“Second Star On The Right, and Straight On ‘Til Morning”
Note: This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones.
I was never really a fan of fan-fiction. I could never understand it. Maybe I saw some of the reasons why people composed “expanded universes” of their favorite fandoms. They either liked their fandoms so much, that they wanted to continue the journey even if it was canonically over. Or, they didn’t agree with the arc of their favorite character, narrative, etc. Perhaps they wanted to “ship” their favorite character with another. Perhaps they wanted a particular character to have a better death. Prominent examples of fanfiction that come to mind would be a Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee romance. Or maybe a Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy romance. Fanfiction could even encompass alternative universes. The Star Wars Infinities comics by Dark Horse come to mind. Another significant fandom that has its own fan fiction universe is Game of Thrones.
There are many stories fermenting in the minds of fans around the world. Unfortunately, I never really gave them the time of day. Why? Because my cynical black and white mind says the end result that emanated from the author of the published book, or show/movie from Hollywood, was canon. “So let it be written, so let it be done”, as Ramses II said in The 10 Commandments movie a half century or so ago. There’s absoluteness to that way of thinking. I didn’t care to fight over the ending of something. I had no power to undo things. However, I know how important our fandoms are. They are our escapism, our window to another world.
As Tyrion Lannister said on the final episode of Game of Thrones, “There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story.“ Who’s to say that these written/typed words by fans aren’t correct or true? Does Hollywood only get to dictate the narrative? Does George RR Martin get to say that the imaginations and ideas stemming from budding authors regarding Westeros aren’t valid? No. Neither is my old opinion that used to dismiss fan fiction. When did I have that change of heart? It occurred after Game of Thrones concluded earlier this year. In a way, the Rameses II quote hold’s true in this regard. The hard work fans put into their writing has merit. I have a newfound respect for fan fiction and those that value and appreciate good escapism. We are always looking for more fandoms to satiate existence; explore those stars in the complicated sky that is life.
Bad Storytelling Begets Mass Vexation
Yep, this deepfake video of Jon Snow resonates with my opinion of Season 8. It was popular enough to go viral and get the attention of Nerdist News. Most fans of Game of Thrones relented against Season 8. The vocal angst was palpable. From viral petitions to satirical and deep examinations on YouTube on the disaster that was end of Game of Thrones. They are worth a watch for any casual/devoted fan of the series. As for the viral petition, I wholeheartedly respect the passion behind it. However, we cannot expect HBO or the show runners to “retcon” the last season of a television show. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are on their selfish path to bathing in Star Wars profits. The only hope Game of Thrones fans have rests with George R.R. Martin. The Winds of Winter is slated to be the sixth novel, with A Dream of Spring being the seventh novel.
Martin’s gone on record saying that changing the original narrative to counter correct fan theories is detrimental to the narrative. While I find comfort to his words, I’m concerned that the aftermath of the show will alter Martin’s philosophy and overall narrative. He still has two books to compose. From what we can currently surmise after the series finale, Martin and Issac Hempstead Wright confirmed the fate of “Bran the Broken”. While my personal opinion wished for someone else to rule Westeros, that is the canonical narrative of the show, and apparently the books. Die-hard fans can only hope that Martin composes the ending better than what Weiss and Benioff have haphazardly done earlier this year.
The outcome still doesn’t take away from the poorly executed storytelling in Game of Thrones’ latter seasons. Fans like myself who were vexed about the Season 8, but have it impressed upon us that we should’ve seen the warning signs. There was no more source material from the books. Because of that, Weiss and Benioff went on a journey they believed was right for the course. Unfortunately, the show-runners had conclusions in mind for all the characters, but no precise way to get them there. Essentially they had to drag Daenerys, Jon, Tyrion, etc., to the endgame, one way or another. The problem there resides in the evolution of each character over the course of the television series + supplementation from the books. Getting to the end for all characters had to come about in a “natural way”, not in a forced manner.
Everything about the last season felt forced, rushed, and reeked of apathy towards the world that Martin built. No one expected there to be a “happy” ending to the show. Game of Thrones never gave the impression of ever tying things up in a nice bow. Most would say the series, especially near the end, closely paralleled the end of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. To me, it was a simplistic ending. The show-runners needed to conclude each character arc one way or another, and the Starks got the “good ending”. Bran becomes King of Westeros, Sansa advocates for Northern independence and became its Queen, Arya explores whatever’s “west of Westeros”, and Jon gets exiled to the North with the Wildlings/Night’s Watch.
