I’m aware that my review of this season is quite late, but I wanted to post my thoughts about it, because it’s become quite the source of controversy and debate. Game of Thrones Season 8 was one of the most highly anticipated pieces of media to come out this year, I’m a fan of the show and so I was definitely looking forward to it. However, this season has divided its audience to say the least, particularly the back half of the season has caused a lot of conflicts and outrage. The season is disappointing for sure, and I get a lot of the criticisms, but I don’t dislike it.
This is the first time I’m doing a spoiler review for a TV show, I just don’t think I can go into much depth with how I felt without doing so, especially with it being the final season. HBO offered D&D (Game of Thrones showrunners and writers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss) 10 episodes but they turned them down and settled on having 6 episodes instead, and I think everyone can agree that this was the biggest problem with the season. I’m not going to get very pointy and accusatory about it, but it is worth pointing out that after this show, their next project will be a Star Wars movie, and it did feel like they wanted to get this season over with pretty quickly. The biggest example of the rushed feeling is after the White Walkers are dealt with in the first half of the season. While I would’ve liked the direct conflict with the Walkers to be more than just one episode (the first two episodes of setup before the third don’t count), this shortage of episodes is evidence in Episode 4 “The Last of the Starks”. It’s a good episode on the whole, but it’s wrapping up the aftermath of the battle at Winterfell before suddenly going into Daenerys getting ready to take King’s Landing. Not to mention halfway through it cuts to them sailing to King’s Landing the same episode they started out at Winterfell. We are used to characters having to take more than an episode to get from one place to the other even when the recent seasons started reducing their episode numbers, so it was really jarring. Then there’s that buildup to Daenerys’s controversial turn, or lack thereof. I’m not going to be on that side of people who said that her rampage was completely out of character, nor will I be one of the people who says that it was foreshadowed and already set up perfectly. I’m in the middle on this and really I see both sides. It makes somewhat sense that she’d be going down that path, and I’m pretty sure that she’s always going to end up going there. However, it feels like there was some development missing before the massacre at King’s Landing. Granted Tyrion’s explanation to Jon in the cell in the finale does sort of put things in perspective. Nonetheless I really would’ve liked to see the development of it all, and an episode before Episode 5 “The Bells” at the very least would’ve at least somewhat set it up better.
Generally, the acting has been good in the show but this season really everyone brings their A game to their performances, no matter the handling of their characters. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister is as usual great and one of the standouts. His character ever since season 5 really hasn’t been as smart as he once was, yet this change in character is made work by Dinklage. He’s particularly great in the last two episodes of the season. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister is also really good as usual, he’s really gone on such a long journey and changes these past 8 seasons. With that said, much has been said about his choice in episode 4 to return back to Cersei, and yeah, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some mixed feelings about that, even if it seems to makes some sense. Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister unfortunately only appears in a few episodes, and I really would’ve liked to have seen her serve as more as a direct threat to Daenerys, instead of just waiting for half the season and being killed off a couple episodes later. Still, with the little that she’s given she does a lot. The character that was mistreated the most this season though was Jon Snow. Kit Harington tries his hardest and is good in a few moments, but he’s really let down by the writing. Almost half his dialogue is “You are my queen”, “She is my/our queen”, “The Night King is coming”. I get that he’s in love with Daenerys and all that, but with the exception of the last episode he really has no motivation outside of just doing what she wants. He basically has no drive throughout and much of who we saw in the previous 7 seasons aren’t here. He has two in character decisions this season, the first being to tell everyone about his heritage, the second being making the final decision to kill Daenerys, outside of that he just felt like a glorified extra. If we are talking about the character that really needed this season to work better though, it was of Bran Stark, especially considering the final episode. Actor Isaac Hempstead Wright definitely plays the role exactly as it was written, but again, it’s really the writing that’s the problem. Bran really just doesn’t come across as human. I get that he’s the Three Eyed Raven now but it would’ve worked better if we could even see a semblance of the old Bran, even if he was changed. I mean even Max von Sydow’s Three Eyed Raven seemed more human. It made Bran unlikable and no doubt made it very difficult to accept him becoming king at the end.
