SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES SEASON 8!
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!
A lot of stuff has gone down in the last couple of seasons of Game of Thrones.
In just this final season alone we’ve had Daenerys’ armies go up North to fight the army of the dead, Arya and Gendry getting down and dirty, the Battle of Winterfell, Arya stealth-knifing the Night King, preparations for the final battle against Cersei, Jon saying an awful goodbye to Ghost, and even a cameo appearance from a coffee cup.
While so much has gone down in just four episodes, it’s all been a little…underwhelming. In fact, I would go as far as to say that most of the last three seasons of GoT has been pretty bad so far and I’m definitely far from the first person to admit that.
The characters make some weird decisions that make no sense, the time logistics are all over the place, the pacing is way too fast, some of the narrative choices really push the suspension of disbelief to breaking point, and the dialogue has lost some of its early season zing.
This sort of decline happens to most TV shows, especially for those that have stuck around for over eight years, but GoT‘s decline has been especially noticeable, partly because it’s literally the biggest show on earth and partly because the early seasons were so damned good.
So how did the show get so sloppy in the last few years?
There are undoubtedly a number of reasons why but I think it all has to do with the unfinished book series and the issues that stem from that.
For the first five or so seasons, showrunners for GoT, Dan Weiss and David Benioff, had the benefit of five intricately plotted novels from George R.R. Martin to act as a roadmap for where the show should go. But once they burned through the books, their guide was gone.
It is a known fact that Dan and David Benioff have talked to George about how the whole series ends when it became clear that the show was going to overtake the books, which happened at around the midpoint of season five. While having the duo know all the big plot points is a logical solution to this problem, it meant that Dan and David had to make up stuff to fill in the gaps.
The pair are actually pretty good at coming up with original material (such as Cersei and Robert’s conversation in season one) in the earlier seasons, but they’ve been forced to come up with increasing amounts of original content on their own in the latter seasons due to the lack of source material from George, which explains the increasing number of deviations from the novels.
Couple the pressure of having to write high quality material that lives up to George’s meticulously plotted writing with the time constraints put on them by HBO in regards to getting the show made in a timely manner (unlike George, who spends years perfecting each novel), it’s perhaps no surprise that the wheels have begun to fall off the wagon over the last three or so seasons.
In an attempt to add some quantifiable evidence to my dumb argument, I had a look at the review numbers on Metacritic and they align up suspiciously close to my argument.
The first five seasons averaged a score of about 89, which is critical acclaim. But for the final three seasons? An average of 75, which is “only” very good.
(Rotten Tomatoes paints a much more flattering portrait as the show registers an average of 92% but that is a bit misleading due to the site’s method of counting anything that’s a 6/10 or above as a positive rather than taking an average of all the review scores like what Metacritic does.)
Now this is obviously nothing more than a wild stab at an explanation as to why Thrones is no longer as satisfying, however, it is fascinating to see how a TV show operates when its source material is still being written concurrently.
This is definitely not any criticism to the work from Dan, David, and George, who deserve all the praise in the world for putting up with all the pressure they get from fans to properly land this plane.
The three did the best they could do under a series of unique and trying circumstances, and hopefully this is something everyone understands when they watch the Game of Thrones finale and it turns out to be something they didn’t expect.