'Game of Thrones' Season 8 Isn't Bad, It's Just Really Rushed
Season 8 Spoiler Review
Game of Thrones just ended its final season on Sunday night. Following anything Game of Thrones-related for the past six weeks has been pretty interesting. The response people are having about this season has been nothing more than controversial. It’s either you love it or hate it, but I’m willing to bet that the majority of fans are disappointed by this final season. It’s also really popular to hate on this show on any type of social platform, for some reason. So you can even argue that a lot of the hate can be derived from a bandwagon effect. Despite that, everyone is entitled to their own opinions; especially when it’s about the concluding chapters to one of the best shows ever created.
So after all of that, the question is: How did I feel about it? I’m pretty sure the title gave it away, so the answer is: I’m a part of the vocal minority that thought this was a good season. Now, let me follow that up by saying that season eight is definitely my least favorite season of Game of Thrones. It lacked all the finality a final season should have. The action was cool, the CGI was great, the directing/cinematography practically carried the whole season, and the actors really gave it their all.
My biggest issue with this season is that everything felt rushed, leading to sloppy and lackluster conclusions for certain characters and storylines. Which, in retrospect, makes aspects of the show seem irrelevant and pointless. It’s a domino effect that really hindered a lot of my enjoyment of this season and makes me hesitant to rewatch the entire series now that it’s over. I know I’m not really being too specific right now, but I’m going to break everything down piece by piece. So from this point on, there’s going to be major spoilers for Game of Thrones and maybe a few minor spoilers from the books.
The Battle of Winterfell
I thought the first two episodes of this season were great. Yeah, they were slow and only consisted of people talking in Winterfell, but it allowed for some heartfelt character moments. Like who didn’t at the very least cry when Jaime knighted Brienne or when Jon was reunited with Arya? It wasn’t until episode three, "The Long Night," that made me start to worry about this season.
I’m not going to lie, I’ll give credit where it’s due, the battle itself was pretty cool for the most part. It was too hard to see a lot of it because the lighting in this episode was completely atrocious, but what you could see was almost cinematic. The Battle of the Bastards is still my favorite battle from the show though. The battle itself was impressive and extremely ambitious, but from a story standpoint, it didn’t fully feel like a satisfying conclusion to the Wight Walker storyline.
If you think about it, the very first scene in the entire show is about the Wight Walkers. Before we’re ever introduced to the actual Game of Thrones and any of its’ players, we’re shown a Wight Walker attack. Throughout the show we’ve seen their presence haunt Jon Snow and reinforce that winter is coming. Season seven mainly focused on the Wight Walkers and set them up to be the main villains of the series. An army that only can be defeated if everyone stopped fighting each other and joined forces. So, it’s an understatement to say the Wight Walkers were a major aspect of Game of Thrones. The Night King was even marketed as one of the show's main characters. There’s literally official posters of him sitting on the Iron Throne. You can't get more important than that.
The battle was a means of ending this storyline without having to tell any actual story. For example, the Night King isn’t a character so far in the books. Thus, the writers of the show created him solely for the show. This begs the question: What purpose does the Night King serve in the overall story if the writers felt that they needed to add him into the show? We know he wants to have an endless night and cause death, but we never really know why. The Night King is overly mysterious and because of that, he doesn’t feel like a fleshed out villain with actual motives. So when Arya nonchalantly kills him in the battle after two and a half seconds, his presence seems meaningless. If there was more time to flesh out the Night King, then it would've also made the stakes of the battle feel more urgent as we would know what our heroes are really fighting against. Instead, he's killed pretty quickly and then we immediately move on to focus on defeating Cersei.
I also don’t think Arya deserved to be the one who killed the Night King. Yes, it’s a cool moment for Arya, but she had the least amount of emotional investment in the battle. Arya’s whole arc revolved around getting revenge on the people who caused the red wedding, which was mainly the Lannisters and Frays. She had no connection to the Wight Walker storyline before this episode. It felt like the writers chose her to kill the Night King solely on the fact that no one could’ve guessed it. The writers tried to use small pieces of information from past episodes to try to make it seem like Arya was always meant to kill the Night King, but not a lot of time was really spent setting it up to really feel like a natural progression in her arc. If Arya was always meant to kill the Night King, then the set up is sort of lacking and the payoff seems a bit rushed.