Characters I didn’t really have problems with included Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Maisie Williams as Arya Stark, Rory McCain as Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane, Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth, Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy, and Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth, and they played their roles well. Turner especially has come a long way since the first season. However, the standout performance of the entire season was Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen. When it comes to her acting the past seasons, some people have been a little mixed on her performances (even though I thought she was already pretty good). However, she really gave it her all here. Then the last half of the season when Daenerys seems to take that dramatic turn, Emilia genuinely sells that side to her, and without it I’m not entirely sure I’d be on board with her change without her work. It’s made even better considering how Emilia wasn’t exactly on board with how Daenerys would be acting, yet she brought everything into her performance.
The direction of the show has generally really good, and that still applies this season. Highlights were episodes 3 and 5. The Battle of Winterfell was big and bloody and among the best battle episodes in the series. However, I’ll be one of those people and say that they definitely needed to turn up the brightness (though it wasn’t that bad). As for episode 5, I’ll admit that I heard about what Daenerys does before I even got a chance to watch the episode. However, I didn’t know that it would be an utter massacre. It really places you right there as everything it happening, especially when it places you from the perspective from Arya, ‘Plot Armor’ (or whatever it is now) aside, it’s like a Children of Men esque scene where you see the horror of everything from someone right in the carnage. The score by Ramin Djawadi is the most consistently great thing in the show, it’s always been good but he’s really delivered here, with some of the best songs in the entire series being from this season.
As this is the last season, I’ll talk about the last episode of the whole show and my thoughts on it. I did read the ‘leaks’ about the last episode and I wasn’t even that surprised by what I saw. However I do like that The Iron Throne was destroyed, one of the things not in the leaks. The first half of the episode was great and fitting, slow building and showing the aftermath of the destruction. I know some people didn’t like it wasn’t bold and dramatic, with a bunch of conflict, but I loved that everything felt much more lowkey and personal. After Daenerys is killed by Jon however, it does a time jump and things felt weird. They wrap everything up really quickly, but it feels drawn out, like they are aware of the runtime and so try to make scenes longer than they have to be. Not sure how it’s possible to make a choosing of someone to be King to be a little drawn out and almost boring but this episode achieved it. Which brings me to another thing, Bran becomes King. Now the idea didn’t seem absurd (and it seems like it was George RR. Martin’s plan anyway), however it’s how Bran was shown these past episodes that made it really hard to accept. As I previously said, the problem is that he’s barely human, so I’m not even sure what the point was, even if he was intended to be just a figurehead while Tyrion and the council actually run the kingdom. I mean Bran seemed much more interested in finding the final dragon than actually being King. In the end, most of the plot decisions makes sense, and many of the characters were at fitting places in the end. Even Jon’s ending, which although presented as rejoining the Night’s Watch, seemed much more like him becoming The King Beyond the Wall. It just felt like something was missing. With that said, with every ‘improved fan ending’ that I come across, I just appreciate the ending we actually got. It’s underwhelming for sure, but it actually feels like an ending for the show and not just fanservice.
So yes, I will say that Season 8 of Game of Thrones is a bit of a disappointment for me. The fact that everything was rushed was the largest contributing factor to it. Both this and season 5 are probably the worst seasons (at least season 8 didn’t have that subplot in Dorne). Despite all of the problems in this season (and there are many), I can’t say that I’m entirely unhappy about how the show ended. There are some great parts, performances are great (Emilia Clarke the MVP), the direction and particularly the large scale battles are great, and while the execution and the lead up to it was rocky, I wasn’t against the direction the show went in at the end. If you haven’t watched the show and are still reading this review, I still say that the show is worth checking out. Even though the show has been slowly declining, the first 4 seasons are fantastic and even the ones following them are still pretty good as well. I don’t regret getting invested in this show and I’m looking forward to seeing the planned spin offs.