non-existing navy of King Bran The Broken. Grade: 3. He looks tired, give the man a break.
Grey Worm. The Unsullied are famous for being castrated, not stupid. What the hell is wrong with this guy, an army leader who suddenly lost all his strategic vision, and became a brainless nazi? “I am killing everybody now, just following ze orders”. Yeah, we get it, your girlfriend has been beheaded. It wasn’t cool. But look at what happened to Sansa or Davos, and they are still keeping their shit together. Grade: 3. This plot device has an anger problem.
Arya Stark. What an utter disappointment. She wastes one of the most interesting character arcs of the show, completing her transformation into a ruthless killing machine who also manages somehow to be an insufferable know-it-all. Hermione Granger meets Hit Girl from Kick Ass, and I don’t like it. She sucks Gendry dry, just to fulfill her personal agenda (something the poor guy must be used to, after Melisandre), then tosses him aside like a used cloth: that’s bad manners if you ask me. Then kills the Night King using teleportation, a skill she must have learned in her free time in Braavos, because it’s certainly not in the curriculum. While in King’s Landing, she is personally responsible for the death of a random mother and child, which is venial in all that destruction, but she completely gives up her promising career as a teleporting ninja. These Generation Z kids, they change their minds so quick. Finally she sets sails on a personal mission to conquer the West (and export civilization, probably at sword’s point, the only argument she knows), preparing the ground for the spin-off series I have absolutely no intention to watch. What do we say to growing up? Not today. Grade: 4.
Tyrion Lannister. The Imp has completely lost his touch in season 8. The guy famous for “I drink and know things” ended up not doing much of either, anymore. No partying, no sex life at all (this makes sense, he is married after all), but also what happened to the smart little fellow who used to outplay everybody else? In the last season, literally every decision he takes is wrong. And he keeps giving Dany “good” advice, when everybody knows “goodness” only gets people killed in Westeros. Still, somehow, he is the one everybody listens to when it’s time to proclaim a new king. Must be the fantastic hipster beard he grew while in jail, languishing in complete disgrace. His story ends with him being King Bran’s Hand, which, let’s face it, has always been his dream job. Look at him all happy playing the game of chairs with his friends in the Council. At least, those few friends he hasn’t failed or betrayed somehow, and managed to survive. Varys’ blood will be hard to wash off. Grade: 4.
Jon Snow. It’s complicated. In the show, he has to represent everyman and he does a great job, if by “everyman” we mean “stupid”. I considered him “the worst hero of modern pop culture” and I was really afraid he would end up being king. Because, you know, he is such a nice guy. In season 8, all he could say was “she is my queen” and “I don’t want to be king”. Like, we get it, Jon, you still know nothing, but at least get a speech therapist, or do some yoga, shape up a little. Then in the last episode, after everybody shouts right in his face “people don’t have a choice, but YOU DO!”… he finally gets it. And he makes that choice. The way he kills Daenerys is cheesy and melodramatic (and doesn’t do a iota of justice to her) but at least, he gets his hands dirty and gets the job done. And pays the price for it: which is the quality of all tragic heroes. This redeemed him a lot to my eyes. Jon ends up where he started, exiled to a more useless than ever Night’s Watch, which kind of makes sense, since “useless” is the description that best fits the guy. Finally we see him leaving for the North, maybe in search for new challenges, or maybe looking for another girlfriend after he got the last two killed. Grade: 5.
Samwell Tarly. Another incredibly rich and layered story which got really butchered in the final season. Will be remembered for fighting bravely against the Undead; having a second baby with Gilly, this time his own (I guess); writing the novelization of “A Song of Fire and Ice” (music by Ed Sheeran) in a meta-homage to the Lord of the Rings and Bilbo Baggins; and for proposing to establish Democracy in the
Seven Six Kingdoms. Everybody, understandably, laughs in his face. The last thing we need in Westeros is a Boris Johnson or Matteo Salvini crowned king by popular demand. Grade: 5. Play it again, Sam. The intentions are good.
