The response to the final season of “Game of Thrones” from critics and fans alike has certainly not gone the way HBO hoped. The first two episodes of the six-episode final season inspired largely positive buzz, but the tenor of responses began to darken with the infamously darkly lit Battle of Winterfell and rather abrupt demise of the Night King in episode three. As Daenarys increasingly descended into paranoia and bitterness, and some of the other female leads’ story arcs likewise went directions some fans, particularly feminists, didn’t like, the complaints about the show producers, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, mounted. After Episode 5, a petition for a “remake Game of Thrones Season 8 with competent writers” gained hundreds of thousands of signatures over just 24 hours (it’s now surpassed 1.2 million).
So how did people feel about Episode 6, the series finale? Like the season as a whole, responses are mixed from critics, but arguably better than to the previous two episodes.
Thus far the critics score at Rotten Tomatoes is a 58%, which isn’t quite enough for it to earn a “fresh” status. The review site provides the following summary of the “consensus” from critics: “If nothing else this divisively bittersweet — if unfortunately bland — series finale ensures Game of Thronesfans will linger on the fate of their favorite characters for some time. Will they ever be satisfied by the show’s conclusions? Ask us again in 10 years.”
The Atlantic’s David Sims was “battered into submission”: “After the misery of ‘The Bells,’ it was a finale undeniably steeped in fan service, giving audience favorites such as Brienne, Davos, Sam, and Bronn seats on the new small council and doing away with literally every bloodthirsty or unstable member of the cast. … As a fan of the TV show, I felt battered into submission. This season has been the same story over and over again: a lot of tin-eared writing trying to justify some of the most drastic story developments imaginable, as quickly as possible.”
Detroit Free Press’s Nancy Kaffer was not satisified, at all: “Had Weiss and Benioff brought the show to a more satisfying conclusion, Martin would have had little incentive to finish the series. It’s safe to say that fans are not satisfied, and Martin has a chance to tell the story he intended. So … how ’bout it?”
The Philadelpia Inquirer’s Ellen Gray was also clearly not thrilled, faulting the show for tying things up too neatly: “If you like your finales tied up with a bow, well, this one was. I’m only surprised no one was strangled with it.”
Paste’s Josh Jackson is “a little stumped for words” but could manage a few, including cliche, predictable, scatterbrained and somewhat poignant: “We’ve been on the same page for most of the season in terms of our disappointment, and after finishing the episode and talking some smack about it with my friend tonight, my wife asked a salient question: ‘What would have made you happy?’ I think the honest answer is ‘at this point, probably nothing.’ But as a frank assessment of what I just witnessed, I’d say that the finale was a little cliche, a little predictable, a lot scatterbrained, and, yes, even a little poignant.”
Forbes’ Erik Kain felt “pretty good” about the finale, but, like others, says the big problem is the sense that all of the key story arcs were “rushed”: “In 80 minutes, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss wrapped up a show that’s spanned eight seasons, two continents, seven Houses and hundreds of thousands of corpses, and they did a decent job at it, considering. There was no way this show was going to give us the perfect conclusion, not after it began rushing toward that conclusion. The first ten minutes of tonight’s series finale should have been the last ten minutes of this season’s finale, with another season in the offing detailing the fight of Jon Snow and the other rebel Lords and Ladies against the tyrant Dragon Queen.”
IndieWire’s Steve Greene, however, felt quite good about how things ended up. “Its final episode, ‘The Iron Throne,’ saw a conclusion that didn’t so much serve as a corrective for the narrative shortcomings of its preceding installments as much as it reframed the last few dozen hours spent in Westeros. A punctuation of sorts to one of TV’s most massive installments, it cut through the myriad expectations and offered up an impressive closing chapter, balancing a litany of character sendoffs with a parting thematic statement on the nature of power.”
FilmInk’s Anthony O’Connor likewise thought the season finale was “a solid conclusion” to “an increasingly inconsistent saga.”