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Game of Thrones Five Years Later


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We are swiftly approaching the five-year anniversary of the GOT series finale. (Today, as it happens, marks five years since the airing of "The Bells," the episode that broke the fanbase's collective brain.) With half a decade behind us now, what are your reflections on the series, and the ending in particular? In Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon, one of the producers said they thought the GOT finale would be like Seinfeld or The Sopranos, and that people would come around on it. Based on what I've seen, that hasn't happened yet. What are your thoughts?

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If people haven’t come round after five years, they won’t now.  Season 8 still has a rating of 30% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The gulf between “tell” and “show” was unbridgeable, in later seasons.

We were told that Tyrion and Varys were very brilliant.  We were shown that they were morons.

We were told that Jon was a hero.  We were shown that he was bad general, an inept diplomat, a terrible boyfriend.  We were told that he had nothing to live for, after killing the love of his life, Daenerys.  We were shown that he lied to his vassals about bending the knee  to her, and washed his hands of her, after discovering his parentage.  He loved her neither romantically, nor as family, and simply exploited her, seemingly.  He was as much use as a chocolate teapot.

We were told that Arya was a girlboss.  We were shown that she was a xenophobic sadist.

We were told that Sansa was a wise leader.  We were shown that she was a treacherous schemer.

We were told that Bran “had the best story.”  We were shown that he was a weird teenager who made horrid comments like telling Sansa how beautiful she was, the night Ramsay raped her.

We were told (by Tyrion at the end), that Daenerys was worse than Cersei, Tywin, and Ramsay combined.  We were shown her leading a vast army to save a continent, and freeing vast numbers of slaves.  Her vilification was abrupt and unearned.

i could discuss all the plotholes, the teleporting armies, the shrinking continent, the absurdity of the dragonpit scene, but no doubt others will wish to comment.

 

Edited by SeanF
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The only franchise I can think of where the public/fandom perception of it drastically changed 10+ years later are the Star Wars prequels, but that seems to be generational. Boomers/Gen X-ers hated them, but Millennials who watched them as children grew up still loving them. I expect that the same thing will happen for the sequels in a few years.

I was too young to register the Seinfeld or Sopranos finales, but my understanding is that they were always more controversial than outright hated. And the consensus on them is still mixed now (less so Seinfeld, since one of the perks of being a “show about nothing” is that it doesn’t really matter how it ends). GOT’s finale is more like Dexter’s—another show I haven’t watched, but whose ending is so universally hated that it’s permeated pop culture.

I’m in the weird position where I actually liked S8 better than seasons 5-7, but more in an ironic way. The last four seasons were all illogical and full of dumb plot holes, but S8 at least surprised me. Like a lot of book fans who were critical of the show for years, I was fascinated by how quickly show fans turned on GOT, since they were seemingly unbothered by all the show’s flaws prior to then. And although I’m not a fan of the Ds, I do believe the personal backlash aimed at them was/is overblown. Nobody deserves that, especially over something as trivial as a TV show.

Ultimately, I think the reaction to S8 revealed how much of GOT was really just a power fantasy. You see that with the HOTD discourse—the showrunners clearly wanted a fandom rivalry ala Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man (or even Team Edward vs. Team Jacob), but that’s not what fans want. They want a hot girlboss dragon queen surrounded by fawning male admirers who continuously puts “lesser” women in their place. They want an action hero who slays the monster, not a manchild who chokes his niece-wife. No amount of humanization will ever make the audience root for Alicent to the same extent as Rhaenyra. It’s a lot less about nuance than people liked to pretend it was. I’m convinced that if GOT ended with Jon slaying the Night King, Daenerys victoriously taking King’s Landing, and the two of them ruling Westeros as king and queen, the show would have been widely praised, no matter how nonsensical the journey there was.

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51 minutes ago, The Bard of Banefort said:

The only franchise I can think of where the public/fandom perception of it drastically changed 10+ years later are the Star Wars prequels, but that seems to be generational. Boomers/Gen X-ers hated them, but Millennials who watched them as children grew up still loving them. I expect that the same thing will happen for the sequels in a few years.

I was too young to register the Seinfeld or Sopranos finales, but my understanding is that they were always more controversial than outright hated. And the consensus on them is still mixed now (less so Seinfeld, since one of the perks of being a “show about nothing” is that it doesn’t really matter how it ends). GOT’s finale is more like Dexter’s—another show I haven’t watched, but whose ending is so universally hated that it’s permeated pop culture.