Meanwhile, throughout the entire show, Jon Snow has been preparing for this battle. He wanted to bring the free folk and Night’s Watch together because he saw a Wight Walker. He was one of the first characters to fight a Wight Walker. He witnessed a full on Wight Walker siege and what kind of power the Night King truly has. He died and was brought back to life just to fight the army of the dead. He led a charge beyond the Wall to capture a Wight Walker. He has stared down the Night King more times than anyone else in the show. Okay, it would’ve been cliche and predictable for Jon to kill the Night King, but at least it would’ve paid off because the show had been setting up this confrontation. Yet, Jon didn’t even get a chance to fight the Night King. No, the dragon fight doesn’t count. I mean an actual sword fight between the two.
It’s like if Tony Stark never fought Thanos. Like Jon, Tony spent most of his time preparing for a threat that no one really believed in. Thus, in Infinity War when they finally fight, it’s satisfying because it’s the culmination of their conflict. Jon and the Night King never have that type of resolution in this episode. Hell, Bran had more emotional investment in this fight too because the Night King is the Three-Eyed Raven’s arch nemesis. The Night King even branded Bran. The point is, the Battle of Winterfell should’ve been the conclusion to Jon, Bran, and the Night King’s conflict, rather than Arya assassinating the Night King. Yeah it was cool, but it wasn’t earned.
I don’t have an issue with Rhaegal’s death, I just think the context surrounding his death really emphasizes how rushed this season really felt through its’ inconsistency. In episode four, the Iron Fleet kills Dany’s dragon Rhaegal really quickly. It happens out of nowhere and in the span of a few seconds. I understand Drogon is the fan favorite dragon, but there should’ve been more time dedicated to feeling the weight of Rhaegal’s death. That is Dany’s child and part of the reason she’s pushed into becoming the mad queen in the next episode. He gets shot, falls into the water, and no one mentions him ever again. This moment was mainly meant to convey that the war between Dany and Cersei was going to be an even fight since the dragons could be taken out quite easily. Yet, in episode five, Drogon is able to destroy the entirety of the Iron Fleet and King’s Landing.
I understand this sounds like nitpicking, but stuff like this happens constantly throughout this season. For example, episode two basically concludes most of the characters arcs in order to establish that this might be the last time we see most of these characters. During the Inside the Episode, writer David Benioff said:
“For us, what was interesting about this episode was always that, it is our last night together and everyone would face the end in different ways.”
Which basically implies that in the Battle of Winterfell, there would be a lot of major character deaths. Yet, in retrospect, the only main characters to die were Theon, Jorah, and the Night King. Lady Mormont died too, but she was never really a main character. This outcome makes the entirety on episode two seem pointless since no one actually died. In fact, it wasn’t our last time with these characters because a majority of them survived until the very end.
This is also the case with the how the Dothraki and Unsullied are portrayed after the Battle of Winterfell. In the Inside the Episode for "The Long Night," David Benioff also said:
“What they see is the end of the Dothraki essential.”
Then it’s implied that a lot of Unsullied and Northmen have died in the battle, once again to illustrate that Cersei still might have an even shot at winning the last war. Yet, in episode five and six, there’s thousands of Unsullied and Dothraki invading King’s Landing. I don’t care that there’s conflicting information here, more so than I care about how this makes the Battle of Winterfell seem completely irrelevant in the overarching story since the army of the dead barely killed anybody. The outcome of this season remains the same if you take out the Wight Walker storyline. Thus, making episode two seem irrelevant for setting up episode three, and making episode three seem irrelevant for having no lasting consequences.
I would also like to mention that in episode two, Jaime knights Brienne because she’s the most knightly character in the show. This is one of the standout moments of this season and probably the whole show because it's a reward that Brienne spent her whole life earning. It’s simply a cute moment. But by episode four, you can make the argument that Jaime only knighted her because he wanted to sleep with her, which kind of tarnishes the context of the moment. I’m probably nitpicking for this one example, but it’s just something I have to get off my chest.
