GAME OF THRONES: AND NOW OUR CONTENT CYCLE HAS ENDED
There are many defining pop culture memories burned into my nerd brain for forever. I remember when Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows was released, and my roommate and I shut ourselves into the house, reading furiously for the entire weekend and occasionally meeting in the hallway to cry over Hedwig. I’ll never forget the crushing silence upon getting into my friend’s car after seeing Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace on opening night, none of us quite ready to openly admit our disappointment. Forever seared into my cerebral cortex is the sound of hearing an entire movie theater burst into applause when a bearded Steven Rogers stepped out of the shadows in Avengers: Infinity War. And now, I’m adding to my nerd pensieve the moment from six weeks ago when I sat on the couch with a glass of pinot noir and a handful of #ForTheThrone branded Oreos while the familiar opening credits of Game of Thrones began. It was a moment millions of nerds had been anticipating for years.
Now, It’s all behind us; we finally learned the fate of the (apparently meltable) Iron Throne in last Sunday night’s finale. The fanbase and critical response have been sharply divided on the show’s final season and especially the last few episodes. But I loved it, in spite of its flaws.
I didn’t expect myself to have, like, Endgame-level tears over the finale. While I have mostly enjoyed the final season, I don’t deny that it’s been messy and missing the literary finesse that once defined the show. But during the final montage cutting between Jon, Sansa, and Arya moving towards their new futures, my eyes welled up. Then full-on spilled over when Sansa was crowned Queen of the North--one million heart eye emojis, I stan. As Jon Snow rode into the forest with the free folk and the iconic score began to play, I felt a strong emotional sense of closure.
From reading reviews, tweetstorms and Facebook posts of friends, and the internet content mill, I realize that I am likely in the majority in finding satisfaction in the finale. Much of the final two seasons felt like a Cliff Notes version of what the still-forthcoming final books (fingers crossed) will be. The abbreviated seasons 7 and 8 didn’t allow for its rapidly unfurling storylines to breathe in the way we’ve become accustomed to. I have my nitpicks (I have been saying FOR YEARS please don’t let this end with Samwell Tarly closing a book called “A Song of Ice and Fire”). You can argue pantsing vs. plotting all you want. But honestly, for me, so much of that fades into the background when I look back at the series as a whole.
I watched the first episode on its Sunday night premiere, my interest piqued by an Entertainment Weekly article, which I totally subscribed to in paper form in 2011. My husband and I both dug the pilot, and within the next few episodes, GoT became appointment television in our home. After the first season ended, I binge-read the books. I was now a woman obsessed. I’m not kidding--I finished the 5 novels in the period of July 26 - October 14, 2011, which according to GoodReads, is 5,180 pages in about 11 weeks. What can I say, when I nerd, I nerd HARD.
Memories of Game of Thrones have become intertwined with my own life. Every time I hear mention of the Red Wedding, I remember reading that scene in A Storm of Swords while waiting out a thunderstorm on the Wisconsin River. As rain pounded on the nylon roof our tent, I curled up cozily in my sleeping bag, reading my paperwork by the light of my headlamp then bolting upright in shock. For 8 years now, a group of friends and I have marathoned the previous season together on one long Saturday, drinking Cersei levels of wine and making jokes and theories. We still crack up over the time we watched the Purple Wedding at my house, and my husband walked downstairs and accidentally asked a blatant spoiler question at the worst possible time.
Maybe it’s the countless hours of time I’ve spent reading, watching, and rewatching that has garnered so much affection in me that I loved the ending despite issues with its execution. Maybe it’s because I am also a fiction writer, and you know what, endings are really fucking hard to write. Maybe it’s the way that the cast and crew seem to genuinely love each other and this piece of art they’ve created together over the years, as seen in gushing photos and videos many of the actors have been posting to Instagram these past several weeks (for some reason I find it hilarious that Pilou Asbæk who plays Euron Greyjoy finds the most delight in all the memes). I just can’t hate.
I could break out the many moments I found successful, exciting, emotional, and rewarding--the knighting of Ser Brienne, Arya banging her crush and slaying the Night King in a 24-hour period, the Clegane brothers plunging into the fiery ruins of King’s Landing, Drogon mournfully lifting Daenery’s body in his talons--honestly, my list goes on. I could also make just as long a list of my complaints (I mean, really with Sam dropping that book title?! And hey, I’m still mad about how they did Mance Rayder dirty back in season 5). But that’s the case with any piece of art, especially one as complicated, sprawling, and ambitious as Game of Thrones.
The series ascended in popularity during a time when the internet made every single one of us a critic with a platform. The day after the coffee cup scandal, I counted 7 linkable stories IN A ROW in my Facebook feed about it, from outlets ranging from SyFy.com to the New York Times. We live in an era where every detail is scrutinized, commented upon, and amplified. And hey, I write about pop culture for the internet; I am a part of the wheel. A phenomenon as big as Thrones takes on a whole other life as content fodder for clicks. Maybe this is why over a million people have signed a ridiculous petition requesting that HBO rewrite the last season. It’s a weird, entitled sort of response that I find toxic and cruel. I’m not saying we can’t have our own opinions; of course we should! Of course we can discuss and critique via social media or over beers. I still debate with a friend who is a hardcore Phantom Menace fan to this very day.
In the finale, Tyrion has a line that sounds like it came straight from George R.R. Martin’s MS-DOS word processor: “There’s nothing more powerful in the world than a good story.” Not only do I tend to agree, I have been known to say the same exact thing after drinking a bottle of wine (I’ve stayed true to my Tyrion buzzfeed quiz results all the way to the end). You and I may disagree on the ending, but throughout the show’s many peaks and valleys, its highest points have made this wild ride worthwhile, in my opinion.
I’m gonna miss this saga of tits and dragons.