Let’s start with the big one, The whole thing just felt like it was rushed. Everything in season eight seemed to be happening too quickly and it would often feel like three episodes worth of information was being crammed into one feature-length episode. A side effect of this was that we weren’t able to enjoy the big pay-off moments in the way that we had done previously.
For example, In episode one of season eight, Jon rode Rhaegal, something that has huge significance, but it just happened and didn’t feel like a big event. And the reason is because it came halfway through an episode where Jon is reunited with Bran and Arya, Theon saves Yara, the golden company arrives in Westeros, Ned Umber is killed by the white walkers, Jaime Lannister turns up unannounced at Winterfell and has a stare-off with Bran, and Jon learns that he is actually Aegon Targaryen (heir to the iron throne and nephew of his lover Dany).
This trend carried on throughout the season and lead to a lot of moments that didn’t get the treatment that they would have previously gotten, or deserved.
When you compare this to the moment when Daenerys first flew with Drogon, it pales in significance. It was the climax of season five episode nine and was part of a tense nine-and-a-half minute scene where she was ambushed by the Sons of the Harpy in the fighting pits of Mereen. Drogon, who was previously missing, swoops down to protect Dany before she climbs on its back and flies away.
The early seasons of Game of Thrones were dialogued heavy, building up characters and there wasn’t much on-screen action, season eight and to some degree six and seven were not like this at all.
2. Character development
So next, let’s talk about character development. Something that seemed like a direct consequence of the rushed nature of season eight was the jarring character development which left viewers feeling shocked, confused and even betrayed.
Many would argue that the show lost its way from season five onwards — this was the point that Benioff and Weiss started making the biggest departures from George R. R. Martin’s books. But season 8 has had by far the most backlash, here’s why.
Each and every character had been painted so vividly until this point and within six episodes some changed beyond recognition.
And the best example of this is Daenerys Targaryen. We had seven seasons of Daenerys Targaryen being built up as one of the main heroes in the show and this was torn down and destroyed in the final three episodes. The downfall of Daenerys was so sudden that it was hard to take, and many fans of the show felt betrayed by it.
I just want to make it clear that this isn’t me criticising the story arc. If Dany becoming the mad queen was necessary, then that is fine, but it shouldn’t have happened so quickly. I could have gone along with her downfall if I wasn’t subjected to just three episodes of her decline following the death of Missendei. We needed to see her not eating, not sleeping, growing more and more paranoid and vengeful. Instead what we got was a few shots of her with bags under her eyes and scruffy hair, which just wasn’t enough. When the bells rang out around Kings Landing and Dany decided to burn down the city anyway — killing thousands of people in the process — it just didn’t feel like the decision that the Daenerys we’d followed for eight seasons would make.
Ok, let’s move onto Jon. The character who had the most screen time and probably the most interesting storyline, the secret son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, the man who is an actual mixture of ice and fire. What was the point of Jon being a Targaryen? The big reveal of this information was a huge part of the narrative, yet it was only used as a tool to partly justify Daenerys’ descent into madness.
Another question when it comes to Jon is, would he really have stabbed his queen in the heart? The same Jon who couldn’t swear a false oath to Cersei for the good of the Seven Kingdoms before the battle against the army of the dead? Are we supposed to believe that he would kill his queen, the woman he loved, without trying to help her? Not just shouting at her, I mean really trying. Had it really gotten to the point where he had to do that? Again, maybe this would have been more believable if we had more screen time to see it play out.
Finally on character development, let’s look Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer. Season 1’s most-loathed character was transformed throughout eight seasons as we learned more about his past and saw him perform noble and selfless acts. This all peaked at the end of Season seven when he deserted Cersei to go and fight at Winterfell to save Westeros from the Night King and the army of the dead. After this, he again deserts a lover, Brienne of Tarth, to go and try to save Cersei but this move isn’t quite the selfless act that the previous one was, and actually reduces a lot of the hard work that was put into building him up. Were we supposed to think that this commitment to his sibling was noble? It certainly didn’t seem it.
