It has been a year since the much talked about final season of Game of Thrones. Almost a year and a month ago (seems like a long time now)the entire world was only talking about 2 things- Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones' final season. While the former went on to become a cult favourite among its fans and the highest-grossing movie of all time worldwide, the latter crashed and burned like no other series in the history of television. It was one of those rare occasion when audiences and critics were on the same page. Now a year later, in a world where nothing is constant and any new original show or a theatrical release seems like a distant possibility, the only constant is the feeling towards the ill-fated final season of Game of Thrones. Thinking about it now, was it a bad ending? Yes. But did it deserve the kind of hate it got? Definitely not.
A final season not living up to the expectations of its fans is common phenomenon for television. Lost and House of Cards are the best examples in recent history. But what made Game of Thrones stand out was not only its connect with its audience but also the kind of storytelling its introduced to the world of television. Always considered the stepchild of movies, TV was never taken seriously for certain kind of storytelling. Breaking Bad changed that to a certain level, but was yet to explode worldwide. But then in 2011 came Game of Thrones and it changed the way television was looked at and how a story was told.
Game of Thrones gave TV a push like no other series did before. But with this thundering response and historic cult status, also came much larger expectations. Fans started to expect each season to better the previous one and till a certain point, Game of Thrones successfully did that. The season 5 finale was when it hit its peak and it was then that everyone realized that this piece of art has already become part of history. After that it didn't live up to the expectations it set, but it had its moment of greatness and glory – like the Battle of the Bastards, the revelation of Jon Snow's Targaryen lineage, Sansa finally becoming something more than just a wannabe princess.
When it was announced that Game of Thrones would end with season 8, expectations were bound to be sky high. And that is why its failure to even match the expectations that audience had, let alone surpass them, was as notable as its past successes.
There can be no excuse for the ill-fated finale other than a clear lack of vision and storytelling from the makers. Part of what made Game of Thrones different and gave it the cult status was its unpredictability and the feeling that no character was safe. No one saw Ned Stark's beheading or the Red Wedding. But the final season betrayed everything that made Game of Thrones "Game of Thrones". All the build-up and all the decisions that characters took seemed forced to reach to the conclusion and for the first time, it seemed like story was driven by writers and not the characters. Raising the stakes and then flattening them is what killed the show in its last lap. Just the fact that there was an army of the dead all around and all the major characters survived without so much of a scratch was enough to see where this finale was going.
Another thing that was problematic was the way they gave closure to some of the characters. Jaime was a character who had a complete arc. The way it ended was tragic. It can be argued that all of Jaime's actions during the show were to prove his love for Cersei and that was his motivation to do what he did towards the end and that's fine. The problem was how insignificant he became during these final few episodes, and that was more heartbreaking than his death (which was apt for him, given how he always threw himself at danger for the love of Cersei).
Brienne was another character they could have killed and given a proper closure to during the battle with the white walkers, because she had fulfilled her purpose and she was already a knight. Jon Snow, who they built into a major player in the game was just there, looking at horrible things happening and making some questionable decisions.
Dany's transformation to mad queen was one of the highlights of an otherwise bleak season, but the way she was pushed to be mad queen seemed more like a writer's trick than the character's motivation. But most disappointing of all was Tyrion. The smartest of all the characters, he was did nothing but groan and look disappointed.
But all said and done, this is the same show that gave us 7 memorable seasons of epic storytelling and character development, characters that went beyond the realm of fantasy and found a place in the lives of people. A story so fine and intricately woven, that at some point it stopped being fantasy and could easily become a commentary on current political scenario. For that, Game of Thrones will always have that cult status in the medium of visual storytelling.