Discussion: The Legacy of Game of Thrones — Part I
It has been 10 years since the first episode of Game of Thrones aired. And two years since the final season of the show started. Good time to look back.
There are probably going to be many articles talking about Game of Thrones and the legacy of the show and we wanted to do something different. If you don’t know who The Longest Night is, you should check out his articles on this site and his podcast. And you can find him on twitter as well (The Longest Night). So we decided to do this debate, written podcast, interview, you name it, with him, where we would talk about our favourite show.
And we talked and talked and talked…
Enough for two long articles, discussing our relationship with the show, fandom, characters, we even talked about the future. This is the first part of our discussion. I hope you’ll enjoy it…
WeThrones: 10 years since the beginning of Game of Thrones. What that means for you?
The Longest Night: It means I get to look back and celebrate an amazing TV show that became my all-time favourite drama. We shall never see its like again!
WeThrones: So we are both fans of the final season. What is something that you liked about it? It feels like it became socially unacceptable to be fan of season 8 online, so I was often asked to explain why I liked it. And I was often accused of being David Benioff… If only... So why did you like the final season?
The Longest Night: Beyond the immersion, the music, the direction, the scale, the effort, the performances, and the sheer dedication it took to produce it, I think the commitment to the show’s core themes was so incredibly brave and — at least for me — so wonderfully realised. It would have been so easy to opt for the safe ending, but the writers so brilliantly denied us catharsis with “The Bells” and depicted war in a way I’ve never seen on screen before. And I also think that the more conventional fantasy episodes, like the double-bill of “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” & “The Long Night”, went above and beyond anything I’d seen on TV before. They were blockbuster television personified. Sure, the overall season itself was bumpy and imperfect, and of course I would have liked more episodes, but Game of Thrones was a rare and special show and season 8 only reinforced that feeling for to me.
WeThrones: Absolutely. So what was the moment when you knew you fall in love with GoT?
The Longest Night: Blackwater.
WeThrones: Oh really? Why?
The Longest Night: It was 2015. I’d been given the first four seasons on Blu-ray by a friend of mine. I was really enjoying the show, and I was shocked by Ned’s death, but the wildfire explosion during ‘Blackwater’ was the moment I knew I was in for the long haul. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen on TV before. I watched the first five seasons in a month, showed it to any family and friends who would sit down and watch it with me, and couldn’t wait for season 6 to air.
WeThrones: I fall in love with the show in “You Win or You Die” episode in Season 1. That was the episode when Ned was arrested. But the whole episode is still one of my favourites. Everything just clicked at that point.
The Longest Night: Oh, I was loving the show before ‘Blackwater’, but the wildfire explosion was the moment it became my favourite drama. It’s never been moved off the top spot since — that was six years ago.
WeThrones: I think I am too obsessed at this point for that to ever change.
The Longest Night: Agreed! Haha. For instance, I think Mad Men is flawless. The best show I’ve ever watched in terms of quality. But I don’t love it like I love Game of Thrones.
WeThrones: Yeah. Well said. With the emergence of Disney Plus a lot of people online now talk how their model is superior to the one Netflix has, because with binge watching you don’t have this sense of collective viewing. But sometimes I wonder is that really a bad thing? 😂I think being part of Game of Thrones fandom (or any other fandom) can be both exhausting and exciting. Like how do you separate your own opinion from the popular narrative? Do you even have time to form your own opinion in the era of social media?
The Longest Night: Absolutely. I have a friend who’s been in the Star Wars fandom for so many years so he’s used to splits and discord — experiencing it in the Game of Thrones fandom was what initially put me off venturing onto Reddit. I cut myself off during season 8 — when social media decided that Arya killing the Night King was something worth being angry about, I knew I had to get out. It got poisonous. Thankfully, it meant I missed all the leaks about the last three episodes, which I only heard about months afterwards. I’m not sure how I’d have reacted if I’d known the ending in advance. Perhaps I would have been smug, because my prediction for the very, very last shot was Jon going out beyond the Wall with Ghost — a direct mirror of the very, very first shot. I was about 80% right!
WeThrones: I often thought about what the final scene would be and I never guessed it, so well done.
The Longest Night: Well, my initial theory (before season 7!) was that Jon would lead the White Walkers back beyond the Wall as a half-dead benevolent leader of the Army of the Dead. Thank god that never came true because it absolutely wouldn’t have fit.
WeThrones: There is a lot of talk about toxic fandom nowadays. How would you define toxic fandom? People often say that they have the right to have negative opinion and calling that toxic is actually silencing people who have different opinions.
The Longest Night: Having a negative opinion isn’t toxic behaviour. Sharing the negative opinion isn’t either. And trust me, people who go into the arts and entertainment for a career have got thick enough skins to deal with all the negativity. But it becomes toxic when the negativity is incessant, mean-spirited, weaponised, and used as social currency. I’ve got so many friends who didn’t like the ending to Game of Thrones but they got over it pretty quickly and moved on with their lives, which is completely natural. If they still saw fit to join little online clubs about how much they hated the show, how much they hate members of the cast and writing staff… That would be too far.
