While in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s nice to think back to the things we used to get worked up about when society was still a thing. Like “Game of Thrones”, Season Eight. We all loved the show for almost a decade leading up to the final series, having had to wait two years to see how it was all going to end. “Game of Thrones” was to the 2010s what “Seinfeld” was to the 1990s. Unfortunately, just like with “Seinfeld”, the way it finished was a huge let down.
I think there are three big problems with Season Eight. One is that the White Walkers, who had been slowly built up over the series to be the looming threat to all of civilisation (“Winter is Coming”), were way, way, way too easily defeated, and in a manner that was deeply unsatisfying to the story.
Secondly, Daenerys going mad out of the blue, seemingly all because Jon Snow might have been making eyes at someone else, felt really stupid. This is the woman who throughout the seasons had gone through unmentionable agony – only to get to the doorstep of her final triumph and have an adolescent tiff. To say it was poor is an understatement.
And finally, that denouement was terrible. Let’s put Bran, that weird Stark kid, in charge? Why would the people involved do that? We had eight seasons of them acting in a way that would make them even considering such a thing beyond imagination. To have them all agree to it for no real reason at the very end put the seal on Season Eight being one to forget.
So, how should “Game of Thrones” have finished instead? I’ve thought about this more than I should have and come up with what I feel are the only three endings that could have possibly made sense.
- The really, really dark ending
“Game of Thrones” was at its heart a very brutal programme. That was part of its charm – you never knew just how bleak it was going to be willing to go. This could have played out to a conclusion that was even more desolate than anything that had preceded it.
The White Walkers advance further and further south. Meanwhile, the various human factions battle, weakening each other more and more. Finally, the White Walkers get to King’s Landing and….kill everyone and take over Westeros. That’s it – the White Walkers win in the end. All of the human conflict was nothing against the power of this mysterious force that they simply couldn’t unite to defeat. It ends with no hope for humanity’s redemption whatsoever.
2. The toned down version of Ending 1 above
In this one, the White Walkers would get to King’s Landing and take it over….but Daenerys would escape with a small band to Essos, hoping to come back and fight another day. The fact that she is the last one standing amongst the humans of Westeros is of little consolation – she has lost to a power she vastly underestimated and mistakenly saw as a sideshow to her real ambitions.
3. The ending where Daenerys wins but it actually makes sense
Daenerys manages to defeat the Lannisters and take King’s Landing – only to face a battle to the death with the White Walkers. Scared of their fate should the dreaded zombie army win, other Westeros factions are finally able to put aside their differences and fight together. Only, it is too late. King’s Landing is all but destroyed, and Daenerys wins, just, only to rule over a kingdom that has been completely gutted. She sits on the Iron Throne, overlooking a city that has been decimated. Having won in this Faustian manner, she goes mad.
In conclusion, the end of “Game of Thrones” was not of a piece with the rest of the programme. While not redemptive exactly, it sort of tried something of an upbeat ending that didn’t seem too ridiculous compared to the brutality of the rest of the story. And they failed. What a shame. At least we have seven great seasons of it to look back on.