Game of Thrones: An Unfair Maligning

The Internet Hath Spoken

Among the many things that I’ll miss about Game of Thrones are the memes.  They were often funny and insightful, even when I didn’t agree with their point of view.  When the last season came to a close, the memes pretty consistently expressed disappointment.  Honestly, this was to be expected, as the negative voices on the internet tend to be the loudest.  Also, the human mind is more easily attracted to the negative than to the positive.  So, negativity gets more clicks.  That being said, there were unanswered questions, plot points that felt forced, and apparent inconsistencies.  For some good examples, see these.

Yet there was a lot of good in the series (and its conclusion) that is missed if we focus on the disappointments.  Thus, let’s first look at the good.  Then I will explain why the disappoints don’t really bother me.

Beware!  Major Spoilers Ahead!

The Honorable Father

Initially, most Game of Thrones fans thought that the series was going to revolve around Ned Stark. Then, upon his demise, they assumed that the story was no longer about him.  The truth, however, is that he was the most impactful character in the series, due to how he behaved as a father. The children that he raised reflected his honor, and they eventually saved Westeros together.  Events in their lives molded them into a collective weapon that ultimately brought peace.  Ned’s honor got him killed, but it also planted the seeds that upended the system that killed him.

The strength and honor that he instilled in the children that he raised saved Westeros.  Arya would kill the Night King.  Jon would sacrifice everything to kill a Queen that he loved when she became a tyrant. Bran would use the powers of the three eyed raven to understand how the past, present and future of Westeros fit together.  He was as a molder of events — similar to Varys — but perfected, because he didn’t need “little birds.” He WAS the bird.  We only know part of his story, but it was at least implied that he was setting up events for the outcome that occurred.  Theon, a ward of Ned’s, died an honorable death protecting Bran.  And Sansa’s strength ensured that the North would remain an independent territory, as it once was.

All of these characters faced challenges that molded them into who they needed to be to save Westeros. These event could have destroyed them, but instead strengthened them.  Why?  Not only because they were from the North, but because they had compasses that pointed North.  Their beliefs and actions obeyed their compasses.  This is what Ned gave them.  While he died in the first season, Ned was present throughout the entire series, in how his children overcame challenges and made tough decisions.

The Outliers

While preparing to write this article, I re-read my first article about Game of Thrones, that I wrote when the series first aired.  The thing that struck me at the time, after having read only 100 pages of the first book, was the role of the outliers.  These were characters that didn’t fit their role in the world around them.

Having re-read that article, it’s interesting to see how most of the outliers that I mentioned ended up changing that world.  The Starks, Tyrion Lannister, and Daenerys Targaryen didn’t quite fit in their world, yet ended up changing it in significant ways.  As I mentioned in that article, “Outliers have this nasty habit of not only transcending the patterns they were born in, but changing them.”

George R.R. Martin has some interesting things to say about Arya as an Outlier in his interview with Rolling Stone.  In it, he also mentions how he wished there were more seasons of the show to explore things (which I discuss below).

Stories are Lessons

Almost six years ago my wife and I had a little girl, whom we named Arya.  We did so because I loved that character.  However, I now realize that her name can be a reminder for me to display the kind of honor that Ned modeled for his children.  I won’t always succeed, but it’s a worthy goal.

Stories are lessons.  While watching these characters over eight seasons, we loved some and hated others.  Yet they all taught us things about ourselves and the world around us.  For instance, have you ever likened unhealthy workplace politics to the politics of Game of Thrones?  The stories that we experience bleed into our collective and personal lives, even when we don’t notice.

Missing Pieces of the Puzzle

Nonetheless, there were issues that many viewers had with the final season, and especially the ending. There were outcomes that felt forced.  There were questions that never got answered.  There were events that seemed important, but proved inconsequential.  I also recognized these flaws.

