Why GoT fans won’t like show finale
SPOILER WARNING: This story discusses season eight of Game of Thrones, you've been warned.
As Game of Thrones hurtles towards its fiery final two episodes, it's becoming more and more clear that Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) was on to something. As he told Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) years ago, "If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention."
Since season eight premiered, fans have gotten miffed over all sorts of story choices, from the lack of major deaths in episode three to Arya Stark's hero moment, Brienne of Tarth's sorrow and Sansa Stark's quick conversation with the Hound.
Now that it's looking like fan favourites Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) are being pitted against each other, the next two episodes are tinged with a sort of dread.
We all knew that Game of Thrones was never going to end with a tidy triumph, but something stranger and far more uneasy. Now it's looking like Game of Thrones is destined to piss all of us off.
GAME OF THRONES' BIGGEST ENEMY: ITS OWN HYPE
Between the show's latent popularity and the long wait for new episodes, the Game of Thrones season eight premiere was hyped like no other scripted television event in history. The show took over branded Super Bowl ads, Oreos, and even Mountain Dew cans.
It was billed as more than just a TV show; it was a unifying monoculture event in a time when monoculture is gone.
What does that mean? Well, that it's not going to actually live up to all that hype. Because, guys, it is just a TV show.
It's a very good TV show that occasionally hits peaks of artistic genius, but it is still subject to all the foibles inherent in any work of art produced by people for people. (Even Shakespeare's got flaws, folks.)
The expectations for these last six episodes of Game of Thrones are so high they are basically untenable. There was no way this show was going to live up to those lofty expectations and please everyone (which we'll get more into later).
If the first episode was too fan service-y for some, then episode two was too slow for others. If you liked the poetic pace of episode two, the rushed final act of episode four was going to lose you.
The Battle of Winterfell may have been promoted for months as the biggest night battle in film/TV history, but that only made some macabre fans pissed when more heroes didn't fall.
Basically, Game of Thrones was put in a losing position by its own incredible success. It was so big, it had to fail a little.
DISCONNECT BETWEEN THE SHOW AND THE UNFINISHED BOOKS
The final season of Game of Thrones also suffers from a unique problem for an adaptation: Readers are still waiting for the final two volumes in the epic fantasy series to come out.
Since Game of Thrones started off as a rather faithful adaptation of George RR Martin's books, some fans have chafed as the show swerves further away from the foundational text. What makes this even trickier is that dissatisfied fans can presume that Martin's unfinished tomes will end "better" if not simply "differently".
If you love this series enough to read every book related to it, you likely won't be satisfied until you get the "real" ending.
Since the show has been forced by circumstance to make some things up as it goes along, there are further debates raging through the fandom over whether or not a major twist was the showrunner's choice or part of Martin's ultimate design. Insider's Kim Renfro has a great piece detailing all the points of divergence between the books and series, explaining that this final season was "doomed to be divisive".
As Renfro puts it: "Fans searching for answers among the shattered pile of glass that was once the White Walkers are only finding misery. (Showrunners) Benioff and Weiss looked at the pieces they had on the board and made their choice to 'avoid the expected'. Fans had expectations rooted in decades of theory crafting and analysis of Martin's work and feel as if all those layers of true foreshadowing were tossed out the window."
So, there will always be a point of unease when we compare the show and the books. What is the real ending of Game of Thrones? Are we getting it? Is Benioff and Weiss's version of the tale better, worse, or simply different?
Not knowing if Game of Thrones will end like the books is enough to set any purist on edge, and it casts a shadow of scepticism on the show's finale.
NOT EVERYONE CAN WIN IN GAME OF THRONES
This should be obvious since Game of Thrones is a show about the brutal jockeying of power in a ruthless land, but not everyone can win. In fact, it's possible that no one will. That's troubling because the show has been so good at fleshing out almost every character in its mammoth cast that we've come to care for everyone.
If Jon "wins", Dany and Tyrion fans will be mad. If Cersei gets killed by Jaime, Arya fans will feel jilted out of seeing their personal favourite slay the person at the top of her list.
From a narrative perspective, there's no way we all won't feel a tiny bit disappointed if we are invested in every single character's journey. Not everyone can get what they deserve or, more banally, what we want for them.
From a greater thematic viewpoint, this final season has already exposed a fissure between fans who were hooked because of the fantasy elements and those more invested in the human politics.
Those viewers who longed for the final battle to be between the living and the dead have already been disappointed by episode three, "The Long Night".
Now, the rest of the series is toggling back to the petty, but bloody, interpersonal conflicts. I'm a fan of that, but I'm just one viewer.
Game of Thrones was able to juggle the intricate fantasy and human elements of its storytelling pretty ably for seven seasons. Now in its eighth season, it has to pare the story down to its elemental thrust … and you may not like where it's heading.
GAME OF THRONES WAS ALWAYS GOING TO SUBVERT EXPECTATIONS
On top of everything else, Game of Thrones was built to subvert fan expectations. In fact, the initial appeal of the books for me was in how Martin subverted epic fantasy storytelling conventions at every turn. I soon found that I couldn't quite predict exactly where the story was going, which left me not only shocked at times but doubly devastated since I wasn't prepared for doom by the basic storytelling beats.
So, even though we've seen our favourites succeed more than usual in recent seasons, that doesn't mean that Game of Thrones is going to end with a happy ending. In fact, you should expect that it won't be what you'd expect. It may not leave you feeling fulfilled. It might not even upset you; it could just end limply and not with a dragon's roar.
Essentially, you can't expect Game of Thrones will end the way you personally want it. That's not what this show is about at its roots, and even if it was, it's impossible for such an massive series to please its hoards of fans. At this point, it's best if Game of Thrones fans make peace with the fact they won't like the show's ending because that may be the only way they'll walk away happy.
This article first appeared on Decider and was reproduced with permission