Why Game of Thrones’ final season was anticlimactic

The highs and lows of the hit show’s end 

Game of Thrones fell short of expectations in its final season.

The following review contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8. 

While all eight seasons of Games of Thrones were packed with intrigue, tragedy and soaring triumph—not to mention a fair share of HBO naughtiness—the cultural phenomenon has finally come to an end.

Although the saga’s heroes and anti-heroes, have laid down their swords for good, I still have one fight left—breaking down the highs and lows of the final season.

Lows

A disappointing Cleganebowl

Unfortunately, Game of Thrones’ final season had more low points than high, leaving many fans disappointed. Much of this disappointment was packed tightly into the second-last episode, “The Bells,” which felt like a kick in the teeth.  

Fans had been waiting for years for the Clegane brothers, The Hound and The Mountain, to square up. This faceoff, widely known as Cleganebowl, took place in “The Bells,” but merely ended with a vague draw instead of a clear win and definitive answer to which brother is the bigger badass.

However, The Hound facing his mortal fear of fire in a final bid to gain his revenge was a nice touch to an otherwise frustrating sequence.

Neglect of character development

Throughout the course of the show, Jaime Lannister went from being one of the most hated characters to a fan favourite. His character arc was a testament to the transformative effects of loss and failure on a person.

Jaime’s journey was essentially about atoning for years of dishonourable acts done to protect a toxic relationship with his sister and lover, Cersei. He suffered humiliation, mutilation, and the deaths of his children, which ultimately made him a better person. As the story progressed, he eventually became a man of honour.

This was all for naught, as years of character development were thrown out the window faster than when Jaime pushed a young Bran out the window back in season one. It was as if he had learned nothing from his journey when he chose to die with Cersei, the woman who brought out the absolute worst in him. 

Illogical narrative decisions

The larger problem with the whole season boils down to the writers’ irrational need to subvert audience expectations.

In the age of the Internet, fans can communicate and theorize in large numbers, meaning even the show’s creators and actors can participate in the speculation. At best, this can be a good form of marketing, but at its worst, it can be the death of decent writing.

Based on the narrative arc of this season, it seems the writers felt the need to surprise an audience who felt they had the plotline all figured out. And yet, they subverted viewer expectations in ways that went against the logic of the world they created and what the show’s characters would normally do.

The final season was full of surprises, but they were bitter and cheap. One letdown was Arya Stark killing the Night King despite seasons worth of hints that Jon Snow would be the one to battle the show’s main villain. Bran Stark becoming King of the Six Kingdoms was both disappointing and illogical, as most of the characters present at the Dragon Pit had never previously seen evidence of his power.

In earlier seasons, these things would never fly—and for good reason. Over the years, the writers have shown that they understand human behaviour, but it seems they chose to ignore their better instincts in an effort to outwit their cunning fans. Instead, they should have delivered a more predictable ending, as such an ending usually means the finale has a logical and causal relationship with the storyline until that point. 

Highs

Gendry’s lordship

It was nice that Gendry was made Lord Baratheon, but disappointing that he never rode around with a Warhammer to crush skulls and take names. That said, it was sweet that the first thing he did after being named Lord was to propose to Arya, even though we all knew she’d never say yes.

Gwendoline Christie’s performance

In terms of acting, the ultimate high of this season was Gwendoline Christie’s performance as Brienne of Tarth, especially in the fourth episode. Her complete despair as Jaime rides away from her for the last time is enough to make even the most jaded viewer tear up.

A Best Actress nomination for a performer and character that are refreshingly far from convention would be heartily welcomed from me.

The special effects

As always, the crew in charge of special effects, set design, and costumes outdid themselves this year. The beautiful dresses worn by our three queens—Daenerys, Cersei, and Sansa—were beautifully embroidered, strikingly tailored, and served to add to the subtle ambiance.

It was interesting to see that Daenerys’ dresses got darker and bolder as the season progressed to mirror her madness, while the strong metal work slowly vanished from Cersei’s wardrobe as her position as queen was jeopardized.

The burning of King’s Landing was a chaotic inferno of fire and depravity that showed us the true horror of war and human malice. The scenes that were filled of fire, dust, and terrified masses were immersive to such an extent that it was quite difficult to watch.

***

Despite this season’s downfalls, the show will remain a cultural phenomenon that’s raised the bar for how TV is produced. Through bad and good, the finale will continue to be debated across kitchen tables and over Internet forums for years to come.

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