I love Game of Thrones. Truly, despite only recently having learned about the show, I grew addicted almost immediately and binged the entire series during Spring Break, and I plan to read the entire book series during summer. It wasn't the fornication or wanton violence (though that certainly didn't detract my viewership), but rather, the intricate character development, amazing cinematography, awesome writing, and complex plotlines that developed over seasons with satisfying and pleasantly surprising resolutions. While the Red Wedding was heartbreaking, it proved this show is unlike any medieval fantasy media before it, it was willing to take risks and kill beloved characters to further the evolving plot. Episodes were Daenarys, Jon Snow, Tyrion, and many more faced believable difficulties and faltered because of their own internal struggles meant Game of Thrones wanted to appeal to a more grounded, realistic medieval world that could act as a gateway into fantasy for many whom spent their entire lives away from this stereotypical genre of dragons and knights and princesses.
Now, however, the show continues to subvert expectations, only in the worst ways possible. Season Eight of Game of Thrones contains some of the greatest cinematography, special effects, sound design, and acting I've ever seen. Unfortunately, all aforementioned qualities only exist to enhance the core element of any story. The writing. And unfortunately, these past five episodes have completely lacked in that regard. Seven season long plotlines end as pointless sidenotes, characters have their personalities completely altered, and likely the most detrimental factor: The Night King's story arc was for nothing.
Season Eight's penultimate episode has just aired, slamming a final nail in the television epic's coffin. Save a few awesome moments (the special effects ripping King's Landing into stone shreds and Cleganebowl),the eighty-minute cavalcade of both literal and figurative character slaughter only sets up a disappointing and dissatisfying ending. Daenarys's carefully crafted sense of morals, ethics, and leadership seems to dissolve in mere seconds upon allowing primitive instincts of rage and madness to conquer her decision-making. Why!? The weak argument that King's Landing's residents had usurped the Targaryean Dynasty means nothing! That's comparable to stating Daenarys should've razed the entirety of Meereen, slave and enslaved alike, simply for being a corrupt well of poverty! Jaime's entire arc also becomes undone in mere minutes, as he decides to gravitate back towards his toxic sister whom has willingly manipulated him, to comfort her... No, Jaime doesn't risk his life, all that he's accomplished, the minds of those whom truly care about him, and practically every ideology he stands for to finish his redemption and kill arguably Westeros's most villainous monarch. Instead, he reverts back to Season One Lannister boy, completely driven by his partner's desires. Oh well, both are buried under the Red Keep anyway.
Another minor gripe I have with Episode Five is the immediate destruction of ethical boundaries regarding Jon Snow's Northern Armies. While Grey Worm is now a beast driven by hatred after his beloved was murdered, and the Unsullied are mindless drones whom follow commands loyally, Jon's men have grown a bond of love and trust with their Lord Commander, their King in the North, their leader whom fights alongside them, their hero. Yet, all of this they forsake, some even actively resisting Jon's desperate please to cease bloodshed, as they merrily join their Essosi comrades in eviscerating every Lannister soldier and bystander before them. It honestly becomes ridiculous when Jon has to actively prevent a soldier from committing an atrocity, only for the soldier to attempt to murder his leader, forcing Jon to put the madman down. WHAT THE HECK!? I understand Lannister machinations nearly destroyed House Stark in previous seasons, and many Northmen were ruthlessly annihilated at the Red Wedding, but I imagined there'd at least be some hesitancy before the meat grinder began churning. It seems not.
Euron Greyjoy's sensibility and intelligence, a trait that's characterised his book version but seems absent from his television appearances anyway, is also butchered, as he decides to combat Jaime Lannister for some obscure time he'll spend with Cersei. What? She's doomed, the city's collapsing, and your entire fleet and any chance of retaking the Iron Islands has just perished, and your only desire is KILLING JAIME LANNISTER!? Why not escape?! Why not make a final stand in the city square against Daenarys's army!? Anything would've befitted Euron's character more than what happened here! Unfortunate, because he doesn't even finish the job, the faltering ceilings of the Red Keep complete Jaime's life for good.
Ah, I cannot continue without citing Arya Stark's appearance, however. With plot armour engaged to maximum overdrive, she begins expertly dodging buildings and cascades of fire. Blood and dust are smeared on her face, she honestly resembles a damned White Walker at this point, yet she still escapes from the destruction unscathed and rides a White Horse out of the desolate city.
Qyburn's death was truly a shame. Westeros's only hope for scientific progress in the foreseeable century literally splattered on a pile of bricks by an enraged Gregor. I knew his time was coming near, but I didn't believe it'd be that blunt and quick.
The Golden Company. A mercenary legion built up as one of Essos's elite sellsword companies, having never broken a contract or lost a battle. Many fan theories circulated around these golden cutthroats. Would they join Jon after learning of his Targaryean heritage, or maybe lay down their weapons and switch sides because of their survivalist instinct? Or perhaps Grey Worm or Davos would receive an interesting boss battle against the mercenary captain, Harry Strickland. Sadly, no. Harry's spinal cord is impaled with a spear, while his employees are brutally sizzled into human crisps via Drogon's fire breath, because somehow, no Lannister bowman on the battlements noticed a colossal reptilian freak machine right behind them. Wonderful. Their entire presence meant nothing.
I could go on, and maybe I shall in a future post, but my overall message is this: A television program, movie, videogame, even play could have practically every element right. Lighting, camera angles, special effects, sound design, costume and makeup artists, and talented actors. Ultimately, though, without a cohesive narrative that builds on both protagonists and antagonists and their triumphs and faults, without good writing, there's nothing but spectacle. Unfortunately, that's what the latter half of Season 8 has been. An explosive, high-octane, bloody, grotesque, yet inevitably pointless and boring spectacle.