On April 14th, 2019, my fraught relationship with HBO’s Game of Thrones will come to its bittersweet, ice-crusted end. The show has been by turns thrilling, frustrating, deeply dumb, incredibly smart, and undeniably gorgeous. As an adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s novels it has often missed the point. As a cultural phenomenon it has been both alarming and encouraging to behold. It was a show that could both rile you with its excesses (Sexposition! Rape camps! Ramsay Bolton!) and enthrall you with scenes in which two people simply sit together and talk (Arya and Tywin 4EVER). How cavalierly it reduced atrocities to plot-points! How vast were the inner worlds conveyed by Lena Heady’s smirk!
In Season Seven the show was the epitome of itself, mashing excellent episodes like “The Spoils of War” (with its nail-biting dragon attack) against physics-defying romps like “Beyond the Wall.” Ah Gendry! How easily you ran those fifty miles back to Eastwatch while your friends sat on a rock surrounded by dead guys…doing what, exactly? At such times, one had to completely suspend disbelief and go with the goofy insistence of the showrunners (you know you have a problem on your hands when you have to have a special “Here’s what we were trying to say!” featurette at the end of every episode).
Still, those of us who put up with the bullshit were rewarded: even the worst Throne’s episode–probably “Oathkeeper” (because rape camp!) or “The Broken Man” (because total betrayal of Martin’s message!)–had its moments. In Oathkeeper it’s the soul-stirring entrance of the Blackfish. In The Broken Man it’s Lyanna Mormont. And while “Beyond the Wall” has enough plot-holes to fly a dragon through it also sports some of the show’s funniest interactions:
Jon: [when Tormund suggests fucking to keep warm]: There’s not a woman within a hundred miles of here!
Tormund [slyly, eyeing Gendry]: We’ll just have to make do with what we’ve got.
It was often these unexpected pairings of characters that produced the show’s most electrifying moments–scenes of just two people in conversation that made your heart trip or race or soar. While Bronn vs. Drogon was everything Thrones ever did right: two beings we care about pitted against one another in mortal combat, the show was somehow more exciting when Arya and Tywin talked dragons, or when Tyrion and Jorah recited poetry, or when Cersei and Robert discussed their marriage. It was then that we knew why we gave a damn about this story. It was then that we knew we were going to miss it, no matter how badly it hurt us, every time. It was never a perfect show. It veered wildly between gratuitousness and profundity. “The Lion and the Rose” gave us both Ramsay hunting his former bedmate and Sansa handing the wine glass back to Tyrion. Moreover, the sloppiness of later seasons ensured that it just missed being great. No matter. It was never The Sopranos or The Wire, but for eight years we were happy to make due with what we got.
The following are my (almost certainly wrong) predictions about how the T.V. version of Game of Thrones will end. Beware: Here be dragons and spoilers. Also did I mention: I’m probably wrong?