The end of Thrones


Well, I think we’re far enough away from it that I can safely post this essay. The end of Game of Thrones… was it worth it?

Ok. Ha ha. This isn’t actually about Games of Thrones, though we will touch upon it and offer a bit of a critique. And there may be a few things ahead for those of you that haven’t seen it and intend to. Sorry. (Consider yourself warned as you decide whether or not to move ahead.)

Instead, this is a judgement on critics, reviews, and those that sit on the sidelines. Because I recently stumbled across something that ticked me off. And, unfortunately, I think it’s something that most of us need to be aware of and shine a bit of a spotlight toward.

Last Man Standing is entering its final season of new episode production. First one will air roughly around the time this essay is finished. A few weeks ago, the entertainment industry was buzzing with stories about new shows, returning shows, and developments involving casts. The ones covering Last Man Standing came with the news that they planned to wrap things up once this run was complete. I happened to catch a few of them, and one of them really ticked me off.

The person writing the article was highly critical of the show, even though they had never seen even one episode of it. Seriously. Never watched a single episode, freely admitted that repeatedly in the article (to the point of adding in a (my words) “and you can’t make me” sticking out of the tongue attitude as the bragging about having never seen the show was mentioned again), and effectively slammed the show as a waste of time.

Who the hell assigned this story? And perhaps more importantly, who paid for it?

I’m not saying you have to like Last Man Standing. But, come on, a person writing a story about it that’s presented as insightful industry-based stuff should have caught an episode or two.

Without wandering too much further down this path, I think we have enough to set something else up entirely. And that is, how shows end.

Quite honestly, very, very rarely do we see Schitt’s Creek level bows and ribbons to end a run. Which, in my view, was handled to perfection. Good timing, great writing, and a show that was still delivering at its best. And to be fair, I kind of get that.

But equally unfair… and often a recipe for disaster… is building a finale based on fan expectations. Because when you start writing for the audience, you almost always are going to lose the audience.

You can’t be concerned about entertaining (and meeting the expectations of) people that aren’t watching your show. Sure, increasing audience size is a wonderful target. But if you have your audience, and the network and advertisers and so on are pleased with those tuning in to the show, things are good.

If you are involved in the show, however, it’s dangerous to write and produce content based on exactly what you think the audience is looking to watch. Maybe it’s because it’s too easy a path to take, and perhaps it’s something completely different, but the truth is that sucking up to the audience usually leads to sloppy results.

All of which brings me to my opinion on the whole subject, which is that I won’t criticize most decisions made by showrunners, casts, crews, and those associated with creating, writing and producing a television show or motion picture.

And when criticizing, I think it’s important for a person to have a solid foundation for where they are taking their opinions. Everyone isn’t going to be in agreement about liking or not liking things. But you can’t offer sweeping generalities with no experience and present yourself as a voice of reason.

And it is with all of this in place that we arrive at the ending of Game of Thrones.

Whether or not I agreed with many of the ways storylines and concepts were brought together for us… and believe me, I was not at all thrilled with how things ended… I absolutely do accept that for the HBO broadcast version of the show, that’s the story. (As you may be aware, the wait continues to see if the books take the same journey.)

It wasn’t my story to tell. I wasn’t invited to consult on the development or to write the scripts. And we are talking about one of the best shows ever on television. So, nod of recognition, tip of the hat, even if privately disappointed.

But I do have two pieces of criticism I’d like to offer.

First, the final season was way too short.

I’m not saying that as some kind of demand for more. I’m saying that because I actually think my issues about how things were ended in part come from the idea that the story we were given didn’t earn these endings. They just happened, rapid fire.

After a total run of eight seasons and seventy-three episodes, most of the character traits we had been given with a slow build—especially Daenerys—were suddenly twisted and spun around over the course of minutes. Armies were moved from one location to the next in the blink of an eye. Alliances and betrayals, which previously developed and played out over multiple seasons to amazing moments and payoffs, were suddenly being handled in two scenes or less of the same episode.

I’d say a few of the ideas being explored would have benefitted from seeds being planted in earlier seasons. I don’t know if that would have worked though, as it becomes a hindsight argument. But I can say I believe that if they used three or more additional episodes, inserted to allow some of the items to breath a bit more and expand, the results would have been massive.

(And toward that idea, consider…)

Second, the deaths of Jaime and Cersei were handled worse than poorly.

A crumbling building? Are you kidding? Of all the undramatic, horribly constructed, emotionally bland endings, the way these two were killed was brutally bad.

This is the couple upon which all the seasons and hours of buildup were placed. This is the Stark family opposition… the Tyrion respect and recognition… the pinnacle of character resolutions for the entire series, and… nothing. We got nothing.

I don’t know if my opinions matter. I don’t know if they’re shared by anyone else. (But at least I watched the show.)


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