Well, well, well! The finish of a certain well-known show certainly seems to have got a lot of people quite exercised! Me, not quite so much; I have been attempting to cultivate some Buddhist detachment. Some people, though, have been following the characters and houses in a way usually reserved for football teams.
(I had a quick flash there of a cinematic screening where people group under banners of Lannister, Baratheon etc shouting insults at each other… and a few confused Jon Snow fans mill about on the border between Stark/Targaryen).
The downfall, and the hope, is that the TV series outpaced the books a while ago. There were some deviations and omissions leading up to that. George RR Martin has indicated that his fiction will take a different path. I regard the books as being the “real” Thrones (or rather, the real “Song of Ice and Fire”).
I gather there was a large petition to re-make the ending. Cue a fair amount of grumbling from my age group about “entitled millennials thinking they can just change what they want.” I actually reckon that’s a pretty exciting attitude to have, myself, but I’m not so sure about fiction. You just have to accept that the people writing or producing something may do something you don’t like. You can pretend otherwise or write your own “alternative” version in your head if you want to.
I compared Thrones to Fullmetal Alchemist in a previous post; that wound up with at least two versions diverging after a certain point, the first being the TV writers’, the later being the author’s (which I liked less, contrary to expectation). With Thrones, there is the possibility of two or possibly three different versions being made! The big problem being that by the time GRRM finishes writing, the original cast may be too old or unavailable, and anybody else will likely suffer in comparison.
Was I disappointed in the end? Yes, but this was largely in keeping with my expectations. Thrones was at its best when it broke the mould and did what you did not expect; when it was different to other fantasy books. When the promising young hero gets suddenly cut down in his prime; when the “good guys” decide to fight each other instead of the bad guys; when the idealistic queen’s dragon decides to snack on children. This disappeared after the divergence point; when Sansa and Theon actually got rescued at the last minute by a hero on a horse, I realised it was becoming more like standard fantasy.
Incidentally, this is one reason I often pull faces when people talk about “character arcs.” The point of Thrones was that anybody could die or have horrible things happen to them, no matter if they had unfinished business or were only in their “act two.”
So, while being pretty good as standard fantasy goes, the last seasons were not radical. There being one Dark Lord who, if killed, would end all the Army of Darkness at once was about as fantasy cliché as you can get.
I was surprised at Daenerys going bad, and at Cersei dying in a way that apparently ignored the prophecy. I didn’t mind the slow ending and wrapping up of the various characters, because I can honestly quite like long epilogues. In a similar vein, the episode where everyone sat around Winterfell talking was my favourite.
The show also suffered a loss of plausibility; the huge variation in the ability of ballistas to shoot dragons out of the sky, for example. Although to be fair, GRRM isn’t terribly strong on similar points himself.
What would have worked better? Well, surprises and cynicism. A neighbour suggested that the battle of Winterfell should have been lost; the survivors straggle south to find themselves caught between Cersei and the encroaching Winter army. Then, personally, I would have voted for the humans killing each other and a White Walker sitting on the frost-encrusted Iron Throne while, just perhaps, one or two protagonists flee far south hoping to survive the Ice Age. That would have been proper Thrones, and a story resonant for our times.