WeThrones: I feel like a lot of talk about Game of Thrones now is about the ending, whether you liked it or not. I guess that shows how important the ending is for a lot of people. Sometimes I think that the only way to not have controversial ending for a story like this was to do what George R.R. Martin did and to not have ending at all. Was there a way to end GoT in a non controversial way?
The Longest Night: Honestly, no. In an alternate universe where Jon or Dany ended up killing the Night King and sitting on the Iron Throne, “they all lived happily ever after”, etc. you have fans and critics complaining that Game of Thrones was never conventional fantasy and that the ending glorified war and the monarchy.
WeThrones: Then there are complaints that it’s not the ending but the execution, but I am not sure that pacing issues can produce such anger.
The Longest Night: Benioff and Weiss definitely didn’t help themselves by only having six episodes for people to digest what was happening, and of course the finer details had been missing slightly from the last batch of episodes, but those are only minor quibbles and slight disappointments. The unbridled anger — rather than just disappointment — came from a disagreement (and a miscommunication) with the events on screen, as opposed to their execution.
WeThrones: Speaking of pacing, do you think the show needed more episodes at the end?
The Longest Night: Absolutely. Maybe not a full 10, but definitely 7 or 8. But what was “needed” and what was actually possible are two entirely different things. They’d already extended themselves beyond what their bodies and brains were capable of, and the cast were ready to move on and were becoming increasingly expensive to keep on board. I think it’s a minor miracle that we got a strong core cast for 73 episodes. This idea that they had unlimited time and money from HBO, and simply gave up before the end, is complete bullshit. If you think it sucked, fine. But that doesn’t mean everyone involved didn’t try their hardest
WeThrones: I think problem was that Benioff and Weiss didn’t communicate well with the audience. I feel like they didn’t explain why the show has fewer episodes at the end. It felt from their interviews that it was purely creative decision, but when you read interviews from other people in the cast and crew and especially Fire Cannot Kill A Dragon book by James Hibberd it’s clear that it wasn’t purely a creative decision. And the fact that Benioff and Weiss had a deal with Lucasfilm to make Star Wars trilogy certainly didn’t help. That just produced more conspiracy theories. But that deal was made in 2018 and decision to end the show with 73 episodes was announced in 2016, real decision was made probably even a year earlier. But no one cared about those details. It worked well for the narrative.
The Longest Night: Yeah, maybe the complete silence after the final season created a vacuum. And into that vacuum a lot of people poured in tonnes of needless anger and hate, and various theories that pretty clearly displayed just how little the average person knows about running a TV show, haha. On the other hand, I don’t think we were owed an explanation for the ending. I’d prefer it if there was less secrecy, maybe a little more openness, but thousands of contracts get signed and we have no idea what we can and can’t be told to the public. And, like, we did get an explanation in those Behind the Episode shorts — but those shorts were clearly an obligation, they were used against the writers, and now I wish they’d never done them. Haha.
WeThrones: I think what is also important to remember is that we are minority. Like even videos on official GoT channel that have a lot of views are nothing compared to the actual number that watched GoT legally and iligaly all around the world.
The Longest Night: Yep. Every “casual viewer” (i.e. someone who watched the show but didn’t engage in online debates) I know really liked the ending. “That Dragon Queen always had it in her”, was the general thread of discussion when they watched the final episodes.
WeThrones: We are speaking of probably hundreds of millions. Only in USA every episode was watched by 44 million people. And that doesn’t count pirating. And GoT was the most pirated show in history
The Longest Night: And that’s another thing that annoyed me, actually: people who pirated every episode behaving like they were owed something by the creators.
WeThrones: And this brings us the the most popular online meme at this point — no one talks about Game of Thrones now. So why no one talks about Game of Thrones now? 😂 How does it feel to talk about the show that was removed from popular culture?
The Longest Night: What show are we talking about again? Game of Thrones? Never heard of it. It rings a bell, maybe, but I’m sure it was wiped from existence in 2019.
WeThrones: It’s gone! But on a serious note I was always obsessed with numbers. So I like to follow these numbers about GoT. Blu ray and DVD sales, Google Trends, IMDB trends, ratings on HBO MAX and HBO GO and so on.
The Longest Night: Yeah, I’m a bit of a stats freak too.
WeThrones: And it doesn’t matter where I looked GoT is still going strong.So this narrative is a complete nonsense. Millions of people all around the world watched GoT for the first time after S8.So why are we seeing this meme so much? Even from some “serous people”?
The Longest Night: Because it’s much easier for them to pretend that their version of reality is the only version of reality. Their close friends all stopped talking about it, I imagine, so that’s all they see. I also think it’s partly down to them wanting a reason to keep mocking the show. Narratives are stronger than facts.
WeThrones: Yeah. I think they see it as a fitting punishment for the show, to be forgotten. But it won’t be.
Read Part II: