Write Your Own Ending

Kristin Devine

Kristin has humbly retired as Ordinary Times' friendly neighborhood political whipping girl to focus on culture and gender issues. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of https://atomicfeminist.com/

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65 Responses

  1. DensityDuck says:

    The thing is, Game Of Thrones already has Doin’ It. You don’t have frustrated Horny to deal with in GoT fandom because the Horny gets dealt with there on the screen, and it’s a lot harder to imagine a secret Doin’ It between two characters when it’s quite clear that if they were Doin’ It we’d be seein’ it. And the characters aren’t superheroes so there’s no real “what if X fought Y” axis to explore either. So there’s far less motivation for fanfic than many other properties.

    That said,
    “It’s uberfrustrating when your expectations not only are not surpassed…but are demolished so spectacularly it feels like the writers are basically telling you to eff off.”

    Yes! I mean, I get why Luke just threw the lightsaber over his shoulder in TLJ, but…y’know, fans had been waiting on that moment for two *years*, and all that time and interest gets spent on a fuckyou gag.Report

    • George Turner in reply to DensityDuck says:

      I wonder if the writers were the only two people on Earth who thought Band of Brothers should end with Major Dick Winters getting arrested for by the Russians and sentenced to twenty years on the the Maginot Line, guarding France against a German invasion? And that’s just one part of the GoT ending that made no sense at all.

      I can’t imagine what was going on the writer’s room.

      “Hey, what if we cover all the critical plot points in five minutes, you know, just a few quick scenes, and then devote the rest of the episode to characters telling each other that good story telling and writing are important?”

      “Oh, that would be hilarious!”

      In retrospect, was there any point to the story? How many parents are going to throw away their DVD box sets that they were saving for when their kids were old enough to watch it, unless they think it would still be a great way to teach junior what “disappointment” really means?

      I think SNL should bring Sean Bean back on as a guest and do a skit where he’s in the HBO offices for some other project and is chatting with a frazzled young intern who’s at a desk sorting through the best and worst submissions for what should happen in GoT Season 8. She explains that corporate has decided to let fan input drive the show, and apologizes because she’s only got a few more minutes before the best idea is getting delivered down the hall to the decision makers. The intern rolls her eyes and points to the two stall stacks of scripts on her desk, one labeled “best ideas” and one labeled “worst ideas”. Then she gets a phone call and turns her back, and taking gleeful and vengeful advantage of the situation, Sean grabs a script off the top of the “worst” pile and sticks it on top of the “best” pile and then heads to his meeting, laughing maniacally.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to George Turner says:

        look on the bright side, the ending could have been a slow fade followed by a slam cut to Sean Bean’s severed head lying on its side, eyes blinking and rolling wildly, and someone saying “heh, he’s still alive. That happens, they usually last a few seconds. Hey, check this out” and then a stream of urine hits his face. (roll credits)Report

        • George Turner in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Or end it with one of the popular actors waking up in bed in a Holiday Inn Express, perhaps beside some other actor in the show, and saying “I had the strangest dream, but the ending was horrifying!”Report

  2. George Turner says:

    Last time I checked, the Change.org petition had crossed 1.2 million, with a new signature every 15 to 20 seconds.

    I saw one pre-finale clip of the actors being asked if they were satisfied with the ending. They seemed to have the same opinion that everyone else now shares. In another clip, GRRM was saying that he changes the story if the fans guess where he’s was going with things. I suppose what happened is that the wide-ranging fan base had guessed all the possible good endings, so the writers went with the worst ideas they could come up with, producing a finale so bad that it doesn’t even deserve spoiler protections.

    But at least Jon Snow ended the series back on The Wall, guarding humanity from those white walkers, who all died a couple of episodes earlier, to keep peace with the Unsullied, who’d already sailed home and thus didn’t matter.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to George Turner says:

      “GRRM was saying that he changes the story if the fans guess where he’s was going with things.”

      Which, amusingly, makes the while thing even *more* like LOST…Report

    • Yeah that was what it felt like with Lost, too. There were some amazing fan theories and then it was like someone decided “well we can’t do any of those, let’s do the one thing we swore to everyone we wouldn’t do”. I still can’t get over that TBH!

      As often as they’d teased Jon’s death I totally figured he’d be alive at the end LOLReport

  3. (this is for Density, I messed up threading my reply somehow)

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

    My question – Is fan fic only about Doin’ It and fighting, though? Or can you find more in it?

    One of the things I found frustrating about Supernatural (and Buffy too for that matter) is that they not often enough/never took the chance – in shows that were literally about good and evil – to deeply explore the nature of good and evil. And GoT is the same way it sounds like, people liked it because of the insight into human nature and politics, not only because of the Doin’ It and dragons, and then all that stuff kinda went away. So for me anyway, the ending was an opportunity to think about why the Winchesters were even doing all this stuff, who was the entity with the plan, was it even a good plan, etc. and I can easily see how something similar could be done in GoT too.

