The countdown is on for the return of Game of Thrones, with the final season promising to bring together everything that the show has been building toward for years. There is massive fan excitement for this final season, and Game of Thrones is sure to remain one of the most popular TV shows on the air in 2019. However, for many fans season 7 was something of a disappointment, and there is a lot of pressure on season 8 to get things right.
Of course, a poorly-written season of Game of Thrones is still arguably better than the best season of any number of other shows. Season 7 wasn't necessarily straight-up bad, but compared to the season that came before it, it proved to be rather messy as it moved the many characters to where they needed to be for the final stretch of conflict.
Now, with one final season left (and still no new books to base it on), showrunners Benioff and Weiss are going to have to find a way to correct the issues of the previous season and wrap up Game of Thrones in a way that does justice to the incredible success of the fantasy epic. And from what we've seen so far, that's exactly what they're doing.
The Problems With Game Of Thrones Season 7
So, why was season 7 arguably the worst season of Game of Thrones so far? There are many factors, but one of the biggest ones has to be the rush to get all the pieces in the right places for season 8. Much in the same way that Avengers: Age of Ultron disappointed Marvel fans for being a film more concerned with setting up the next big thing than being a big thing itself, Game of Thrones season 7 was all about getting ready for season 8.
As a result, season 7 whipped through major plot points with alarming speed, and there just wasn't as much room for the subtle character development and complex plots of the earlier seasons. Characters were killed in confusing ways - but not many of them, and no-one too important. Deaths feel more like the writers wrapping up loose ends than anything. Littlefinger, who was set up as the most cunning man in Westeros for six seasons, was outfoxed and slaughtered by Arya and Sansa Stark in the seventh. It's so very out of character for him that fans have theorized that his death must have been faked, and the Lord Protector of the Vale is still very much alive.
Assuming that he is really dead, Littlefinger is essentially the only major character to kick the bucket. In previous seasons, Game of Thrones was known for killing off major characters in sudden and unexpected ways, keeping the show unpredictable and thrilling. However, the show reached a point in the seventh season where the truly big characters will all be needed for the final season or had already died - meaning that there wasn't really anyone available for one of those signature shocking death scenes. Killing characters for the sake of shocking the audience isn't something anyone wants, but it felt as though there simply wasn't as much tension last season over who would survive.
In addition, season 7 was so focused on tying up loose ends, getting people together, and racing through the big moments that it has started to create some serious plot holes. The time taken to travel in Westeros has suddenly become meaningless, with journeys that would have taken multiple episodes (or even a full season or more) suddenly getting wrapped up in a scene or two. This has been happening for some time, but it is getting consistently worse, and it is a serious issue when it comes to storytelling. Throw in scenes that felt like fan-service more than anything, and it's easy to see how season 7 lost sight of why Game of Thrones became such a huge success in the first place.
Why Game Of Thrones Season 8 Was (Likely) Always Going To Be Better
Most of the big issues with season 7 stem from the fact that it was the penultimate season - and now that the final season is here, those problems should naturally disappear. There's still the feeling of getting to an endpoint, but season 8 can jump right in rather than being focused on set-up. Hopefully, this will mean that there are no vaguely unnecessary moments that tie up loose ends or simply serve to move things along. The show is no longer setting up the final fight for the Iron Throne and the battle of the living and the dead; the battle is here.
Thankfully, season 7 also did the hard work of physically moving everyone to where they need to be. There are a few people still traveling, but it seems that travel time in the final season is going to be a little more reasonable. Now that all the really big journeys (Arya's return to Winterfell, Sam's flight from the Citadel, Bran back south of the Wall) have been completed, the characters are within a much smaller space, and travel time can resume with some level of realism.
Surprise death scenes will also be able to come back into play this season. The final battles are about to start, and that means that characters like Jon, Daenerys, Cersei, and Tyrion are all back on the table as far as potential losses are concerned. Shocking deaths of beloved characters is something that Game of Thrones does incredibly well, and bringing it back for the final season is going to make fans much happier (and angrier... and sadder).