It’s over, done with, finito, the end of an era!
The greatest television show in history has reached its conclusion—and so, naturally, countless opinions manifest in the form or worshipful odes or vicious diatribes.
No doubt there are already thousands of reviews chronicling the Game of Thrones finale, but there should be one from a writer’s perspective. Good or bad, great or horrible, we writers can always learn something from these things, so let’s see what Game of Thrones aka The Song of Ice and Fire has to teach us.
A Twist is Not the Same as Good Storytelling
Something M Night Shyamalan took a while to grasp is something the writers of GoT failed to learn: twists should be considered a tool in a writers’ arsenal, not the goal.
From a literary standpoint, the unfaithfulness of the finale with all that had come before it was dissapointing. The series has shown time and again, in brutal ways, that whatever terrible things can happen, will happen. We’ve come to love the series for this very thing, this unique and entertaining—and often flagrant—penchant for flying in the face of traditional fantasies.
GoT is not your traditional fantasy, where all the main players in the fellowship make it to the end, where those who survive all have happy endings. In Westeros and Essos, bad things happen and no one is exempt. This has been made clear throughout the series.
But the finale decided to upend this theme and wrap everything up nicely with a bow.
It made me kind of miss the old Night King.
Hardest Decision of Jon Snow’s Life—Made in the Time it Takes to Stroll Past a Dragon
Perhaps we could have swallowed the writing of the finale if we had been given time to see and to process character motivation.
But this necessary literary device was sacrificed for spectacle, a la the MCU. We long suspected Jon would be forced to kill Daenerys to prevent a mad reign. And we saw her becoming mad. But Jon didn’t seem to realize this until early in the final episode. When Tyrion finally convinced him she needed to be bled, he simply takes a stroll up the street, passes Drogon the sleepy bouncer, and approaches the completely unprotected Queen of the Ash Heap. They have a little discussion (I was disappointed we didn’t get to see one final Dany berserker rage and hear one last classic Targaryen threat, just to remind us of her madness), and then Jon simply slides it in, nice and easy.
We didn’t get to see this tragic young man come to accept his tragic role over the course of several episodes. He ‘says’ he loves her. But that, my dear writers, is telling, not showing.
The similar scene in X-Men: The Last Stand, where Wolverine kills his beloved Jean, is far more powerful, for a number of reasons:
(1) the music is moving and builds to a crescendo (2) we are actually shown how difficult this decision is for Logan
(3) much time—most of the movie—was given to building up to this scene, lending it gravitas, and
(4) we glimpse Jean’s humanity in the end.
But the GoT version felt rushed. If this was the culmination of all that had come before, then the decision should have weighed heavily on Jon for some time, and we should have been shown him reaching this heart-wrenching decision through much time and psychological turmoil. He reached the decision and acted on it in a time span of roughly ten minutes. It felt like an afterthought, which in literary terms was disrespectful to the build up that had so excellently been established and executed for many seasons. Continue reading “Game of Thrones Finale: A Writer’s Perspective”