    Oh man TLJ yes I couldn’t agree more! So frustrated by that.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Kristin Devine says:

      I feel like nearly every bit of fanfic I’ve seen as either been “what if X and Y Did It, as opposed to the canon where they didn’t” or “what if P and Q fought, as opposed to the canon where they didn’t, sometimes because they are from different series entirely”. Things that are alternate versions of a story, or continuations after the end, or side-stories, were far less common than the first two themes.

      I mean, I’ve seen more of those latter things as actually-published material; like, there’s a whole lot of Firefly and Buffy stuff out there as comics.

      And I think that’s because Doin’ It and Fighty-Fight are strong stories that A) could plausibly go differently than happens in the canon (especially since, as I said, genre-fiction is typically aimed at younger audiences and tends to dance around the consequences of strongly physical activity), and B) are easy for a hobbyist writer to imagine (A and B, nude red & mad, go). Trying to completely re-imagine Westeros’s political landscape and present a plausible alternative story is, well…I mean, GRRM has been trying to do it for eight years now and he wrote the damn books in the first place, so, bit of a job there.Report

  4. You’re totally right, I’m very likely the exception fan-fic-er and not the typical party.Report

  5. DensityDuck says:

    Oh–and also, the anime series Evangelion is old news now, but back when it was just the TV series, people were really upset about the ending of that, and I do recall several fanfic attempts to “properly” finish the story. (The actual outcome was that the creator didn’t like his ending so wrote his own fanfic and made it into a movie, wasn’t satisfied with that so he wrote another fanfic, made that into a movie, went back a third time, and has just kind of given up on ending the story at this point.)Report

  6. George Turner says:

    Trending on Twitter: #NotMyKing

    Some pretty good stuff there!Report

  7. Pinky says:

    I watched Supernatural excitedly for the first two seasons, consistently for the next three, then sporadically, then not at all. I guess I wrote a fan fiction in my head during Season 5, and preferred it to what actually happened, and could never really get my connection back to the show.

    The brothers were pursuing Lucifer in Season 5. The show had been building up to the Apocalypse. They made a desperate attempt to kill Lucifer using the gun that could kill just about anything, but he survived it. Then the season went on to finish in a way that they clearly hadn’t planned on, just so they could keep the story going because the show got renewed. In my head, they shot Lucifer, and he died. In the middle of the season. No Apocalypse. Everyone stumped. From there, they would have had to write furiously to make the season make sense, but it would have opened the show up for literally anything.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Pinky says:

      I also mentally wrote a fan fiction for Angel, set in the final episode. It consists of seven lines:

      Lorne: “So, we’re really going to do the Michael Corleone thing?”
      Spike: “What’s that?”
      Lorne: “Michael Corleone? The baptism scene in ‘The Godfather’? One of the greatest movies of all time?”
      Spike: “Never seen it.”
      Lorne: “Well, that does it. This weekend, you, me, popcorn, ‘The Godfather’. We’ll make a night of it.”
      Spike: “You realize that by this weekend, we’re all going to be trapped in a hell dimension, being tortured for all eternity, right?”
      Lorne: “Right. OK, ‘The Godfather 3’ then.”Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    Daenarys: You know nothing, Jon Snow!

    Jon Snow: I know I will stop you!

    Ron Weasley: After I help take you down, Weasley will be their King!

    Doctor Who: You will shortly be a sinister puddle!

    Ash: This is my boom-stick!

    Gimli: And my axe!Report

  9. George Turner says:

    Dark Angel and Terminator: Sarah Conner Chronicles both wrote themselves into a corner and got canceled.

    Dark Angel was premised on a genetically engineered super-soldiers created by a secret government program, and the plot was driven by their need to stay hidden from the military goons who were trying to hunt them down before the public found out. A season finale ended with the genetic mutants going public on the TV news, and I suppose the network realized that the writers couldn’t figure out a full season of answers to what should happen next.

    Terminator: SCC ended a season with a time jump into the future, where the young John Connor was going to meet his older self, and I guess they ran out of ideas, too. Tellingly, Lena Headey, who played both Sarah Connor and Cersei Lannister, at least had no ending instead of a horribly ending, one so bad that it will resonate through the ages.Report

    • DavidTC in reply to George Turner says:

      TV don’t get canceled because they write themselves into corners on the last episode. TV shows live or die on ratings.

      It would, of course, be possible for a TV show to write itself into a corner, and _from then on_ not have a good story and thus get bad ratings, but they can’t get canceled because their literal last episode was ‘writing them into a corner’.

      Both _those_ particular TV shows were canceled because they were science fiction airing on Fox, and for about a decade Fox thought the correct level of ratings for sci-fi was ‘Must be X-Files level or canceled’, something that literally never happened. So they basically canceled every single sci-fi show.

      While I don’t know the particulars of Dark Angel, I do know that Terminator: TSCC was canceled because Fox had two moderately expensive(1) sci-fi TV shows airing on Friday, that show and Dollhouse, and apparently basically flipped a coin. (They canceled Dollhouse a season later.)

