The End of Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones has been on-air for eight years. Over eight years, I have attended or hosted dozens of watch parties and spent countless hours reading and speculating about what might happen. I remember being genuinely uncertain about whether every character would live or die by the end of the show.

Now, it’s all done, and in contrast to the internet, I enjoyed the last season.

Of course, spoilers ahead.

Taken one episode at a time, the last season had some issues with execution. They could have written or edited certain scenes differently, and there were some big leaps along the way. Dothraki battle tactics, the sneakiest Iron Fleet, surprisingly fast travel north and south, and other complaints are all valid.

However, taken as an entire season, I can see how the writers put the pieces together to setup the ending that they wanted. We could have taken more time to get through scenes, but it would likely keep diverging. In some ways, the show worked so well early on because the plot lines kept getting deeper instead of finishing.

Before we watched the last episode, my watch party tried to remember what other long-running shows had great endings, and the list wasn’t very long. The two recent examples were Breaking Bad and The Wire. Past that, the only regular contender was MASH, which ended over 30 years ago. On the flip side, there are plenty of long-running shows that slowly peter out or don’t resolve well at all, such as Lost or Battlestar Galactica.

It’s hard to take years of plot and character development and wrap it all up in a perfect episode. Most long-running shows avoid the problem by either being purely episodic or keeping distinct storylines for each season. Game of Thrones took this problem head-on by weaving together many storylines over the course of years. Some characters like Bran or Gendry disappeared for seasons. Others went on journeys that took just as long. Although I remember pilot points, I couldn’t tell you what happened in what season because the story kept developing over time.

And I think they delivered. The last few seasons felt different than the rest of the show because characters and storylines converged upon a pre-determined ending, but I think it all worked out just fine.

I was unhappy that the humans defeated the Night King so quickly. I hoped that the story would end on that conflict because the White Walkers were the great evil and force of nature for generations. In the same way that I think ensemble casts are more real than singular heroes, I think that man versus nature is the greatest conflict that will exist no matter how enlightened we as humans become.

I was fooled mid-season into thinking that Cersei would be the big bad guy. It just didn’t feel right that one human was more evil than the literal undead. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the last episode where the true conflict changes again. It isn’t even really about Daenerys: it’s about the “wheel” and the broken legacy and system that humans had created for themselves. There’s a real evil and self-perpetuating conflict in hereditary monarchy that they, at least momentarily, overcome. I think it’s a nice ending.

Of course, I also think that Bran is a weird choice, but it felt forced so they could make a bigger point.

Apparently they’re writing prequels, and as I mentioned, I’m not particularly interested in watching more. Maybe someone else has the magic that Martin created with the first few seasons. However, I started watching Game of Thrones to spend time with friends and connect the zeitgeist, so maybe I will watch again. If not, hopefully something else dominates pop culture. That way, I still have something to talk about with friends, family, coworkers, and even Comcast technicians because we’re all watching it together.

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