I’m in the weird position where I actually liked S8 better than seasons 5-7, but more in an ironic way. The last four seasons were all illogical and full of dumb plot holes, but S8 at least surprised me. Like a lot of book fans who were critical of the show for years, I was fascinated by how quickly show fans turned on GOT, since they were seemingly unbothered by all the show’s flaws prior to then. And although I’m not a fan of the Ds, I do believe the personal backlash aimed at them was/is overblown. Nobody deserves that, especially over something as trivial as a TV show.

Ultimately, I think the reaction to S8 revealed how much of GOT was really just a power fantasy. You see that with the HOTD discourse—the showrunners clearly wanted a fandom rivalry ala Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man (or even Team Edward vs. Team Jacob), but that’s not what fans want. They want a hot girlboss dragon queen surrounded by fawning male admirers who continuously puts “lesser” women in their place. They want an action hero who slays the monster, not a manchild who chokes his niece-wife. No amount of humanization will ever make the audience root for Alicent to the same extent as Rhaenyra. It’s a lot less about nuance than people liked to pretend it was. I’m convinced that if GOT ended with Jon slaying the Night King, Daenerys victoriously taking King’s Landing, and the two of them ruling Westeros as king and queen, the show would have been widely praised, no matter how nonsensical the journey there was.

I certainly found Season 7 sillier than Season 8.

I don’t feel bad about the two D’s who honestly, come over as being quite unpleasant people, and did get a ton of money out of it.

I do wish the show’s flaws had been called out earlier.  They might have been redressed.  @Le Cygnementions the “sunk cost fallacy” that leaves viewers invested in a series, long after it’s ceased to be good.  It was also sustained by puff pieces from sycophantic journalists.

There are, too, things that looked good at the time, that don’t with hindsight.  Eg Arya’s conversations with Tywin.  It’s actually important to the storyline that the Lannisters in general, and Tywin in particular, are villains, not “lawful neutral”. Whitewashing the Lannisters alters the whole tale.  A Tyrion who was actually sabotaging Daenerys, in favour of his siblings, would have matched what we were shown.

Ending a series satisfactorily is always hard.  Honestly, they should have played it safe, and had Jon and Dany reigning.  Pulling off an unhappy ending takes a level of skill that the show runners lacked.  They must have known what reaction The Bells, and Jon murdering Dany, would generate.  They were the two most popular characters.  I think you’ve commented too that the ending of the show coincided with movements like Me Too, which makes the whole idea of a man stabbing his girlfriend in the boob, for the greater good, or Sansa saying rape made her stronger, out of kilter with the times.

Ditto Tyrion’s “First they came for the slave traders and I did not speak up, for I was not a slave trader …” speech at the end.  I honestly thought that the nadir of all 8 seasons.

Edited by SeanF
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23 hours ago, SeanF said:

We were told that Bran “had the best story.”

I hate everything about Season 8, and I hate how Bran became king (but I don't have a problem with that being the book's endgame, if done differently... which it will be).  But I think this idiotic reason for the prisoner to be allowed to nominate Bran as king is misunderstood.  I think "Bran has the best story" meant that as the "Three-Eyed Raven", Robot Bran was the keeper of everybody's story.  Of course the showrunners/Tyrion wildly confused this point by then going on about Bran's individual story (if I remember correctly: I only saw the finale episode once and don't plan to see it again).

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1 hour ago, StarkTullies said:

I hate everything about Season 8, and I hate how Bran became king (but I don't have a problem with that being the book's endgame, if done differently... which it will be).  But I think this idiotic reason for the prisoner to be allowed to nominate Bran as king is misunderstood.  I think "Bran has the best story" meant that as the "Three-Eyed Raven", Robot Bran was the keeper of everybody's story.  Of course the showrunners/Tyrion wildly confused this point by then going on about Bran's individual story (if I remember correctly: I only saw the finale episode once and don't plan to see it again).

I was completely baffled by what they were trying to achieve with Bran.

In the books, I assume that Bran's magical abilities have a material impact in the fight against the Others, and that he does a lot more than just stare into space.

