It’s been close to a year since HBO’s static logo blackened for the last time in an ending of a “Game of Thrones” episode, and I had plenty of time to let the entire journey sink it. For years now Game of Thrones was the most anticipated event of every year for me, and the biggest TV passion I ever had. Now that the story came full circle and I had time to digest everything, I think despite having timeless masterpieces such as The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and the Wire under their belt, Game of Thrones might be the best thing HBO has ever produced.
Written by Dvir Ben Asuli.
It’s nothing new that HBO always have the most ambitious projects around, but from 2011 to 2019 they gradually built what I consider the epitome of quality television, and made history. The highly talented show-runners David Benioff and Dan Weiss took the unadaptable giant books by George R. R. Martin and transformed them into this beautifully constructed show, that something of it’s kind was never done before. There are so many layers to this story, so many characters and story arcs intertwining with each other that it seems impossible to grasp one man came up with it all.
I started the show rather late, after two complete seasons already aired. I heard a lot of talk about this show, everyone telling how amazing it is and, of course, an occasional huge spoiler here and there- so I decided to check what the fuss is all about. I enjoyed both of the seasons very much, but it was only at the ninth episode of the second season, that depicted the attack of Stannis Baratheon’s forces on King’s Landing, that I realized something as ambitious as that was never done before on TV medium. From this moment on I followed every news piece closely, followed the production and held my breath for each new episode that was about to air. Frankly it was a great experience on it’s own just to see what they had to go through every year to film these 10 hours seasons.
The story Martin created is probably one of the better and most detailed and well-crafted stories of all times, and David and Dan’s transformation of the story to the TV medium was beautifully handled. There aren’t that many shows when you sit and watch an episode and savor every single scene, if it’s the content itself or the many small details that were precisely designed for every frame you watch. It takes a little time to get into the show in the beginning, just because it’s very different from what we are generally used to. It’s one of those shows that from the very first episode until the last it’s just one big story so you just need patience to get used to everything that’s going on in there, and after that enjoyment is guaranteed. Above all, the thing the show benefited perhaps the most of is the fact that ever since the day they started writing the first script- the complete story from start to finish was compiled in George’s head. Not all the details and specifics of course, but the outline and major plot points were invented years ago when he started working on this huge book series, therefore the production knew exactly where to start, where the story is heading and where it ends, which gave consistency to the story from episode 1 to 73, without getting lost in the way with loose threads.
During it’s 8 years run, GoT provided us with some of the most unforgettable scenes in television history, that became nothing short of pop-culture symbols from the last decade. The execution of Ned Stark showed everyone this show is nothing like the shows we generally watch and it’s not afraid to break all the rules, while the aforementioned battle in King’s Landing presented for the first time the unprecedented lengths the production is willing to go through if the script demands it — which is nothing compared to what will come in the following seasons. The Battle of the Bastards for example is something I enjoy watching over and over again and I consider a landmark in television making, to this day the greatest battle episode I’ve ever seen. That of course without diminishing the wonderful battles of Castle Black, Frozen Lake, the Long Night at Winterfell or Hardhome. The major turning point for the show’s mark on pop-culture was perhaps the Red Wedding in season 3, when even people that never watched the show knew something extremely horrible happened on television last night and it pretty much put GoT on the map and boosted it’s popularity twice-fold. The show kept it’s audience hooked by providing key moments like that every few episodes during all of its seasons, and I think if you ask around that’s what GoT was mostly known for. I just wish we could all have enjoyed some of the amazing moments the final season provided together like we did in all the past seasons without negative internet-buzz clouding our judgement.
The show gets plenty of criticism for its deviations from the source material season 5 and onwards, but if you just think for a second how enormous this story is it’s pretty easy to realize a lot needed to be altered to fit the TV medium, and David and Dan managed to do so while preserving the original essence of Martin’s creation, keep the story well constructed and coherent and keep dozens of millions of viewers satisfied, and not only a handful of hard core followers that wanted it to be a page- to-page adaption of the novels. While I enjoyed all the books and didn’t agree with a few of the changes they made for the show as well I can see why a lot had to be cut, things don’t work the same in books as in television. Considering they knew the ending from the start and the huge amount of details you have to alter just from omitting one storyline if you want to reach the same final goal as the books, I believe it was overall for the best and they knew what they were doing, the story didn’t collapse under their hands- at least as far as I’m concerned.
