Warning: “Game of Thrones” spoilers are coming
I’m calling for the mother’s mercy on David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
The two showrunners for “Game of Thrones” have reached a level of scrutiny and mockery unfit for the accomplishments of this entire series.
While these are not efforts to bring to life the hashtag, #FirstWorldProblems, this kind of toxic discourse surrounding this show has reached a height it felt like “The Last Jedi” would hold for decades.
The final season of the show lasted only 35 days, with six final episodes (four of them supersized), but this saga started 23 years ago when George R.R. Martin published his first book in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. That book, “A Game of Thrones,” came out a year before “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” for context.
The book series lived in relative obscurity for the next 15 years until HBO launched the first season of the show in 2011, the same year Martin published the fifth book in the seven-part series.
In the years since, Benioff and Weiss have continued to churn out new seasons of the show that followed the arc of the books, cutting out some subplots and drawn-out storylines along the way, but still remaining mostly faithful to the books. Along the same timeline, Martin’s sixth book, “The Winds of Winter,” kept getting delayed after promises of publication each year since 2015.
The comical postponement of the book series reached a point in which Benioff and Weiss sat down with Martin to learn the broad strokes of the ending of the series — in case the show did pass the books.
Which leads us to where we are now, a week-and-a-half after a series finale that left most fans disappointed, and the fraught and, frankly, abhorrent treatment of the show itself.
Benioff and Weiss signed up in 2007 to adapt a book series they themselves were passionate about. They famously had to tell Martin who Jon Snow’s mother was (yet to be revealed in the books) as a test of whether they were suitable to adapt his works. They didn’t sign up to finish a story they didn’t start.
Andy Greenwald of The Ringer’s “The Watch” podcast — now a showrunner himself in production on the upcoming “Briarpatch” series — speaking on this conundrum in a May 16 episode, said: “My deepest, honest thought is that it was an impossible hand to play. And if you consider it as such, the job they have done is fairly remarkable. They’ve tried to give everyone a beat, an arc, an ending. They tried to keep track of all this stuff and laced it all together. Essentially, when you set up a show that is about the throne and you detour into supernatural existentialism, and then you resolve that existential threat in one night, it’s pretty difficult to pivot.”
That supernatural existentialism is the storyline of the White Walkers and the show-creation Night King. We know that the ending of the show will mirror the ending of the book series, though how the characters get there and the details along the way will be much different in Martin’s thousands of pages with a TBD release date.
What’s clear in hindsight after “The Long Night” is that the White Walkers are not part of the end game. So not only did Benioff and Weiss have to end the army-of-pure-evil-coming-to-wipe-out-humanity storyline, they had to achieve that in a way Martin has been unable to in the more than eight years he’s been working on “The Winds of Winter.”
I don’t want to get too in the weeds on the plot mechanics that have enraged the Internet mobsters, but I will say I think a lot of the complaints will dissipate with time passing and with the realization that this show was never as perfect as it seemed.
“Jetpacking” across the continent has existed since the pilot, when we see the Lannisters in King’s Landing, and then they ride into Winterfell in their next scene only a few minutes later.
Deus Ex Machinas saving the day at the last and most perfect moment of the battle have happened in every battle episode except for “Hardhome.”
More main characters died in “The Long Night” than in every battle combined. The previous most notable casualty was … Ygritte? Rickon Stark?
Daenerys turning heel and becoming “the Mad Queen” has been foreshadowed since the beginning. Whether that was “earned” or not, as many seem to be discussing, is a debate worth having — but not one worth dismissing the entire series over.
The idea of everything feeling rushed does feel based in the literal, real-life time we’re consuming the show. Six episodes over 35 days is rushed, and the nearly two years of waiting made it feel so much more so. The actual screen time for the very-reduced amount of characters was likely more than in previous seasons when there are 12 storylines occurring in six different locations. But the sheer fact that the most highly anticipated season in television history started and ended over five weeks is jarring to everyone, myself included.
What the armchair director/writers of the Internet missed when they were mad that a big crossbow killed a dragon, was the exceptional work put into this final season.
The sheer spectacle of “The Long Night” and “The Bells” is something we have never seen on the small screen before. And honestly, I can’t think of many films that have had such beautiful, haunting, intense and claustrophobic moments. The cinematography, acting, production design and musical score of this final season were at their peak in the final season.
And even as one of the most loyal defenders of this final season, I do agree the plotting was not in line with the show’s heights and the source material from the books. This may have been the one show that’s already had 73 episodes and could’ve had 100 without losing quality. But the reality is that Kit Harrington wasn’t going to play Jon Snow for five more years; Emilia Clarke and Lena Headey — and on down the line — weren’t either. This show, for the actors and crew members, has been a decade-long project. It’s been 12 years for Benioff and Weiss.
But to say they mailed this season in is a devastating and untrue claim.
“All of these petitions and things like that — I think it's disrespectful to the crew, and the writers, and the filmmakers who have worked tirelessly over 10 years, and for 11 months shooting the last season,” Sophie Turner, the actress who plays Sansa Stark, said in a New York Times interview May 20. “Like 50-something night shoots. So many people worked so, so hard on it, and for people to just rubbish it because it's not what they want to see is just disrespectful.”
The ultimate truth is this level of discourse would not happen with a show people did not care about as much, and that should be a good thing. Our internet culture of 2019 lets hot takes get out of hand and reach the mainstream so fast that I am disappointed we’re at a place in which the consensus opinion of this show appears to be a highly negative one now.
Let’s take a step back, remember this is a television show, and appreciate what we have been given. “Game of Thrones” is completely unique in that it had the spectacle and the world of “The Lord of the Rings,” but inside of that big scope had the nuanced writing of “Mad Men” and the story construction of “The Wire.”
As our Thrones-less Sunday nights drag on, I hope the angry mob will put down their pitchforks and torches, and realize that we may never have an experience like this again.
To Bran the Broken! The king no one wanted, but the king we got. Because this is not our show. This is Benioff and Weiss’ baby, and we should respect what they have given us.
Warner Strausbaugh is a Cheyenne Mountain resident and page designer for Pikes Peak Newspapers. Contact him with questions and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.