“Game of Thrones” Season 8: A mixed bag that needed more episodes

Game of Thrones

“Game of Thrones” was created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who also wrote the entirety of the eighth season, and is based on the book “A Song of Ice and Fire” written by George R.R. Martin. The show stars a whole bunch of people, including Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Sophie Turner, Masie Williams, Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Isaac Hempstead Wright.

The eighth and final season is centered around a pair of battles: The battle between the people of Winterfell and the White Walkers in the north, as well as the battle between Daenerys Targareyn and her forces and Cersei Lannister’s army in order to win the Iron Throne.

The first six seasons of “Game of Thrones” are seemingly, in my eyes, universally agreed on as a miraculous feat in the history of television. I’d agree, and that opinion, for me, did not change much following the seventh season, either. Sure, I think the writing was a tad bit weaker than the previous six seasons, but the incredible spectacle created made up for it, as well as a phenomenal season finale.

Also, SPOILERS, I’m going into everything that is Season 8, including the major plot points.

The season starts off with the episode, “Winterfell, which, at the time, felt like a fairly harmless opening episode that ends with some intriguing character moments toward the end. I enjoy the bits with Samwell Tarly, as well as Jon’s confrontation with Daenerys, but looking back, I think this episode could have been streamlined with the episode that preceded it.

A theme with my major complaints is going to be how Benioff and Weiss willingly chose to make it six episodes, and it still felt like they were rushing everything, and an episode like “Winterfell” makes much less sense when on a serious crunch.

Still, the visuals during Jon and Daenerys’ ride with the dragons is great, and the writing worked for what it was.

Episode Rating: 7/10

Following the opener is “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, my favorite episode of the season. This type of episode reminds me of the good that can come from strong character development and conversation between people you want to see together.

Jamie Lannister’s arrival to Winterfell is realized excellently in this episode, as is Bran, who shines the most here in the entirety of this season. I absolutely loved the drinking in preparation for the battle ahead with Jamie, Brienne, Tyrion, and Tormund among others, and it is all topped off with Brienne being knighted, a terrific moment for her character.

This episode of course leaves you on a major cliffhanger that is the Battle for Winterfell, and I do think this and episode 1 could have been combined into an 80-minute episode if six episodes were 100 percent necessary, but as it stands, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” stands as a highlight for the final season.

Episode Rating: 9/10

Here’s where things started to get a bit shaky.

Episode 3, “The Long Night,” is a 72-minute episode that is almost entirely the battle between the North and the White Walkers. It was directed by Miguel Sapochnik, director of episodes like “Hardhome” and “The Battle of the Bastards.” And yet, it just does not live up to the heights of those other absolutely magnificent episodes.

Don’t get me wrong, with the massive budget HBO gave this show, there are some absolutely stunning visual moments to be found here, as well as throughout the entirety of this season. The CGI and action sequences remain consistently gorgeous no matter how the other pieces of the episode were.

That is, when you can see the visuals.

While I can allow the dark lighting for when the Dothraki’s flaming weaponry is taken down, the rest of this episode needed to be better lit. There is just too much going on for it to be so hard to visualize on a TV screen.

More than the dim lighting, the dim writing really bothered me first with this episode. “Game of Thrones” has always felt like one of the smartest shows I have ever seen, but this episode was riddled with overly convenient plot devices and lucky breaks from the vast majority of its main characters.

There’s a few deaths, sure, but only ones that were used to keep other, more important characters alive. I will agree that the shots of Jamie, Brienne and Grey Worm with backs against the wall just slaughtering the White Walkers is cool but c’mon, they should be dead.

And finally, we get Arya’s murder of the Night King, which is equal parts awesome and totally badass, but also ridiculous and way too easy.

You’re telling me that mass army of higher-up white walkers just completely let that happen? And even if they did, all the Night King takes to die is the same amount of a hit that any other white walker does? After seven-and-a-half seasons, this is the end of the Night King’s run, without any extra development to him aside from “Bad guy who can see Bran at all times?”

Very disappointing, much like this episode, which wasn’t terrible, but had way too many flaws.

Episode Rating: 5.5/10

“The Long Night” had its issues, but it felt like it could still be a fluke of a mediocre episode. Then “The Last of the Starks” was the fourth episode and I realized that this season could easily be the show’s worst. This episode is not good: not from a writing standpoint and not from an interesting standpoint.

Everything Benioff and Weiss attempt here is either rushed or just ridiculous, especially when it comes to Euron Greyjoy easily taking out one of Daenerys’ two dragons. How is an Iron Fleet both in the perfect spot to be hiding, and also hiding at all? That is a MASSIVE fleet and Daenerys is in the freaking air.

Aside from this moment, Tyrion, who was earlier nearly killed by Bronn, who was sent by Cersei, is saved from Cersei’s wrath for no good reason, and then Missandei is killed. This episode is slow, poorly written, and somehow still manages to feel like it’s rushing things. How is an episode both boring and going too fast? Hard to say, but “The Last of the Starks” does that.