3. Anti-climactic moments
The Night King was killed halfway through season eight
I think the most obvious anticlimactic moment from season eight has to be the battle of Winterfell. Yes, the battle was huge and cinematically beautiful (when it was brightened up a bit) but it wasn’t what some Game of Thrones fans were hoping for. Here’s why…
The opening scenes of season one, episode one showed members of the Night’s Watch going beyond the wall and coming face to face with a white walker. The side narrative throughout the show was that all the wars between wannabe kings of Westeros were actually nothing compared to the threat that was building beyond the wall. When we were introduced to the Night King he immediately became the ultimate villain, incredibly powerful and seemingly impossible to stop. So when this enemy was defeated halfway through season eight, it seemed like a bit of an anticlimax. Not to mention the way in which it happened. We didn’t get to see any of the skilled swordsmen battling with the Night King, nor his White Walker henchmen. I have no problem with it being Arya who killed him, but it all came and went far too fast considering that the whole 8 seasons felt like it was building up to this moment, this battle.
Other anticlimactic moments include:
Cersei and Jaime’s anti-climactic death
The story arc of the sibling lovers was threatened more than once to end in betrayal or murder, but in the end, the two were killed by falling rocks while trying to run away from Danaerys and Drogon’s fire frenzy on the Red Keep. A little bit of a letdown.
Jon finishing back at the Night’s Watch
Jon has had an epic storyline with his true heritage revealed as Aegon Targaryen but it all came to nothing and he found himself back at Castle Black going ranging with Wildlings.
Arya’s skills not being used more
Yes, she did kill the Night King, but … Arya then travelled all the way to King’s Landing only to be convinced to leave after the Hound tells her she doesn’t want to be like him.
Since killing the Frey’s we never saw Arya use her faceless training again, which could have made for some more interesting viewing than seeing her ride off on a random white horse.
Unsullied and Dothraki just leave?
The final episode shows the Unsullied and Dothraki armies hyped for more wars at the start and end with them leaving quietly in their boats while watching the man who killed their queen walk past, time is a healer they say, but I am not sure it works those sort of wonders.
4. Plot holes
Season eight was Game of Throne’s final season, so all of the loose ends should have been tied up and the audience shouldn’t be asking questions right? Wrong! Here are just a few that are keeping me up at night.
Ok, so what about Bran becoming king? As much as I personally liked this twist, it was a little unbelievable due to the way it happened, especially when all the people deciding seemed to have a more obvious choice.
Tyrion loves stories right? And who had a better story than Bran? How about Jon Snow? Who went from Stark Bastard to Lord Commander to King in the North, who was literally killed and resurrected, the Prince that was Promised who slew his lover for the good of the realm? Nah, let’s send that guy back to the Night’s Watch without even talking about him as a possibility for the throne.
No one even talked about him as a possibility when they were choosing the next leader of Westeros.
The reason for this? It was part of an agreement between the kingdoms to please the Unsullied army and Yara Greyjoy — who felt he should be punished after killing Daenerys. While this is understandable to a certain degree, it feels hollow as the Unsullied are seen minutes later boarding a ship to the Isle Of Naath and the Greyjoys were not a powerful enough house to demand this sort of respect from the other lords of Westeros. Another point about this scene is that at this point, as far as we know, only Sansa, Arya, Bran, Tyrion, and Sam know that Jon is actually Aegon Targaryen. Should this not have been mentioned? Maybe it could have changed Yara’s mind?
Sansa and Arya also both had great stories worthy of becoming queen … but again, no one mentioned either of their names.
How can the three-eyed raven become king anyway? Bran went from the strange emotionless person who would stare blankly before saying something that made others uncomfortable to the king of Westeros and none of the other characters batted an eyelid. The last three-eyed raven lived north of the wall and was merged with a tree. Why is Bran so different?