Edited by SeanF
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Posted (edited)

The finales from the Sopranos and Seinfield were controversial, but they also had some fans, and at least, they stayed true to the characters. They may not be the ending one had hoped for, or they may have missed the tone, and surely they were not amongst the best episodes of those shows. But they didn't harm the integrity of the story, making the rewatching of earlier episodes a painful endeavour.

Meanwhile it seems that, if anything, time has consolidated the idea that the ending of GoT was truly awful. It is the first that comes to anyone's mind when asked to give an example of a bad finale.

In a way, I'm glad that they botched it so much. A midly-competent mediocre finale would have divided the fanbase, and would have disguised the bad writing from the last seasons. Now, we have a textbook example of the worse traps one should avoid in a finale: unearned plot twists to give huge surprises just for the sake of it, sudden reversals of character developlments, too much obsession in subverting expectations, forgeting who are your central characters... Given the (absolutely deserved) fan backleash, it serves as a cautionary tale for future writers.

Edited by The hairy bear
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3 hours ago, The hairy bear said:

The finales from the Sopranos and Seinfield were controversial, but they also had some fans, and at least, they stayed true to the characters. They may not be the ending one had hoped for, or they may have missed the tone, and surely they were not amongst the best episodes of those shows. But they didn't harm the integrity of the story, making the rewatching of earlier episodes a painful endeavour.

Meanwhile it seems that, if anything, time has consolidated the idea that the ending of GoT was truly awful. It is the first that comes to anyone's mind when asked to give an example of a bad finale.

In a way, I'm glad that they botched it so much. A midly-competent mediocre finale would have divided the fanbase, and would have disguised the bad writing from the last seasons. Now, we have a textbook example of the worse traps one should avoid in a finale: unearned plot twists to give huge surprises just for the sake of it, sudden reversals of character developlments, too much obsession in subverting expectations, forgeting who are your central characters... Given the (absolutely deserved) fan backleash, it serves as a cautionary tale for future writers.

And, once something ends badly, people will go back and criticise stuff that was overlooked at the time.

I thought Dany in Qarth was cheesy generic fantasy at the time.  Now I think it’s crap.

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Posted (edited)

I think the difference with Seinfeld and The Sopranos is that those endings were 'weird' and unusual, but they didn't sabotage any of the main characters.,  The GOT ending was objectively bad and unearned and it's failure to set up the various character arcs, especially Dany, had a reverse ripple backwards effect.  Many said at the time that the terrible, cheesy ending would harm the show's overall rewatchability and I stand by that.  I have rewatched 1-4, snippets of 5 and 6, but that's it. 

When a show built around character devolves into a show of BigScenes this is what you get.  

The real issue, aside from Jon stabbing Dany and her not having any meaningful last words was that all of the end points were unearned.  I'm fine with Bran being king, but not like that, and certainly not with a pimp/mercenary on the small council.  I'm fine, but sad, with Jon going back beyond the wall.....but the show made his parentage meaningless and they stole his role in defeating the Others and gave it to Arya.   I am not fine and never will be with Arya killing the Night King.  The Lannister twins dying together, fine, but again, felled by random rubble and no last words, no.  I am more than fine with Dany being finally outed as a destroyer, but not that way.  I personally dislike Sansa being gifted the North, but as a story endpoint, it's not anything crazy or out of the ordinary of what could be expected.

I imagine over time the hatred of the end will somewhat soften.  If GRRM were ever to finish the series, which he clearly will  not, adding in some much needed background for how the endpoints came to be, that might help.  But, overall, the ending was bad is going to continue to be seen as bad.  IMO

Edited by Cas Stark
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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, Cas Stark said:

I think the difference with Seinfeld and The Sopranos is that those endings were 'weird' and unusual, but they didn't sabotage any of the main characters.,  The GOT ending was objectively bad and unearned and it's failure to set up the various character arcs, especially Dany, had a reverse ripple backwards effect.  Many said at the time that the terrible, cheesy ending would harm the show's overall rewatchability and I stand by that.  I have rewatched 1-4, snippets of 5 and 6, but that's it. 

When a show built around character devolves into a show of BigScenes this is what you get.  