      1) Of course, I have no idea _why_ those shows would be expensive. Dollhouse had a moderately large set, I guess, but nothing really screamed expensive. Terminator: TSCC even shied away from CGI. Maybe it was the actors, but…that doesn’t seem right, none of the actors were really huge at the time.Report

  10. Jaybird says:

    Also: I am still pissed off about Mass Effect 3.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

      ME3 was different, to me, because it seemed like the writers there genuinely didn’t know that they were exploring well-trod ground with their story. Like they honestly thought “it’s a cycle of seeding, growth, and harvest by vast intelligences beyond our understanding” was something nobody had ever written about before.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Whenever I find myself tempted to say “but it was different when I did it!”, I try to remind myself that, no, it wasn’t.

        One thing of note is that Mass Effect 3 also had multiple different writers and the while the first two were written by the one guy were *AWESOME* and the finale, which sucked, was written by hired guns.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to DensityDuck says:

        ME3 was different, to me, because it seemed like the writers there genuinely didn’t know that they were exploring well-trod ground with their story.

        Pffft, that was only _one_ of the problems. Another one is that they had failed to notice that the entire series had been built on the idea you actually could change the universe and those changes would follow you forward.

        Instead you just pick a color, apparently.

        You didn’t need to pick _anything_ at the end of the game. Or…not like that.

        Man, I barely remember this now, I actually wrote a whole extended rant on it when it came out, but one of the things that really annoyed me is they missed several _obvious_ bad endings.
        Like, you fail to build the thingy, the Reapers win, so you get a choice: To fling a light into the darkness for the next cycle, or you blow up the mass relays, killing everyone in the galaxy early but utterly screwing over the Reapers also.

        Instead, you just got…dumb endings. Not only ones that were not very interesting, but often appear to have literally forgotten basic rules of the universe, or basic laws of physics.Report

  11. rexknobus says:

    I did my own ending to the original “Twin Peaks,” and I have to (incredibly immodestly) say that I’m very proud of it. Got it to Lynch, just in hopes that he might get a kick out of it. Never heard back. Not surprising — my take was somewhat more grounded and explanatory than his. But it was meant as a tribute and a homage to an all-time favorite show. But the writing of my version, and the playing of my version in my head after re-watching the original (to me unsatisfactory) ending helps bring a better bit of closure for me than the actual last episode does.

    (It was actually quite a project — early 90s, using early versions of Photoshop and Pagemaker to complete a visual summary of the show and characters to introduce the script. Low res these days, but pretty cool back then!)Report

  12. George Turner says:

    Writers still can’t figure out how to properly end “Sesame Street”. I have some ideas but they’d scar an entire generation for life.

    I commented on the writing failures on the previous episode, which denied the fans any emotional payoff for Cersei, plus denying them a real battle where Cersei is defeated as a military commander, and denying them any battle between good and evil, or competent and motivated versus incompetent and poorly motivated.

    It’s not just that GoT went for the “wrong” ending(s), it’s also that it didn’t even competently deliver those wrong endings. It’s not just a bad story, it’s a badly told bad story.

    For example, the destruction of King’s Landing barely made use of either Danyraes or Cirsei, who are supposed to be the central characters in conflict. The dragon didn’t really have a personality, either. They might as well have interrupted the battle with an erupting volcano that sent everyone running for their lives.

    Assume you agree with where the story was going as a goal for the episode, with Danyraes showing her monstrous, self-important nature and turning out to be even worse than Cersei. The writers botched the journey of letting that path unfold in a compelling or interesting way. It’s like spending eight years in your den carefully positioning tin soldiers for a recreation of Waterloo, and then having your four year kid old storm in and smash them all with a rock because he wants to see “moar” destruction. A four-year old wants to smash things is about the only depth you can get out of it.

    In the finale they went for, the writers could have had a long and deep introspective segment where Danyraes and her supporters realize how badly she just screwed up. That could be a rich and rewarding set of scenes as she realizes that she is her own worst enemy, that she is the monster she was so worried about protecting people from, a deep character moment. It’s right there as an obvious and satisfying element to the path the writers had chosen, but they didn’t deliver that, either. Danyraes doesn’t gain any self-awareness, stays blind and deluded, and Jon is too afraid to vent the anger and outrage that all the viewers felt. Instead he indulged her fantasy and then suddenly dirked her over. But they didn’t even milk that screw up for much emotional impact.

    Most of the rest of the episode was just a waste of screen time, covering trivial details and completely unimportant subjects that nobody has ever cared about, such as Brienne updating a copy of Who’s Who, or figuring out budget details on city reconstruction even though there are only a handful of surviving inhabitants. A debate over prioritizing brothel repairs? There aren’t any hookers, pimps, or johns left, so how would they even rationally discuss it? The scene is dumber than all the parodies of “Hitler’s Bunker” with fake subtitles about pizza delivery or cell phone calling plans. We waited eight years and that’s what they chose to add to the series finale?

    The writers finally burned inordinate screen time showing us how the characters went on their separate paths, when by that point in the episode I think all any viewers cared about was that all the characters get the heck off their television screen.Report

    • It’s not just a bad story, it’s a badly told bad story.

