Another guest post. This time, it’s David M. Zahn, the world famous author of the Digital Sorcery Series, to give an author’s perspective on Game of Thrones Season 8. It goes without saying, but HUGE SPOILERS for the whole Game of Thrones HBO series follow.
There’s a lot of hatred for Game of Thrones season 8, but is that hatred justified? In a word, yes. The biggest problems with the season really comes down to how the writing was structured. The show runners/writers decided they only needed 6 episodes to wrap this thing up, which was a bit surprising to me considering how many plot threads they had going on.
The seasons starts off dragging for two episodes where the plot isn’t moved at all, then it rushes through the long night before dragging its feet for another half an episode before rushing all the characters from Winterfell to Kings Landing. Once at Kings Landing it goes at breakneck speed toward the conclusion, never giving things a chance to feel natural or to emotionally resonate with the viewer. Really the pacing was like riding a roller coaster where it never found the right speed to go at.
I’ll break down the episodes more in depth below.
Game of Thrones Season 8 Episodes 1 and 2
My issues with these two episodes mostly stem from the fact that this was a 6 episode final season with a ton of plot threads to wrap up and nothing happens in these two episodes to advance the plot. Throw each of these episodes in a 10 episode full season and they are mostly okay aside from a couple cringe-worthy moments.
Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3
As a stand alone episode this would probably be the high point of the season. Yes all the main characters have plot armor, they screwed up the lighting, and there were a few cringeworthy moments (Lyanna Mormont anyone?), but this episode is entertaining and the battle is pretty sweet.
The problem is that this episode has the exact moment that the show begins to collapse. That moment is when Arya skydives in and kills the Night King with her little knife flip. Some people found this badass while others found it more cheesy. I lean more toward cheesy, but that’s not the point.
The big issues is that for 7 seasons the White Walkers, The Night King, and the Long Night have been built up as this world ending threat and in a single literal night Arya kills the Night King and ends the threat like it’s nothing. Coupled with the lack of any meaningful deaths it feels cheap and unearned.
The entire threat to the world of men is presented and resolved in a single episode. As the viewer you feel like every character and prophecy since season 1 has been lying to you and it ultimately leaves you completely unsatisfied and questioning why it was built up for so long in the first place.
Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 4
And now we’re back to the show dragging it’s feet. A good half to 2/3rds of this episode are spent on a mass funeral and celebrations of victory without advancing the remaining plot threads which are still quite significant even with the White Walker storyline obliterated. Then in the final 20-30 minutes a switch is flipped and breakneck speed begins.
Major characters teleport down south near Kings Landing and a lot of things that don’t make sense start happening. Suspension of disbelief is stretched to its breaking point and it’s probably the first time a majority of viewers realize that something is very wrong on the show. A fleet hides from dragons behind a big rock, kills a dragon hitting it with 3 scorpion bolts out of 3, and obliterates ships like they are made of paper mâché. A golden company is mentioned only to never show up again, Dothraki are reincarnated having survived their charge of the White Walkers and the sinking of ships with horses on them, and Missendei is somehow found in the wreckage by the cartoon character Euron Greyjoy.
Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5
Oh boy, this is probably the low point of the series and man is it low. The breakneck pacing continues and completely shatters what little suspension of disbelief remains. Scorpions that obliterated a dragon last episode suddenly can’t hit Drogon. Meanwhile Drogon begins breathing explosive fire that can blow apart stone walls.
This is less a battle and more a massacre and not just of the people in the streets but to the major characters of the show.
Cersei: Spends the whole seasons staring off a balcony and drinking wine. Does nothing the whole season and dies getting crushed under the Red Keep by rocks. This makes her whole villainous journey to this point feel pointless.
Jaime: He went through this brilliant character arc throughout the whole series where he slowly changes into a good person and pushes Cersei away. Once he breaks free of Cersei there is no hint, no foreshadowing that he still loves her. No, the romance between him and Brienne is played up until he randomly decides to return to his sister. He somehow makes it through a burning, collapsing city with multiple stab wounds to find his sister and die pointlessly under the same rock as her.
Euron: This character has been a pointless cartoon character since he first appeared. In this episode he does nothing in the battle, then miraculously washes up on shore near Jaime, fights him for no reason and dies.
Dany: The change in her character makes sense for me, but it was incredibly rushed. She goes from fighting the undead and saving humanity two episodes before to murder more people than the undead could have hoped to. The pacing messes this all up and definitely left some people thinking this was out of character. It’s not out of character for her but it was handled poorly. Personally I’ve always found her a bit insufferable ever since she got her Messiah complex back at the end of season 1. Her, I’ll do whatever I need to to assure my rule has been hinted at since around that time as well.
Qyburn: His death was funny, but at the same time made his character feel rather pointless.
