The end of Game of Thrones — the TV show at least — is finally upon us. After eight seasons and 67 episodes, it’s rather daunting to realize we’re finally going to see the long-awaited battle for the fate of Westeros, where the only guarantee is that some of our favorite characters will be dying. But frankly, I have a bigger worry about this final season: What if it’s terrible?
This is not just a counterintuitive take — my concerns are very, very real. I am not happy about the possibility of Thrones’s flubbing its landing after years of excellence. And this isn’t about the possibility that the epic conclusion will be disappointing because that’s a given. There’s simply too much anticipation, which has made our expectations impossible to fulfill. I’ve made my peace with that, and you should, too.
I’m certainly not going to pretend Thrones has been flawless so far. (Rewatch Daenerys’ interminable dragon-napping storyline in season two or anything that ever happened in Dorne.) But the last season, way back in 2017, had more issues than any season before it, and there were many moments that were flat-out bad — often in ways the show hadn’t evidenced before. And that worries me about what’s to come.
So much in season seven felt rushed. Characters were often forced to speed through exposition, and as a result, scenes lacked time to breathe. Long-awaited reunions — the Stark children coming together, Cersei and Tyrion Lannister meeting again, and Jorah returning to Daenerys — felt perfunctory and clipped off when they should have been decadently satisfying. Time and space stopped mattering altogether as characters practically teleported across the continent of Westeros in order to keep the plot moving at a breakneck speed, the most infamous example being Daenerys flying from Dragonstone to beyond the Wall to rescue Jon Snow and his posse in about four to six hours.
These problems are bummers because they mess with two of the show’s biggest strengths — the raw, emotional moments between characters we’ve come to love (or hate), and the fundamental realism that has made Game of Thrones so unlike other fantasy series.
There was simply too much cheap drama. Remember the awesome battle between Daenerys’ forces and the Lannister wagon train and her utterly absurd decision to land her wounded dragon in the middle of an active battlefield solely so she could briefly be in danger of getting killed by a charging Jaime? Or how that episode ended with Jaime in full armor falling 30 feet into a lake that had suddenly appeared right next to him — yet he was inexplicably fine when the next episode began? Or how, in that otherwise epic fight between Jon Snow’s posse and the legion of the White Walkers, there was not one but two deus ex machina? (First Daenerys flew in to rescue everyone, and then, after Jon Snow inexplicably stayed behind, his somewhat undead uncle Benjen appeared out of nowhere to save his butt.)
That’s what worries me the most, that nagging sense that the writers, the actors, the producers, and everyone else are more worried in getting the show done rather than getting these final crucial episodes right.
You might not have noticed these flaws as you were watching — season seven still boasted the series’ characteristically amazing action scenes. Who has time to keep track of plot logic when a dragon is sinking into the ice or a million stuntmen are being set on fire?
But despite the problems in pace and believability, there was nothing worse in season seven than the storyline between Arya and Sansa. It requires quite the description to truly appreciate its awfulness, so please bear with me, but keep in mind this begins the episode immediately after the two reunite and connect emotionally despite being completely different people who have led utterly different lives.
And then Arya immediately starts criticizing Sansa for wanting to rule Winterfell, which she’s currently doing in newly crowned King in the North Jon Snow’s stead while he’s off making broody eyes at Daenerys. Okay, Arya? It’s not a crime for Sansa to want to have some political power, especially after all she’s been through. Also, Jon specifically left her in charge, and when Bran arrived, Sansa tried to give control of Winterfell to him as the last legitimate male heir of Ned Stark, even though he had become a creepy bird-man. Lastly, Sansa is actually much, much better at ruling than Jon anyway, something she proves by keeping the northern bannermen in line. Honestly, Sansa should have been in charge the entire time.
But Arya makes it clear she thinks Sansa is plotting to overthrow Jon, something Sansa has never given even the slightest indication of wanting to do. Arya even threatens to use her weird assassin powers and outright murder her sister. It all makes zero sense — as does the scheming Littlefinger bringing out an old letter Sansa wrote in season one under duress from Cersei where she asked her brother Robb to bend the knee to King Joffrey. Sansa is terrified that the northern lords will discover this letter in which she has supposedly committed treason — even though she wrote it in season one when she was 15, after her father had been imprisoned, and before she knew how villainous the Lannisters really were. Who in the seven kingdoms would be stupid enough to blame her for that? Arya, apparently.
The Sansa-Arya split was clearly created so the characters could continue to have a storyline while the rest of the focus was on Jon and Daenerys, the war against the White Walkers, and the machinations in King’s Landing. Even if season seven was a complete rush, this was terrible writing — arguably the worst in the entire series. An entire storyline this bad seems less like an accident and more like the writers couldn’t be bothered to think of something better.
And that’s what worries me the most, that nagging sense that the writers, the actors, the producers, and everyone else are more worried — or perhaps even more interested — in getting the show done rather than getting these final crucial episodes right.
There’s no chance that Game of Thrones’ final season will be completely disappointing. If nothing else, I’m certain we can trust that the makers of the show have saved their most awesome spectacles for the end. There’s going to be plenty to like, and, besides, there’s going to be immense satisfaction in simply watching this epic fantasy story reach its conclusion after all these years.
But, man, it’s going to be a huge bummer if the show’s final season has as many flaws as its previous one. I hope that won’t be the case, but we’ll find out soon enough — the last six episodes begin airing Sunday, April 14 — and we’ll finally see who wins, who dies, and who just stopped giving a damn.