      I wonder if the people at Disney are re-thinking their decision to put the Star Wars franchise in the hands of the Game of Thrones show runners?Report

      • George Turner in reply to Michael Cain says:

        I really hope Disney is re-thinking that. The GoT show runners have a skill set that’s redundant to what Disney has been working with so far, but has the same gaping weakness: No feel for what makes a story work, no idea what the central story lines should be, and no focus that would help them avoid getting lost in irrelevant details and side stories that are at best distractions.

        The shared strong points would be production design, costuming, sound, visual effects, staging, and cinematography, skills Disney already has in abundance for the SW franchise.

        From what I’ve seen in Season 8, the show runners would make excellent second unit directors, where they collaborate with a director who’s got the central story ideas and who can tell them what a scene is for, what it’s trying to accomplish, what kind of mood it needs, and how it’s supposed to fit with other scenes.

        But in terms of having a vision, seeing how a story is going to work, mapping out good arcs, plots, and beats, the higher-level of the creative craft? Not hardly. They seemed to do well when they were working through Martin’s books and selecting from the key elements of them. When they went beyond that, their weakness at understanding story and characters became pretty glaring.

        Last week I watched “Masterclass: Ron Howard Teaches Directing”, which I highly recommend. It’s almost 16 hours of Ron Howard explaining almost every aspect of what he does and why, along with a run through of producing a scene from rehearsal to shooting. A week or two before that I watched a similar class by Werner Herzog on filmmaking, which is also really good. I’m halfway through Martin Scorsese’s filmmaking class, and I’ve barely started on David Lynch’s class. I’m also partway through Samuel L Jackson’s acting class. I found them on the Internet, and they’re more interesting that most of what gets posted.

        Anyway, one thing they emphasis is understanding the story and what makes it work. Ron Howard goes into great depth about the iterative process of developing an idea or first draft script into something that’s going to work for viewers. He relates that even if he’s convinced that what he’s made holds together, at various stages he screens it for various friends or colleagues to see if they’re reacting like he’s reacting. This often brings problems to light, and he has to rework the script. That type of feedback doesn’t work with Yes men.

        From the way the GoT producers killed off actors with abandon, and how they constantly sprung surprise scripts on them, I’m inclined to think they weren’t really collaborating with the talent they had on hand. That’s not good, because often the actor has deeper insights into the character than the director does (both Ron Howard and Werner Herzog make that point). Of course sometimes they’re headed in a different direction than the director, and those differences always have to get ironed out quickly. But anyway, if the production became a very top-down, top-secret, commands-from-on-high management structure, which is what it sounds like from the interviews and rumors, a total train wreck of a production isn’t surprising.

        Characters whose actions are almost completely out-of-character? On a series, that’s usually the result of bringing in a new producer or director who doesn’t bother absorbing the canon or picking up the finer points established in the previous episodes, but it also requires a breakdown in the dialog between the director and the actors, who will look at the script and think it makes no sense. “My character would never do that because…”

        So we have Arya becoming a wallflower. Jon Snow becoming as timid as Samuel Tarley after he’s found out he’s not a nobody, and then sheepishly scuffling back to the Wall. Brienne becoming a weak-kneed romantic. Sansa becoming an ice queen, rejecting the Seven Kingdom’s just as her own dear brother takes them over. That leads to mild and harmless Bran plotting his inevitable ascendance to the Iron Throne. And there’s Jamie intimidated and extorted by some thieving ruffian. Cersei stepping back and becoming a passive spectator in the battle to maintain her own rule against Danyraes. Danyraes turning her back on all her advisors right after losing one of her closest ones. Tyrion picking as king someone he knew almost nothing about, and who hadn’t really made a single decision that would give an insight into his character.

        It’s like they were puppets, commanded to do what the script required due to production schedules, not coherent characters who were real people. Disney’s Star Wars already has that down in spades. “Luke is now a spoiled brat. With the decisive battle imminent, he just Skypes it in.” They don’t need more of that.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to George Turner says:

          “killing off [characters] with abandon”(*) was kind of the whole deal in GoT, though. If anything, the later seasons lost their edge when they stopped doing that.

          Like, imagine if the dragons had just straight-up eaten Jon Snow first time they met him.

          (*) killing off actors is generally frowned upon by the SAG, not to mention the local police departmentReport

    • north in reply to George Turner says:

      Yup, well said. Pretty much all right on this. It’s not that the ending is bad, per say, if you write it out on paper (though it’s not good). But it’s executed horribly.Report

  13. PD Shaw says:

    As a GoT reader, not viewer, I’ve been wondering if I should watch the show to get an ending, either the whole series or just the last part where the divergence occurs. Last nigh though, I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I may just pass.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to PD Shaw says:

      Well, it is an ending. Last night I was broadly unhappy. After most of a day, I feel like several of the pegs wound up in acceptable holes, although I’m still unhappy about how many of them got there.