Varys. Used to be one of the strongest power players in Westeros; since he left King’s Landing he has been relegated to the role of mascotte and comic relief in Dany’s following. At least in the final season he manages to see through her plan since the beginning, and has the
balls sorry, courage to try to undermine it. Sucks to be in the wrong team, when your leader knows nothing and your opponent has dragons. He is basically murdered in cold blood by his only friend Tyrion, who gets rewarded with a promotion (did you get the fierce irony when Bran tells him “you are still missing a master of whisperers”? The boy can bite!). Grade: 6. At least he tried.
Bran Stark. A useless burden for 70 episodes out of 71, just think of how many people got killed because of him (looking at you, Hodor, and you, whatever was the adorable boy from Love Actually called), and then completely out of the blue – he is not even remotely of royal blood – he becomes the leading candidate in the first oligarchic elections in King’s Landing. All he can comment is “why do you think I came all this way?”, which is terribly sassy, and it’s also what I first thought while watching the final episode. But then I realized: are we really sure the best choice as the new king is an omniscient, creepy little fellow, who can live over a thousand years (at least if we judge by the previous three eyed raven)? This must be another example of Tyrion’s bad, bad advice, and Westeros is going to become a dystopian nightmare ruled by an undying, all seeing wizard king. Now THAT’S a spin-off I want to see. Grade: 6. The best (or worst) is yet to come.
Jorah Mormont. The feeling is, his departure was long overdue. The Lord of the Friendzone died doing what he loved: fantasizing about Daenerys,
surrounded by creepy men, in a heavy BDSM setting. Grade: 6. We have all been there, buddy.
Sansa Stark. She has been through a lot of really dark stuff, but she doesn’t seem to have processed it properly. Sure, she has grown into a leader and ends up with a kingdom of her own, but what she really needs is a good therapist. On the positive side, one thing she learned for sure from her creepy sugar daddy Littlefinger is how to manipulate close friends and family members. See how she turns first Jon, then Bran around her own little finger, until she proclaims independence for the North – and nobody can do anything about it. Machiavellian. Grade: 7.
Theon Greyjoy. The boy has a very rich personal journey, made of betrayals, remorse and redemption. He has paid the price for his personal growth, in full. Can anybody deny it? Still, for some reason, he volunteers for a suicide job in the Battle of Winterfell. He faces the Night King alone, with a bunch of men, bow and arrows. His (terrible) plan succeeds, in that he gets killed. It all feels equally epic, stupid and meaningless. Grade: 7. There was no need. At least in John Wick he gets killed by Keanu Reeves.
Brienne of Tarth. Not an easy one. Her personal journey to glory and self affirmation seems to always need a man to really empower her. But the angle I choose to remember her is this: she ends up on top of her game. She becomes the Captain of the King’s Guard, and she decides to restore the honor of Jaime Lannister’s, a very troubled man she learned to respect and love (I guess?), and who, in return, ghosted her. Grade: 7. Unchained Melody.
Gendry. In season 8 he gains a castle, loses a girlfriend, gets his heart broken and survives the battle against the Undead. That’s a lot. Being Robert Baratheon’s legitimate son he has the strongest claim to the throne, but for some reason during the elections nobody cares. And neither does he, so it’s fine, I guess. Grade: 7. Different priorities.
Bronn. One of fans’ favorites, he doesn’t really have a reason to be still around in season 8, but there he is, anyway. He receives a useless mission by Cersei, manages to double cross her as well, travels at the speed of light, ends up as Minister of Brothels under King Bran. His dream job, finally. Grade: 7. Fan service is not bad as it seems.
Tormund. The drinking buddy everybody wants to have (but very few actually would like to be). Loud, boisterous, loyal, direct. He is relentless in courting Brienne, but takes her refusal like a champ. Fights hard, parties hard, and after business is over, packs his stuff and takes his people back home. Whatever that is. A real gentleman from the north. Grade: 7.
Jaime Lannister. The arrogant, incestuous boy we all hated turned into a gruff, tormented man we all rooted for. Then, what the fuck happened? I still loved the final stage of his arc, because among so many larger-than-life heroes, here is a man who fully embraces his contradictions (not easy, with one hand) and proves that to reach happiness sometimes we cannot do the right thing, right up until the end. His love for Cersei is true, and nothing else matters. He gives Brienne her knighthood, and yes, takes her virginity in return. I am not here to judge what is worth more. The things we do for love. Grade: 8.
