Coffee cups and plot holes: Game of Thrones got lazy as it raced to the finish

game of thrones final seasons were lazy finale daenerys

The following contains spoilers from the Game of Thrones season 8 finale.

After nearly a decade, Game of Thrones finally reached its conclusion Sunday night with The Iron Throne. In an episode in which a dragon melts the eponymous chair — the ultimate symbol of power and the ruthless struggle for control of Westeros — the most potent metaphor was unintentional: A plastic water bottle peeking out from behind Sam’s leg during a gathering to decide the future of the realm.

Little production mistakes like this have happened more often than you might think in the history of cinema, but given the high stakes of the episode, and the fact that a similar mistake took place earlier in the season with Daenerys’ infamous coffee cup, it starts to feel like a sign of overarching carelessness, particularly given the harried sloppiness with which the final two seasons of GoT have played out.

If the show was once known for careful plotting and a thoughtful approach to fantasy politics, seasons 7 and 8 were defined by a perfunctory attempt to wrap the story up as quickly as possible, like a student showing up for a class they’re already guaranteed to pass.

The show’s haphazard approach in the final stretch owes a lot to showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ decision to finish the tale in eight seasons, with the final two seasons containing seven and six episodes, respectively, rather than the usual 10-episode seasons we had gotten in the past.

Originally, the showrunners hoped to finish in just seven seasons, while HBO wanted more. Then-HBO programming president Michael Lombardo told Entertainment Weekly this in 2015: “Would I love the show to go 10 years as both a fan and a network executive? Absolutely … If they weren’t comfortable going beyond seven seasons, I trust them implicitly and trust that’s the right decision — as horrifying as that is to me.”

game of thrones finale

The two shortened seasons seem to have been a compromise, and to paraphrase Tyrion from the finale, nobody is particularly happy, so it must be a good compromise.

Nobody is particularly happy, so it must be a good compromise.

Benioff and Weiss thought the finish line was close, with the former saying: “We know basically how many hours are left in this story. We don’t want to add 10 hours to that.”

Watching the last two seasons, however, one can’t help but feel that 10 more hours would have done wonders for the story. As it stands, the show condensed some of the most momentous events in the show into a mere 13 episodes, crossing off the important bullet points in the story’s outline without taking the time to move naturally from one to the next. These seasons were not just shortened, but diminished.

The doomed romance between Jon and Daenerys suffers the most from this approach. It should be the emotional crux of the series: The two most important protagonists meeting, joining forces, falling in love, and fighting together against common foes, all leading to his decision to kill her to save the world from her lust for conquest. As it plays out, Jon and Daenerys become lovers in the finale of season 7, and two episodes into season 8, he has learned that he is also a Targaryen, revealed that information to Daenerys, and opened a rift that essentially kills the romance.

game of thrones jon and daenerys

The script makes sure that various characters say out loud that Jon and Daenerys love each other, but the show didn’t have time to delve into their relationship, to make it clear this was one for the ages. When he slips a knife into her, it’s like Shakespeare as told by SparkNotes.

In that same vein, Daenerys’ evolution from ostensible protagonist to the story’s ultimate villain didn’t get the hours it needed. By the start of the final season, the heroes are gearing up for what they imagine to be the ultimate battle for the fate of humanity against the White Walkers, with Daenerys marshaling her might on the side of the living. The battle itself lasts all of an episode, and the role of Main Villain shifts from the Night King to Cersei to Daenerys over the course of three. Although the show takes care to point out Daenerys’ pettiness and entitlement throughout the season, when she finally burns down King’s Landing, it feels like the final move in a game of evil musical chairs.

When he slips a knife into her, it’s like Shakespeare as told by SparkNotes.

GoT’s final seasons were pocked with character moments that felt a bit out of the blue — despite his limited role in season 8 and lack of desire to do anything, Bran is elected king and fully ready to do the job?

Looking at the grand arc of the story, a lot of things make sense, but great stories aren’t made through big moments alone — they’re made through the fine details, the roads that lead from one big moment to another.

That’s something GoT once understood, back when its creators used to double-check for errant water bottles and coffee cups.

Product Review

The Nokia 4.2’s performance never lets you forget it’s only $189

The Nokia 4.2 has good battery life, uncluttered Android One software that delivers fast updates, and a design and build that doesn’t match its $189 price tag. But performance throws the phone under the bus.
Movies & TV

Skip the sunshine this summer and watch the best shows on Hulu

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (June 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

The Game of Thrones prequel returns to a well-known locale as filming begins

HBO's Game of Thrones prequel series has its director, a bunch of new cast members, and began filming in summer 2019. The show is set thousands of years before the events of the original series.
Movies & TV

Best new podcasts: Overheard at National Geographic and more

Feel like you’re drowning in podcasts? In this weekly series, we’ll help you pick out the best of the new and returning shows. This week’s picks include deep advice, National Geographic conversations, censorship, and spectacular…
Movies & TV

Who needs sunshine? Stay inside and watch the best movies on Netflix instead

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

Netflix hack day project adds phone vibrations to every on-screen explosion

One of the highlights of the most recent Netflix hack day is Project Rumble Pak, which adds vibrations to the streaming service's smartphone app. The project seeks to improve the viewing experience by synchronizing haptics to content.
Movies & TV

The best movies streaming on Hulu right now (June 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Movies & TV

Prime-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite TV series currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now (June 2019)

Amazon Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be a major undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream this week: Neon Genesis Evangelion and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: Neon Genesis Evangelion, The Edge of Democracy, and more.
Movies & TV

The best new podcasts for the week of June 15, 2019: Adulting and more

Feel like you’re drowning in podcasts? In this weekly series, we’ll help you pick out the best of the new and returning shows. This week’s picks include a modern fairytale, growing up, the Golden State Killer, and Stonewall at 50.
Home Theater

Find out which Hulu option is right for you with our handy guide

Hulu is a great way to catch up on your favorite shows, binge award-winning original series, and watch sports and other live TV, but you need to choose the right subscription. Having trouble deciding? We're here to help.
Movies & TV

Want to make Netflix browsing even easier? Try this useful trick

If you know exactly what category of film you're looking for on Netflix, you'll find this hack for the streaming service useful. It allows you to manually browse genres and subgenres of interest.