Episode Rating: 3/10

The transitional episode between battles was quite bad, and the first fight didn’t amaze either, so the pressure for this battle — the one between Danaerys and Cersei — was enormous. Well, in “The Bells, my emotions and opinions on the episode are the most conflicted of really any episode in the show’s history.

To start, this is one of the most stunning visual episodes the show has ever done, right up there with Battle of the Bastards. The visuals also serve a fantastic emotional purpose, especially in shots with Tyrion, Arya and Jon. I can respect the audacity of this episode in a lot of ways, and the decisions made to truly go all out and kill off some major characters in unique ways.

But, and you knew a but was coming, all of these things come at the cost of just feeling like these writers ran out of time with the amount of episodes they chose to have. Clarke gives another great performance this season as Daenerys, but it is the rushed storytelling that makes her character feel overly changed overly fast.

Daenerys has had moments that made you question if she is right throughout the seasons, but only briefly. This season takes those and makes her a full-blown power hungry psycho, and I did not totally buy in with what was given on screen.

Aside from that, you cannot, and I mean absolutely CANNOT makes Cersei and Jamie die to rubble, you can’t. It is brutally anticlimactic, and it tarnishes the arcs of two of the show’s best characters.

This feels like it could have been a tremendous episode within a 10, maybe even an eight-episode season, but six is just too few for this to work. Still, I loved the visuals, loved the moment between Tyrion and Jamie, loved the Cleganebowl and loved the cinematic storytelling of Arya’s shots in the chaos.

With no context, this episode is really solid. But in the context of the season and the show, there are clear holes in the script and in character development that hurt my total enjoyment.

Episode Rating: 6.5/10

It all leads up to the final episode, “The Iron Throne. Was a lot of iffy storytelling all worth it for an incredibly satisfying, fulfilling ending that was so good, all can be forgiven?

In the eyes of this guy, no. Absolutely not.

If anything, “The Iron Throne” competes for one of the worst episodes in the season, thus cementing this season as a low for the series.

Starting with the good: I think the episode opens well, with some strong emotional shots, as well as the shot of the season with Drogon perfectly behind Daenerys. Jon’s eventual murder of the Queen is also pretty terrific, but the best thing of the episode, and the season, and quite possibly the show, is Dinklage. His turn as Tyrion has been exceptional, and he simply can elevate above everything to be a highlight, and that is done to a tee in the final episode.

There are other great performances here and elsewhere this season, but Dinklage stands out among them all.

But sadly, there’s more to this show than Tyrion Lannister, and sometimes, I am not sure the writers remember that. This episode feels like the end of a sitcom in the final half, with a lot of jokes and weird little quirky adventures to tie everything together.

Bran is named King, even though he has done not a single damn thing for anyone this season, simply because Tyrion says so. Does he actually have the best story? He doesn’t even rank in the Top 3 of alive Starks in that category, so no.

Then Sansa is named Queen of the North — the only decision in the back half I love — and then Arya says shes gonna go explore or something stupid that they can probably make into a spinoff.

Jon is sent back to the Night’s Watch for his murder of Daenerys to make Grey Worm happy, even though Grey Worm is absolutely shafted in every other decision, and they all live happily ever after or something.

The worst part in the episode is Samwell Tarly’s cheesy ass “A Song of Ice and Fire” reference that nearly made me gag, but the worst is what was NOT in this episode.

Because the final season was only six episodes long, so many side plots are just given up and forgotten about. Jon’s real name as Aegon Targaryen? Merely a miniscule piece of info when it should have meant everything. Arya’s faceless man plot? Not even shown once in the final season. Varys’ note right before he died? Who cares!! Or or how about Bran’s three-eyed raven abilities? Oh, he uses them, once, to kind of look at the Night King or something.

Episode Rating: 3/10

“Game of Thrones” became a one-note show after seven seasons of being anything but, and that is the worst part of what this finale represents. Did I like moments? Sure. I think that shot that switches between Arya, Sansa and Jon is a pretty great way to end it. But that cannot make up for a total lack of care to so many pieces of this story.

This final season needed to be at least eight episodes, and 10 wouldn’t have hurt. Benioff and Weiss truly seemed over their heads here, and they struggle with making the same conversations that always were terrific have that same punch.

But I loved plenty of other things that are away from the plot and script. Every acting performance the show has to offer continued to deliver, with special kudos to Dinklage, Coster-Waldau, Clarke and Williams. The visuals were spectacular and worth every penny that went into them.

The score by Ramin Djawadi is outstanding yet again, and I really hope he starts getting picked for movies that don’t absolutely suck.

It’s easy to punch up and say Season 8 was a trainwreck, but it wasn’t, at least not entirely. There’s a lot of greatness to find, but it’s wrapped in a stench that is a rushed script, multiple wasted storylines and brutally undeveloped twists.

We are lucky to have had a groundbreaking show like “Game of Thrones,” but it’s a shame that one of the best shows in television stumbled across the finish line.

Badge-5.5


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