Having read the books, and knowing the level of detail within them, the show always seemed to take place at a “lower resolution.” Sometimes by a lot.  The series omitted countless details about the story and the characters.  When writing the last several seasons of Game of Thrones, there were no books to be used for guidance.  And, it’s pretty clear, that the creators of the show were constrained by the amount of show that remained for them to wrap things up. Also, they couldn’t spend years figuring out the details, like George R.R. Martin could.

Putting together a story is like putting together a puzzle.  In the final seasons of Game of Thrones, some of the pieces were missing.  I hope and believe that these missing pieces can be filled in by George when/if he finishes the books (see his blog post here).  Translating a story from one medium to another is difficult.  And the challenges are far great when the story, as told in the source medium (the books), isn’t finished.

I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the puzzle come together.

Let’s Discuss

  • What was your favorite aspect of the series?  What was your least favorite?
  • Which missing piece of the puzzle frustrated you the most?
  • Who were some other outliers in the series that were memorable?
  • What plot points and story-lines felt forced?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Nathan Lauffer

9 thoughts on “Game of Thrones: An Unfair Maligning”

  1. I have gone in great detail many times about this story and I feel I can’t do it again. I invested my time, energy, and emotions into this story and into some of these characters and I feel like the writers just slapped us in our faces with what they did. I was so upset over it that I didn’t even want to talk about it for a few days. I feel like had they stuck it out to 2 or 3 more seasons, it would have been better. The ending felt rushed and underwhelming with a dose of “what even was the point of this story!?” which is a very bitter taste for us fans.

  2. Ankari

    And so on….


    What about that priestess of the Lord of Light, who joined Dany's forces in Essos before Dany crossed the sea? She was dropped entirely. I can't for the life of me remember any importance to that character. It seems, now, a total waste of episode & story space. (I had actually been expecting to see her reappear at some point during S8, and she never did.)

  3. Ankari

    Bran was offered to become Lord of Winterfell, and eventually King of the North. He rejected it stating he has no need for thrones and titles. OK, buddy.

    For me, the lack of development on Bran's character, after Hodor's death and Bran's ascension to Three-Eyed Raven, was one of the greatest missteps of the whole series. I've watched a lot of reaction videos over the seasons, and Bran's character after that point receives an almost universal disdain. I don't mean an overall view of him, but reactions to each appearance in the show. These range from "Huh?" to "Creepy!" to "Do something!" and even sometimes chuckles about how bad Bran's character was.

    About the only positive reactions to Bran were during the inquisition and trial of Littlefinger. Bran was absolutely essential here. (Even Bran's "Chaos is a ladder" response, before the trial, was positively received.)

    I suspect the lack of development of his character was due to the overall modus operandi of trying to surprise and/or unsettle viewers. I.e., the showrunners were saving the big reveal that he'd be King of the Six Kingdoms.

    This is too bad for me personally, because I always liked Bran's character. I could flow fine enough through many of his appearances that irritated others. But I, too, kept expecting him to "Do something!" in the final season, and I was disappointed when he didn't.


    Varys sent out missives to the lords and ladies of Westeros revealing Jon's identity. Everyone suddenly forgot.

    I never thought, and still don't think, those messages were sent. Varys was in the process of readying them to be sent when he was betrayed by Tyrion and killed by Dany. I think his burning of the one message was meant to signify this, also.

    But even if he managed to send some out, I think, so what? There's a time factor. The messages need to arrive at locations, and the powers that be need to have time to assess them and make life or death decisions based on the info. There just wasn't enough time. Besides which, no one in either Westeros or Essos would care much about the fact that Jon is Targaryen. The question of Targaryen rule and Targaryen rights to the throne had been answered already in both lands; only Dany's reappearance on the scene resurrected the question. Plus, by this point in the Game, too many pieces had already been set. The powers in Westeros had been mostly devastated; what would any person receiving the news be able to do? And many powers in Essos were already either under Dany's thumb, or possibly resentful to the whole Targaryen dynamic, or simply wouldn't care that someone they know nothing about might have a claim to the throne.


    Daenerys never killed civilians. When her dragon accidentally killed one, she had them locked up and showed genuine remorse. Suddenly, she's a psychopath.

