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Doux Top Twenty! Number 9: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones (2011-2019) is one of the few shows that we covered as it aired, from the very beginning right up until the bitter end. Josie Kafka reviewed the first three seasons, and several Agents of Doux joined in for the final five: Juliette, Mark Greig, Logan Cox, Samantha M. Quinn, Thomas Ijon Tichy, Joseph Santini, Heather, and Sam T. Cat.

One of those reviewers, Samantha, will take it from here.

Samantha M. Quinn: A very long time ago, I read a book. Which in and of itself was a bit of a miracle in my early twenties, but this one was amazing. So amazing in fact that I even tried to read the second book in the series... stopping about a quarter of the way in. There it sat on my shelf for years, collecting dust and losing prominence in my memory until the rumors started. Rumors about a movie adaptation and I thought, well, that’s a horrible idea.

There was simply no way to stuff that entire first book into a movie. So much would be lost in translation that it would likely devolve into some kind of fantasy action thing that was Game of Thrones in name only. So I stopped looking, and the rumors died away. Until the rumors started again, this time about a proposed television show. Oooh, now that’s more like it, I thought. Well, only if it was on one of those cable networks that would allow blood and sex, because otherwise it just wouldn’t translate well.

HBO... it was going to be on HBO. It was going to get multiple seasons up front. The cast sounded amazing. It was really going to happen!

That was 2007.

2009 and the pilot was shot, and it bombed with test audiences. I was worried again, especially when they replaced Caitlin Stark with an actress I hadn’t heard of. But hey, we got Peter Dinklage and Sean Bean, so it couldn’t be all that bad, right? Well, two more years passed, and we finally got the first episode, and it was wonderful. It ended right on the most shocking moment in the opening chapters of the book. It felt like the Game of Thrones I remembered.

Cut to the end, and we were all disappointed. Something went wrong around season five. The show runners were losing steam, and instead of moving on and giving the project to someone else, they decided to end the show with truncated seasons. Season six, while engaging and shocking, felt a little off. Then came the final two seasons, now well past where George R.R. Martin had written, and it was clear his influence was an outline at best. The deep characterizations fell away to plot, motivations became nonsensical and the previously tight plotting started to become painfully obvious.

So the show ended with a whimper, with fans upset and beloved characters dead with little emotional payoff. The Game of Thrones turned out to be a waste of time, and I’m pretty sure that Mr. Martin is still feeling the burn, because he is struggling with his latest book.

Or at least that is the general feelings about the show and how it ended. For me, I was angry. Not because it ended with such a safe and bland finale, but because of how they assassinated my favorite character. I watched the show because of how much a certain character resonated with me. I wanted to see them come to life, and for several seasons I got that wish, only to have it stomped and spit upon in those final few episodes.

Time may be kind to Game of Thrones, like every show that has been over hyped. But I don’t think I could ever rewatch it, and that is deeply depressing.


  1. Gave up after series 3; maybe I saw the writing on the wall, or maybe it all just got too much. Anyway, given the disaster that was the final series, I'm glad I didn't waste any further time with it.

  2. I've never seen this, although I've heard much about it. I love me some high fantasy, but it gets very mixed feelings from the folks that I've talked to that have seen it, and apparently a lot of that is the last season is not well liked at all.

    I have seen this version though: https://youtu.be/5Krz-dyD-UQ?si=Ourb28fO915bbinn

  3. Well, you may have noticed that I didn't write any of these reviews. High concept fantasy is just not my thing and I tried Game of Thrones but didn't finish the first episode. I'm very much a hard sci-fi person. My favorite kind of fantasy usually involves time travel or vampires.

  4. I honestly feel like the seeds of the show's problems in later seasons were sown by GRRM. Originally, my understanding is that he had planned a five book series and he wrote the first three books in five years. The next two took eleven years and back in 2011 there was supposed to be one more novel, but that became two, and neither has yet materialized. I think he lost his way and doesn't know what to do with all the elements and characters he's spun together. I think the show runners were right to try and pare away some of the stranger parts. Five books in, the plot spaghetti still seems to be diverging instead of converging on an end game.

    I wouldn't discourage people from trying the series because it does have great characters and great acting, but the quality does decline as it goes on, unfortunately.

    In the final seasons, the show tried to bring things to a conclusion, but it felt pretty forced in places.

    I am pretty confident that GRRM always intended Danaerys to go mad and Jon Snow to be forced to kill her. That said, I felt on the show that her character change was too abrupt and unconvincing and suspect that if GRRM had finished the novels they would have been able to sell the ending more effectively, just as they were able to sell Jaime Lannister's storyline.

  5. Oh, this show. I quit with only a couple episodes left, which sounds absurd, but I'm glad I did. Everything I read about the last episode just makes me think that they didn't understand how fantasy works, or political theory, or literally anything.

    With the distance of a few years, I'm tempted to view their horrible decision about Westerosi governance in light of Francis Fukuyama's "End of History" thesis, which argued that (neo)liberalism is just where all cultures will inevitably wind up. The theory is so horribly wrong (and that is no longer a hot take), but Benioff and Weiss don't seem to realize that. Ugh.

  6. I fell hard for this show after Lost ended, and the ASOIAF universe remains a lingering obsession. The skillful mix of character development, worldbuilding and a wildly expansive narrative was to die for... and right up my alley.

    I'm watching it over again for the first time since it ended; just finished S2. So far the quality of those early years is not diminished by the show's rushed, tepid final seasons. Hopefully Benioff and Weiss have more luck with 3 Body Problem, a literary epic that is (as far as I know) fully written and complete.

  7. It's always tough to rate a show that fumbles it's ending, and Game of Thrones has one of the most fumbled endings ever. It's such a shame, because the first five or so seasons *are* really good. Personally, though, I prefer the book series. If you haven't read them, their written so that each chapter is filtered through the perspective of a different character, which I really enjoy. It's not without flaws either, though, and of course, it looks like we might never get an actual ending to the book series at all, seeing how Martin is *still* not finished with the penultimate book after more than a decade of writing.


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