Rushed Conclusions for Characters
I don’t have an issue with a lot of the concepts the writers chose to do with these characters. I just believe there needed to be at least a few more episodes this season to popularly execute these concepts. Yet, even that is being generous because a few characters didn’t get the ending they deserved.
For starters, Jaime is undeniably one of the best characters in the show. He started off as this really awful person that sleeps with his sister. His first ever act in the show was pushing a little boy out a window to his death. Yet, throughout the course of the series, he redeems himself in various ways. He loses a hand protecting Brienne from getting raped, it’s revealed he killed the Mad King in order to save millions of lives, he keeps his promise to Catelyn by protecting her daughters, and he leaves his sister so he can fight the army of the dead like he promised. Jaime deserved a hero’s death, but instead he goes back to be with his toxic lover and dies because a building caved in on him. He even gets fatally stabbed by Euron Greyjoy, who is without a doubt the worst character in the entire show. It just makes all of his character development seem like it was for nothing since he literally ends up in the same position he began. This is one instance where I can agree that the writing was a little off. Again, it’s an issue of inconsistency. A character who said this:
"Once again, I came to the king, begging him to surrender. He told me to bring him my father's head. Then he turned to his pyromancer. "Burn them all," he said. "Burn them in their homes. Burn them in their beds." Tell me, if your precious Renly commanded you to kill your own father and stand by while thousands of men, women, and children burned alive, would you have done it? Would you have kept your oath then?"—Jaime, Season 3 Episode 5
Would then say this:
"To be honest, I never really cared much for them. Innocent or otherwise." —Jaime Season 8, Episode 5
Mind you, Jaime fought for the innocent in Winterfell literally two episodes before saying that second quote. Jaime definitely got the worst conclusion out of everyone in the show.
Before I begin, I would like to say I have no problem with Daenerys becoming the Mad Queen. There was always little hints that she was a little too cruel with specific punishments, but those punishments were always directed towards evil people. Thus, it’s hard for me to just accept she’s fine with killing thousands of innocent people. It’s made clear Daenerys has killed more people in just episode five alone, than any other character in current Westeros history. I’m not saying I don’t think Daenerys wouldn’t do it, I’m just saying I don’t think she would’ve done it at that very moment given the circumstances. The whole Mad Queen storyline came in too late in the season and was a bit rushed. You can’t have a twist like one of the good guys becoming the main villain at the end of an episode and then have the next episode be the series finale. By the end of episode five, you have no idea what's going to happen now that Daenerys is the Mad Queen. Yet, all she does after that is give a speech and then get murdered. Talk about anticlimactic.
Season eight did a good job using the culture in Westeros to challenge Dany’s beliefs. In my opinion, it would’ve been executed a lot better if we had more episodes this season to further challenge her beliefs to the point where she finally snaps. Then maybe a whole other season exploring the political consequences of Dany being the Mad Queen.
There’s a scene in the finale that really drives home what could’ve been the plot for another season if we had gotten one. After Jon kills Daenerys, we see the main figures of Westeros discussing what to do with Jon and there’s some interesting conflict there. Some people, like Sansa, believe Daenerys was a tyrant, whereas someone like Yara Greyjoy stood by Daenerys’ decision to burn King’s Landing because Cersei was a bad queen. So imagine if season eight ended with Daenerys becoming the Mad Queen. Then season nine explored how Daenerys is now the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, but Winterfell isn’t falling in line. This would put Jon in the same position he’s in during the finale, but we’ll have more time to really develop his choice to kill Daenerys. The Iron Islands are loyal to Daenerys. Maybe you have other houses disagreeing with Daenerys burning King’s Landing. The point is that Daenerys being the Mad Queen deserved to be told throughout a season rather than just half of an episode.
I’m fine with Jon going to live north of the Wall with the wildlings. It always seemed like he belonged with the free folk and he genuinely seems content with it. Yet, my biggest issue with Jon this season is that the writers completely made him an irrelevant character. I originally thought Jon's whole purpose in the show was to kill the Night King because they heavily implied he was the prince who was promised. They literally bring this man back from the dead for the sole purpose of fighting the army of the dead. First off, he did nothing during the Battle of Winterfell. So when Arya killed the Night King, I thought maybe Jon’s purpose in the show is that he’ll be the one to sit on the iron throne since he clearly wasn’t the prince who was promised. I mean why else would his lineage be so important. A major theory in the books and a major reveal in the show is that Jon Snow isn’t Ned Stark’s bastard. He’s actually the secret son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.