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      • George Turner in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Spoiler codes, for what? The episode is its own spoiler. It can’t be further spoiled.

        As some great leader once said:

        Twelve years and some months ago HBO brought forth on their network a new show, conceived
        and dedicated to the proposition that all characters are expendable.

        Now we are done with their great civil war, and ask whether that show, or any show so conceived and written, should long endure. We are met in a thread about that war. We have come to pontificate on the finale of that show, as a fitting epitaph for those who gave their all that that show might work. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

        But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate – we can not criticize – we can not spoil – this show. The brave actors, living and dead, who performed there, have criticized it far above our poor power to spoil or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget that final horrible season. It is for us, the viewers, rather, to be dedicated here to the un-aired storyline which they who worked there for so long rightly expected. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from that horrible ending we take increased devotion to better writing, for which the actors should have given the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that the cast shall not have acted in vain, that major shows, by God, shall have better writing – and that programs of good writers, by good actors, and for the fans, shall not perish from the networks.Report

  14. Jaybird says:

    I’ma gonna talk about pro wrestling for a second. There’s a thing in wrestling called “psychology”. It is usually the thing that pretentious people talk about being the difference between a 3 star match and a 5 star match.

    In a lot of television matches, it’s just a spotfest… that is to say they do some kicky-punchy, then some suplexes, then one gets thrown outside of the ring so the other can do a dive, then a finisher, then the pin and nothing really has anything to do with anything.

    In the best matches, though, there’s a story. The heel punches the babyface when the ref isn’t looking. The babyface is fighting clean against the heel and the heel brings it to a halt with a punch again. The babyface fights back, clean, and the heel punches the babyface and then slides out of the ring. Every time the babyface gets something going, the heel stops it by cheating with a punch and always behind the ref’s back. Whenever the babyface balls up his fist, the ref yells “HEY NO FISTS! PUNCHING IS ILLEGAL!” and, wouldn’t you know it, 10 seconds later the heel punches him again.

    If you’re in the audience, you’re yelling at this point. You’re yelling at the ref. Pointing at the heel. While the ref is looking at you in the audience and yelling back “LET ME DO MY JOB”, the heel punches the babyface *AGAIN*.

    If you finish this wrestling match with anything but the babyface *FINALLY* punching the heel in circumstances where the ref doesn’t see it, you’re not going to pay off the story you’ve told for the first 15 minutes of the match.

    You don’t even have to have the good guy *WIN*. He just has to get that punch.

    If you don’t pay off that punch, you’ve no business booking a match. If you don’t pay off that punch, you’d be better off telling the kids to go out there and do spots for 15 minutes than incurring that debt and never paying it off.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      Sometimes there’s misguided psychology. Like, instead of a punch, the one of the wrestlers works the leg of the other. The entire match, wham. Momentum gets stopped with an attack on the leg. The other guy gets something going? Sweep the leg. He mounts a comeback? Hit the leg again. Perfectly legal, even. You can do it when the ref is looking. Both heels and faces can play this role of working the leg of the other guy.

      If you set it up like this, one of the big moments is when the guy slaps on a leg-based submission. A figure-four leglock, say. Oh, my gosh! He’s been working the leg all match! AND NOW IT’S THE SUBMISSION HOLD!!!! And you can finish with the guy somehow enduring and making it to the ropes or with him submitting to the pain. Either works.

      But there have been matches where the wrestler works the leg all dang match but the finish involves the opponent tapping out to an arm submission or a crossface or something like that. Why did you work the leg all match if you wanted to finish with the reverse armbar?

      It’s like you get told one story all match and then the finish comes out of nowhere.Report

      • George Turner in reply to Jaybird says:


        Don’t establish an elaborate story without making it somehow relevant, and don’t set up huge confrontations if you’re going to cop out with some kind of bait and switch.

        In keeping with your theme, suppose the WWE spends an entire season, or actually several seasons, building up the ultimate Iron Throne match between Team Ice and Fire (Jon and Danaerys) and Team Lannister. Everything up to the match has been carefully crafted and scripted with exquisite care, with an elaborate plot line and a long list of grievances, demands, and outrages. The title match has been pushed as the biggest even in WWE history.

        So the big day comes and you’ve paid for your ticket. First up is Ice and Fire, the good guys, against the evil Night King. For some reason, the arena’s electrical breaker trips so the match is viewed only by emergency lighting, which is pretty bad as these things go.

        Then Ice and Fire start getting soundly beaten because both turn out be virtually useless in the ring, and they are only saved at the last second because in the darkness some 5’2″ groupie jumps in from the ropes and lands a lucky last second hit on Ice King. Well, that match was pretty much a waste, but the show must go on, so you’re ready for the final showdown. The whole year has built up to this one, and it’s bound to deliver!

        Then the announcer says that Circei of team Lannister won’t be fighting tonight because she’s pregnant, and that she’s decided to retire and sell time share condos in Miami, and King Slayer left with her, so it’s Ice and Fire against the rest of the Lannister team, none of whom are even well known names within the wrestling fan base. You think “What the heck? Is this for real?”

