The Game of Thrones finale was a disappointing waste of time
- Game of Thrones fans have criticised the handling of the final season
- Critics have blamed showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
- Problems began when HBO ran out of source material (George R.R. Martin has still not completed the entire Game of Thrones saga)
- It's not known when Martin will publish the next chapter in the fantasy saga
There's an old interview with George R.R. Martin at a convention in 1998 shortly after the publication of A Clash of Kings, the second novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire series.
At the time of this interview, George is a largely unknown fantasy author, and his book hadn't even been published in the United States yet. As he says in the grainy footage:
I've been writing these books off and on since 1971 and I suspect I'll still be writing them five to six years from now before I can finally wind up the story the way I see it winding up. I love television and I'd love to see some of my books made if they're done right. The very size of it would make it very difficult to do as a film. They're doing Lord of the Rings as three films and all three volumes of Lord of the Rings are about the size of one of my books, so I already have nine films by that standard.
Even then, more than two decades ago, George had an idea of how this story, which he'd been creating since the '70s, would end up. He was also skeptical—rightly so—about how this story could be adapted to film or TV. As it turns out, George was both right and wrong. He's wrong that he'll still be writing them five to six years from now. In reality it's been more than 20 years, and he still hasn't finished those books. But, he's right about adapting this story to film. It would be very difficult and require more room than nine films to tell this story.
In fact, it would take something like 25 Lord of the Rings-length movies to tell George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy saga. After spending nearly half a century building the world of Westeros, Martin's series finally has a version of its ending on Sunday.
And you have to wonder what this younger, shaggier version of George R.R. Martin would think of the way HBO and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss concluded the story. Watching that old interview, it's clear very early on that Martin prided himself on the scope of his books. They were long because they needed to be long. He needed to outline thousands of years of history, multiple generations of great houses, the world events of civilizations on different continents. He'd been writing this damn thing off and on since the early '70s, and is still writing it, because this story can't be rushed.
But, sadly, that's exactly what HBO and Benioff and Weiss did.
It's no secret that the quality of the show dropped rapidly after Game of Thrones passed George R.R. Martin's books after the fifth season. And it was after Season Six wrapped that Benioff and Weiss decided to end the show. As Benioff said at the conclusion of the sixth season:
"It's not just trying not to outstay your welcome. We're trying to tell one cohesive story with a beginning, middle and end. We've known the end for quite some time and we're hurtling towards it. Those last images from the [season six finale] showed that. Daenerys is finally coming back to Westeros, Jon Snow is king of the North and Cersei is sitting on the Iron Throne. And we know the Night King is up there, waiting for all of them. The pieces are on the board now. Some of the pieces have been removed from the board and we are heading toward the end game."
To an extent you have to respect this. Most shows absolutely overstay their welcome—just look at the last nearly two decades of The Simpsons. But Game of Thrones was different. It had to be long. It needed to be slow, and thoughtful, and most importantly take its time.
So to think that Benioff and Weiss wanted to do this in the 13 episodes that comprised Seasons Seven and Eight is ludicrous. And as any fan of this series could have predicted at the time, it didn't work.
That's why Seasons Seven and Eight felt so ridiculously rushed. That's why people started teleporting, why once complex characters suddenly became flat, vanished altogether, or morphed into nothing but convenient Deus Ex Machina, or why producers literally left coffee cups and water bottles in shots. Those prop errors are the perfect metaphor for these last two seasons, where no one slowed down to think about the product they were putting out. No one stopped to consider these beloved character arcs or the sheer logic of the narrative. Instead Benioff and Weiss wanted bigger battles! They wanted spectacle not story.
And the honest truth is that the Game of Thrones writers were simply not equipped to carry out and conclude Martin's story. Yes, George consulted on the script and gave Benioff and Weiss an outline for how he will have their story end. An outline is not a story, though. Martin could tell you that, any writer or reader could tell you that. But these final seasons felt like nothing more than an outline with a few big battles to make it seem exciting.
I don't envy Benioff and Weiss' position. How do you finish the greatest fantasy saga of our generation? How do you appease fans who have read thousands of pages, dedicated hundreds of hours and even decades to a story? But it seems that at some point Benioff and Weiss developed a kind of contempt for these same fans. Oh you wanted a battle? Here's a battle. That seemed to be their thought process in these final seasons.