Ah, Game of Thrones, one of the greatest TV series until its final season. For any of you wondering why I'm doing this review so long after the last season came out, it's because I felt inspired after watching several YouTube videos.
Full of a fantastic assortment of characters, scenery, plot, history, and so much more, Game of Thrones had a ton to offer fans of fantasy and good TV. Even if you have not seen the show, I am sure most of you will be familiar with its… let us just say controversial ending. Did it ruin the series? Should you still watch it? Why am I asking so many rhetorical questions?
First, until George R. R. Martin finally comes out with Winds of Winter and a Dream of Springs (I am still holding out hope that he will, someday, finish them), I will not review A Song of Ice and Fire, the books in which A Game of Thrones are based on, but will offer up my opinions on the TV series itself. Now, without further ado, let's begin.
The first several seasons shined in terms of story and plot development. For those who read the books, you may have known what to expect, but the way they pulled it off was near masterfully. That slowly eroded after they surpassed the books. However, seasons 6, 7, and 8 still had a good idea for a story (and I'd argue season 6 held up almost as well as the prior seasons). However, in seasons 7 and 8 is where the plot and story begin to fade.
A quick reminder to any of my writer friends out there, pacing is good. You need to pace yourselves and your writing. Characters jumping from place to place for no reason and running dozens of miles through the snow is lazy and sloppy. As for character arcs, I loved Daenerys. Unlike many of her detractors, I thought she was a great character. However, I wouldn't have minded if she went a bit insane in the membrane and embraced her inner pyro if it made sense and was done in a well-written manner.
The issue with good ole Daenerys was that there was limited to no character development to show that she'd snap. Yes, she killed people in earlier seasons, but those she did kill deserved it or were meeting justice. For those who don't know, slave traders = bad. Dothraki, who threatened to kill or rape her = bad. Randyll Tarly, a racist, sent Sam, his own son, to the Wall and threatened to kill him because he didn't line up to gender standards = bad. You could argue, well, what about his son, Dickon? She killed him too! True, she did, but Dickon and Randyll were offered a chance to go to the Wall, which they refused. If Danny would have let them go, they would have continued to fight for Cersei. This all could have been forgiven if the series showed that, at some point, Daenerys killed or lacked compassion for innocent people.
While season 8 showed reasons why Daenerys could go mad, they were so rushed (there's the pacing again) that it didn't seem believable. Add to the fact that Daenerys started her rampage after Kings Landing surrendered, her journey to madness makes little sense. A better way would have been to have Daenerys and the North's forces losing, so she takes Drogon to King's Landing and starts burning the city. After they surrendered, then she should have continued. Or, even before they surrendered, show that she was beginning to lose it and go mad during the fighting by targeting civilians, soldiers who surrendered, and even putting her own soldiers in danger if it helped defeat the enemy.
A second problem was the Lannister twins. Cersei suffered from a terrible case of villain decay. She had the wildfire planted around the city but did nothing with it. Even before that, in season 8, she was mostly a passive antagonist outside of killing Missandei. And then there's Jamie. Oh, Jamie, Jamie, Jamie, the golden lion of Lannister. He had such a great redemption arc, then they ruined it. One could argue that the show writers were trying to go with something the viewers didn't expect, which is all good and dandy, except they showed it in a non-believable way. They gave Jamie no reason to go crawling back to Cersei. If the writers and producers meant to show that Jamie wanted to fight for the winning side, they should have had done a much better lead into it. The writers attempted to make it appear that he was worried about Cersei, but the problem is that it didn't make sense for his character. Jamie left King's Landing because he was disgusted and tired of his sister. Now, he's crawling back to her without explanation. Maybe he felt rejected by the North? Perhaps he felt there was no point? They didn't show it. What would have been better is if Brienne had died in the Battle of Winterfell. Then, he MIGHT have had some plausible reason for returning to Cersei.
To summarize, the writing is fantastic up to the last couple of seasons. That could have been salvaged if the pacing was handled properly, and more thought was put into the characters' actions. Instead, in season 8, we get a bullet point run through of what the characters were doing.
One needs to be living in a hole at the bottom of the sea to not know that Game of Thrones had a vast cast of characters: protagonists, antagonists, and peoples of all shapes and sizes. Outside of the flawed characterizations and arcs in season 8, Game of Thrones was fantastic with handling characters. Arya, Sansa, Jon, Daenerys, Jamie, and Jorah, to name a few, had excellent in-depth characterization and stories. Others, such as Tywin Lannister, Joffrey, Cersei, and Ramsay, were despicable people, but they were believable, engaging, and made the overall series better. How they interacted with each other and their world helped to show Westeros's history, the political instability, and how many people in power ignored the looming threat from beyond the Wall. Characters like Joffrey and Ramsay showed the horrific depths of human depravity, while others, such as Jon and Shireen, showed that even in a world such as Westeros, good people still exist. Even the good characters, such as Jon, Tyrion, and Daenerys (outside her going a little fire happy) still had believable flaws and weren't Mary or Marty Sues, which is, unfortunately, becoming all too common.
Outside of the bad pacing and character development of the last two seasons, mostly season 8, Game of Thrones is an exciting series for epic fantasy fans. The beautiful scenery, intense and action packed fight scenes, the skilled acting, memorable characters, and so much more make this a series for any fan of fantasy. Due to nudity, graphic violence, and sex, I would not recommend it for younger viewers. However, for adults and the rare mature older teenager (not that many adults are mature, for that matter), this would be a fun viewing experience.
Now, the problem is season 8. Does it ruin the series? Let's see… maybe? It really depends on you. I own seasons 1 – 6. I wouldn't mind getting 7, and I'd like to get 8. If anything, I'd buy it to support the actors and background staff who worked their asses off for this. While the writers and Dan and Dave did screw up the last two seasons and make them subpar (despite George R. R. Martin saying the series could have gone on for up to 13 seasons), it doesn't mean that the overall show wasn't enjoyable. Nor does it mean that the actors, actresses, and behind the scenes folks didn't do a fantastic job. It may be a while before I re-watch the series, but I don't regret being a fan of Game of Thrones. Now, we just need to get George R. R. Martin to finish the books.
Would I like to meet several of the actors, actresses, and behind the scenes people who worked on the show, and GRRM himself? Yes, yes, I would. Now, onto the last and final section.
In no particular order, except number one:
Brienne of Tarth