        So the ref introduces both sides, and then Fire pulls out a can of mace and sprays the nameless Lannister team, leaving them gagging and choking as she struts around proclaiming herself the new champion. Upset with that underhanded overkill, Ice comes up behind her and zaps her with a taser, collapsing her into a twitching heap, and then the league president steps in and slaps both Ice and Fire with a permanent suspension for rule violations.

        So some of the other wrestlers, who were attending the night’s event as spectators, gather to pick a new champion since the title holder and challenger are both gone for good. But to avoid starting more drama they randomly pick one of the arena’s EMTs who was tending to a maced member of Team Lannister. They hoist his arm in the air and proclaim him the new champion, even though he’s never wrestled anybody and isn’t even in the league. And that’s it. “Thanks for coming, folks!”

        None of what they’d been building up to happened. None of the confrontations got resolved in any satisfying way. There is no real champion, and everybody you’d been following either got banned or retired during the debacle.

        And then, after demanding your money back and walking back to you car, you realize that despite looking like a fiasco due to random, unpredictable events, it was actually all scripted, and that somebody wrote and approved that epic disaster, the biggest disappointment in the history of sports entertainment.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to George Turner says:

          The whole year has built up to this one, and it’s bound to deliver!

          I think that this is part of the key to seeing what happened.

          When an author establishes a character that you like, that sets the stage pretty much. When you have bad things happen to the character, you create a debt with the reader.

          The worse things that happen, the greater a debt that is created. Have him threaten a woman or a child? You know he’s going to get his comeuppance. Have him *HARM* a woman or a child? Well, at that point, you *KNOW* the bad guy has to die at the end of the story. Have the bad guy kill a dog? Oh jeez, you done did it now!

          And that’s the way that stories have worked for so very long.

          You have a bad guy establish a debt with the audience, you have the hero come up and pay the debt. There’s no shortage of these stories in the popular culture… just look at the number of movies in the top 10 from the last decade or two or three or four that follow this simple formula. Acquire a debt -> Pay it off.

          This has, as you say, made us say “that’s *BOUND* to deliver!”

          And we get Game of Thrones and since we’ve been conditioned to know that debts are paid, we see all of the stuff happen to all of these characters. Holy cow! Look at what happened to Bran! To Arya! To Sansa! HOLY COW THE RED WEDDING! And our conditioning makes us salivate knowing that, man, this payoff will be sooooooo good! Because we know that stories that accumulate debts pay them off.

          That’s how this works.

          Except… this isn’t one of those stories, is it? What’s the line from Tyrion?

          I will hurt you for this. A day will come when you think you are safe and happy, and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth. And you will know the debt is paid.

          There you go.Report

          • aaron david in reply to Jaybird says:

            It’s Chekov’s Gun.

            You show it in the first act, and it damn well better go off in the third.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

            Thing is, what attracted people to GoT in the first place was the idea that the debts wouldn’t be paid, the subversion of the just-so-story. And then they got past what GRRM had written and couldn’t bring themselves to hang with that–except at the very end where they’re like “oh right, Dany swore to terrormurder everyone, uh, I guess that happens, the end!”Report

            • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

              Well, I understand that there are subversions and there are subversions.

              I hated Jaime after reading the first book. I was told “he becomes one of your favorite characters”.

              Is that a way to pay off the debt? To turn the page and see it’s a Jaime chapter and get excited? Sure, he may have had an altercation with Ned in the first book, but he was looking after his own interests! Once he realized that he needed to play ball with everybody, he became a great character! And he lost his hand! That was repayment of a debt!

              And so on.

              Even at the end there, my suspicion was that Cersei would become Queen because, let’s face it, she’s the only one fit to rule. She’s not a good *PERSON* but she’d make a good *QUEEN*. Which would be an interesting subversion and, yeah, the repayment of a debt.

              This whole thing where you surprise the reader with what happens next and make her say “huh, I jumped to conclusions… I need to reassess and recalculate what is owed to me” is *AWESOME*. That’s the sort of thing that makes for really exciting storytelling and if someone wanted to call it more “mature” than the simple accumulate debt/pay it off model, I’d be hard pressed to argue against them.Report

        • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

          I think all the debts went unpaid.

          Danaerys was one of the few people who really didn’t have a debt to collect from Cersei. Jamie of course had killed Aerys Targaryen, the mad king, and put a Baratheon on the throne, but Danaerys let Jamie join her side, so she was wasn’t collecting debts.

          All the Starks had debts to collect from the Baratheons and Lannisters over the execution of their father, but though Arya had headed to the Red Keep to kill Cirsei, she backed out of the debt collection business altogether on the advice of Sandor Clegane. In fact, nobody got to kill Cersei. It happened accidentally due to a structural collapse cause by excessive dragon fire.

