REVIEWED: SEASON 8 (ALL EPISODES) | WHERE TO WATCH: NOWTV, APPLE, GOOGLE PLAY, AMAZON PRIME VIDEO
Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room (presumably one of the ones that the Golden Company didn’t bring with them): this wasn’t the final season of Game of Thrones we were all asking for. But it’s the final season of Game of Thrones that we got, and in the end it just about achieved what it set out to do.
Finishing a story that was begun in the detailed and involved novels in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series was always going to deliver an uneven result. Once the TV show had gone beyond the books, they were marching into the unknown, even with story assistance from Martin, hovering somewhere in the background, not writing the books. The deviations had begun before that point, of course, and occasionally seemed only to be at the whim of the show’s creatives, David Benioff and DB Weiss, but you have to believe that the big story beats were exactly as Martin intended, and – with added minutiae about food and bodily fluids – will be repeated when (ha!) he finishes the series.
The real issue with Season 8 is one of pacing. Previous seasons had taken some liberties with timeframes, for narrative purposes, but Season 8 was uneven, and seemed rushed. Using the pace of earlier seasons, this was a story that should have taken two full seasons to complete, but instead was given only six, slightly longer episodes. To achieve that, whole parts of the story seemed to have been excised, and only sometimes replaced with exposition; huge moments vanishing into the ether or barely spoken of, with characters acting with motivations never shown, only assumed.
That said, Season 8 was still a satisfying end to the series. Yes, it might not have come anywhere near the GoT’s heights, but what they delivered was fine. Episode two, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, is as good an episode as you’ll find in the back half of the series, while the explosive action of The Long Night and The Bells is stunning, breath-taking, and fraught with peril, even if the former took place in almost total darkness, which was our fault, apparently, because we didn’t have our TVs set up properly or something.
When the snow and ash had settled on King’s Landing, and a new monarch sat upon the melted puddle that used to be a throne, everything was pretty much as it should have been. This was always a show about the Starks, and the four that made it to the finish received happy endings. What’s more, the show’s other sympathetic characters were also well-served, and there is plenty of scope for the story to continue beyond its climax, should anyone be foolish or cash-hungry enough to choose to do so.
The fly in the ointment for many was the downfall of Daenerys Targaryen, and it is probably that, more than anything else, which has sent her fans and her Stans reaching for their downvote buttons and petitions to remake the final season. But the seeds were always there; just as the show was always about the enduring goodness of the Starks, it was also about the fire and blood of the Targaryens, the reason Robert’s Rebellion began in the first place, the catalyst for the whole series.
With two years between the final two seasons, 8 was always going to be up against it, pressured to deliver perfection. The abrupt narrative skips made necessary by the ridiculous decision to finish it in just six episodes are jarring but, taken as a whole, Game of Thrones is still a magnificent accomplishment, telling a coherent story (if you add in the missing bits yourself), and was beautifully filmed and – with one or two notable exceptions – brilliantly-acted.
All the petitions and low scores in the world can’t mask that HBO delivered eight seasons – over seventy hours – of big budget fantasy television. We are sometimes spoiled and forget how far things have come, and also let our dissatisfaction with the narrative not going how we would have written it poison our view of the spectacle.
Enjoy Game of Thrones, every single episode. It’s a show about magic, and dragons, and politics, and good people who sometimes do horrible things, and horrible people who do even worse. This wasn’t the final season of Game of Thrones we were all asking for, but it was good enough. And now our watch is over.