All of these endings are foolish and devoid of reason. The North gets independence, but the Greyjoys who’ve been claiming independence for some time are not allowed the same choice. Sansa gets preferential treatment because Bran is now King. Arya essentially becomes Dora the Explorer. She will explore whatever is “West of Westeros”, but we will never know of those adventures. Arya never had a drive to explore. Her narrative was always vengeance/righteous payback against the enemies of her family. Regarding Jon, he’s to be exiled due to the demands of Grey Worm and the Unsullied. But they are sailing off to find freedom in Naath. So the ruling families/the Starks could easily just lie to them. Lastly, Brandon Stark DOES NOT have the best reason to become King. Period. Tyrion is absolutely wrong here. His fate was being the Three Eyed Raven.
Clearly my angst against this entire season could spurn me to compose my own fan fiction narrative. I could give Jon, Arya, Sansa, Tyrion, Daenerys, etc., different fates. While my writing skills and imagination have been nurtured over the years, I am no where close to having the literary expertise of Martin, or those fans who compose their Game of Thrones fan fiction. Season 8 was a haphazard mess,wrought by the rushed mentality Benioff and Weiss had because Star Wars was on the horizon. I leave it up to Martin to finish his books, the fan fiction writers to create alternative endings, and other fans like myself to examine what went wrong with this series, and how we hope the same mistakes like the unabashed character assassinations won’t happen again in other shows.
Character Assassinations On Aisle 2
Lindsay Ellis, a prominent YouTuber, composed a succinct examination on Season 8 of Game of Thrones. She is one of the many like myself where the season wrought significant frustration on the fandom. I encourage all Game of Thrones fans (esp. those who think the backlash is nothing more than the grumbles of a minority sect of the fanbase) to take a look at what Lindsay has to say. The vitriol the fans had for their favorite characters was also palpable at the Game of Thrones panel at San Diego Comic-Con this year. It is interesting to watch to say the least.
The amount of patronizing that Comic-Con officials used to preface this panel is absurd to be honest. The overall vitriol isn’t for the cast or crew. HBO’s documentary “The Last Watch”, for example, focused on the crew behind Game of Thrones. Most gave a positive review of the documentary. It came off as a love letter for the crew. They were integral i making one of the most impactful dramas in the 21st century. If you haven’t watched it, I suggest doing so. Game of Thrones’ stellar cast should also be commended. Those cast members that attended Comic-Con had to face whatever backlash that was festering in Hall H.
Cast members had to explain certain outcomes that happened in Season 8. For example, while I didn’t agree with Arya being the one to end the Night King/White Walker threat, I thought Maisie Williams’ response to people taking away Arya’s moment in order to give Jon Snow credit was absolutely right. No, Jon Snow did not say “Go! Go!” to Arya before her fateful interaction with the Night King. It was all Arya. Maisie gave Arya life since Day 1 and she’s a phenomenal actress. She did what any actor would do with the material at hand. Her character had agency since her first scene, but sadly, a rushed script/narrative did not give her the ending she rightfully deserves.
Another takeaway from this panel comes from John Bradley’s commentary. His views and then his examination on Samwell Tarly reflect the heart and soul of what each character in Game of Thrones meant for everyone. For John, Sam embodied that nerdy outcast kid, living in a medieval period. Sam dreams about being something grandiose and mythical. He seeks a better life than what he’s experiencing. Unfortunately, all he can do to satiate that desire is imagine and deal with all the struggles he faces in real life. In a lot of ways, Sam resonates with me. I, and I’m sure others, seek a better life than the one given because that life is fraught with pain and suffering. Sam may have somehow grabbed an invincibility star from Mario and miraculously survived The Battle of Winterfell.
Nothing takes away from the fact that Sam is a good and beloved character. He just deserves a better second half when it involves his character development. Everyone who survived Season 8 got an ending that felt like the composition of a 5th grader. A 5th grader trying to submit a book report before the deadline that’s mere hours away. All major characters still alive by the final season experienced character assassination. The main culprit? Paltry writing and the desire to find a swift conclusion from the show runners.
