Skip to main content

No one is very happy. Which means it's a good compromise, I suppose.

Game of Thrones 
Season 8

(SPOILERS) How many TV series that rely on ongoing plotlines – which is most of them these days – have actually arrived at a wholly satisfying conclusion? As in, one that not only surprises but pays off the investment viewers have made over (maybe) seven or eight years? I can think of a few that shocked or dazzled (Angel, The Leftovers) and some that disappointed profoundly (Lost) but most often, they end on an “okay” (reasonably satisfying, if you like) rather than on a spectacular or, conversely, enormously disappointing note. Game of Thrones may not have paid off for many vocal fans who’d accept nothing less than note-perfect rendering of certain key desired developments, but much of the season unfolded in a manner that seemed just the kind of thing I would have expected; not, on the whole, shocking, blind-siding, or (give-or-take) spectacular, but okay, or reasonably satisfying.

These okay results, though, have been an unforgiveable betrayal for some, to the extent of petitioning for the season to be remade (good luck with that) and seemingly failing to recognise that not doing what you’d hope for has been George RR Martin’s modus operandi from the first. So all those so invested in Dany’s symbolic – as a feminist icon, in a show that, per HBO mandates, has been awash with objectifying imagery from the off, ironically only curtailing such behaviour slightly in later, more vilified seasons – rise to power that they failed to pay attention to her abiding ruthlessness and dangerous sense of entitlement, were left stunned by her snap. So on that score, I have little sympathy for the idea that her “turn” needed more of a build-up to make it palatable – it wouldn’t have been as devastating if it could have been seen coming when and where it did, and the show’s remit, at least since Ned had his head chopped off, has been to shock (if that seems a contradiction to my thoughts in the first paragraph, it’s a matter of degrees; that she would turn wasn’t a shock, how she did it could be).

Which is not to say the breathless charge forward of the last two seasons hasn’t resulted in sometimes perfunctory plotting and characterisation. But nothing in Eight seemed remotely on the level of stupidity as Season Seven’s Beyond the Wall. And the slow pace of the first two episodes was welcome, allowing for reunions that, in some cases, we’ve been waiting a batch of seasons for. The perceived disappointment of The Long Night? Well, the mistake would be assuming the Night King was everything to the show in the first place, rather than a convenient device to up the stakes and then dispense with in order to get back to the main thrones-jostling business. That much should have been clear back when his origins were related with borderline flippant casualness in Season Six. And then only compounded by the discovery that, if you Phantom Menace the Night King, all his minions go to sleep.

Certainly, there was a sense of slowly building scenarios and gambits gone adrift once Benioff and Weiss went off books – although the most persistent culprit has been dialogue reduced to the level of the frequently banal; for those who complain about SF or fantasy shows failing to reflecting how people actually speak, this is the price you pay when they do – but there’s also the reality of pushing a boulder up hill and having to allow for its unstoppable momentum once released. Yes, they could frequently have shown more flair and dexterity, and nuance and wit, but relatively few events – that Beyond the Wall episode aside – had me thinking they’d seriously misstepped. The Jon-Dany romance, for example, was never going to take flight once it became clear Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington had zero chemistry (which doesn’t rely on being the greatest thesps ever, so that wasn’t the issue), so spending as little time as possible on it was the only sensible decision.

There’s Tyrion, of course, characterised as the brightest of the bright but in the last couple of seasons progressively made to look like he’s going to out-lap Jon Snow in the “you know nothing” stakes (ending up in the Winterfell crypt being maybe the worst indignity to his faculties). How he managed to turn events around in The Iron Throne is a mystery only the writers can truly answer (the same with Grey Worm having the restraint not to kill Jon as soon as he discovered what the latter had done; that they left this off screen speaks volumes). The council meeting certainly wasn’t the writers’ finest hour; if the choice of Bran as king (shouldn’t his first edict have been to stop anyone calling him “the Broken”?) satisfied in terms of arriving at someone not at least partially objectionable (and his “foreseen it all” element had an appealing touch of manipulation, whatever his nobler designs may be), he still manages to allow himself to be instantly undermined by stroppy Sansa before he’s even begun his reign.

I can’t say any of the season’s deaths had an enormous impact, since most of those exiting seemed to have run their course. Sir Jorah being faithful to the last, the inevitable clash of brothers seeing Glegane’s demise, and Cersei and Jamie buried under some rubble. I liked the undercutting of the latter, but could have done without the Jamie vs Euron fight (I could have done without Euron full stop); part of the problem Cersei has encountered is that, since her walk of shame, she’s had scant interesting plotlines, and during this final season in particular she just waited around for others to do all the doing. Actually, Varys’ demise was sad, and quite touching (Tyrion shops him but still offers a comforting hand), and nice that they remembered to give him a decent episode in The Last of the Starks (again, after a couple of seasons forgetting about him).

As for the survivors, the reveal of the members of the Small Council is entirely too neat, the sort of thing Joss Whedon would come up with, where everyone we know now has a position of importance regardless of suitability. Jon heading off beyond the Wall with Ghost and Tormund seemed fitting, as does Anya – the most engaging character of the season by far – setting off solo, hoping the producers don’t give her a spinoff, or that at very least George RR has plotted it in its entirety first if they do.