This reveal is so important that author of the books, George R.R. Martin, wouldn’t let the writers of the show adapt his books unless they knew who Jon’s real parents were. Jon being the last male Targaryen would make him the rightful heir to the throne and all of season eight sets up the fact that he’ll be a great king. Yet, out of nowhere, Bran is chosen to become king. The writers do nothing with the fact that he’s a Targaryen, so what was the point of having it be such an important aspect of his character? There’s no type of payoff in regards to Jon’s character. The biggest thing he got to do this season was finally pet Ghost. Yeah, he killed Daenerys, but let’s be honest, anyone given the right circumstances could have done that. Killing Daenerys doesn’t make him any more relevant than he already was.
Bran Becoming King
This is one of the things I wonder if George R.R. Martin would do in the books. He hasn’t finished writing the last two yet, but I really can’t wait to see if in his version Bran becomes king. I know I share this opinion with a lot of people, but Bran was never really an interesting character. After the Battle of Winterfell, I had no clue if he was still going to be relevant in the rest of the series. I mean his arc was basically concluded when Arya killed the Night King. Apparently it wasn't since he's the king now. Bran is not the person I would’ve wanted on the throne, but it’s definitely not the worst decision that’s been made this season. I’ve always been indifferent with Bran as a character. I guess I’m also indifferent with him being king too. I thought they were setting him up to become the new master of whispers since they flat out implied it earlier this season and Varys gets burned alive, making the position open. It also would've made a lot of sense given that Bran can see everything happening at every moment. Plus, there was absolutely no setup that Bran would be king. It feels more like shock value rather than an actual payoff. By the time they revealed Bran would be king in the finale, I didn’t really much care anymore.
Things I Liked From Season 8
After spending 6 pages talking about things I didn’t like from this season, I want to briefly end things on a good note. I say briefly because this article is already 6 pages long and I want to finish it. Writing is hard and time consuming. I really liked how the north became an independent kingdom with Sansa as the queen of the north. It’s something that has been building up since the Battle of the Bastards and Sansa really earned it. She put up with Joffrey, Cersei, Ramsay, Littlefinger, and so much other nonsense that you can’t help but be proud of her.
Theon had the arc I wish Jaime had gotten. Theon went from being this really unlikable character to slowly redeeming himself in little ways. He always felt like Jaime lite in my opinion. He gave his life for Winterfell attempting to fight the Night King and got a hero’s death. I would also like to say Lyanna Mormont had a pretty cool death too. It’s poetic how someone as tiny as her took out something as big as a zombie giant.
Lastly, the directing was really phenomenal this season. There were so many really cool shots, such as when Drogon is behind Daenerys and it looks like she has wings. I already used a screenshot of it during the Daenerys section of this article. There was also a lot of poetic imagery this season in regards to locations. For example, the Night King is killed with dragonglass in the same spot he was created with dragonglass. Also the last time Ned talks to Jon in season 1, he promises that the next time they see each other, they’ll talk about Jon’s mother. Then in the premiere of this season, when Jon visits Ned’s grave in the crypt, Sam reveals to Jon who his actual parents are. I guess Ned did keep his promise after all.
Overall, to conclude this long article, I don’t think the final season of Game of Thrones deserves a lot of the hate it’s been getting. Yeah, I spent the better majority of an article criticizing it, but I would never go as far to say it ruined the show for me. Season eight is my least favorite season of the show and lacks a lot of the finality a final season should have. That doesn’t change the fact that everything before this season was completely remarkable and one hell of an adventure to follow. After finishing this season, I immediately picked up the first book and started reading it. I'm just really excited to see how George R.R. Martin concludes his story. So to end on a pretty different tonal note, thank you to everyone involved in the making of Game of Thrones for giving viewers around the world something to talk about for the past eight years. Now what am I supposed to watch?