The real issue, aside from Jon stabbing Dany and her not having any meaningful last words was that all of the end points were unearned.  I'm fine with Bran being king, but not like that, and certainly not with a pimp/mercenary on the small council.  I'm fine, but sad, with Jon going back beyond the wall.....but the show made his parentage meaningless and they stole his role in defeating the Others and gave it to Arya.   I am not fine and never will be with Arya killing the Night King.  The Lannister twins dying together, fine, but again, felled by random rubble and no last words, no.  I am more than fine with Dany being finally outed as a destroyer, but not that way.  I personally dislike Sansa being gifted the North, but as a story endpoint, it's not anything crazy or out of the ordinary of what could be expected.

I imagine over time the hatred of the end will somewhat soften.  If GRRM were ever to finish the series, which he clearly will  not, adding in some much needed background for how the endpoints came to be, that might help.  But, overall, the ending was bad is going to continue to be seen as bad.  IMO

I think the single worst thing was the decision to whitewash Tyrion, which resulted him in being a bungling idiot.  He wanted a “bloodless revolution” in Westeros.  Had he ever visited the place?  He seemed to think you could wage war without killing people (getting thousands of Dany’s soldiers killed as a result.)

Realistically, Tyrion’s execution should have been the one thing that every faction agreed upon, at the end.  Yet, they treated this drooling idiot’s comments as pearls of wisdom.

Edited by SeanF
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6 hours ago, SeanF said:

I think the single worst thing was the decision to whitewash Tyrion, which resulted him in being a bungling idiot.  He wanted a “bloodless revolution” in Westeros.  Had he ever visited the place?  He seemed to think you could wage war without killing people (getting thousands of Dany’s soldiers killed as a result.)

Realistically, Tyrion’s execution should have been the one thing that every faction agreed upon, at the end.  Yet, they treated this drooling idiot’s comments as pearls of wisdom.

It's been so long I don't know if I can pick a 'worst' choice.  They ended up making almost everyone extremely stupid...Littlefinger, Sansa, Dany, Jon, Tyrion....everyone did things that were nuts, in order to have BigMoments.  All of Tyrion's advice for the last two seasons was bad.  The wight hunt, hello. Sansa letting her own people get killed so the audience can be 'surprised the Vale army shows up, and on and on it went.

At the time I thought GRRM purposely held back details on how things would go to 'save' them for his book(s), and/or because he was unhappy with some of the worst of the shows changes, but now I wonder if he just didn't have any of the story beyond the end points to give them.  And still, apparently, doesn't have the story.

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40 minutes ago, Cas Stark said:

It's been so long I don't know if I can pick a 'worst' choice.  They ended up making almost everyone extremely stupid...Littlefinger, Sansa, Dany, Jon, Tyrion....everyone did things that were nuts, in order to have BigMoments.  All of Tyrion's advice for the last two seasons was bad.  The wight hunt, hello. Sansa letting her own people get killed so the audience can be 'surprised the Vale army shows up, and on and on it went.

At the time I thought GRRM purposely held back details on how things would go to 'save' them for his book(s), and/or because he was unhappy with some of the worst of the shows changes, but now I wonder if he just didn't have any of the story beyond the end points to give them.  And still, apparently, doesn't have the story.

I suppose that tertiary syphillis might have entered Tyrion’s brain.

A friend suggested that the shit in the canal that Arya fell into had magical healing properties.

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1 hour ago, SeanF said:

I suppose that tertiary syphillis might have entered Tyrion’s brain.

A friend suggested that the shit in the canal that Arya fell into had magical healing properties.

Ha, don't remind me of all that stupidity!!  As a long time ranter and raver, I must have said 1000 times how EASY so much of the dumb stuff they did would have been to avoid, with a few minutes more thought and a line or two of dialogue.  Of course nothing could have fixed Dany forgetting about the Greyjoy fleet or all the mains heading up to find a wight to show to Cersei, who Tyrion would have, if he had been still sane, known would not give two fucks about it.  She already told us power is power and she will choose violence, LOL.  

 

But, these extremely stupid action that occurred more and more often starting probably in season 5 also harm a rewatch because once people know what happens, they are watching for more than the BigMoments and are more likely to realize how extremely stupid some of these plot points became.  They really did destroy their legacy.  People still watch and talk about the Sopranos, I did a full rewatch of it when HBO showed it for the 20?th anniversary and it was still great.  GOT, not so much.

