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Last night’s Game Of Thrones Season 8 documentary probably won’t be very riveting for casual fans, but for those of us who have spent so many years invested in the series, it was a really nice way to say goodbye. We got to see the actors during the table reads. We got to meet many members of the crew, and we got to see everything that went into putting together Season 8. It was eye-opening, and it should, once and for all, put to bed the utterly stupid narrative that the producers, directors, writers and creators didn’t care about Season 8.
The narrative in question has been a very frequent topic of conversation for the past month or so. Beyond just a general frustration about how Season 8 turned out, many fans have fixated on the idea that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, as well as other key decision-makers have wanted Thrones to end so they can move onto other projects, most specifically Star Wars. Minor mistakes like leaving a water bottle in the background of a shot have seemingly added evidence, as well as the production decision to give Season 7 and Season 8 less episodes with longer runtimes.
I’m not one of those people who thinks if you love a TV show that you shouldn’t criticize it. Effffffff that. I love my favorite TV shows, and I’ll tell anyone who wants to listen whether I think the show is making good or bad choices. To me, it’s an essential part of being a fan. If I care enough to watch every single episode, spaced out over almost a decade of my life, I should have the right to complain. But there is a huge difference between complaining about the choices a show makes and accusing people involved of not caring or phoning it in. Say what you will about Game Of Thrones Season 8, but no one involved here phoned it in. This documentary is great evidence of that.
It took eight months to build the Kings Landing set. Actors were flown in who weren’t even working on the project specifically to try and prevent spoilers. The crew went months living like vampires and shooting every single night until 6 the following morning. People missed holidays with their families, special events at school with their kids and an uncountable number of little moments because they were committed to trying to do the final season right. You can really feel how much love and passion was poured into this, from the actors, the crew, the directors, the production assistants, the extras, the makeup artists and everyone else involved.
That doesn’t mean it all worked. I thought Season 8 was a mixed bag. To take a step back, I think it was a poor decision from Weiss and Benioff to abridge Seasons 7 and 8. I would have strongly preferred less action sequences in exchange for two full ten episode seasons. I wish they would have done more with Bronn, given Tyrion multiple episodes to decide whether to betray Dany or Varys and brought back Jaqen H'ghar and the Faceless Men. I have no problem saying any of that either, nor should you. True fans should want to have these conversations and dozens of others (the Brienne stuff, whether Theon deserved redemption, the point of the Night King, etc), but I don’t think any of those decisions had anything to do with D&D or anyone else involved in the show not caring or giving up. To imply that either directly or indirectly, in my opinion, is really unfair, especially given much of the focus of the documentary is centered around how much bigger and more exhausting making Season 8 was.
Think about your favorite sports team. If they lose in the playoffs, you have every right to question the tactical decisions, question how players operated under pressure, question the coach’s scheme or the players’ execution. That’s all in-bounds, but if you’re going to accuse the players of being lazy or not caring or being in poor shape, that’s, to me, a way, way more serious allegation that shouldn’t be flippantly just thrown around. It’s the same thing with Game Of Thrones. To say you would have done things differently is one thing. To say you would have tried harder is another, and there are scenes in this documentary that offer a lot of evidence that phoning it in didn’t happen.
There are a lot of examples to choose from, but let’s use the Wights that emerge from the crypts as the talking point. In the HBO documentary, we are shown the make-up artists discussing their new designs and their nerves. We see them do a practice run with more than a handful of extras, in which they were given full make-up. Then we see Benioff and Weiss come in to inspect all of the new creations. Then we see the Wights get photographed. Then we’re told there will be a meeting the following day in which Benioff and Weiss submit notes for any changes and alterations they would like for the new characters. Then the makeup artists have to respond and make changes based on those notes. That’s all prep work. None of that work was to actually shoot anything that would appear on film. It was all to make sure the crypt Wights, seen briefly in part of one episode, would look as good as possible. Does any of that seem like a lack of effort to you?
Go ahead and criticize the pacing of Season 8. Talk about how you wish there was more Mad Queen buildup or that Jaime and Cersei got a different ending. Complain until you feel better about any of the choices the show made, but think long and hard about whether you want to pull the effort card when there’s a Mountain of evidence to the contrary. After almost a decade of giving us the best show on television, I think they all deserve better.