Game of Thrones was a cultural phenomenon, bringing people of all ages and persuasions into the fantasy epic genre through its intriguing storylines, excellent characters, and the constant promise of 18-rated content. Based on the novels by George R. R. Martin, the series became a juggernaut of television around the world, an incredibly popular talking point, and a must-see show at first airing due to how quickly the internet became stacked with click-bait spoilers from ‘news’ outlets.
The show’s sprawling storylines which spanned two continents within Martin’s fictitious world, from the wars between the Seven Kingdoms to the lands of Essos in the east and the increasing threat brewing in the north, were expertly paced for much of Game of Thrones. Character development and storylines were second-to-none, with acting at its peak and the underlying message of the danger of climate change all combining to create a riveting show.
However, approaching the end of the series’ run, it started to stumble, finally unceremoniously falling flat on its face, in the eyes of many viewers, to a distinctly underwhelming finale. The backlash was well publicised, with a petition on Change requesting HBO to remake the final season accruing over 1.8 million signatures.
Now, many months removed from the Season 8 finale and the backlash, we look back on Game of Thrones with a refreshed perspective to examine the legacy that the once much-loved show has left behind.
Season 1-6: TV gold
Each of the first six seasons of Game of Thrones spanned ten episodes, and each of them expertly laid out plot points from stories taking place all over the vast realms Martin’s tomes. While the showrunners, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, had to cut some elements of Martin’s epic series, they did a grand job of bringing key storylines of the Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, Targaryens, Wildlings, Tyrells, Martells, Greyjoys, Boltons and everyone else in between to life.
Quite possibly the most addictive aspect of the show was its unpredictability. Built upon by excellent character development and the constant threat of betrayal and power, Game of Thrones set its own pace, feeding action, progression, and shocking scenes as it saw fit to continue to build excitement. A great example of this is the start of Season 2, which picks up from an array of thrilling events at the end of Season 1, but decides instead to re-establish key plot points while pushing a select few forward.
Then, Game of Thrones encountered its first major hurdle: running out of book material. Season 6 marked the first time that the showrunners would be required to work off-script, per The Denver Post, with Martin still working on his sixth book. During the season, the show’s story had to work itself out. It stuck to its ten-episode structure and kept the tone and pacing of previous all-book-adapted series.
Season 7-8: TV tragedy
Coming into the final couple of seasons, Benioff and Weiss brought in a self-imposed limit on how much further Game of Thrones would go, opting for seven episodes in the penultimate season and six episodes in the final season. With other projects like their Star Wars trilogy deal and their Confederate series about modern slavery on the horizon (both of which have been cancelled now), the showrunners wanted to wrap off Game of Thrones.
It was clear to see that the showrunners were running off-script as the tone, pacing, and development of the stories changed a great deal. An obvious place to point to is that in the last two seasons, Arya’s quote of “anyone can be killed” – which commanded the suspense of the show – went out of the window. There wasn’t a sense of fear for any characters, and the few that did get cut down were done so in distinct contrast to the clever and well-timed way that the fate of all others had been sealed.
It was a great shame to see Game of Thrones go down in such a rushed manner as it truly captured the excitement and imaginations of millions around the world. The Metacritic scores perfectly demonstrate how derailed the show had become by its climax, ranging from 4.3 to 5.5 for episodes in Season 7 and 5.9 to a mere 2.5 in Season 8.
A strong legacy of Game of Thrones lives on
For many fans, the final couple of seasons of Game of Thrones soured the memory of the once-great show, but as they say, time heals all wounds. Even since the demise of the show in mid-2019, Game of Thrones has still been a popular talking point and people still have a tremendous adoration for the show, even if it is just for 75 per cent of its run.
Due to the popularity of Game of Thrones and how incredibly well made much of the series was, Game of Thrones tourism has become a very real thing that even the most-scorned fans can get behind. As the show visited so many idyllic and stunning locations, there are now tours around parts of Northern Ireland, Croatia, Iceland, and Spain for people to follow the footsteps of their favourite characters.
The fan base for the show is clearly still huge and filled with people who just want to continue to experience the world depicted by the show based on Martin’s writing as new GoT video games are still being released. The branded slot continues to be a popular title on casino websites which is certainly due to it featuring the likes of the Targaryens, Starks, Lannisters, and Baratheons.
Of course, fans of the show who disagreed with the ending can look forward to the final two books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series that are currently being penned by Martin. In his Not A Blog, Martin recognised the delay of the next book, The Winds of Winter, and the final book, A Dream of Spring. However, with that post coming in mid-2019, there still isn’t any news about the release of the novel.
Many fans will be hoping that the final books give them the fleshed-out ending that they crave, but as it’s been nearly nine years since the fifth instalment, A Dance with Dragons, some fans are losing hope that the 71-year-old will finish the story that he started back in 1996.
There will be an endearing love for the characters and world that Martin forged in his novels and HBO brought to the small screen. However, without an alternate means to finish the story from the original author, many fans will look back on Game of Thrones as a show that started incredibly well but features a rushed, out of tune, and nonsensical final stretch.