Euron Greyjoy. He makes no prisoners and no sense at all, but he knows it and he is not begging for forgiveness. He is the most meta of all characters, a tool in the writers’ hands just there to kill things, fuck things, sometimes both. Don’t look for the logic for his actions or presence, because he doesn’t even try to have one. His last words are “I am the man who killed Jaime Lannister”. It’s not true, but what an exit. Grade: 8. A total creep, which in Westeros means he is as good as it gets.
Cersei Lannister. All hail the Queen. Among so many kids who behave like they know something (but they don’t), here is a woman who towers on the people and events around her. Her personal arc is deep and varied, starting as Robert Baratheon’s loving but neglected wife (ah yes, plus that little thing she has going on… with her brother) and ending as the absolute Queen Bee, the Domina of King’s Landing, who outsmarts (and blows up) every single one of her opponents. Pity that we only get to guess her emotional trajectory in season 8. My idea is that after all that fighting, the suffering and the personal loss (as a mother, she lost FOUR children), she finally got tired of playing the game of thrones. We all know what happens next: she stares at the sea, waiting for the end. The scene in which, during her final moments in King’s Landing, she meets Jaime and breaks down in tears in a display of authentic love for him is one of the defining moments of the entire show, for me. Call me a romantic, but I am a sucker for family values. Grade: 9.
Lyanna Mormont. One of the most bad-ass characters on the entire show. A natural leader, she fights against the Undead like there is no tomorrow – and indeed, for her, there isn’t. She goes down fighting, but gets to kill a zombie-giant by stabbing him in the eye. Not bad, for a kid. Grade: 9.
Drogon. The only surviving dragon, he gets to burn down the Iron Throne, powerful symbol of suffering and injustice, and flies away in the sunset. He loves his mommy as a good boi does, and doesn’t blame Jon Snow for doing what he had to do (also, Jon is also probably immune to dragon fire, being a Targaryen after all…? It just occurred to me). He represents the ancestral powers of nature and blah blah, whatever, it’s basically a huge dinosaur with teeth and wings AND spits fire, do I really need to say more? Grade: 9, just because he let his green brother die, while he was perfectly able to burn the entire fleet in five swoops. Not cool.
Daenerys Targaryen. Where to start. First of all, I am sorry for all the people who named her daughters “Daenerys”, and then realized she was a pyromaniac, genocidal maniac. Next time, if you really need to get your inspiration from tv, at least wait until character arcs are over. Dany’s story feels rushed in the final stages, but really is one of the most complex of the entire saga. Think of all the suffering she received: first sold as a slave, then betrayed as her first (and only) child was killed in a black magic ritual. Her personality was forged in an ultra violent society: the Dothraki’s first, then the brutal city states across the sea. She had only a few trusted friends: Missandei, who gets murdered in cold blood (for no reason) on King’s Landing walls; and Jorah, prince of the friendzone, who dies for her (first metaphorically, then also literally). Her only “babies” are three dragons: one is turned into an undead horror; and another is shot dead because – somehow – even from high up she couldn’t spot an entire friggin fleet with huge red calamari on their sails. Talking about bad parenting, that’s really a lot to take in. At the end, when King’s Landing surrenders, what is left for her? Whom is she fighting for? The Red Keep symbolizes an unbroken chain of death, betrayals and suffering which haunted her family for generations: understandably, she decides to raze the whole place to the ground. The rest is collateral damage. In so doing, she completes her transformation from princess to dragon queen. A self-righteous, zealous tyrant, but a tyrant nevertheless. Tragic heroine, her fate is sealed. Her arc is complete when Jon stabs her in her heart. Grade: 10. Now go, and change your daughters’ names into something equally stupid but at least harmless, like one of the mini ponies or something.
Sandor Clegane. The best of the best, if you ask me. He protects Sansa and is adorable as a surrogate father (well, sort of) for Arya. Not the grateful type, she in turn abandons him when he is bleeding out from his wounds. But he survives, and keeps fighting because he is a man with a mission: to rid the world of his brother, turned by black magic into a low-tech Darth Vader. In his epic final act he does just that, at the same time confronting also his greatest fear and jumping into the fiery abyss of King’s Landing. His “fucking die!” is an epic instaquote if I ever saw one. Grade: 10+. Absolute badass.
Yeah! Boom! Nailed it!
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