Game Of Thrones Star Explains Why The Creators ‘Couldn’t Win’ With Viewers When It Came To The Series Finale

game of thrones Samwell Tarley and Jon Snow
(Image credit: HBO)

Truthfully, it’s hard to do right where series finales are concerned. After years of investment, fans want what they want when it comes to the beloved characters they watch. This has been true for a plethora of shows, from Lost to Gilmore Girls and everything in between. But it’s possible that no pop culture debate was ever quite as divisive as the Game of Thrones series finale. Of late, one of the show’s stars has explained why he thinks the creators just “couldn’t win” with die-hard viewers when it came to the ending.

When Game of Thrones finally concluded with the controversial eighth season in 2019, there was an uproar on all fronts. Audiences were dissatisfied with not only who (surprisingly) ended up on the Iron Throne but also with the final decisions made by the Dragon Queen herself, following her many years of being the lone source of goodness. John Bradley, who played Samwell Tarley on the show, came to the defense of the series finale. Using the royal “we,” Bradley said on the Just for Variety with Marc Malkin podcast:

I really think that it was highly unlikely that we were ever going to please everybody. Chances are we were going to please a fraction of people. … There are so many different permutations to it where you think, ‘Well, if we'd have gone with any one of these, then everyone would have been unhappy about that one.’ We almost couldn't win. It almost meant too much to people for them to really ever be satisfied. And who knows, when the wounds have healed in a few years’ time, maybe people will re-evaluate it and be able to see it as a complete thing.

It's technically been a few years, and most fans still haven’t gotten over the series finale. At the time of airing, the creators of the show, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, were largely anticipating the public ire that would soon be directed at them. So much so that they famously went into hiding ahead of the final episode. Yet fast forward there years and a pandemic later, and GoT’s John Bradley thinks we should cut the creators some slack now, saying:

[David Benioff and D. B. Weiss] did get a lot of criticism for it, and people were putting their ability as writers into dispute. You feel like saying, ‘They were still in charge when you loved it, they were still in charge when you thought it was the best thing you'd ever seen. All the way along and all those moments you remember, none of them would have happened if they hadn't been in control.’ So maybe they're due a bit of a break.

The Game of Thrones alum’s defense of the series that brought him to prominence is completely understandable, for exactly that reason. John Bradley has since been able to parlay the persona he perfected on HBO into other major gigs, including roles in JLo’s recent romcom Marry Me and in the latest Roland Emmerich disaster film Moonfall. Likewise, the GoT creators have managed to find other projects – such as a new fantasy series slated for Netflix, with Hugh Jackman and Bradley himself at their sides – despite the infamous finale debacle and later controversies.

In 2019, CinemaBlend staff were resoundly divided about the ending that Game of Thrones received. As it happens, though, I’m in the midst of a major rewatch of the series and, let me just say, it’s still not entirely surprising that a show predicated on shock-and-awe, life-or-death decisions finished on an equally shocking note. If it helps any, apparently George R.R. Martin didn’t want a Stark on the Iron Throne, either.

Should you be interested in revisiting Game of Thrones yourself, you can do so with an HBO Max subscription.

Lauren Vanderveen
Movies and TV News Writer

Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.