game of thrones finale

Just Hear Me Out: ‘Game of Thrones’ Was The Greatest Show, Even With That Ending

It feels like literally years ago, but this time last year Game of Thrones was the biggest TV show in the world and its controversial finale absolutely infuriated fans.

Debuting way back in 2011, the series quickly found a massive following which only grew season after season, eventually becoming one of the most watched series’ of all time. But despite all this, because the show’s finale was almost universally hated by fans, the series has now lost a lot of its legacy.

This week marked the anniversary of the finale, but the milestone came without the expected fanfare. This is especially surprising given the current pandemic, where a lot of us have been bingeing old TV shows. I started rewatching GoT in April, finishing the series last week, and I’m left with complicated feelings. There are parts of the final episodes that still make me extremely angry, but those emotions are diluted by the pure joy this show has filled me with over the years.

Since the finale, it feels like there’s pressure within the GoT fandom to completely forget the show ever happened, just because of one or two bad seasons. There’s this clear binary being enforced: you either love the show and all its seasons, or you hate the show because of the finale.

Is it not possible to be thankful for a series, while recognising its flaws?

Rewatching GoT in its entirety made me remember why it was so iconic for so long. It truly was event television. We now live in an age where we can stream a series whenever we like, but for a long time, Monday night was specifically GoT night, as that’s when it aired in Australia. I can fondly recall how excited I’d feel every Monday, I’d often start humming the theme tune on the way home from work. Since then, Mondays have never felt quite as special.

GoT was a phenomenal series, and we shouldn’t feel ashamed to say this aloud.

Here are a few reasons why Game of Thrones was the actual best, even with that ending:

The finale wasn’t actually all bad

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have become the equivalent to Harry Potter’s Voldemort in the GoT universe: the series’ show-runners’ names are rarely mentioned with any fondness, instead they’re uttered with absolute contempt. Their handling of the final two seasons in particular has almost taken on a life of its own, as GoT fans quickly morphed into an angry mob coming with pitchforks for the two of them.

Some of the criticism is warranted, but not all of it. The finale is often cast aside as being completely inconsistent with the rest of the series (along with some pretty abysmal writing), but it actually has a lot of good in it.

I’ve written before about how a lot of the characters’ resolutions come full circle from the beginning of the series. The final minutes of the finale are perfection and the Starks get the endings they deserved. Sansa became queen, Arya rebelled against her destiny, and Jon became a ranger in the Night’s Watch. These are the characters’ destinies laid out in season one.

While I didn’t agree that Bran should become king (Tyrion FTW!), that was one plot point that George R. R. Martin himself recommended to the show-runners, so we can’t really blame Benioff and Weiss for that decision.

I cannot defend Daenerys becoming the Mad Queen in the space of, like, four episodes. Dany deserved better but I’ve got to admit, her demise was pretty spectacular. Watching Dany burn down King’s Landing, before being killed by the man she loved, is a pretty epic series send-off, but sadly it all fell flat because that story arc wasn’t earned.

The series gifted us so many strong, empowered female characters

With the exception of Tyrion, the GoT men were not the characters we rooted for — instead, the series was led by its female characters’ stories. Even after Dany turned evil, she maintained an army of defenders with #IStandWithDaenerys still a popular hashtag to this day.

The women in the series were often far more fleshed-out and nuanced. While we all lol’ed at Jon, who could barely string a sentence together, or thirsted over Jaime, it was characters like Sansa, Arya, Brienne, and even Cersei who won legions of fans for their strength, growth, and humour.

The series created unforgettable moments in TV history

From Jaime pushing Bran out of the window at the end of the first episode, to Ned Stark’s beheading, and Dany emerging from flames with three baby dragons (and that’s all just season one), the show cultivated some unforgettable moments. Then there are the spectacular battle scenes, like the Battle of the Bastards, Castle Black and Blackwater, that would all give any cinematic action sequence a run for its money.

The deaths of villains Joffrey and Ramsay felt personally vindicating to fans. Cersei blowing up the Great Sept Of Baelor in the season six finale still gives me chills, and you’d struggle to find a fictional TV scene that drew more devastation than the Red Wedding. These moments made people feel things, and there was a feeling of camaraderie that fans were experiencing it together. These moments also gave us enough GIFs to last a lifetime.

Sometimes it’s about the journey and not the destination

A finale that isn’t universally loved should not take away from what people did love about the rest of the series, especially as the final season was only six episodes, while the rest of the series carries across 67 episodes. Sometimes it’s not about the ending, but the journey to get there.

There are many shows that had undesirable endings that we don’t just cast aside. How I Met Your Mother was a show that was hilarious and original in its early seasons, but over the years it went downhill and that ending was absolute trash. Yet, the show is still relatively beloved.

Gossip Girl’s nonsensical conclusion basically called into question every episode ever, but it’s still a popular series. I was deeply invested in the early seasons of True Blood, but its final episode was actually bonkers, and don’t even get me started on how Pretty Little Liars ended. Despite this, these are TV shows still worth watching.

Game of Thrones’ finale wasn’t perfect — although it really wasn’t that bad either — but it’s a waste to dismiss the entire series just because the ending didn’t meet everyone’s expectations.

So I encourage you, if you’re left with a bitter feeling about GoT’s finale and haven’t watched the show since, start the series from season one and you might find a new appreciation for the groundbreaking show.