Months ago I wrote a post about my disappointment in the way the 8th and final season of Game of Thrones was headed. It’s now long behind me, and I still find myself, for lack of a better way of phrasing it, hurt and angry.
Just a TV Show…
Let’s get a few things out of the way right off the bat. I am more than well aware that Game of Thrones is just a television show. The characters and storyline are quite fictional and it has no direct impact on anything in my or anyone’s lives.
Nevertheless, a show like this was a commitment. For a decade, many of us watched with excitement. I’ve never had a show that I needed to view right when it aired for fear of having the experience tainted. If you touched Facebook, YouTube, or even the news, you were likely to be shocked by what you’d find going in the lives of Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister.
Game of Thrones Nerds
I have a confession. I got so wrapped up in the craze that was Game of Thrones, I even got excited when Duolingo started offering High Valyrian as one of its language options. There I was, the king of Game of Thrones nerds, learning a fictional language for no purpose reason whatsoever. It was just another way to demonstrate my fervor and commitment.
And with each passing minute as season 8 progressed forward, I felt like the writers betrayed the audience. And as everything came to a close, one of the least satisfying endings in the history of television, I felt like a piece of my last several years was tossed into the waste basket.
It’s a rare and beautiful thing when the artists who create a television series take their craft so seriously, they refuse to let things go in the middle. Everything starts off with a bang, capturing the viewers attention. With each episode you are drawn further into a mesmerizing plot, entranced by the brilliant character development.
But everything has the potential of getting stale. Boredom lurks around every corner. And it is the true artist who decides that their integrity is of far greater importance than their wallet.
Writers always have the option of having some episodes or even seasons that serve as fillers. They can bulk the series up so that there are more opportunities to grab some cash. Or they can drag the series out well past the point when it’s enjoyable to most audiences. In such situations, if the quality deteriorates, the writers might be forced to end the show prematurely. Or worse, the series could just get cancelled, leaving everyone wondering what would have happened.
Television and the Curse of Popularity
And then there’s the curse of popularity. What happens when your show’s greatness pulls in a large audience, one loaded with expectations for how a show is supposed to look? The true artist continues to create, regardless of the thoughts and opinions of the onlookers. And they might suffer because of it. Some viewers might not see the beauty of what the writers do. They will not understand and they will fall to the side. And, of course, this means the money won’t flow as readily as it once did.
So the option exists of catering to this now larger and more mainstream audience. The option exists of sticking to tried and true patterns that have succeeded in the past. They are void of creativity. But they work!
Television and the Curse of Patterns
I’ve noticed a pattern in some shows I’ve watched or attempted to watch. Ever seen a show where the police try and solve crimes with the help of a consultant? The consultant can have any number of skills, many of which make sense, like forensic science or lie detection. And they can range all the way to the absurd (mathematics, author, the Devil, etc). Some shows were amazing and original; others were just blah blah. But television producers keep producing them, because they work. They bring in audiences. They make money.
Breaking Bad: The King of Television
In fact, after years of dazzling myself with television entertainment, I can only think of one show that had the entire package. Breaking Bad was great from start to finish. There were no wasted seasons among the five. Arguably there may have been one throwaway episode along the way, but one episode in five full seasons is hardly something to complain about.
The quality never dipped. The plot was fascinating and unique. And the acting was superb. And Breaking Bad likely had the most complete, impressive, and intriguing character development in the history of television.
Five Seasons of Amazing
Five seasons is certainly a satisfying amount of a television. The writers, despite probably losing oodles of money by not doing so, could have gone longer. They could have unnecessarily stretched things out further. But they decided to cap everything before any of us had a chance to get bored or distracted. And to top everything off, they left us with a fantastic ending. All loose ends were neatly tied up. There was nothing left we needed to know or find out when Breaking Bad was no longer going to be a part of our lives.
Breaking Bad is easily one of my favorite television series of all time, perhaps even my favorite. But that favorite spot was slated to be quite taken over by the phenomenon we call Game of Thrones. Walter White had nothing on Joffrey Baratheon!
Game of Thrones, the Bigger they are…
But the bigger they are, the harder they fall. For certain there was already a slight waning in quality as Game of Thrones progressed toward its climax. But nothing was as dramatic as a final season that abruptly ended plots we had been following fervently for a decade. It was nothing short of painfully jarring to see events we had waited years for fall so far from the mark. We wanted the magic to which we had become accustomed to accompany us all the way until the end of the series. And instead we were given drivel. I believe the finale was the worst episode of the entire series.
Yeah, Game of Thrones was just a television show. It was just images on a screen. But there were expectations and excitement and years of commitment. And the greatest fall from grace in television history. It hurt. It made my stomach ache. And even if just a little, the hurt still lingers.
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