What Made Game of Thrones Season 8 So Disappointing?

Disclaimer: Game of Thrones Season 8 spoilers will follow!

The long night finally arrived. After taking a year off in 2018, Game of Thrones returned to conclude the story which began eight years ago (or longer, if you’re a fan of the novels). The show captured the minds of millions of viewers, becoming a cultural phenomenon over its running, with online theories and unimaginable hype engulfing the internet. It was impossible to avoid, the fear of spoilers lurking around every corner, forcing some viewers in the UK at least to get up in the middle of the night to watch each episode as it airs. So, with this unreal expectation, were creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss ever going to be able to satisfy all fans?

Following the events of the seventh season, everything has changed in Westeros. The Night King (Vladimír Furdík) has broken through the wall, and now in the possession of one of Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) dragons, is marching his army south towards Winterfell. The Stark and Targaryen armies have teamed up ready to do battle against the immense evil heading their way, whilst Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) is bulking up her army back in Kings Landing. Season eight crams a lot into its six-episode run, including the battle against the Night King; the destruction of Kings Landing; and finally, the decision as to who should sit on the Iron Throne.

With the story set up for an intense ending, it’s a real shame that most of the plot feels rushed. The build-up that has been present in the previous seasons appears to be absent for many key plot points here, with events taking place and concluding in an astonishingly fast time. Where previously a character of the stature of the Night King would take more than a few episodes to defeat (as well as taking a few of our beloved characters with him), he is defeated within an hour of his first appearance in season eight. Whilst it could be argued that we’ve seen many scenes featuring the Night King and his army in prior seasons, you can’t help but feel that they are disposed of far too quickly. This is a threat that has loomed over the realms of men for over a thousand years, and yet after it, most of our main cast is still standing. It all feels a bit un-Game of Thrones and unfortunately takes away from the incredible ending of the episode.

Not only does the plot feel rushed, but also most of the character development we’ve come to expect from the series vanishes in season eight. Such an incredibly talented cast feels wasted, with the connection to the characters we’ve enjoyed in previous seasons feeling a little blurred. One of the biggest tragedies is in how Daenerys’ character is treated. Despite having control of the city, and the surrender of the Lannister forces, Dany goes against all her beliefs and erupts pure horror onto the innocent people of Kings Landing. Yes, the loss of Missandei, two dragons and many of her close allies can explain the sudden turn. But such a monumental twist in Daenerys’ character deserved to have more time to breathe, to really play on the audience’s mind. More time was needed to allow the brilliant Emilia Clarke to showcase the mental decline of the character. Thankfully some characters, such as Tyrion, are still allowed time to entertain us with their wit; however, more screen time to develop characters would have made for a much more satisfying season.

As the episodes went by, it became more and more clear that our favourite characters were going to survive against impossible odds. The shock factor had gone, with moments such as Ned Stark’s execution and The Red Wedding simply not being there. This becomes clear during the battle of Winterfell, where despite facing thousands of the dead, only a few major deaths happen. And when major deaths do finally arrive, I was left feeling empty. I wasn’t shocked when Cersei and Jamie were crushed under the Red Keep, or when Jamie defeated Euron Greyjoy. I was surprised by my lack of feeling when Jon made the difficult decision to kill Daenerys. These are moments that should have carried a lot more weight and be given time to play on our minds. We’ve followed these characters for many years, with them becoming a huge part of our lives (see how many people have been naming their kids after Thrones characters). To see them suffer life-changing moments, and for them then to be brushed over onto the next main plot point, feels like a real shame.

Game of Thrones has often felt like a riddle, with every little detail and plot point amounting to some greater cause or event. Take Jon Snow (once again portrayed wonderfully by Kit Harrington): from leaving the comfort of Winterfell to join the Nights Watch; uniting the Wildlings; to then dying (and returning from the dead), everything felt like it had a purpose. It’s odd then, that in the final season, many of the plot points which have been built up over the last few seasons felt pointless. Jon Snow being Targaryen doesn’t really impact the overall plot, as Daenerys would likely still have gone mad in the end anyway. Despite the characters’ heritage, he ends up cast aside back at the wall (which now has no purpose due to the White Walkers being eliminated), with all his achievements seemingly ignored. Bran being the three-eyed raven suffers a similar issue, where aside from seeing that the wall has been smashed, didn’t really add anything to the story. Cersei getting the Golden Army again was completely useless, with the whole army wiped out in a matter of seconds. The only plot point I felt truly carried much purpose was with Arya, whose assassin training helped her to overcome the Night King (something which is astonishingly overlooked in the final three episodes). It all just feels so unsatisfactory, something I never expected to feel from a show that has always felt so clever and unpredictable.

Despite being the worst of all of the Game of Thrones seasons, there are still things to appreciate for long-time fans. This is still the world of Westeros you’ve been sucked into over the past eight years, and being a part of the world still feels great. There are still meaningful moments here, despite the feeling of the story being rushed. The long-awaited battle between The Hound and The Mountain is bloody and brutal, bringing a close to the rivalry which has stood between the two siblings throughout the entire series. Sansa becomes the Queen in the North, taking all the pain endured throughout her story and using it to become powerful and strong. Brienne of Tarth becomes the first female knight in Westeros, whilst Jon Snow gets his reunion with Ghost. For all of its problems, Game of Thrones has many heart-warming moments certain to bring a smile to long-time fans of the series. It’s just unfortunate there aren’t more of them.

Game of Thrones must also be appreciated for the success it’s had over its nine-year run. Records have been smashed, with record numbers of viewers tuning in to see how the story ends. The bar for CGI in TV has been raised, with a near-cinematic quality being displayed, something which helped make the show feel that little bit more believable and engaging. Scenes such as the heart-breaking moment where Drogon discovers his mother has been murdered, or Jon’s heart-warming reunion with Dire Wolf Ghost, feel that much more engaging thanks to the effects on display.

Whilst all things must come to an end, what feels most painful is the fact that the show is ending with a highly disappointing season, full of rushed plot points and unsatisfying moments. It’s a show which has unfortunately lost its way, and for the first time in the Thrones series, I feel no urge to go back and re-watch. Whatever the reason for the change, be it the lack of source material due to the books not being completed, or the decision to cram the remainder of the series into a mere six episodes, the series as a whole should not be tarnished because of this. It’s a real shame that the story ends in predictable fashion, with an almost too happy ending that feels out of place. Whilst we’ll always be left wondering what could have been (until the books are released, that is), I’m thankful to everyone involved in the series: it’s been one hell of a ride.

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