          Lot’s of people could have rightly killed Danaerys for all the destruction she’d caused over the course of the show, but Jon was not one of them. He was her bae who disagreed with her over the scope and function of government, and realized she was too dangerous to society and his family to remain at large. So he comforted her and then gave her a quick and painless death that she didn’t see coming, even though she’d gloried in accusing people of treason and burning them to death, or just burning them to death because they wouldn’t kneel before her.

          That might be okay, since great tragedies don’t have to give a satisfying emotional payoff. But they at least impart some wisdom about the horrible nature of it all. They really didn’t deliver that, either. Everyone who’d shown a spark of competence ended up with a rather pointless future, and new ruler and his advisors seem to be picked by throwing darts at a wall.

          It’s one thing to try and write a series of episodes whose plot elements the fans won’t see coming, but it’s another to surprise the expectant fans with, well, a steaming pile of really bad story. I think they would have accepted just about anything but that.Report

  15. George Turner says:

    Some beloved shows live on for many decades at Comic Con and little gatherings all over the world. Star Trek, Star Wars, Buffy, even prematurely cancelled shows like Firefly can have a devoted life-long fan base.

    So my question is this: How much will season eight affect the long-term popularity of Game of Thrones? Did it damage future sales of box sets, action figures, and all the rest? Did it make potential spin-offs less likely? Will it reduce the future demand for GoT actors, even minor ones, at sci-fi and fantasy conventions? Will some of the actors have a little more trouble landing prominent roles if GoT becomes less of a springboard and more of an albatross?

    After a long and highly successful run, it’s important to stick the landing, or at least not blow it. But how big is the affect? Many parents can’t wait for their kids to get old enough to enjoy Star Wars or whatever their favorite old movie series or TV show was. Of course GoT’s early nudity was problematic in that regard, but are fans still going to recommend it to newcomers or other family members? Will anyone even be talking about the show two or three weeks from now, once they’re done venting?

    There are plenty of prior examples for insight. True Blood‘s last season was a disaster, and I’ve not heard the show mentioned since. Weeds also had a bad last season, and Lost‘s final episode is infamous.

    But usually shows peter out because they’ve outrun their creativity or story arcs, or main characters leave, such as The X-Files, and viewership is way down toward the end. Game of Thrones was trying to get to the climax of the entire story, with the highest viewership ever, when it racked its nuts on the pommel horse and just fell over sideways.

    In part, I do wonder if this was a failure to properly supervise the last season, with almost everyone on the creative side busy lining up hot new gigs, or working on their next projects, and acting like the final season was already in the can.Report

  16. James K says:

    While the last 2 seasons were clearly rushed to their detriment, I think the ending was very fitting. all the battles in the name of glory and power failed, leaving a messy compromise to create the new order. And at the end we see a group of people sitting around a table and instead of being concerned with ruling they are concerned with governing – actually doing things to set the kingdoms to rights instead of wrecking it in order to be in charge.

    What really impresses me is Danaerys – Martin manage dot conceal an Evil Emperor side of a Chosen One – showing that one is not so different from the other. We get to see her grow, understand her fears, cheer as she overcomes adversity, until we realise that she is invading a country with an army of fanatics and barbarians and she is bent on horribly killing anyone who doesn’t immediately start singing her praises.

    And then we realise that Ming the Merciless probably told himself stories about casting down tyrants and “breaking the wheel” too.Report

    • George Turner in reply to James K says:

      Well, we knew she was uncompromising and told people to bend the knee or die, and her first meeting with Jon Snow was extremely tense and perilous. Fans were pretty sure she wouldn’t kill him, but he wasn’t. So I’m not sure it was all that well hidden, though there was also hope that perhaps Jon would bring out the better angels in her nature.

      I think the rush shows up in how she just went crazy and nuked King’s landing. Obviously after that there was no rational way to pretend that everyone didn’t see her as an evil monster, including Greyworm and his entire army. So they had to turn Greyworm into a villain. All of that was rushed and poorly handled.

      I think Martin, given the time it would require, would have made Danaerys’ descent much slower and more subtle, so that each character gets to decide on their own if she’s finally crossed their personal line into tyrannical murderous behavior. But that could take up the better part of a season, if not several seasons, and without the backdrop of having dozens of different plot lines happening all over the seven kingdoms because most of the major characters had concentrated at King’s Landing.Report

      • North in reply to George Turner says:

        Yeah, I’m baffled by why the show runners decided to accelerate, accelerate, accelerate. I mean Walking Dear has been desperately drawing and dragging things out and they were nowhere near as popular as GoT. So why on earth did HBO allow them to just collapse five or six wildly profitable seasons into 2 horribly rushed but still wildly profitable seasons?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to North says:

          If we do X episodes, we make Y dollars.

          If we do X + 4 episodes, we make Y dollars.

          Heck with it, we’ll do X episodes.Report

          • Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

            Don’t think so. (But what do I know other than “reported rumors”)

            Should have called DnD’s bluff and allowed them to walk… of course, I also don’t know how the rights and creative rights to the story were drafted, so maybe DnD really could simply call whatever shots they wanted.

