Boy, talk about a tough audience:
by Ben Lindbergh
The showrunners said they didn’t need full, 10-episode installments for seasons 7 and 8, but the breakneck pace ‘Thrones’ has taken is a clear departure from years past and comes with disheartening side effects
Midway through “The Last of the Starks,” the much-memed antepenultimate episode of Game of Thrones, the forces arrayed against Cersei assemble at Winterfell to plot their attack on King’s Landing and its beleaguered queen. “We will hit her hard,” Daenerys says. “We will rip her out, root and stem.”
Her advisers try to talk her down. Tyrion reminds her that indiscriminately ripping out roots without caring about collateral damage is more of a Mad King move. Varys notes that Cersei’s allies are already dwindling. Jon suggests a siege. And Sansa observes that the survivors of the Battle of Winterfell could use a bit of a break before marching south to take part in a second Miguel Sapochnik set piece. “You want to throw them into a war they’re not ready to fight?” Sansa asks.
Dany grudgingly accedes to the siege, but she doesn’t want to wait to put the plan in motion. “We have won the great war,” she says. “Now we will win the last war.”
With two 80-minute episodes remaining in its final season, Game of Thronesfinds itself in a similar situation. The show has won the war for ratings, critical acclaim, and cultural cachet. Now it wants to win the war for a satisfying finale, delivering a pleasing payoff for fans that will prevent any tarnishing of the series’ reputation. But much as Missandei, Rhaegal, and Dany’s fleet paid the price for their leader’s impatience Sunday, Game of Thrones seems to be suffering from a similar hunger to arrive at its goal. Even more so than in Season 7, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are playing the part of Daenerys, so fixated on the finish line that they don’t seem to mind how many major story lines are diminished or how many minor story lines get killed in the carnage.
The perplexing part of Thrones’ hurry to remove itself from our screens is that almost no one was rooting for a rapid resolution. Viewers don’t want it to end. The media doesn’t want it to end. HBO doesn’t want it to end. Only the showrunners are ready to wrap things up. In an interview published before the final premiere, D&D made it clear that they were the ones insisting on stopping at eight seasons and limiting the last two to a total of 13 episodes….