Cleganebowl: This has been hinted at since season 1 and people have been dying to see it since. It was a let down for me personally. Before the Hound goes into fight his brother he explains to Ayra why she should leave instead of getting revenge and his reasoning pretty much fits his situation perfectly. It’s pointless for him to go after his brother when his brother is going to die anyways, but even though he just explained this to another person in a very rational way he goes anyways. The fight itself is okay if completely meaningless. I wasn’t a fan of The Mountain reusing the eye gouge from his previous fight or The Hound knocking them both through a stone wall to die in the fire below but others may have enjoyed it.
Arya: Pretends like she is going to kill Cersei this episode using her faceless man skills but instead just walks away to spend 20 minutes stumbling through the city with the strongest plot armor this world has ever seen. Not only is there no reason for her to be here, there is no reason for the viewer to follow her around the city, and yet they spend 20 minutes doing just that. Oh yeah, she finds a pale mare that somehow survived all of the dragon fire and rides away on it. This is probably a cheesy play on The Horseman of Death from Revelations.
Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 6
Here is my high level overview of the plot: Hitler is killed, Clifford the Big Red Dog Pines, Professor X comes out of nowhere to take the Iron Throne, Jean Grey takes the North, Calvin and Hobbes go exploring North of the Wall, while Dora the explorer is revealed to be a faceless man, and Bronn still exists for some reason. LOL here’s the real breakdown below.
The episode itself was predicable and boring. I actually found myself playing on my phone at times which I never do doing Game of Thrones.
Jon: He’s out of character justifying Dany’s actions. Even if he loves her Jon has never been one to accept the killing of innocents. His killing of Dany was incredibly predictable and worse I found myself not caring. If done properly this could have been a very emotional scene for the viewer. Instead I found myself rolling my eyes at his supposed grief.
Tyrion: How the hell does he find Jamie and Cersei? I mean in the previous episode it looked like the Red Keep collapsed on top of them and in this episode he finds them under a couple of rocks seemingly untouched except for the fact they are dead. Grey Worm yells for him not to talk but then allows him to dictate how a king will be chosen and who that king will be. He’s been an idiot pretty much since the source material was passed up but somehow Bran wants him for a hand. Says that Jon needs to take the black as a good compromise but honestly the Unsullied leave so this seems a bit pointless.
Grey Worm: Knows nothing of the tradition of the Night’s Watch in Westeros but somehow allows Jon to leave for it even though he just killed his queen. Speaking of the Night’s Watch, why does it even exist anymore considering the White Walker threat has been defeated? I don’t get why he simply allows Jon and Tyrion to walk free, but he takes his unsullied and sets sail for Nanth, where Missendei was from so at least that makes sense.
Bran: Becomes King because he knows stories. He’s never told any of these stories because the character is a robot and doesn’t say much of anything but hey he’s King now. This makes no sense. This character has barely been around, even when he’s on screen, for most of the series but apparently he wins the Iron Throne (or Iron Lump thanks to the seemingly sentient Drogon). This makes it feel like we’ve been following all the wrong characters this whole time and that the story of Game of Thrones that the viewer witnessed was the wrong one.
His getting the Throne also makes no sense because he is a Stark and the Starks declare independence for the North. Why would the southern lords allow themselves to be ruled by a man who is from a family that isn’t even part of their kingdom anymore? Dorne and the Iron Islands have arguably even stronger cases to be made for independence from the now 6 kingdoms but they don’t say anything for some reason.
Arya again: Her whole character arc doesn’t make sense. She only uses her faceless man abilities to kill Walder Frey, who in the big picture was pretty small at that point. It makes you question why we spent so much time building that up if it wasn’t going to be used at all. The I’m going West of Westeros thing felt contrived and out of character for her, but they probably wanted the possibility of a spinoff.
Bronn: Why is this guy even around? His character arc this seasons was about as pointless as pointless gets.
In the end the finale and the rest of the season leaves the viewer with the feeling that all of the story arcs that they’ve been following for 10 years are meaningless and that more than anything else is pretty unforgivable. In my opinion because of this, this season should go down as one of the worst seasons of any show in history.
I would like to give Weiss and Benioff credit for their amazing work on adapting the early seasons of Game of Thrones. Up until they passed up the source material the show was a masterpiece and then even for a season or two after that it was still a passable if not amazing adaptation. Clearly they got in over their heads trying to tie up Martin’s epic and that’s a shame for both them and the viewers, but I think a lot of people would struggle trying to tie this thing together.
David M Zahn has been reading sci-fi and fantasy novels for about as long as he’s been alive. In addition, he’s literally wasted years of his life playing RPGs. As soon as he discovered the LitRPG genre that combined his two favorite things, he knew he was hooked. With this combined expertise, he set out writing with only one goal in mind, that you, the reader, are entertained. Check out the Digital Sorcery LitRPG series today!