The Final Season Game of Thrones, Holds Up Better Than You Remember

Will Game of Thrones (which was sold to HBO as “The Sopranos meets Middle-earth”) face the same uphill battle? It’s just been two years since the fantasy epic’s final season aired, much to the dismay of viewers, but a lot has transpired in that time. Game of Thrones’ eighth and final season holds up much better than you probably remember in a world filled with fire and pain, separated from the unreasonable expectations of a zeitgeist-changing masterpiece showing its ending in real time.

Really, it’s all about “The Bells.” One of the most significant creative decisions made during the creation of Game of Thrones’ final season was to abandon the show’s traditional 10-episode format in favor of six mega-episodes. The final season rests on two scenes in particular: “The Long Night,” which depicts the remaining humans’ last battle against the Night King’s undead army, and “The Bells,” which depicts Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) long-awaited capture of King’s Landing. The remaining four episodes are essentially about getting to and from these climactic encounters, therefore the success or failure of Season 8 is largely determined by the effectiveness of the two pivotal episodes.

Some viewers complained about plot shortcuts, or compressed time, which allowed the show to travel vast distances in a single episode rather than taking a season to get from King’s Landing to Riverrun, but if you enjoy the impact of those chapters, it’s easy to forgive the show for getting where it needed to go. We’re not in the business of awarding participation trophies, but it’s worth noting that the Westeros saga is so long, complicated, and sprawling that its creator, George R.R. Martin, has yet to complete it — perhaps because he refuses to take shortcuts and is still agonizingly working through various plot machinations required to reach his endgame. Some of us remain optimistic that he’ll make it, but Thrones’ producers can’t stand the idea of waiting until they’d found out the perfect answer; HBO doesn’t have boundless funds or an inexhaustible need for viewers’ attention.

“The Long Night” was the most intense battle episode in the history of Game of Thrones, which is saying a lot. Miguel Sapochnik, the same director who directed “Hardhome” and “The Battle of the Bastards,” designed it to outperform prior high points like “Hardhome” and “The Battle of the Bastards.” While those fights took place in the clear light of day, Sapochnik and his team made the crucial creative decision on “The Long Night” to immerse spectators and actors in the same darkness as the characters. The sole source of illumination was the flames that the living utilized as a primary weapon against by the dead. This made filming “The Long Night” an almost unbearably terrible experience, as James Hibberd recounted in EW’s cover story on the last season, with actors and members of the crew choking on smoke and working via their own long nights. It also made it difficult for viewers to follow the action at times, lowering the episode’s initial rating.

That reading-between-the-lines thing isn’t a key defense of the last season; it’s just interesting to consider for a show with so much legacy. Although Westeros’ mythical history spans thousands of years, little appears to have changed in terms of technology or politics during that period. It doesn’t matter if it’s due to the existence of magic, the strange years long seasons, or the seemingly impenetrable political stagnation; the point is that a planet is a difficult thing to change. When seismic transformations fail, the least people can do is take responsibility for their own lives (as Jon and Tyrion do, each serving a purgatory sentence for killing Dany) or make the most of their opportunities (as Arya does by setting off to explore new lands, or Sansa does by finally being crowned Queen in a land obviously hostile to them). The plot shortcuts or even corny dialogue don’t register as much as the worthy or tragic fates for interesting characters and ever lesson in the depravities of war and power when judging the last act of such a zeitgeist-changing program as Game of Thrones, that you can watch online at 123Movies site.

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