HBO really brought their A-Team of directors to handle this show, as you’ll find not a few episodes here that would rival works of highly acclaimed cinematic directors with 10 times the budget, whether it’s a giant action episode or a well-made drama piece. The production values of the show, like many other things- again, unrivaled by anything else. If it’s the locations, effects, production design, costumes, you name it- it’s not for nothing it’s the most Emmy Awarded show of all times by such a large margin. The fact the show takes place in a fantasy-medieval world gives it an edge in that matter, but the impeccable level of detail the behind-the-curtains crew puts in every frame makes it head and shoulders above everything else on TV, if not also big-budget Hollywood productions. One of the most prominent aspects of this show in my opinion is Ramin Djawadi’s masterful score which must be one of the most brilliantly unique works ever for a series (whether it’s a series of movies or TV series) not only because of the compositions themselves, which are exceptionally beautiful, but also for how the music evolves throughout the seasons and builds the world of the show hand to hand with the writing, the characters and the setting as the story progresses. Also, the way each motif of the music identifies with a certain aspect of the story, though mostly noticeable in later seasons, tells a complete story on its own. Never seen anything like it.
The fact that the show is consisting of so many different characters in different locations, with different story arcs that all, eventually, intertwine with each other only adds to the re-watchability value of the show as a whole. You have so many different types of plots, sometimes in different overall genres and such a large variety of types of characters that it’s hard to get bored like you get sometimes if you watch the same linear story over and over again. The show became famous for the habit of pulling the rug underneath our feet and even if you know what’s coming when you watch the show again, sometimes it’s even more fun to anticipate these huge turning points and to pay attention to everything that leads there.
Say what you will about the final seasons, it’s amazing the show started to really divide the fan base only in its very last season, that being it’s eighth one- something that is ultimately unavoidable with something in that magnitude of popularity, that has so many characters and storylines for people to nit-pick from. We probably must address the elephant in the room, which is the controversy around the final season, even though I truly believe it’ll all be gone in the wind in a few months. As I said it’s expected some will be disappointed with the way elements of the story have concluded but I believe people went way overboard and overreacted with their negativity and scrutiny towards these final episodes, something that originated heavily from being swept by the negative buzz on social media. A lot of plot points that were deemed by a lot of people as “making no sense” from the characters perspective are, at least in my opinion, totally in line with their arcs on the show if you give a moments thought about it. After you come to the season with that approach it’s pretty fun to enjoy it, having the most ambitious battle ever filmed for television directed by the amazing Miguel Sapochnik, few heartbreaking moments, the destructive and highly impressive fifth episode and most of all beautiful conclusions to arcs we’ve been following for the past 8 years.
All these wordy descriptions couldn’t however describe the experience of watching this show live as it aired. The thrill, the off-season anticipation and continuous speculations, the satisfaction of watching a new amazing episode after waiting for so long, the 8-years-long water-cooler talks and the overall influence GoT had on pop culture in the time it was on TV- I’m sure many of us will always remember how it felt, and I’m not sure if we’ll get to experience something like that anytime soon. I already watched each season several times, probably more than any other show or movie, and I never get tired of any of it, if it’s the well constructed dialogues or blood pumping action sequences. I definitely see myself still constantly revisiting seasons every once in a while from now until further notice.
I think the success of the show speaks for itself- the countless awards, high acclaim from casual viewers and critics alike, the major fan following, it’s influences on the television landscape and on culture in general- it’s a winner in all fronts. In my personal opinion it’s the greatest television series ever made, but generally speaking I think it’s safe to say this show is for the ages and I think it will be remembered for a long time as one of the greatest cinematic works ever produced. I just hope the uproar on social media will calm down eventually so we can once again all enjoy this show together, and most of all hope that the entire crew will get their due in the upcoming Emmy Awards at September, to cement the show’s legacy in history forever. People tend to use this word too cheaply these days, but I wouldn’t say Game of Thrones is anything short of a masterpiece.
This story was published originally on HBOWatch at September 2019.