    I do think this could have been handled better. I can understand and rationalize her actions, but I'd've liked for this to have been better drawn. War changes people. I think earlier, she was still adjusting to her circumstances, and there was more room for her to feel remorse. But for her, all the chips were on the table by the time she reached King's Landing.

    Perhaps the single biggest issue in that battle is this:

    She had always been completely focused on winning the Iron Throne—although she took a detour through being focused on Jon and, via this, focused on stopping the Night King. But in the battle for King's Landing, all of that was removed from her character. Now she was focused on (hateful) vengeance.

    We really needed to see a real breaking point, and we didn't. We were left to infer.


    The Dothraki reward the slayer of a Khal by making them a Khal. Suddenly, this rule doesn't apply.

    This is something I hadn't considered.

    The problem: the Dothraki were basically sidelined, became a horde of red shirts, after Dany killed the other Khals. Basically, Dany was the only remaining "Dothraki" with any character or personality, arc or story, if you can call her Dothraki, heh.

    This dynamic pretty much describes the Unsullied as well, excepting Gray Worm. The Unsullied were essentially Storm Troopers.


    The only reason Jon is sent North is because of the Unsullied. Yet they leave the same time he does. What prevented him from returning? If he didn't want the throne, please note the second point. Someone would have wanted him back.

    My general impression, watching it and now still, is that Jon was done. He had killed the second love of his life; he'd already held another, his first, as she lay dying in his arms. He was never interested in rule anyway—wasn't this pointed out excessively throughout S8?—and he was a broken man. Why would he want to remain any place that could only serve to remind him, daily, of what he had done? (I may be biased, because I left a whole city, and rarely return for visits, because of bad memories. But I do think this applies to Jon as well.)

    The arguments against making Jon King greatly outweighed any potential benefits, as far as I can see, for all involved.

  4. I regard 'Game of Thrones' as a 'slice of history of a fictional world.'

    Like real world history, it is filled with contradictory characters, suppressed events, and one-sided propaganda masquerading as 'truth.'

    Note that the last episode did present two written histories of that slice of history. The first, by a respected scholar, utterly omitted Tyrion, a major player in those events, holding positions of authority on two sides and playing a crucial role in at least one major battle, among other things. The second, the account in the White Book of the Kingsguard, gave a 'creatively honest' account of Jamie's career.

  5. The issue isn't the endings, its the path to the endings. GRRM told D&D he wanted Bran to be the King on the Iron Throne. Fine. We didn't get what we expected (Jon or Daenerus on the Iron Throne). What everyone hates is the plot lines to the ending. Let consider some of these, such as:

    • Bran was offered to become Lord of Winterfell, and eventually King of the North. He rejected it stating he has no need for thrones and titles. OK, buddy.
    • Varys sent out missives to the lords and ladies of Westeros revealing Jon's identity. Everyone suddenly forgot.
    • Daenerys never killed civilians. When her dragon accidentally killed one, she had them locked up and showed genuine remorse. Suddenly, she's a psychopath.
    • The Dothraki reward the slayer of a Khal by making them a Khal. Suddenly, this rule doesn't apply.
    • The only reason Jon is sent North is because of the Unsullied. Yet they leave the same time he does. What prevented him from returning? If he didn't want the throne, please note the second point. Someone would have wanted him back.
    • And so on….

    What happened to the writing? Blame GRRM for not completing it, he at least told them how he envisioned the ending. This doesn't include the list of head scratchers like the battle against the White Walkers. The strategy belonged to a group of preteens playing Dungeons and Dragons instead of hardened war veterans that handled the war against the Lanisters with mastery.

    This was pure, simple laziness. It should serve as a cautionary tale to all authors. Finish as well as you start.

  6. It’s hard for me to find fault with anything other than what seemed to be an obvious rush to the finish.

    Maybe that had to do with the large cast’s future availability or the show runners original vision? It’s easy to forget that even a show as large as GOT is not immune to the ravages of reality and actors future desires and dreams.

