Game of Thrones isn't the only popular show with a disappointing finale; Lost, Dexter, Gossip Girl make the cut too
With Game of Thrones, the problem lies in the road to the finale, rather than the finale itself.
“Phew. It’s finally over.”
That collective sigh heard around the world in the last 48 hours sums up the reactions of die-hard fans of the most watched show ever. It was a bit of an anti climax from just three years ago, when Game of Thrones announced that they’d be wrapping up things over two final seasons. Go back to the reactions then, and you’d be led to believe that a lot of people wouldn’t know what to do with their lives once the show was over. The impending sense of loss was too much to handle. Well, it all just went t*ts up over the past six weeks, didn’t it?
This isn’t the first time, though, that a show has reached epic levels of popularity only to disappoint fans in the end. Take Lost, for example. Before Game of Thrones came along, Lost enjoyed the kind of cult status that very few other shows had up until then. What made the J.J. Abrams drama so special was the way it played on an element of mystery, doling out little clues about the island. Every episode sparked new fan theories and kept online discussion boards alive for years. And then, it all fell flat with the climactic battle happening inside John Locke’s body and the cast smiling benignly as they walked into the light. The Internet collectively went “Huh!” and a decade later, the show’s finale continues to baffle people.
Fans end up being disappointed when they invest in a show and its characters over years, only to have dissatisfactory endings. There are shows that have not quite dotted the ‘i’s and crossed the ‘t’s — Desperate Housewives, Mad Men and Gossip Girl to name a few. All of these shows were victims to waning popularity and hurried endings, leaving a lot of plot lines and character arcs incomplete. Then, there are those shows that have suffered from putting out what they think would make fans happy. If the writers of Dexter thought showing him alive in that last scene would make people happy, well it sure as hell didn’t. Pulling the plug on his sister Deb and then abandoning his son to live with his psychopath girlfriend was not just out of character, it was the ultimate destruction of an arc that had been built up over eight seasons. An epic death of the lead character was never more warranted. Ever.
Where then, does one slot Game of Thrones? It definitely wasn’t lazy writing, they closed most of the plot lines and took every character arc to a somewhat ‘logical’ conclusion. It wasn’t exactly a fan’s ending either, which in itself isn’t a problem — George RR Martin, the author of the books, has never been known to be a crowd pleaser. So, where’s the problem?
With Game of Thrones, the problem lies in the road to the finale, rather than the finale itself. It was a tectonic shift in the style of storytelling that was an epic let down.
The first six seasons of Game of Thrones were based on the books, which focused on building a fantastical world for viewers. The characters were always secondary to a larger plot that was unfolding around them, one that wasn’t always in their control. The North had to deal with an army of the dead, and that shaped the character of Jon Snow. The lands to the east of Essos were rife with slaving and that became the instrument that Dany played on to become saviour and Queen of her people. The events happening in King’s Landing built many characters, notably Cersei’s and Arya’s. Characters were sacrificed and characters grew, but they were all pawns in the hands of GRRM. The characters that lasted and grew through these seasons then, had arcs that were backed by experiences, experiences that were shared with the viewers. We knew what they had been through, we understood their motivations.
When the source material ran out, the writing fell to Hollywood tropes. The result was that leads we had come to know intimately were suddenly acting out of character. Jon Snow, leader of men for whom duty came before everything else, became a snivelling idiot in love. We’ve seen him in love before, but that time around, he went back to his station at Castle Black. The difference back then was we only saw Jon when it was required to move the story along. This season, we saw a lot of Jon for no apparent reason. All he seemingly did was brood and tell people, “She’s my queen.” There was enough screen time given to Danaerys to build her motivations this season, but the story was moving at a different pace. Her slipping into ‘madness’ deserved a little more time and ideally those events should have started an episode earlier. Even if the directors decided to make her snap in the moment, it was probably worth showing her face a little more as she burnt an entire city.
Characters like Bran and Brienne were kept around, mostly through scenes that had no impact on the story, only because they were needed at the end. There wasn’t enough of Cersei, given her role in the scheme of things. And that’s where the show failed in the end. The singular focus on the ‘two lead characters’ rather than the story is what destroyed this season for fans. Game of Thrones was always supposed to be a show where nobody played lead.
Showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss tried to wrap up the epic in a way that could satisfy and shock fans. No one said it was going to be easy. They aren’t the first in TV show history to not stick the landing and they, probably, won’t be the last.
After eight long years, the watch has (finally) ended for the fans but the disappointment remains.
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