Even using rose-tinted glasses doused in fire and blood, even the most ardent Game of Thrones fans are likely struggling to come to terms with what was a beyond uneven series finale.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR ‘GAME OF THRONES’ SEASON 8, EPISODE 6 WILL FOLLOW.
For the entirety of this six-episode final season, I found myself constantly rationalizing and analyzing in an effort to make the bitter pill we were being forced to swallow taste just a little bit sweeter.
“Yeah, the pacing is out of whack, but what about the SCORE?! I mean, the music, wow! My man Ramin Djawadi is a straight up G.”
“I suppose Daenerys’ Mad Queen turn was slightly abrupt, but how about that cinematography of her destruction? Stunning!”
“Sure, “The Long Night” was a little difficult to comprehend, but are you going to tell me that Arya scene wasn’t cool?!”
These are all things that I, and likely you, were religiously repeating to yourself heading into the series finale, hoping and praying that all of the season eight frustration would be rewarded with an ultimately satisfying conclusion.
It wasn’t. In fact, all of the issues that fans had been harping on throughout the entire season came to a head in the worst way in the disjointed, detached, and somewhat dramaless series finale.
By my count, there were two — only two — moments in the series finale that flat-out worked: Jon and Grey Worm’s quick standoff in the streets of King’s Landing and Brienne of Tarth adding to Jaime’s page in the history of the Kingsguard.
Outside of those two moments, the finale lacked all of the wit, emotion, and nuance that recently had people calling Game of Thrones the greatest television show ever made.
All that said, narratively, some of the finale’s final moments did register. Jon Snow heading north to become King Beyond the Wall — fitting. Sansa using her years of turmoil and experience to ultimate liberate the North and become Queen in the North — fitting. Hell, even Arya becoming the Westerosi Christopher Columbus makes some semblance of narrative sense.
But the issue lies with how these characters got there.
Jon, the true heir to the Iron Throne whose heritage was seemingly swept under the rug in the finale, has to go North to appease … the Unsullied? Who are leaving King’s Landing anyway?
And Arya, whose brother has the ability to both Greensee and Warg, needs to go to the ends of the earth instead of just asking Bran what’s out there?
And that’s the issue with both the series finale and the final season of Game of Thrones: all of these major plot points happened so rapidly, so abruptly, that the decisions of the characters and the influences behind them never properly registered with fans.
Daenerys went from the savior of the realm in episode three to the world’s primary terrorist in episode five to dead in episode six. Why? Because she’s mourning the death of Missandei and couldn’t stand the sound of King’s Landing’s bells? Because Jon’s true parentage — which seemingly no longer matters in the finale — had her looking over her shoulder?
Years from now, when tensions have cooled and Game of Thrones fans are able to observe the series as a whole from 30,000 feet in the air, history will likely look back on the A Song of Ice and Fire adaptation kindly.
But now, in the immediate hours, weeks, and months following the series’ conclusion, the only question on fans’ minds is one of confusion: how the hell did we get here?