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Posted (edited)
2 minutes ago, Cas Stark said:

Ha, don't remind me of all that stupidity!!  As a long time ranter and raver, I must have said 1000 times how EASY so much of the dumb stuff they did would have been to avoid, with a few minutes more thought and a line or two of dialogue.  Of course nothing could have fixed Dany forgetting about the Greyjoy fleet or all the mains heading up to find a wight to show to Cersei, who Tyrion would have, if he had been still sane, known would not give two fucks about it.  She already told us power is power and she will choose violence, LOL.  

 

But, these extremely stupid action that occurred more and more often starting probably in season 5 also harm a rewatch because once people know what happens, they are watching for more than the BigMoments and are more likely to realize how extremely stupid some of these plot points became.  They really did destroy their legacy.  People still watch and talk about the Sopranos, I did a full rewatch of it when HBO showed it for the 20?th anniversary and it was still great.  GOT, not so much.

 

**That is why the rewatches for the first few seasons were good, because they had put in details that most people, especially non book readers, wouldn't notice on a first watch but would see on a rewatch.  All of that layering was gone in the later seasons.

Edited by Cas Stark
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4 minutes ago, Cas Stark said:

Ha, don't remind me of all that stupidity!!  As a long time ranter and raver, I must have said 1000 times how EASY so much of the dumb stuff they did would have been to avoid, with a few minutes more thought and a line or two of dialogue.  Of course nothing could have fixed Dany forgetting about the Greyjoy fleet or all the mains heading up to find a wight to show to Cersei, who Tyrion would have, if he had been still sane, known would not give two fucks about it.  She already told us power is power and she will choose violence, LOL.  

 

But, these extremely stupid action that occurred more and more often starting probably in season 5 also harm a rewatch because once people know what happens, they are watching for more than the BigMoments and are more likely to realize how extremely stupid some of these plot points became.  They really did destroy their legacy.  People still watch and talk about the Sopranos, I did a full rewatch of it when HBO showed it for the 20?th anniversary and it was still great.  GOT, not so much.

The one you always mention is Cersei facing no backlash from massacring the royal family, the Pope, the Cardinals, half the nobility, and blowing up the Vatican, in a world where 99% believe in the Gods.

And, that would be so terribly easy to fix.  Just have a scene where Qyburn's agents are spreading the word that it was the work of Daenerys' agents in the city, and another where Cersei is publicly executing the "culprits" before the city's people. Then it makes perfect sense that the capital's people should hate Daenerys.

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24 minutes ago, SeanF said:

The one you always mention is Cersei facing no backlash from massacring the royal family, the Pope, the Cardinals, half the nobility, and blowing up the Vatican, in a world where 99% believe in the Gods.

And, that would be so terribly easy to fix.  Just have a scene where Qyburn's agents are spreading the word that it was the work of Daenerys' agents in the city, and another where Cersei is publicly executing the "culprits" before the city's people. Then it makes perfect sense that the capital's people should hate Daenerys.

That would have also explained why Tarly would or at least might fight for the woman who killed his liege lord.....

I don't even find any satisfaction in having ultimately been proven right that sooner or later the show's sloppy storytelling would catch up to them.  I do wonder though, if Dany had not done the heel turn, and had been the victor at the end, would the audience have turned against the show in the same way.  It was very very clear they had gone off the rails from at least season 6 and yet, everyone, almost, still raved about it, right up until The Bells.

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2 hours ago, SeanF said:

The one you always mention is Cersei facing no backlash from massacring the royal family, the Pope, the Cardinals, half the nobility, and blowing up the Vatican, in a world where 99% believe in the Gods.

And, that would be so terribly easy to fix.  Just have a scene where Qyburn's agents are spreading the word that it was the work of Daenerys' agents in the city, and another where Cersei is publicly executing the "culprits" before the city's people. Then it makes perfect sense that the capital's people should hate Daenerys.

Going the other way, Varys should have been running his own propaganda campaign about why Daenerys should be the Queen to support; it's supposed to be his field as Master of Whispers, right?

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1 hour ago, Angel Eyes said:

Going the other way, Varys should have been running his own propaganda campaign about why Daenerys should be the Queen to support; it's supposed to be his field as Master of Whispers, right?

Yes, he’s meant to be Thufir Hawat.  He became as useless as Tyrion.

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