The eighth and final season of Sky Atlantic‘s Game of Thrones aired from April until May, consisting of only six episodes. Written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the latest season brought the franchise to an end, seeing the conclusion of the franchise’s two main conflicts: the Great War against the Army of the Dead – with many of the main characters converging in Winterfell with their armies to take on the Night King – and the Last War for control of the Iron Throne – as the characters return to King’s Landing in an attempt to unseat Queen Cersei Lannister as the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.
Consisting of original content not yet written in George R. R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire series of books which the series is adapted from, the last series has been hugely divisive amongst fans. The last two episodes, especially, weren’t very well received, with many fans believing that the series felt rushed and that it deviated from original character developments.
Whilst I agree with some of the negative points made, I’ve remained very open-minded about the season in that I knew that there were so many ways for the season to conclude, that not every character I liked was going to get the outcome I had hoped for them, and that the over-complicated theories that we’ve been discussing for the past two years were probably too extreme.
The final series does leave a lot left unanswered and some early franchise suggestions are made redundant, but I feel like we, as an audience, pushed for Benioff and Weiss to give us a final season and for them not to drag out it out, to prevent us from growing bored of the series like we have with others. So I don’t hold it against the writers for the season feeling rushed and for it not being as well written as previous seasons. I understand people’s frustrations that it could have been better developed, but it was the viewers who called for a quick wrap up, so it was obvious that everything was going to move at a much quicker pace.
The biggest problem with this being a final season is that not everybody was going to get the outcome they wanted. There were so many ways that this season could have gone that there really was no way of knowing which way it would go, of who would end up on the throne and who wouldn’t make it past the first few episodes. But then, even for the bigger ‘moments’ like the battle against the Whitewalkers, there was really only one way that the war could have ended, we just hadn’t thought too much into until that point, which is probably part of the reason that some of the season feels underwhelming.
I think the problem is that it’s easy to forget what a series like Game of Thrones is all about. There was obviously going to be a lot of deaths and betrayals and people going in the opposite direction to what we were expecting, as most of these characters only had one motive. Either it was to survive or it was to get to the throne, whatever it takes. It’s about bad guys gaining power and causing conflict, but it’s also about good guys pushing their own morals and alliances aside to get to where they want to be.
The trouble is that we’ve come to really like some of these characters over the years, but we had forgotten that their motives remained the same. This may have been the season that we got to see the best in some of these characters, but it was also always going to be the season that we got to see the worst in them, as well. It’s just gutting to be reminded that even the good characters have bad qualities, no matter who you were rooting for, and that things rarely go as expected in the game for the throne.
Overall, I was fairly happy with how the season ended. There was a lot that didn’t go my way, but I also think that the writers did a great job in justifying their decisions, explaining certain character’s actions and progressions in a bigger context of the fictional world, rather than just ending it in an audience-pleasing way.
Aside from the small frustrations that I had with the season, the cinematography is stunning throughout, the performances are incredible, and there are a number of memorable moments that will remain amongst the best in the series.
To go into more detail, my review of each episode is below. Be warned, spoilers will follow.
Episode 1: ‘Winterfell’
The opening episode was perfect, beginning exactly where we wanted to be, in Winterfell with the family we care about the most. Ticking off a few things that we wanted to see from the season with Jon Snow riding a dragon and him being told who he really is, it also links to the previous season well, showing us who survived the destruction of the Wall and where the characters are heading next.
It was great to see so many reunions, some of which we have waited a long time to see. With a few confrontations brewing, we begin to question how these new relationships are going to develop. We pretty much see a glimpse of every character, but it also gets to the point by showing us how things are moving forward and including some drama. Although there are a few too many awkward smiles, one seemingly on the face of a dragon, it’s nice to see these characters happy for a change, for a short while at least.
This episode made me laugh, it made me scream with horror, and it made me emotional at what’s to come. I couldn’t have asked for more. What a great way to ramp up our excitement.
Episode 2: ‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’
Beginning with a few final reunions and some potential romances blossoming at the end, this episode was spent preparing us for the big battle. As if we were sat around the fire drinking with some of our favourite characters, we get to spend some much welcomed time in their comfort before some of them will inevitably leave the series next week.
The knighting of Brienne was a heartfelt emotional moment, but there was also a lot of humour in the air as we are reminded of where our alliances lie. And then there was the sex scene that nobody wanted with Arya, but we knew that this was only setting the story up to show how far she has come since we were introduced to her nearly ten years ago.
With the episode ending on a tense moment between Jon and Daenerys as he tells her the truth about their relationship, there was a lot of emotional build-up for what’s to come. Next week’s episode is one I can’t wait for, but one I also really am not prepared for.
Episode 3: ‘The Long Night’
It’s time for the [first] big battle of the season. This is what we’ve all been waiting for.
The Long Night is like a 90-minute long heart attack. With amazing twists and many tense moments, the episode filled me with so much anxiety that I sat rooted in my seat long after it finished. And that’s exactly what you want from Game of Thrones: to be put on edge and to anticipate every minute.
With brilliantly choreographed fight scenes and amazing cinematography in the wider shots, the first half an hour is dark and there’s a lot of camera movement. The dragons were also somewhat useless in this battle, but their fire looked phenomenal. Despite a few flaws in the first 30 minutes, the second half more than makes up for it.
