Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss seem to have approached Game of Thrones season 8 with one goal in mind––to destroy every single narrative arc that has made the series compelling thus far.
The final season is so god awful that hating it is becoming cliche. From the hacky, fan-fiction-esque dialogue of every interpersonal scene to the unwatchable lighting of the most important battle of the series, the only salvageable element might be the set design. Minus the Starbucks cup snafu, of course.
But worse than any surface-level issues, this season of Game of Thrones seems to completely throw away everything that makes our favorite characters compelling. It's fine to make a character we love do something we don't want them to do, even if that something is downright evil––as long as that action is properly motivated. Likewise, we might enjoy watching a character we like doing something cool (like shanking the Night King), but unless that action feels earned, their feat rings hollow. So without further ado, let's dissect exactly how Benioff and Weiss have decimated all the best narrative arcs:
The core issue with Daenerys laying waste to King's Landing was not that she did something evil. In fact, Daenerys' shift from "Breaker of Chains" to "homicidal lunatic" could have been a fantastic character shift if it made even a lick of sense. But based on everything we've seen in the entire show, Daenerys destroying the townsfolk of King's Landing was simply something her character wouldn't do.
D&D want us to believe that Dany, whose entire arc has revolved around freeing slaves and coming into her own as a benevolent ruler and figurehead, would suddenly commit genocide because her friend was murdered, a few of her advisors are gone, and her nephew (Jon Snow) doesn't want to sleep with her anymore. They try to convince us of this by having characters around her say things like "don't do anything crazy, Daenerys!" and second-guess her authority in the episodes leading up to the genocide, even though she hadn't done anything to warrant those actions.
They could have found ways to make her descent into madness convincing. They also could have reached the same point in the plot without actually making her intentionally genocidal. For instance, she could have burnt the Red Keep, triggering a chain reaction of wildfire planted by Cersei beneath the city. This would have been consistent with Daenerys' impulsive nature, while not going against everything she's stood for as a character (ie: freeing slaves, killing slavers, not murdering innocent people). It also would have looked like genocide to the people on the ground, meaning the need for her political removal would still ring true. But nope, Daenerys is a genocidal monster now because girl power or something.
Everyone loves a great redemption arc, and Jaime certainly seemed to be heading in that direction. Jaime's case was especially interesting because the actions he was being redeemed from––chief amongst them, pushing a child out a window––seemed so unforgivable. This made his general likeability, a budding friendship with Brienne, and occasionally noble actions all the more compelling. Jaime may have done awful things because he loved Cersei, but he also understood his flaws and wanted to change for the better. Could a character like that ever be redeemed?
Everything in the show seemed to point towards "yes," giving Jaime one of the most powerful redemption arcs in fiction. He had fully broken free of Cersei's grip and moved on to another woman (Brienne) who accepted him for who he was––that is, until Cersei sent Bronn to murder him with a crossbow and, for some reason, that experience makes Jaime decide to leave everything behind and return to her. It's fine that Jaime never completed his redemption arc; it's not fine that his motivation for going back was nonsensical. Why, after everything Jaime had been through, would Cersei sending someone to murder him cause him to run back to her?
What better way to deal with a strong bastion of female empowerment like Brienne––a woman in a patriarchal society who has dedicated her entire life to subverting gender roles and becoming a knight––than turning her into a sobbing mess over a man leaving her for his sister after taking her virginity? Would the Brienne we knew in the first seven seasons ever act like that? Really? REALLY?
Tyrion is very clever. We know this because everyone in the show is always talking about how clever Tyrion is supposed to be. Except he's not clever anymore. He was certainly clever during the earlier seasons, but that might as well have been a different character. Currently, Tyrion has an almost prophetic ability to pick the most incorrect option imaginable, from thinking Cersei would actually help him fight the White Walkers to backing Daenerys right before she commits genocide. For whatever reason, D&D turned Tyrion into a total moron.
Jon is a great leader. We know this because...sensing a pattern here...everyone tells us he is. At one point in the show, Jon really did broker some degree of peace between the Night's Watch and their sworn enemy, the Wildlings. But at this point in the show, Jon seems to prefer being entirely useless at all times. His best recent "leadership" moves were kind of shouting at a zombie dragon and meekly telling two dudes to "fall back" after King's Landing had already been on fire for three hours. He also really loves "muh queen," which is apparent because the script makes him say this constantly.
People say Varys is one of the few characters who stayed consistent. They're wrong. Old Varys would never have politicked out in the open. He was the "Master of Whispers," not the "Master of Shouting Intent." Why, then, did he make his intentions to overthrow Daenerys so crystal clear to everyone around her? Did he forget how to Game of Thrones? Good riddance.
The Night King was set up to be the greatest evil in the history of the world, the worst threat humanity has ever faced. From the beginning of Game of Thrones, we heard one refrain over and over: "Winter is coming." The Night King was winter, and he came only to get single-handedly thrashed by a teenager. He never got reason or motivation or character development either, which probably would have been fine if he had actually been the great evil he was chalked up to be. But, again, he got absolutely bodied by a teenager within two seconds of meeting her. Total waste of space.
Yes, Arya is very badass. She can teleport and shoot arrows and kill the world's most ultimate evil, no problem. She can also steal people's faces, or at least she could at one point but seems to have forgotten how, so who knows? When she's running scared in the middle of King's Landing she doesn't seem to have her teleport powers either, but luckily she still has the thickest layer of plot armor that anybody has ever had. Her plot armor is so thick that everyone seems to die in her part of King's Landing except her. So Arya's still totally cool, she just doesn't make any sense whatsoever.
Euron is the best character on the show, hands down. People love shitting on Euron, but he's the perfect embodiment of everything Game of Thrones has become. Every scene with Euron is like watching some guy from a different set wander on to create a mess. Need something killed to move on the plot? Have Euron do it. Need a ten-minute fight scene for no reason with a character nobody currently has any reason to fight? Have Euron do it. Want somebody to talk about sticking fingers up people's butts out of nowhere? Euron's your guy. He's like some weird Jack Sparrow x Game of Thrones fanfiction bullshit and the show is totally ruined now so hey, why the hell not? #TeamEuron
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