Who is the Prince of Dorne? How did he come to power? Why is this suddenly unimportant in season eight when Dorne was a big focus point in earlier seasons?
Why does the Night’s Watch even exist any more? The White Walkers are wiped out. The wildlings are allies. The Wall is destroyed near Eastwatch, and the various castles along the Wall are unmanned. Is there any point in restoring them?
5. Forgotten characters
It became very clear in the later seasons that some characters really didn’t serve a purpose to the final outcome of the show, here are a few of them who got forgotten.
Where is Jaqen H’ghar?
The Faceless Man is one of the characters who trained Arya Stark. At the end of season six, he let her go back to Westeros, and we haven’t heard about him or from him since.
The former lover of Danaerys was left in Meereen at the end of season six to keep an eye on the city, we never heard from him again.
Is Ellaria Sand still in the basement?
At the end of season seven, Ellaria Sand was left to watch her daughter die in front of her in the Red Keep. We never saw her or heard of her again.
6. Unrealistic events
Yes, I am going to go there… In a show about dragons, magic, and the undead, I am going to call out some unrealistic things that happened. Don’t worry, the irony isn’t lost on me.
Let’s talk about how far Arya needed to jump to kill the night king. Yep, that looks like a long way… I know she has skills, but this seems a little silly.
How about when Dany didn’t see Euron’s ships from half a mile high. This unlikely ambush resulted in Rhaegal being killed and Dany’s chances of taking Kings Landing being reduced.
During the ambush, Drogon and Dany fled from Euron’s ships. But when it came to taking Kings Landing, the pair destroyed his whole fleet with ease along with all the scorpions on King’s Landing’s walls. Why didn’t they just do that before?
Remember when Bronn aggressively threatened Tyrion and Jaime with a crossbow? Well, apparently that was forgiven pretty easily following the burning of Kings Landing.
So undead Viserion burned through the wall, which had protected the seven kingdoms for years from the white walkers, but a mound of stones was enough to save Jon from its fire breath?
Does Drogon understand symbolism? I understand why he wouldn’t kill Jon, as he is a Targaryen, but him melting the iron throne to represent Jon never being king after killing Dany was a little bit too on the nose to be believable.
Why didn’t we see more of Bran’s powers, and why didn’t he use them against the Night King or Cersei or even Daenerys? Yes, he sat under a tree and lured the Night King for Arya to kill him, but other than that, it seems like he was an unutilised weapon most of the time. And in the final episode, he alluded to warging into Drogon, but we didn’t get to see him actually try.
7. Changing of the main villain
Finally, let’s talk about the changing of focus towards different villains. From episode three to six we saw three different main villains, the Night King at the battle of Winterfell, Cersei during episode four and five, and finally Danaerys in episode six. This quick switching between the antagonists was a little confusing and wasn’t helped by the lack of time we had for all of these events to sink in.
8. Character deaths
Ok, I think the show actually would have been better with more of the main characters dying — hear me out.
Game of Thrones lost some of its unpredictability when it was drawing to a close. The show has done it over and over again, killing main characters. Yet it seemed pretty obvious that key characters were going to survive the battle of Winterfell as it was clear that their storyline still needed to play out. I never felt like there was any danger that Jon, Dany, Jaime, Tyrion or Sansa might die in that battle, which is something that wouldn’t have been so predictable in previous seasons.
9. Continuity mistakes
Yes, this season had a few.
The most memorable was the coffee cup in plain sight on the table after the battle of Winterfell.
There were also two modern day water bottles spotted on the floor in the scene before Bran is named King.
Something that many fans noticed is the inconsistency of the way that Kings Landing was depicted. All of these are apparently the same city.
And finally, eagle-eyed viewers spotted that Danaerys was wearing different wigs when she arrived in Winterfell in season eight, episode one.
(This story originally appeared on Business Insider)