    So many of the wonderful actors in this series are now in huge demand everywhere and though they all seemed invested fully in Thrones, it isn’t hard to believe a few would have been ready to move on or had committed to something beyond this season once this was known to be the last. Like Martin in the past, it may be the show runners were deep into the plotting for the season before they realized they had too much material to fit in one season (or book in Martin’s case) and splitting it, like Martin’s books, may not have been an option by that point. So, I’ll give them a pass on that.

    As for the internet, well, I still can’t put much stock in what the on-line consensus thinks as it tends to be a general vent/meme-fest most of the time and usually is not the consensus of the world at large. Even the most popular of posts or theories is read, liked and re-somethinged by just a small fragment of the overall viewing audiences.

    Book or show, Daenerys’ turn to the “mad side” was hinted at in both from the start and what I DID appreciate was the way they made it less decisive of a turn. You can’t really be sure, in the world of Westeros, that what she did was “worse” than any other queen or king before her but it was definitely more of the same and that, to me, was enough for her to be considered as a threat and leaning towards the “mad” queen role. The ambiguity in the context of the history of Westeros is key. Its a new age. it would have been tolerated in the past but things in Westeros are going to change. It’s an age old question when we discuss how dictators/kings/conquerors were ever allowed to rise to their power. Because no one did the Jon Snow thing when they had the chance.

    If the writers had to go it alone, without much input from the books or Martin these last two seasons, well, did anyone really expect they were capable of matching his depth and ability as a story teller? He’s a master of the craft and that can’t be expected of anyone else in such a role. They did, however, give us a number of memorable moments that were not in the books (Arya’s great interactions with Tywin comes to mind.)

    And while it cannot be said for certain where Martin will end things in print, it wasn’t a bad turn to have Bran given the reigns at the end. There were a few hokey bits here and there along the way, for sure, but after so many amazing seasons of visual and heart-wrenching bliss, I like where the curtain fell.

    Like most great fantasy worlds, I’d have preferred that it never end. I’m actually not a fan of most endings because then we know its been a story and not a world we can dwell in as viewers and readers forever, yes?

    Like you, I am looking forward to the books continuation and I don’t mind the time between them. It’s as if we are off in another part of the world adventuring and then we return, every seven years or so, to the world of Westeros. That seems right to me somehow. 🙂

  7. I will say that the ending of the series brought a new faith in the fantasy genre for me. Much sucked of course or was weird or whatever, but that they didn't give a perfect happy ending for fan service but dared to end it with a potentially controversial climax to a character's plot arch meant very much to me. It will make me forgive almost anything for that.

  8. The series was great. The only thing I can say is I listened to MOST of the series because it was so dark I couldn’t see what was happening. My husband said the same thing. Very disappointed because we couldn’t see anything because it was all filmed in the dark. Seems like anymore everything we watch it is so dark you can’t see anything, you have to listen and figure out what is going on by the sounds. Movies aren’t filmed very well at all anymore.

  9. GoT received the criticism it deserved. That there were many good parts only adds a contrast to the many bad parts.

    I'm sure many have seen the meme of a drawn horse used to depict the greatness of the series. Yeah, it's accurate. More telling is that the good parts mostly overlap the source material. The mishandled, rushed, amateur ham-fisting by D&D at the end is all sourced from their lack of skill. Telling, really.

    GoT needed the patience of a deft writer. The audience loved the series because everything was authentic. They granted patience hands over fist, as long as the series kept its promise of authenticity the first four seasons delivered. Nope. Star Wars knocked on the door and D&D rushed a series finale out no one asked them to deliver. Not the audience, not HBO, not GRRM. No one asked for a shortened series.

    A more tragic point: Most of the plot floundering we witnessed was because of ego. D&D wanted to subvert audience expectation. They played themselves out of a legacy. Instead of D&D, the writers who brought GoT to life, they're D&D, the destroyers of GoT.

    The internet has spoken. It's a hard lesson to swallow, I'm sure. Don't deliver crap and people will react positively. Deliver crap, especially when we witnessed four years of gold, expect the reputation you've inked on the paper.


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