Review by Tim Robins
WARNING: SPOILERS! DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THE SERIES FINALE… YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED…
And Lo! There Shall Be an Ending! Game of Thrones managed to end on a satisfactory, sombre note that lay the way open for further adventures for members of our favourite House – the Starks.
A headline making, on-line petition signed by over a million fans demanded HBO to rewrite the entire Season Eight. But, in the end, the writers got it right. The pace has certainly been clipped, and a lot of potential confrontations left on the writers’ floor, but the season has successfully balanced character development with scenes of open warfare.
Season Eight has certainly been one of the most nerve-wracking experiences in my TV viewing life. I have no idea why I became hooked on what has basically been a Soap Opera in furs. It certainly wasn’t the world building of George RR Martin, author of the seven book “A Song of Ice and Fire” (five published so far, the sixth in progress). For me, Martin lacks the scholarly imagination of Tolkien – a country to the West is called “Westeros”, a country to the East is called Essos. Even “A Song of Ice and Fire” sounds like an advertising slogan for the Icelandic Tourist Board.
Despite this, many people treat this alien world (the series is not set on Earth) as if it were a faithful representation of medieval Britain.The overall plot, focussing on various warring “Houses”, is apparently based on the Wars of the Roses, but, for me, the TV series recalls the BBC2 adaptation of I, Claudius – but with more explicit sex and violence. And I’ll be honest, some of that has been part of its appeal. From the get go, it has never clear who will live or die.
The cast have helped “sell” the ludicrous world and create some of the best villains this side of South Park’s Cartman, including the evil King Joffery Baratheon, the Machiavellian Cersei, the sadistic Ramsey Bolton and (shock! Horror!) Daenerys Targaryen. The series even created its own baddie, the Night King, leader of the zombie-ish White Walkers.
For those who have missed it, Game of Thrones rapidly became TV phenomena with an audience of over 80 million world-wide. The series took its name from the first of George RR Martin’s novels, but finally went beyond his published work to do something the author hasn’t felt able to do – bring the “Song of Ice and Fire” to an end. The books, and programme, have spawned graphic novels, board games and video games.
The overnight UK broadcast of the final episode of Game of Thrones averaged 3.2 million viewers, according to the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board. Another 527,000 caught up with the repeat on Monday evening.
The show has been adapted for television by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, who have been handed the poisoned chalice of crafting the next Star Wars trilogy. For Seasons 7 and 8, they followed input from Martin to end the Game of Thrones saga roughly in the area the author wanted, although Martin has already said the novels will not end the same way.
There has, of course, been the inevitable fan outrage for a variety of reasons, particularly over the pace of the final season. It is true that Game of Thrones has often been a slow burn, punctuated by unexpected moments of gore. Indeed, that was part of the series appeal. It was never entirely clear who would live or die and what would be left of them. Surprisingly, most of the “good” characters survived –although the characters are all, to a degree, morally ambiguous.
Highlights of the last episode include the suggestion that the Seven Kingdoms become a democracy being laughed out of court and scenes with Drogon, the last of the three Dragons, confronting Jon Snow and smelting down the Iron Throne. Sadly, without the steadying influence of others, betrayed by her trusted advisors and rejected by her lover, Daenerys became a potential tyrant whose idea of liberating people was to burn everything and everyone down. I feel a little bit sorry for parents who have named their new born daughters Daenerys, Dany or her Dothraki title “Khaleesi” but they really should have waited for the series to end before backing the wrong dragon.
Yes, there were scenes and plot missing. I have no idea what happened to the Dothraki and the Unsullied, freed from slavery by Daenerys, seemed remarkably sanguine about her assassination – maybe being a eunuch does that to a man. But, against this, the episode left the door open for plenty of spin-off stories including Arya Stark’s voyage to lands unknown (Northos Amerikoss?), “Bran the Broken”’s quest for the remaining dragon and Jon Snow’s exile in the land to the North of the wall.
The series has also rested on a fine sense spectacle and detail, despite the unfortunate, recent, inclusion of a take-away cup of coffee among the flagons of ale! But a scene of Tyrion Lannister walking among the ashes of King’s Landing included a background character whose posture and wounds surely deliberately recalled the tragic photo Phan Thi Kim Phúc fleeing the aftermath of a napalm attack during the Vietnam war.
The final shot of Jon Snow and his company of Wildlings (Scots to you and me) trudging off among forest trees was pitch perfect. I am sorry to see them go but have no doubt HBO will be coming back with more of the similar.
A freelance journalist and Doctor Who fanzine editor since 1978, Tim Robins has written on comics, films, books and TV programmes for a wide range of publications including Starburst, Interzone, Primetime and TV Guide. His brief flirtation with comics includes ghost inking a 2000AD strip and co-writing a Doctor Who strip. He reviewed comics and films in posts and podcasts for The Mindless Ones until he became a net diva and forgot to name check the rest of the team at a San Diego Comic Con panel. The Mindless Ones gave him the nickname ‘Tymbus’
• George RR Martin’s Blog – georgerrmartin.com/notablog
As of 21st May 2019, George RR Martin’s site seems to jump to a strange “holding page”, depending on how you navigate
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