So the Game of Thrones finale happened. Many people are unhappy with it. As mentioned in a prior blog post, I didn’t jump on the bandwagon until earlier this year, and I recognize that makes my relationship with the show different from that of most fans. This was the first time I really got to experience the frenzy of anticipation and fan theories that goes a long with new Game of Thrones episodes. And frankly, I think that frenzy may have done more harm than good.
Over the years, I think Game of Thrones has in fact become just that: a game. The show certainly had a reputation for being unpredictable, but that also meant that there was certain smugness that came along with accurately predicting. For a while, the big question was “Who is Jon Snow’s mother?” and those that guessed correctly got to feel a certain level of vindication. It doesn’t matter weather or not you guessed the theory yourself based on clues in the books or show or if you just read a Tumblr post that put all the pieces together for you. Every time you get a GoT prediction right, you get to feel smarter than everyone else.
Going into Season 8, one of the big ones was “Who will get the Iron Throne?” Sansa was a popular prediction, as was Jon Snow. Certainly Daenerys Targaryen was still in the running, even if that felt a tad too predictable. Less common were guesses like Tyrion (one of my personal favorites) or Bran, but certainly they were feasible. Other big questions revolved around who might kill Cersei or the Knight King, or which characters would survive the season. I myself even entered a GoT pool because swapping different predictions is part of the fun.
But I worry that for some, this game of predicting became the main draw of the show, greater than the story itself. It was no longer about being drawn in and relishing in the journey that George R.R. Martin, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff set out for us. Instead it was about a quest for a superiority complex. It was about having an I-Told-You-So moment. It almost mimics the way that major sporting events and their fandoms work: rooting for your side to win, rubbing it in other peoples’ face whey you were victorious, and if you were wrong and your side lost, well then the game is just unfair and stupid because the refs made too many bad calls.
After nearly every episode, I would see people on my feed attempting that I-Told-You-So moment, regardless of whether or not anything in that episode justified it. I think the early episodes of Season 8 were all intentionally ambiguous. They kept our main throne contenders alive. The didn’t provide concrete answers to many of the main questions we had. And yet people would insist that this new episode confirmed their thesis. And many refused to change their predictions as new information was presented.
For example, a common rooting interest this season was Sansa Stark. After growing a lot over seasons 6 and 7, she had a strong potential to be the Ice to Dany’s Fire. She was oftentimes the voice of reason when those around her were not. Before Season 8 started, I definitely thought Sansa getting the throne was a viable option.
However, Sansa was a relatively minor character in Season 8. For the most part, she just hung back and occasionally provided commentary on the actions of other characters. After the first five episodes, there was no possible way that Sansa could’ve gotten the throne without it feeling forced and poorly executed. And yet it seemed many who had picked #TeamSansa were still insistent that this should be the outcome. Sure, one can certainly argue that the ending we did get also felt forced and poorly executed, but it’s funny how some people can actively root for a forced, poorly executed ending as long as it’s the ending they predicted five episodes ago.
I am not going to sit here and pretend that Season 8 was flawless. We all know it wasn’t, and I may very well do another post that dives into my actual feelings about it. However, I think the finale was about as good as it could have been given some of the misgivings of earlier seasons/episodes. This post is simply to remind you that stories are not written to be consumed the way that many consumed Season 8 of Game of Thrones. They do not exist so that we can pontificate on social media about what should happen and say “gotcha!” when proven right. When playing the guessing game is no longer something fun that enhances our viewing experience, and instead becomes a primary factor for how we assess the show’s quality, it’s a problem.
I worry people are not analyzing the ending we got for what it was, but instead measuring it against whatever ending they had already imagined in their brain. And there’s a difference between “I could imagine an ending I’d like better” and “the ending I got was bad.” There’s also a difference between “more could’ve been done over the show’s eight year run to make this ending more satisfying” and “the writers picked the wrong ending.”
Season 8 had problems. It was paced poorly. The writers were not always wise about which plot lines deserved the most attention. What Season 8 did NOT do was completely undo all the good things we loved about Seasons 1-7. It did not render the entire show meaningless. I don’t think the Ron and Hermione arc of Harry Potter was handled particularly well, but I also don’t try to argue that the entire series was a waste of time because of that.
I can’t stop anyone from feeling how they want to feel about the finale. But I challenge all fans to ask themselves why they feel the way they feel. If it’s simply “I had pictured something different” or “the ending made a lot of my tweets look dumb” that’s not enough to constitute a bad ending. If your feelings are more sophisticated than that, articulate them. Don’t just say the show was shit and assume anyone who doesn’t agree just isn’t as smart at you and didn’t understand the show as well as you did.