Thoughts on the Game of Thrones Finale. **SPOILERS**

Thoughts on the Game of Thrones Finale. **SPOILERS**

Alright, I didn’t want to pile on about how disappointing it was, but I’ve got some things I just have to get off my chest. The biggest problem was they needed to make the season longer. I was worried when they said there would only be six episodes in this season. “How can they resolve everything there is to resolve in six seasons?” I thought. Turns out they couldn’t. Really, trying to resolve everything in six episodes, they were setting themselves up for failure. So let me join the chorus of wailing and gnashing of teeth one last time.

The Battle of Winterfell

This is not one of my complaints. I don’t understand why folks were disappointed in the Battle of Winterfell. What? You wanted it to be longer? Stretch it out over two episodes? You mean a full hour-plus episode of a bloody, gory battle with Night Walkers and dragons, back and forth, ups and downs, seesawing between hope and despair wasn’t intense enough? You needed your blood curdled and nightmares for two weeks, not just one?

But the Night Army crumbled so easily. Of course the Night Army crumbled. We all knew killing the Night King was key, and Arya (perfect choice for the job) did it. It took every army and every knight in Winterfell to pull it off. Two characters who needed redemption – Theon and Melisandre – found it. I don’t see how they failed there.

The Battle of King’s Landing

After cheering for Danaeris Targaryen so long, after she had overcome so much to get to this place where King’s Landing and the Iron Throne were in her grasp, she reverts back to her mad ancestry and burns everything to the ground. I was disappointed in her. I think they could have set that kind of turn better (if they hadn’t made the season so short), but in the end it felt like the kind of twist I had come to expect from Game of Thrones. She had just enough reasons that I understood it, though that does not seem to be the consensus among fans.

But then we get to the final episode, and that was just wrong in so many ways.

Bran the Superfluous

Bran’s character was unnecessary. All he did was pass on information. They could have done the entire series without him. If they were going to take that turn, his character needed to be developed much better. And he knew all along he was going to become king? If so, why bring up that Jon Snow is really Aegon Targaryon and the rightful heir to the Iron Throne? Why present his brother as an alternate to Dany if he knew all along he would be king? If that was the turn they were going to take, 1) they needed to develop Bran into a full character, and 2) they needed to make the end for Jon not so dreary. Either have him claim the throne or die fighting for his people, but going back to the Night Watch after you’ve flown dragons just is not the way to end his story arc.

Earth shattering revelation (Eh, not so much)

Jon Snow was the guy everyone wanted to be king, and turned out he was the rightful king. Sure put a monkey wrench in Danaeris Targaryen’s “inevitable” march to the Iron Throne, and turned her lover into her rival. That could have set up a much more dramatic showdown, if they had not cut the season so short.

But they raise the expectations that Jon will (if reluctantly) be revealed as Aegon Targaryen and have to take the throne, only to send him back to the Night’s Watch? He led armies to victory over the Wildlings (including a giant), the Boltons, and the Night Army. And did I mention he’s one of two people in the world who can ride dragons? That ending for him, after building our expectations for much more, was just not right. It feel like they cheated just because they had to end it.

Winter is coming?

They forgot about winter that had been all the talk for the first half of the series. If they had used it, that could have added another layer to the threats.

Dany

They could have done more to make her story arc feel complete. I think Kristen Lamb said it well. If they had added even a couple more episodes,

The writers could have:

a) Made the battle against the White Walkers more than the single largest disappointment since New Coke. {I disagree about that being the biggest disappointment, but leads to further points.}

b) Ratcheted the ‘end of the world’ feeling that WOULD entice characters make utterly STUPID decisions.

I’m looking at you, Jaime Lannister.

c) With heightened doom—losses against the Walkers and weather, Cersei refusing to render aid, and the sheer emotional stress that Dany was failing those she’d promised to save—Dany’s final acts of madness would have felt far more organic.

Her zealotry could have grown from subtle (which they already HAD) but then her fanaticism would’ve had a bit more time to bloom in proportion with the threat.

–“Game of Thrones: A Song of ‘I Literally Can’t Even’” https://authorkristenlamb.com/2019/05/game-of-thrones-storytelling-cautionary-tale/

Even though I said I understand her scorched earth strategy at the end, I think Lamb’s suggestions would have made it more understandable, even if we did not like it.

Arya

She became one of the most badass characters on all of television. But except for killing the Night King, she looked weak most of the time. She had always been in complete control, able to slip in and out of any situation at will. But she looked scared of the zombies in her castle (The after-show explained her head injury made her dizzy and not quite as confident). She looked as lost as the city-folk running through King’s Landing. Then they ended Episode 5 with her rising from the ashes to find a white horse, ride it out of the city, thus setting her up to be… I don’t know, maybe a mythical figure of death akin to one of the Horseman of the Apocalypse. You think badass Arya has returned. Again, set up, no pay off.

If you ask me, she should have been the one to kill Dany. She could have done the deed, stood in front of the Iron Throne and let Drogoro burn her with the Iron Throne, sacrificing herself for the peace of the Realm, and opening the way for Jon Snow to be revealed as Aegon Targaryen, and take the, uh, we’ll have to make a new throne, but you get the idea.

Maybe they thought that was too predictable. But if they wanted to give us a surprise at the end, it had to be better than Bran the Broken. And whatever the surprise, they had to do a better job of setting it up. Which means my fears were founded. They could not bring everything to a satisfactory end, or even close to it, in just six episodes.

The Short Season

Having to wrap up everything in six episodes made the ending feel rushed, like they forced characters to do unnatural things just to get to the end. Of course, GoT is known for having characters surprise us. It’s one of the things that made it so addictive. But those surprises still have to feel organic. When you end with characters we’ve followed throughout a series doing things that don’t feel true to them, surprises are not good. When you give the reader a set up (like Jon Snow is Aegon Targaryen), there needs to be a pay-off. Bran as king and Jon Snow moping back to the Wall does not feel like a pay-off at all.

Maybe they thought Jon becoming king would have been too predictable, but at least I wouldn’t have felt cheated. If they didn’t want that, they shouldn’t have set us up for it.

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For us as authors, we can learn a lot about storytelling done right from the earlier seasons of GoT. But the fans’ universal outcries of disappointment provide some important lessons as well. My biggest takeaway is this is a reminder not to rush your ending. Most often, it is what readers remember most after they read and/or watch. Take the time you need to develop the character arcs and the story arc so that it feels right. You don’t want it to be predictable, but you don’t want it to be inevitable. The best reaction you can get from the reader at the end of your story is, “I should have seen it coming.” The worst reaction you can get is, well, if you’ve read this far, you have a pretty good idea.

Now for a more satisfying way to end that saga, here’s a link to a performance of the GoT theme song featuring Tom Morello of Audioslave/Rage Against The Machine, Scott Ian of Anthrax, Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme, Brad Paisley, and Game Of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi. Very Cool.

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