            If, however, it really was the fact that HBO through DnD were the soul of GoT and without them it would founder… then *that* person at HBO should be looking for an entry-level 2nd grip position to relearn his/her craft.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Marchmaine says:

              A million years ago, I saw a “Behind The Music” kinda thing for Welcome Back Kotter. (Quick! Without looking it up, name the sweathogs!)

              In the episode, they talked about the first three seasons and what happened with the 4th. In the 4th, Gabe Kaplan said “let’s have them graduate! Let them all go off to the same community college! Then, at the end of the episode, have me walk in because I’m their new professor!”

              The writers wrote Gabe Kaplan off the show, had his “wife” (who never did anything but be there for the “did I ever tell you about my Uncle Charlie?” straight man bit at the end of the episodes throughout all of 3rd season) become the new high school teacher with everything else being unchanged and, wouldn’t you know it, the show was cancelled at the end of the season.

              What shocked me about this is that the writers were saying that Gabe Kaplan was arrogant and wrong and the show getting cancelled wasn’t their fault, it was his.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

                Counterpoint… that’s what Sean Bean said.

                More seriously, I don’t think the things are analogous… in fact, once we left the existing work of GRRM there’s maybe even a case to be made that a better HBO programming division would have noticed that the show-runners had lost the plot (I like this analysis of how exactly they lost it) and *should* be replaced. But then we’re back to whatever arcane hollywood contracts govern who can and can’t do what with shows/stories.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Marchmaine says:

                From the essay: “In fact, they probably stuck to the narrative points that were given to them, if only in outline form, by the original author.”

                So it stopped being a retelling of the War of the Roses and started being a telling of the story of Bran and Arya and Sansa and Night King and what’shername and the red-haired guy and Cersei?

                Yeah, I can see that.

                Edit: but if that’s the case, 4 more episodes for each season wouldn’t have helped.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

                I guess I never thought it wasn’t a story about the Night King first and the Rose Wars second.

                But I think that your comment illustrates the point… if, let’s say, you had been told 8-years ago that Bran would be king, Sansa Queen in the North, and Danaerys the Mad Queen killed by her Lover/Nephew/Consort Jon you might have thought, huh… I wonder how *that* happened.

                My point is that the *how* that happened is the part the DnD didn’t get… so we got exactly what you say: the Answer Key. And its exactly as satisfying as that.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

                Either that or it just turned into Lord Of The Rings With Doin’ It because that’s all that the writers, who grew up on Lord Of The Rings and derivative works, could imagine as the plot for a fantasy series.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Jaybird says:

                I agree with Zeynep Tufekci’s take on the writing, and her point that the writer’s were also simply incompetent at writing. So I will emphasize that even writer’s approaching things from the usual Hollywood psychological perspective would still have delivered a satisfying ending because most of the socially driven character shifts had already occurred.

                It might have been more interesting for characters to turn on Danaerys because of how power was structured instead of the more juvenile emotional reasons portrayed, but she was going to end up dead in either the psychological or the sociological forms, and either one could have paid back the audience’s investment.

                The fans may have become fans because of the show’s sociological underpinnings, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t invested in characters psychologically, or that a better yet conventional writer, or most of the fans for that matter, couldn’t have nailed a vastly better ending. Heck, the shop worn fairy tale ending, without any twists at all, would have been fine.Report

        • George Turner in reply to North says:

          One thing that all popular shows have to face is that the cast’s salaries go up and up and up, and thus the actual profits get smaller and smaller, in a case of diminishing returns. GoT may have been somewhat more resistant to that pressure because every actor knew that its show runners would likely reply “A raise? I think we’ll just kill you instead.”

          But still, the number of seasons was already pushing the limits of what most shows can manage to pull off before they run out of ideas, profits, viewers, or original cast members.

          If anything, they probably should’ve been quickening the pace in the earlier seasons so they’d have time to get to the end of the story.Report

  17. JoeSal says:

    The inevitable conclusion to a game of power politics. Where all the power players pay a high price at the end, along with a high degree of property destruction, and death. Even the dragon loses.


    • Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

      Nice… not one, but two more books promised.

      Holding. Breath….. Now.Report

      • And if it takes Martin a book-and-a-half to deal with the forces from north of the Wall, the series will go beyond seven.

        If I’m diagnosed with terminal cancer, I’m going to write the most polite letter I can asking to see his outline.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

      I saw a discussion on Twitter suggesting that the reason GRRM is taking so long to finish the series is that the market for this kind of work no longer exists the way it did in the mid-90s; that Big Fat Fantasy is over and YA is where the money is now, so at this point the return on investment for finishing the books is flat or even negative. I mean, dude can go to cons for free for the whole year, why bother finishing the books?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

        He’s made his money and if he can make more by consulting than by writing the books, he’d be an idiot to write the books. (Heck, if I could make a million bucks doing fun stuff or ten million bucks breaking my back, I’d probably choose the fun stuff even if I make more, by an order of magnitude, breaking my back.)

        That said, when Winds of Winter comes out, it’ll make numbers that will have everyone say “holy cow, I didn’t think it’d do *THIS* well…”Report