Season 8 of Game of Thrones has been one of the most talked about final seasons of any series ever. The hype has been impossible to escape and our expectations have been unrealistically high. And then, just like that, it’s all over.
A lot of people have a lot of feelings about season 8 and it’s to be expected, given how invested we have been in the show over the years. We will do our best, however, to keep this review as concise and objective as possible.
First off, episode one was a bit of a slow-burner. With just six episodes to wrap up everyone’s individual and collective stories, it felt like the hour could have been put to better use. Tensions between Sansa and Daenerys were emphasized and the episode was packed with interesting reunions. Overall though, the episode was more of a nod to the earlier seasons than an addition to the development of the season 8 plot.
Episode two, on the other hand, was fantastic. The feature-length episode takes place over one night in one location. There is no update on King’s Landing and instead, we watch our favorite characters prepare for their imminent deaths. Gendry and Arya finally share a romantic moment, Tormund proves himself yet again to be the best character of them all and Podrick graces us with a song. The episode succeeded in reminding us just how important each character is to us and made us all the more anxious to watch the big battle against the White Walkers.
And wow, what a battle it was. “The Long Night” is arguably one of the greatest episodes in TV history and it definitely had one of the highest budgets. Every detail was meticulously crafted, every fight scene tense and every victory a heroic triumph. Each character had a role to play and Arya’s sudden appearance at the end of the episode took us all by surprise. Prior to that moment, it really felt like they were going to lose and that the Night King would be marching down to King’s Landing next episode to destroy Cersei.
Planting an epic battle like that in the middle of the final season is a brave move. It leaves the audience wondering where the hell things are going to go from there. It’s an opportunity for the writers to do anything with any of the characters and to shatter all our expectations. So naturally, fans were devastated that the last three episodes felt more rushed than the show deserved.
Episode four had its moments, only a lot was taken away from us too. Arya’s rejection of Gendry’s proposal was a good character move but still a letdown and Brienne of Tarth and Jamie finally getting together was ripped away from us abruptly and painfully. Missandei’s death was the final straw for our Khaleesi and the episode concludes with her consumed by rage. But could we have predicted her actions in the next episode?
Lots of people seem to think that her decision to burn down King’s Landing came of nowhere but ultimately, we were more disappointed to lose one of the series’ best characters to madness than we were at the quality of the character arc. The episode is visually fantastic and the horror of it all was executed very well. It just all happened so quickly.
By the time the episode six opening credits rolled, we’d come to accept that our hopes were just too high. 80 minutes just isn’t enough time to give us everything we wanted and there were too many stories in need of concluding. The episode had some moving moments but overall it just felt rushed. Daenerys is a powerful tyrant one moment and then she is dead the next. Jon Snow goes from being the obvious choice for King to being exiled to the North right after Drogo flies off into the distance, never to be seen again.
Had the final season been for any other show, we’d have likely been satisfied. The Starks’ final farewell is profoundly emotional and Peter Dinklage’s acting was admirable. The trouble is, Game of Thrones isn’t just any old show and so many of our character’s stories felt like they had been cut short before they fully got to blossom.
Objectively speaking then, the final season still stands at an exceptionally high standard. After a decade of watching though, it’s hard not to feel cheated.
In The Waste Land, the great poet T.S. Eliot famously wrote the lines “And that is how the world will end, not with a bang but with a whimper.” After all the fire and blood of episodes 3 and 5, perhaps this was the only way that episode 6 could go. The great conqueror Khalisi is stabbed in the heart during an embrace with her lover and the throne is taken not by combat, but by a conversation between friends. And we’re just sat there, wondering if being satisfied was ever really an option.