Far from Season Eight being the worst of the run and the retroactively ruining the entire show, I’d rate it ahead of both Five and Seven. Only the fourth and final episodes featured elements that fell below par, and they were still largely engrossing. The prize goes to the one that provoked the most gnashing of teeth, though, Dany’s holocaust hour in The Bells. As zeitgeist-seizing series go, Game of Thrones was blessed to avoid the kind of fate that befell Lost or Battlestar Galatica, where acceptance or denial come the finale was based on how well received the answers (or otherwise) to the mysteries were. Game of Thrones had no secrets left to unveil, save the fates of its characters, not that this staunched fan theorising in exactly the same manner of those preceding shows. Indeed, the biggest reveal came about three seasons back; that Benioff and Weiss’s legacy would be exposing as pulp a series that had hoodwinked viewers into believing it was adapting great literature. With such credentials, they’re probably ideally poised for their forthcoming Star Wars trilogy.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Popular posts from this blog

You were this amazing occidental samurai.

Ricochet (1991) (SPOILERS) You have to wonder at Denzel Washington’s agent at this point in the actor’s career. He’d recently won his first Oscar for Glory , yet followed it with less-than-glorious heart-transplant ghost comedy Heart Condition (Bob Hoskins’ racist cop receives Washington’s dead lawyer’s ticker; a recipe for hijinks!) Not long after, he dipped his tentative toe in the action arena with this Joel Silver production; Denzel has made his share of action fare since, of course, most of it serviceable if unremarkable, but none of it comes near to delivering the schlocky excesses of Ricochet , a movie at once ingenious and risible in its plot permutations, performances and production profligacy.

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

Well, something’s broke on your daddy’s spaceship.

Apollo 13 (1995) (SPOILERS) The NASA propaganda movie to end all NASA propaganda movies. Their original conception of the perilous Apollo 13 mission deserves due credit in itself; what better way to bolster waning interest in slightly naff perambulations around a TV studio than to manufacture a crisis event, one emphasising the absurd fragility of the alleged non-terrestrial excursions and the indomitable force that is “science” in achieving them? Apollo 13 the lunar mission was tailor made for Apollo 13 the movie version – make believe the make-believe – and who could have been better to lead this fantasy ride than Guantanamo Hanks at his all-American popularity peak?

I can’t be the worst. What about that hotdog one?

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) (SPOILERS) It would have been a merciful release, had the title card “ The End ”, flashing on screen a little before the ninety-minute mark, not been a false dawn. True, I would still have been unable to swab the bloody dildoes fight from my mind, but at least Everything Everywhere All at Once would have been short. Indeed, by the actual end I was put in mind of a line spoken by co-star James Wong in one of his most indelible roles: “ Now this really pisses me off to no end ”. Or to put it another way, Everything Everywhere All at Once rubbed me up the wrong which way quite a lot of most of the time.

We’ve got the best ball and chain in the world. Your ass.

Wedlock (1991) (SPOILERS) The futuristic prison movie seemed possessed of a particular cachet around this time, quite possibly sparked by the grisly possibilities of hi-tech disincentives to escape. On that front, HBO TV movie Wedlock more than delivers its FX money shot. Elsewhere, it’s less sure of itself, rather fumbling when it exchanges prison tropes for fugitives-on-the-run ones.

Drank the red. Good for you.

Morbius (2022) (SPOILERS) Generic isn’t necessarily a slur. Not if, by implication, it’s suggestive of the kind of movie made twenty years ago, when the alternative is the kind of super-woke content Disney currently prioritises. Unfortunately, after a reasonable first hour, Morbius descends so resignedly into such unmoderated formula that you’re left with a too-clear image of Sony’s Spider-Verse when it lacks a larger-than-life performer (Tom Hardy, for example) at the centre of any given vehicle.

So, you’re telling me that NASA is going to kill the President of the United States with an earthquake?

Conspiracy Theory (1997) (SPOILERS) Mel Gibson’s official rehabilitation occurred with the announcement of 2016’s Oscar nominations, when Hacksaw Ridge garnered six nods, including Mel as director. Obviously, many refuse to be persuaded that there’s any legitimate atonement for the things someone says. They probably weren’t even convinced by Mel’s appearance in Daddy’s Home 2 , an act of abject obeisance if ever there was one. In other circles, though, Gibbo, or Mad Mel, is venerated as a saviour unsullied by the depraved Hollywood machine, one of the brave few who would not allow them to take his freedom. Or at least, his values. Of course, that’s frequently based on alleged comments he made, ones it’s highly likely he didn’t. But doesn’t that rather appeal to the premise of his 23-year-old star vehicle Conspiracy Theory , in which “ A good conspiracy theory is an unproveable one ”?

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

He’ll regret it to his dying day, if ever he lives that long.

The Quiet Man (1952) (SPOILERS) The John Wayne & John Ford film for those who don’t like John Wayne & John Ford films? The Quiet Man takes its cues from Ford’s earlier How Green Was My Valley in terms of, well less Anglophile and Hibernophile and Cambrophile nostalgia respectively for past times, climes and heritage, as Wayne’s pugilist returns to his family seat and stirs up a hot bed of emotions, not least with Maureen O’Hara’s red-headed hothead. The result is a very likeable movie, for all its inculcated Oirishness and studied eccentricity.

He doesn’t want to lead you. He just wants you to follow.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022) (SPOILERS) The general failing of the prequel concept is a fairly self-evident one; it’s spurred by the desire to cash in, rather than to tell a story. This is why so few prequels, in any form, are worth the viewer/reader/listener’s time, in and of themselves. At best, they tend to be something of a well-rehearsed fait accompli. In the movie medium, even when there is material that withstands closer inspection (the Star Wars prequels; The Hobbit , if you like), the execution ends up botched. With Fantastic Beasts , there was never a whiff of such lofty purpose, and each subsequent sequel to the first prequel has succeeded only in drawing attention to its prosaic function: keeping franchise flag flying, even at half-mast. Hence Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore , belatedly arriving after twice the envisaged gap between instalments and course-correcting none of the problems present in The Crimes of Grindelwald .