SPOILERS AHEAD FOR SEASON 8, EPISODE 5: THE BELLS
I’ve been enjoying Game of Thrones for a large portion of its 8th and final season. I’ve had a few issues overall, most notably for me is seemingly the misuse of Bronn. He’s had two scenes in the last run of episodes and I didn’t really believe that Cersei would trust him with the mission of killing her brothers. Hopefully there will be something redeemable in the last episode with him.
But that’s not really what I want to talk about today. Today, I’d like to address the complete turning of GoT’s fanbase in the course of five episodes. We are going to go through this a piece at a time, so bear with me while we discuss.
*Something I wanted to add before we get all spoilery with GoT talk is that I am completely fine with fans and viewers being frustrated that the show didn’t go in the direction they expected/wanted, but my argument has to do with those who flat-out condemned the series in Season 8 without having the full vision of the season. That being said…
Episode 801: Winterfell & Episode 802: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
Really, the fan frustration for these two episodes is rather silly and stupid, but it needs addressing. Fans complained nonstop about the lack of episodes in Season 8 before the premiere even aired, and they were especially mad that the first two episodes of Season 8 were the normal run time while the last four episodes would be Super-Sized episodes. Then, upon the airing of each of these dialogue and character-driven episodes, fans voiced anger at the fact that no major action or battles took place. I guess this was something I kind of expected, but I was shocked to find so many people lashing out at lack of action in a show that is mostly talking and politics.
Episode 803: The Long Night
When the third episode of Season 8, The Long Night, was about to air, I voiced my excitement. This was, after all, what the fans had been longing for all season, and it was a potential culmination (in a post Avengers: Endgame world, what does culmination even mean anymore?) of 8 seasons of the Night King’s slow-spreading disease of an invasion. Here it was for all of us in all its glory. But then everyone hated it.
The hate erupted from a variety of different issues, but the main one was the lighting of the episode. Most of The Long Night was, well, dark. Too dark for some. I was watching on a Standard Definition broadcast, and I can tell you that I didn’t really have a problem with the lighting. I found the episode to be dark, but also, I found it to be one of the most stressful television experiences I have ever had. 80-some minutes of non-stop carnage with many of my favorite characters right in harm’s way for a bulk of the time. It was difficult to watch, but at no point did I miss any of the main character deaths. There were times when I turned to the others in my room and ask who that was that died, but I think that added to the experience. Yes, we had to turn out all the lights in the room and draw the shades, that much is true, but I felt like was part of the experience.
There were other problems, too, many of which I just didn’t have a problem with and some I was able to find a good explanation for even if I would have done it differently. Viewers were angry that Ghost didn’t get much attention in the episode, and he seemingly disappeared early on in the battle, leaving his fate unknown until the following week. I understand that CGI is expensive on network TV and if less Ghost means more dragons, then I’m all for it (although I would have just killed Ghost off seasons ago if I knew that to be an issue).
Some had a problem with Arya Stark killing the Night King. I didn’t understand the problem and was surprised that she did it. I had expected it to be Jon Snow and was quite happy to be wrong. There were some who called out how crazy it is that she was able to get to the Night King at all with his many followers in tow, but I recall Arya sneaking her way into the godswood previously in the storyline, and it’s a setup that works just fine for me. There was also the question of how easily the army of the dead was dispatched, but knowing that the Night King is the only one in need of dispatching in order to stop the whole army, I expected a somewhat out-of-nowhere ending to the saga of the dead (and again, I would have never let the Night King anywhere near Winterfell if he’s the only one you need to kill).
Episode 804: The Last of the Starks
Okay, so I had a few problems with The Last of the Starks, but I should stress that none of them took my enjoyment from me.
As it came down to it, I really wanted Jon and Dany to get together officially. Yeah, they are related, but that didn’t seem to be too much of a problem in GoT, right? This episode actually served to fracture that relationship further, and it did so quite well, putting the problem that faces Jon before him and having him struggle with it because that sort of thing doesn’t happen in the North. A brilliant way of complicating matters, one I hadn’t really thought of.
There was the issue of the death of Rhaegal, the second of Dany’s dragons. People didn’t like that no one could see the fleet of Greyjoy vessels hiding out and waiting, but I would invite you to watch the scene again. There’s enough suspension of disbelief here.
Then again, I agree that many of our leads have been making somewhat foolish decisions this last season. They are underestimating Cersei as a villain, a very bad idea, or so I thought. My issue is from the idea that Cersei proves to be a faulty strategist this season. She sent Bronn to kill Jaime and Tyrion, two men who have been friends with the sellsword, knowing his allegiance was to whoever offered more. This led to the most underwhelming sequence in the season, or perhaps series.
There’s the issue of the death of Missandei, and again, I only really take issue with the question of how everyone learned she had been taken by Euron’s fleet. If Grey Worm doesn’t know what happened, who would? Many critics of the episode pointed out that Missandei’s whole role here is to support other character arcs. I would argue that Missandei had a pretty nice little arc across her time in the series, and I feel like that arc was pretty close to completion. There’s also the saying that Characters Serve Story, and Missandei was meant to fuel us toward Dany’s eventual choice that we would come to see in the following episode.
Episode 805: The Bells
Okay, so here we are. The most recent episode seems to be the most hotly-debated and criticized. I will count myself as someone, going into the episode, have just rewatched the previous two, who believed that Dany would make the right call. I knew the decision would be upon her, and I felt like she would make the right call for decency. This is a choice, after all, that she has been given before. But after the “twist,” as some have called it, in which Dany decides to burn King’s Landing to ash and all those within its walls, I began to rethink myself, and though I wish this decision was given more time to fester and play out, I got it. I saw the many times in Dany’s arc on the show where she was given the option for mercy and decided against it. Add to that her most trusted allies leaving her one by one. Jon rejects her, unable to cope with that whole Targaryen incest thing. Jorah and Missandei are killed, as are two of her dragons. Tyrion fails her. Varys plots behind her back. Dany sees herself as alone. Just her and Drogon against the world.
But if you look back, you will see that this Mad Queen scenario is earned several times. When Dany loses her brother Viserys, she does not mourn him. Yes, he is a monster, but he is also her brother, a man she always thought to be her eventual husband (due to that nasty inbreeding thing). She often threatens to burn opposing cities to the ground in pursuit of the iron throne, and she regularly uses her dragons in a showcase of power.
The only issue with this whole season has been the pacing (and also Bronn, I mean, c’mon!), the way events feel so rushed, but we are down to the endgame here and small character building moments earlier have paved the way for the rushing now, and many of these moments were earned.
Look, I’m not trying to tell you that your opinion isn’t valid. If you haven’t enjoyed this season of Game of Thrones, I understand, but don’t go attacking the writers or the producers or HBO for it. Take second to really think about where the series is headed, and do some looking back for these setups.
I personally believe that, upon the series completion, with a complete rewatch knowing the beginning, middle, and end will do wonders for anyone doubting the show. At the very least, see how it all plays out before you jump to any conclusions about the quality of the season.
And if you are being a toxic fan, fucking stop it.
-Kyle A. Goethe