Game of Thrones: 10 Year Retr….Who Cares?
It was a full ten years ago in the year 2011, a new fantasy show based on the books of George R. R. Martin the screen, and by the end of its inaugural season, Game of Thrones was a bonafide hit. Audiences were sucked in initially by the conspiracy-laden plot of the honorable Ned Stark uncovering the truth about the family of his close friend King Robert Baratheon. Little did we know this was all simply here to set the pieces up and once Ned is killed the show would become an enthralling epic unlike anything else on television. For the next few season we followed a vast cast of characters each involved in storylines of triumph, tragedy, ambition, love and betrayals. We traded fan theories about the mysteries of the White Walkers. We despised the sadistic child ruler King Joffrey. We were all hit in the emotional gut witnessing the Red Wedding. We all went through collective periods of forgetting Bran Stark even existed until he popped up onscreen. We became fascinated by the dynamic of Arya and the Hound. Even those who did not watch the show knew what was happening each week. Game of Thrones was not just a hit with the usual scifi/fantasy fans it became a pop culture juggernaut. Creators and showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff (dubbed D&D by fans) had done the impossible and adapted the grand works of George R.R. Martin to a television format. But then…..they ran out of source material to pull from inspiration from.
Staring with season 6 Weiss and Benioff were tightrope walking without a net, luckily there were enough story strokes they were able to keep things chugging along. Plotlines Martin began were starting to be tied up as characters began to cross paths for what would be the inevitable war for the Iron Throne. It was only a matter of time before Daenerys took her armies to Westeros. We all knew at some point the White Walkers and the army of the dead would breakthrough and make their way south. A part of Jon Snow’s hero’s journey would at some point have to bring him back to Winterfell to confront Ramsay Bolton and claim his rightful position in House Stark. But in season 8, D&D were tasked with bringing everything to a satisfying conclusion and that is where everything went so horribly wrong. I am not saying bringing multiple storylines and character arcs to a proper conclusion is an easy task, but with some effort it can be accomplished. But as TV viewers discovered in the final season of Game of Thrones D&D were out of efforts to give. The way this once beloved show came to an end radiated with the energy of a slacker student crapping out an essay after proclaiming “wait that was due today?!?!” By now all we all know the shortcomings of how Game of Thrones concluded and have given are thoughts on it. Seemingly there was something there for every fan to hate in the show’s final push. Jon Snow being the true heir to the Iron Throne ended up being a big glass of Irrelevant Juice. The entire character arc of Ser Jaime Lannister was tossed out of a window as easily as Bran….sorry King Bran the Useless. The Dothraki were wiped out by the undead during “The Long Night” but they got better a few episodes later. Tyrion Lannister, a character defined by his intellect, suggests that everyone hide in the crypt…..from an enemy who can freakin’ raise the dead. Daenerys snapped and became a genocidal warlord out of the blue, and I could go on. Suffice it to say D&D not just dropped the ball they spiked it to the ground like a basketball player looking to pick up a tech.
The shame of it is that in the making of the concluding season of Game of Thrones everyone else responsible for making the show delivered (except maybe the set designer who left a cup of Starbucks laying around and the director who didn’t move it out of the shot). The cast delivered majorly across the board especially Peter Dinklage and Sophie Turner. The fact that the scripts they had to work with were utter drivel make the performances they turned in that much better. Likewise, the directors, cinematographers, costume designers, special fx artists, craft services all turned in some incredible work worthy of applause. Some of the strongest visual elements of this show came through during this swan song. Who could forget that image of the dragon’s wings unfolding behind Daenerys as she surveyed her charred kingdom? Or the grand scale at the battle of Winterfell as our heroes who were dumb enough to put the flame-filled trenches BEHIND their infantry fought the undead? Even what was coming out of the writer’s room was not all bad, Bryan Cogman’s script for “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” was the perfect heartfelt exploration of how these characters would act on what could be there last night before the end.
Sadly, there is only so much chicken salad they could make out of the chicken crap which was the D&D-penned conclusion. What was once arguably the most beloved show on television became the most reviled as fans who waited 8 seasons for a gang-buster of an ending were given something Benioff and Weiss threw together at the last minute just to get it over with. They had big money deals in the works with Lucasflm and Netflix they were focused on so the sooner they could knock this out the better. The end result was “The Iron Throne” easily ranks among the worst series finales of once popular shows. If MASH “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen” is at one end of the series finale spectrum “The Iron Throne” is on the complete opposite end.
One would assume this is where the story ends. After all, for better or worse the show is over and we survived even if countless citizens of King’s Landing did not. Benioff and Weiss had a vision and executed it in full and even found success along the way. But HBO was not done with Westeros yet. The cable network HBO is owned by Warner Bros. a studio once famed for giving creative people the freedom to make what they will. But after a deal with AT&T, Warner now more than ever has corporate overlords who need placating, and if there is one thing corporate overlords love right now it is bankable franchises. Under their umbrella, they have many such blockbuster franchises as: Batman, Harry Potter, Superman, Lord of the Rings, Wonder Woman, the Looney Tunes, Scooby Doo, and so many more including Game of Thrones. The show had not even begun its swan song before a number of spin-offs were thrown into pre-production at some level. Right now the prequel House of the Dragon is actually filming with a stellar cast including: Paddy Considine, Olivia Cooke, Matt Smith and Graham McTavish. But seemingly nobody cares, there are no constant updates from geek sites like IGN, Den of Geek, or any other blogs or sites about its progress or speculations about the story elements. The failure of its parent series has seemingly crushed any enthusiasm for the show before it has even gotten off the ground.
Usually when a pop culture landmark hits a significant anniversary, like this ten year mark, there are retrospectives, binge watches, convention panels etc. With Game of Thrones we had none of this, I did not even realize it was the 10th anniversary until some Youtube video I was watching mentioned it offhand. It seems that the hatred we felt towards the finale of this show has evolved into something worse, apathy. We know even if we try to rewatch the good episodes of Game of Thrones it is all leading to a big crapfest so what is the point. Hopefully within the next 392 years George R.R. Martin can publish the final books in the A Song of Ice and Fire saga to give fans a satisfying conclusion but at this rate your guess is as good as mine as to if that happens or not.