After reforging the landscape of television, how did Game of Thrones season 8 end the landmark series on such a negative? George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire books always enjoyed a cult popularity, especially among fans of fantasy literature, but it’s difficult to fathom the colossal leap in popularity Martin’s world enjoyed once the HBO TV adaptation arrived. A whirlwind of blood, breasts and beheadings, Game of Thrones was also deeply political, visually groundbreaking, and featured a cast of characters the audience couldn’t help but either cheer for eternally or boo relentlessly. By the time its third season aired, Game of Thrones had become a genuine international phenomenon, its rise seemingly unstoppable.
Game of Thrones would go on to break television records for its epic-scale production, gargantuan viewership and, perhaps less enviably, popularity in the world of illegal downloads, and the story of Westeros only seemed to get bigger with each passing season. And as much as Game of Thrones appeared invincible in the ratings, the series was also critically untouchable for much of its run, with reviews and fan reaction consistently positive and often glowing.
Naturally, there was an unprecedented level of hype and anticipation leading up to Game of Thrones’ final season, and with Martin’s book series still running, the end of the story was a closely guarded secret. So lofty were fan expectations ahead of season 8, Game of Thrones faced an almost impossible task in satisfying their audience completely, but no one expected the ending to fail quite as spectacularly as it did. Petitions were set up asking for season 8 to be remade, Twitter exploded with rage and confusion, and Game of Thrones season 8 replaced Lost’s finale as the go-to example of a controversial TV ending. With such a dramatic fall from grace, what went wrong with Game of Thrones season 8?