However, whilst the episode does feel very epic in terms of impact and intensity, it does feel anticlimactic at the same time, since this is what the series has been building up to for seven series. But the problem is that it could have only ended in two ways, either with the death of all Whitewalkers or with the death of most of the main characters and therefore no hope for the rest of them. So, the ending was quite inevitable when you think about it, but I suppose we just hadn’t thought about the obviousness of it beforehand.
Still, with fewer deaths than we anticipated for such a monumental episode, it’s obvious that things are only going to get even more tense from this point on.
Episode 4: ‘The Last of the Starks’
A very Shakespearean episode that focuses on the different bonds between the characters after the first war has been won. But whilst the war of the dead has been won, it’s now back to the game of thrones, as allegiances must finally be made.
As some characters switch sides and others firmly put their foot down, relationships we have had with these characters are still changing dramatically. I’m hoping that next week’s episode sees some of these characters reconciling their actions, but we have to remember that this is what the game of thrones is all about. We may have started to like some of these characters, but many of them only have one objective and it’s becoming obvious that they are still willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
As we finally see Daenerys working amongst a team, I am now starting to doubt her intentions. It’s only now that we’re finally seeing her with real allies that we realise that she’s not actually a team player. But she never was.; she just had nobody to tell her otherwise before. Although she was likeable in previous seasons as she was killing thousands to save the weaker half, she is now starting to appear selfish and cruel, as it’s obvious that she doesn’t care who gets in her way to make it to the throne. And I hate to say it, but I don’t think Jon or Tyrion are going to stop her, either. The power is already starting to go to her head, and I think next week’s episode is going to show us who she really is. And we’re not going to like it.
Next week’s episode is obviously going to be an epic one, but I have no idea which character I’m rooting for anymore, as their motivations seem to be outweighing any loyalties that they once had.
For me, this episode was all about finally getting to see a likeable side to Varys, as we finally understand his place in the game of thrones and his loyalties to the realm. It’s been long overdue, but his conversations with Tyrion are definitely stirring something up. How can you fault the writing when you have moments like that?
Episode 5: ‘The Bells’
Beginning with the death of Varys, which is sad enough after we finally decided that we liked him after last week’s episode, this episode was tense, brutal, and shocking. This is the kind of story that you love about Game of Thrones. It completely crushes your hopes and dreams, but it is these kinds of shocks that have always kept us on edge.
Although I was hoping that Jamie might have stepped up and betrayed Cersei in some way, it actually made a lot more sense to see them come back together at the end. These scenes between them were really heart-warming and, even though I really disliked Cersei’s character by the end (although completely love Lena Headey’s performance!), I felt that this reconciliation was welcomed and that it was a great way to say goodbye to them.
Another great scene was the battle between The Mountain and The Hound which is what we have all been waiting for. And it certainly lived up to it. This was such a gory episode full of violence and terror, making even the unstoppable Arya realise that she was way out of her depth.
As for the ending, I think that Daenerys’s actions were completely justified. I’ve been saying for the whole of the season so far that there was no way that Daenerys and Jon would be together by the end, but nobody believed me.
You only have to look back at some significant moments in previous seasons to see what Daenerys intentions were all along. In season two, she said, “When my dragons are grown, we will take back what was stolen from me. We will lay waste to armies and burn cities to the ground” and that “I will take what is mine through fire and blood!” And we cheered her on for being that person back then. If you thought that she had changed, you were silly to think that falling in love with Jon Snow would set her back on the right track.
It’s only now that the people she is fighting are families and houses that we like, that we seem to be questioning her actions. They may have been extreme, but all she saw at King’s Landing was people who didn’t love her and who could still potentially get in her way. So she burnt the place to the ground so that she can start over again with people who see her as a Khaleesi, no questions asked. I never expected anything less, and as much as I love Emilia Clarke’s performance, I stopped rooting for Daenerys a long time ago.
Now, we just have to see who it is that will be able to stop her.
Episode 6: ‘The Iron Throne’
And then came the final episode of Game of Thrones ever. After seeing many bad reviews before I had time to watch the episode, I was still holding on to my love for the series, but there were a few things that I needed to happen for me to feel content with the ending.
I absolutely loved the first 45 mins. I thought they were incredibly powerful and shocking and this is exactly what I wanted to happen. My heart was in my chest for the whole time and I let out a few gasps in pure shock.
However, the comedy and tone of the middle section felt all wrong and very out of place. The dialogue when choosing a new King or Queen was all wrong and didn’t feel like the characters at all, although Tyrion’s speech was exceptional and I’m glad that he had a final moment after feeling slightly unused in the rest of the season. Even the comedy around the new Small Council felt forced. It needed more nostalgia and less time spent on Tyrion arranging the chairs. However, I did like seeing some of our favourites characters come together to begin building a new world.
Most of what I wanted to happen in this episode, did. I just wish there were better ways around some things. I wanted Jon to go back to Tormund and Ghost but I wanted him to be able to choose to do this. I also wanted Sansa to rule the north but I didn’t want her to be so smug about getting her own way. And nobody wanted Bran as King, but I appreciate the writer’s reasoning for doing so and I guess it all makes sense.
Overall, I love how the episode all comes together at the end. Most of the characters seemed to get what they want: Sansa is a Lady, Jon is a Ghost in the only place he ever wanted to be, and Arya is a Warrior Queen on board a ship (Nymeria). These final moments were brilliant, and I would happily watch a spin-off of any of their future adventures.