Game of Thrones is not the first TV show to end in controversy and it won’t be the last.
From cliffhangers to unanswered questions, fans rarely get closure in the series finale.
TV shows are defined by season progression, not final scenes.
Warning: Post contains spoilers about Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and The Sopranos series finale.
Ramsay Bolton was right! “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.” Ironically, Game of Thrones fans haven’t either because popular TV shows rarely get perfect send-offs. Last Sunday’s Game of Thrones series finale, “The Iron Throne,” was no exception.
While some diehard fans felt content with how Game of Thrones ended, others felt disappointed and betrayed. Regardless, “The Iron Throne,” has already become one of the most controversial finales joining shows like The Sopranos, Seinfeld, Lost, and Dexter, who like Game of Thrones, ended with a lot of backlash and mixed reviews.
Although controversial finales have been dividing fans and their beloved shows for decades, Game of Thrones was a show in its own class. It became a global phenomenon that always exceeded expectations by subverting TV norms. Unfortunately, those expectations were shattered heading into the final season.
Complaints started to surface after Episode 3, “The Long Night,” as fans and critics grew frustrated with the pacing, character developments, and editing gaffes. From coffee-gate, 82 minutes of darkness, to shocking yet questionable deaths, six episodes proved to be a huge mistake.
After the finale aired, Game of Thrones once again broke the internet. Only this time, millions of grievances spread faster than the shows Wildfire producing angry tweets and online petitions surpassing 1.2 million signatures for a season remake.
Despite all the backlash and valid criticisms, Game of Thrones will still go down as one of the greatest shows in television. Even if fans believe they got robbed of the ending they deserved or wasted eight years of their lives, shows like Game of Thrones are not defined by their last episodes.
It took me a couple of days to realize this, to digest my own grievances with how Game of Thrones ended and look at the bigger picture. After reading countless reactions and post-mortem breakdowns, it’s not realistic to think that finales can satisfy everyone nor is it fair to judge an entire show over its final scenes.
It’s difficult for shows to produce perfect endings. Whether it's cliffhangers or unanswered questions, series finales don’t always give fans closure. For better or worse, TV shows are a roller coaster ride filled with ups and downs. Like Mick Jagger said, “You can’t always get what you want” and that’s the deal we neglect to make as viewers.
Seldomly are fans greeted with shows that nail their final episode. Shows like Six Feet Under, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men are regarded for having the best endings in television. Having watched all three shows, I believe Mad Men ended in a unique way for a show that was already unique because of its time period.
*Spoiler Alert: Series Finale Details Listed Below *
Set in the 1960s advertising world of New York, Mad Men was a show about damaged characters, their journey towards redemption and battles with change. In the final scene, Mad Men did not feature any of those characters. Instead, it ended with the iconic “I Want to Buy the World a Coke” commercial that left fans wondering if the shows antihero bounced back.
Don Draper played by Jon Hamm was that antihero who struggled for seven seasons being the top ad man of New York, a faithful husband, and a father of three children. The ending truly reinforced the importance of using your imagination. Fans were required to fill in the blanks. Sometimes that is the perfect anecdote for finales, but every show is different.
Case and point, the series finale of The Sopranos left fans perplexed and took the word cliffhanger to extreme heights. “Made in America,” is one of the biggest anticlimactic endings in TV history as the journey of self-made mobster Tony Soprano played by James Gandolfini ended with a black screen. As Tony joined his family at a diner, the doorbell rings with him looking up and boom, scene cuts to black.
The ending was inexplicable, for five seasons fans watched Tony Soprano get tested by two powers: his family and the mafia. Fans like myself often wonder, Did Tony Soprano finally get whacked? Did he end up in prison? Or did Tony just continued to be the man we followed since day one? Nobody knows and as painful as it may be, that is part of the TV journey.
Fans tend to overemphasize what finales stand for because they don’t want their return on investment to be wasted. Yes, finales are the very last things fans remember, but they are just one piece of a shows puzzle. TV shows have different goals and how they achieve those goals is purely subjective to the viewer.
Bottom line, fans are always reacting to these unknown goals that the showrunners set. It's a mystery until we experience them and I believe no matter what that is, that experience is worth it no matter the destination.
I am not going to lie; I was disappointed with the final season of Game of Thrones. The deaths of the Night King and Cersei specifically were real headscratchers for me. Both characters represented the true evil in Westeros, yet their outcomes were almost premature. Just like Dany’s Mad Queen story arc, it was not organic.
In a perfect world, if we were given a season 7 and 8 with ten episodes, maybe the burning of Kings Landing and Jon killing Dany would have been plausible. I had no problem with these moments, Dany was ruthless from the start and it was naive of fans to think that both characters would survive, live together, or rule together.
Living happily ever after was never what Game of Thrones stood for, but those arcs leading up to the finale felt rushed. Everything felt rushed because Game of Thrones was no longer the same show that fans fell in love with eight years ago. Why? Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss nor HBO had control over the shows fate.
Game of Thrones was bigger than an adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, it was a spectacle that the world controlled. Although the showrunners had free reigns to end Game of Thrones with a bang, the show in many ways did come full circle.
Game of Thrones ended literally the same way it started, North of the Wall. It may have not been pretty or perfect, but I believe all the anger and frustration will dwindle despite all the unanswered questions and plot holes. In ten or twenty years, fans will retract how they felt about Game of Thrones ending. I myself, have already tapered down my grievances and started to appreciate everything that was Game of Thrones.
From ice zombies, dragons, epic battles, tragic and gruesome deaths, to great characters, Game of Thrones was a phenomenon like no other before it. This coming Sunday, I will truly miss not having more Game of Thrones. All the frustration, outrage, sadness, shock, and joy, I believe it was all worth the eight years.
In the end, series finales do not make TV shows great nor do they tarnish the legacies they have built. Still to this day, The Sopranos, Lost, and Seinfeld are ranked as the best shows of all time even with their controversial endings. While the final season and ending of Game of Thrones was not the best, its legacy will stand the test of time.
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