Aftermath And The Internal Bleeding
Fans expected the final season to be rife with the shock and awe moments because Game of Thrones gave that impression since Day 1. Bran Stark being pushed out the window by Jamie Lannister, or Eddard Stark being beheaded just to name a few. Most believed the Battle of Winterfell was going to be a bloodbath. Many of our favorite characters meet their end at this spectacle of war. It’s been lauded as “the longest consecutive battle sequence ever committed to film” according to the producers. The Battle of Winterfell has been compared to the Battle of The Hornburg in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Both epic in scope. We all had expectations, we all fed into the hype of the episode. And then….within one episode, it was over.
While some beloved characters died, it wasn’t the bloodbath that everyone theorized in their character brackets. That was the first warning sign. The second one involved the Dothraki “eradication” at the start of the battle. Even the David Benioff espoused this “end” despite what we all saw later on in the season. Third, and I believe most important warning sign, involves the fate of The Night King. 8 seasons impress upon the viewer that The White Walkers, “The Others”, are the biggest threat to Westeros. Some even believe the White Walkers are an important analogy to climate change and its ever continuous consequences on Earth.
It is a rather apt analogy. I honestly don’t know if that was Martin’s true reasoning behind creating them. This original book was published in 1996. The fate of the White Walkers are now canonical, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that all the build up and dread we have all been experiencing has been for naught. The Battle of Winterfell had little casualties on the main cast and a significant antagonist devolved into a superficial plot device. All that had to be done was to coax The Night King to the Godswood of Winterfell, and let Arya Stark go in for the kill. Granted, Melisandre prophesied Arya’s fate back in Season 3:
“I see a darkness in you. And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes you’ll shut forever. We will meet again.”
Those blue eyes represented the Night King. Prophecy fulfilled. Arya 1, Starks 1, Night King 0! Bad writing, 9000+! GoT absolutists would tell me and others that this would cancel our protesting since we should have seen Arya’s actions against the Night King from a mile away. However, the show-runners built Jon Snow as a savior, one that had a direct impact on the White Walker threat. He was integral during the Massacre at Hardhome, his resurrection via Melisandre’s magic spurned his drive to solidify the North, and establish an alliance with other families against the White Walkers. We also cannot forget the Azor Ahai legend, and the truth behind his family lineage. With all this in mind, the fanbase felt that Jon’s purpose was facing the Night King. Their one-on-one would decide the greater fate of Westeros and humanity.
Sadly, all that was for naught. By the final season, Arya was nebulously theorized with the Azor Ahai legend by the fanbase, and then she ended the White Walker threat. There was no foundation for any of that to happen besides Melisandre’s line in Season 3. Arya’s agency and influence on Westeros will always be important. But the execution of her agency is built on righting wrongs done by the other families of Westeros against the her family. Arya had a different purpose. With Daenerys, her fall from grace deserved more time as well. Every character deserves more seasons, experience a more natural character evolution. That didn’t happen, and the show internally bled, with the fanbase not knowing it. One only has to look at a sample of the script and stage direction of Benioff and Weiss’ and see the clear and present disaster. The autopsy after the finale is personified in the justifiable disappointment from fans.
“Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked”
I do not have the literary prowess to compose a great alternative universe fan-fiction that would right the wrongs of Game of Thrones. But I have come across other articles that were composed from others that postulated outcomes when we were reeling from the end of the Night King and his White Walkers. One article in particular that caught my eye was “How Game of Thrones’ Azor Ahai Prophecy Could Still Be Fulfilled” written by Beth Elderkin. In it, she theorizes how the Azor Ahai theory could still come to fruition. I recommend reading the article for yourself, but in a nutshell, Dany (Daenerys) would turn against Jon due to his claim to the throne by birthright. Dany wouldn’t have support of the people, so eventually she’d be executed. However, Jon would carry out the sentence. The resulting outcome would essentially restart “The Long Night” and have a cliffhanger ending that would certainly cement itself in memorable endings in television/pop culture. It wouldn’t be a happy ending, not by a long shot, but that’s the essence of Game of Thrones.
There are no happy endings. Scratch that. There are happy endings, and but we’ve read them since childhood. Dark endings/cliffhangers would certainly refresh the palate. The major culmination of Season 1 was the death of Eddard Stark. Good was on the losing end and the remaining Starks had to figure out a way to find justice. We all know that the Stark family went through absolute hell even after Ned’s death. There’s no happily ever after, and Beth Elderkin’s article would constitute a perfect conclusion to Game of Thrones. What about you? if you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, what did you think of its conclusion? Do you think George R.R. Martin will ever finish his novels? If so, how do you think he’ll conclude the book narrative? How did you want it to end? Let us know in the comments!