We are just a single episode away from the end of Game of Thrones, and yet closure is far from reach. As the buildings of King’s Landing crumbled, so did the final vestiges of the restraint that fans had been exercising since the infamous Episode 3 when the Night King and his army were decimated. The very Night King whose immaculate presence had loomed over Westeros for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years in the GOT universe and for almost a decade for us. And yet, in a single sweep, the character arc of arguably the most intimidating villain was cut short without so much as an inkling to his motivations or his touted links to Bran Stark. Fans were shocked and not pleasantly, and yet they moved on. There was still a lot that could happen. Cersei waited across the realm with bated breath and a newly bought army that could very well spell doom for Dany’s forces, more than half of which were murdered by the wights. Episode 5 – “The Bells” – rang a foreboding atmosphere as we braced for a fierce battle. But it was not to be. Dany’s Deus Ex Machina – Drogon – single-handedly destroyed Euron’s entire fleet, and razed the city to the ground, allegedly killing Jaime and Cersei who were buried in the rubble under the Red Keep. Meanwhile, Jon, Tyrion, and Arya realize that they had replaced one tyrant with another. The era of the Mad Queen had arrived.
Just a few days after the episode aired, angry fans stormed the internet forums dissecting and breaking apart the multitude of plot inconsistencies and mischaracterizations that had marred this entire season, more so the last few episodes. Where was the exquisite writing that we had come to associate with Game of Thrones ? Was it actually becoming apparent that with no source material to fall back on David Benioff and Dan Weiss were bad writers ? As a fan this can be a frustrating, bewildering experience when you don’t really have any answers to these questions. How could a series, that had consistently held favourable ratings with Emmy wins almost every year, resort to such underwhelming screenplay and character development ? On May 7th, fans across the world issued a petition on change.org asking HBO to rewrite and reshoot the entire Season 8 by writers who were more competent than Benioff and Weiss. A week later, the petition is well on its way to a million.
It is understandable that fans are emotional about how the show is ending. They have invested almost a decade into the characters and the intricate plotlines. One could say that they were unhappy because some of their theories didn’t pan out. However, this in my opinion, is a very oblique way to look at the situation. GOT hasn’t really been predictable ever. Right from Season 1 from Ned Stark’s execution, to Season 3’s Red Wedding, the brutal death of Oberyn Martell in Season 4, and to the deaths of Littlefinger and the first Dragon in Season 7. These are just a few of the many instances that were shocking. So how was Season 8 different from those instances ?
It had something to do with context and character arcs. Context basically sets the tone from past scenes and helps create a sense of justice when that context receives a callback in a future scene. Character arc is basically a journey that the character follows, and based on past experiences is expected to complete in a certain way befitting his/her role in the overall story. The best stories have the context and the character arc complementing each other perfectly. If there is a mismatch, you would get a feeling that a certain character wasn’t behaving a certain way they should be. This creates conflict in the viewer’s mind questioning their very understanding of that character. If this subversion is a part of the plot itself and is supposed to happen, that becomes a welcome change. But if it’s not, it stands out like a sore thumb. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened in Season 8. Adding to that, scenes that had no narrative purpose were put in. Basically, if you had a list of cardinal sins that no screenwriter should ever make, Benioff and Weiss would check every box for this season.
So, let’s come back to our titular question. What good would a petition do ? Would the show-makers actually listen to the audience and remake an entire season ? Or would they just thank the fans for their love and move on ? As much as we may like them to remake it, it is a fact that HBO and the makers of GOT do not owe it to us to actually pay heed to our outcry. It’s not like this has happened for the first time. The Star Wars prequels have always been mired in controversy with fans demanding better remakes for years now. After accepting that the widely criticized Attack of the Clones would not be remade, fans started making their own alternative versions of the episode through Youtube and other forums. The same would most probably be the fate for GOT where enthusiasts would write fan fiction literature to find some closure, at least until George R. R. Martin releases the remaining two books which, by the way, are not coming any time soon. And what if, we didn’t like the ending for GRRM’s books ? Would we ask him to revise it ? No, because ultimately he is the father of the story and the characters. Even though art, through popular dissemination, becomes a part of socio-cultural roots, it is nevertheless always owned by the author or the creator. The democracy of our criticism is limited only to the boundaries of the community. The art itself cannot be subjected to the same set of rules.
Even though art, through popular dissemination, becomes a part of socio-cultural roots, it is nevertheless always owned by the author or the creator. The democracy of our criticism is limited only to the boundaries of the community. The art itself cannot be subjected to the same set of rules.
Having said that, the petition for GOT is a way for fans to send a message. Not because they ought to, but more because they can’t vent out their frustration any other way. Especially when the show had come so close to being perfect. Interestingly, Nintendo found itself in a similar situation when their trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog got panned by the audience due to the appearance of Sonic. The company, in an unexpected manner, listened to the feedback and promised to make changes to the character, even though it would mean additional hours of work for the CGI team and maybe a budget extension that would cost their producers.
As we wait for the final episode to air, it would bode us well to accept how the creators have chosen to end it and move on. Even though it would leave us with a void without closure, even though we would have a bad memory of the season, and even though this would become a classic case-study on “How to ruin a perfectly good TV show”, our watch has ended, and there is no looking back.