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Spoilers ahead for the fifth episode of Game of Thrones Season 8.
Game of Thrones is one of the biggest shows in television history, with a story that has been complex, divisive, and as difficult to watch as it is addictive for many. With expectations high, huge plots left to be resolved, a fandom left waiting for well over a year, and only six episodes to wrap everything up, of course not everybody was going to be happy with the final season. But do the writers really deserve a petition calling for Season 8 to be remade after years of great work?
On May 9, a petition was started on on Change.org, with the stated goal of having Game of Thrones Season 8 remade “with competent writers.” The petition goes on to state that showrunners and writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss “have proven themselves to be woefully incompetent writers when they have no source material” to use as inspiration for scripts. Stating that the series “deserves a final season that makes sense,” the petition asks HBO to subvert expectations and make it happen. At the time of writing, more than 700,000 people have signed. Is this really fair?
I’ll be the first to admit that I have my issues with Season 8. For me, there weren’t enough episodes in Season 8 to bring this gargantuan saga to a well-paced conclusion. A coffee cup shouldn’t have made it into the finished product. I will go to my grave wondering why Daenerys Targaryen decided legitimizing a Baratheon was a good idea. So why do I think the writers deserve better than this petition for Season 8 to be remade?
Well, for one thing, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been out of books for a few seasons now, and the series made big departures from the novels from the very beginning. George R.R. Martin told the showrunners “the major points of the ending,” according to the author himself in an interview with Rolling Stone in March. For all we know, Season 8 is progressing as Martin would have written it. Game of Thrones wouldn't exist at all without their efforts, for better or worse.
Were the earlier seasons better, when the show could build to delivering fantastic and heartbreaking twists from the detailed source material? Arguably, yes, but David Benioff and D.B. Weiss delivered immensely popular episodes like “The Battle of the Bastards,” “The Winds of Winter,” and “The Dragon and the Wolf" after the show outpaced the books.
Given that the petition went live on May 9 (following my personal least-favorite episode of Season 8, “The Last of the Starks”) and blew up following the premiere of “The Bells” with Dany’s rampage, it seems like the biggest issues are with episodes penned by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. This raises the question: were the episodes actually that bad, or did people just not like what happened in them? If the latter, it's understandable.
Let’s look at “The Bells.” The biggest twists to come out of that episode were debatably Dany’s decision to roast King’s Landing and Jaime genuinely returning to Cersei. Many fans came to see Daenerys as one of the heroes of Game of Thrones and a favorite, so watching her snap and burn thousands and thousands of innocent civilians in the city was of course not a fun twist for those fans. (Or the civilians.)
I would argue that Game of Thrones established Daenerys as far back as Season 1 as somebody who is fine with brutality if it gets her closer to the Iron Throne (see: her lack of objection when Drogo declared he was going to lead his horde to Westeros to rape, slaughter, pillage, and enslave on her behalf), and I was never her biggest fan because of it, especially since her dragons meant she could just scare and/or roast enemies into submission. So I was fine with the twist.
I did love Jaime, though, and I would have vastly preferred if he’d stayed up North. Unfortunately, Jaime has a history of backsliding when it comes to Cersei, as we saw when he resumed his life in King’s Landing in Season 4. And Cersei was pregnant with his child in Season 8. As much as I didn't want to, I could believe that he was too broken and in too deep with her to ever escape.
Jaime’s return to Cersei was not what I wanted for him, and I didn’t like it at all. But aside from his awful line about not caring about the people of King’s Landing, it wasn’t bad. Just unappealing. The tragedy of Jaime Lannister.
There’s a fine line between what is bad and what is just unpleasant when it comes to television, and Game of Thrones has toed that line throughout Season 8. The writers shouldn’t be petitioned to rewrite a season that -- whether you like it or not -- is the product of a lot of very hard work for a long time from many people. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were not the only writers on this series, let alone this season.
As Ramsay Bolton more or less said a long time ago, Game of Thrones is not going to have a happy ending for all the characters. Season 8 as it is may have some fans wanting a do-over, but who’s to say that the do-over would be any more appealing? For this hypothetical do-over, who would be in charge of “fixing” it? How would the “competent” writers be chosen?
There’s also the point that Game of Thrones isn’t over yet. Will the series finale fix all of the issues the people who signed the petition have with Season 8? Almost certainly not. Could it pay off of the arcs that are currently unsatisfying to viewers? Sure.
The petition could result in making people who worked very hard to produce something of unprecedented scale under inconceivable pressure feel awful about the finished product, not just the writers. Game of Thrones is the effort of a very large group.
As I’ve said, I have significant issues of my own with Season 8 and the writing for the last couple of episodes, but I honestly think that there was no way for Season 8 to be well-paced and hit all of the story beats the showrunners wanted. In a perfect world, they would have agreed to more episodes before sitting down to write Season 8. Or perhaps two shortened seasons, with one each for the fight against the Night King and the fight for the Iron Throne.
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss did pen four of the six episodes, so it's technically on them that they had to rush the pacing. Six episodes was not enough time, especially after a shortened Season 7. Something had to give to pack the war against the White Walkers and the war for the Iron Throne into half a dozen episodes, and that something was the pacing.
Okay, the pacing and attention to certain details. The coffee cup? Gendry calling himself “Gendry Rivers” when he was an unacknowledged bastard from King’s Landing? The apparent warp speed of ravens? Jaime “I Killed Aerys To Save The People Of King’s Landing” Lannister saying he doesn’t care about the people of King’s Landing? “The Long Night” only lasting for most of one night?
There have indeed been missteps, but a look at social media in the days since "The Bells" is proof enough that Game of Thrones fans will never all agree with each other on everything.
At this point, I just hope even the most disgruntled Game of Thrones fans are able to get some satisfaction out of the series finale. If not… well, until the day George R.R. Martin gets around to finishing the book saga, we can always use our imaginations and decide on our own versions of a happy ending, right?
Find out how Game of Thrones ends with the series finale on Sunday, May 19 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.