George R.R. Martin has yet to finish writing the book series.

Let HBO's Game of Thrones series stand as a testament to why companies should not adapt works for television or movies until after that work is actually complete. Game of Thrones was a huge hit when it premiered, and its early seasons are among the best television in recent memory. However, the last two or three seasons have been ... less good. The writing has become more spotty, characters are behaving more impulsively, the pacing has been rushed, and the whole thing just seems to be less well thought-out.

This could be due, in large part, to the fact that after the fifth or sixth season of the show, showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have advanced beyond the source material. George R. R. Martin has yet to finish writing the final two books in the series -- a process which may still take years! HBO didn't want to wait, and they continued on with the show despite the lack of established source material from which to pull. They've done so with the consent and advice of Martin, who supposedly provided Benioff and Weiss with an overview of what he wanted to write in those final two books, but the end result has been sub-par.

I've written previously about the show's fifth season, which is the last season of the series that I would consider to be "good". That season was criticized for being "slow and boring" by some, and also for using shock value (such as the rape of Sansa by Ramsey Bolton) as a gimmick to keep people interested. However, I thought that the fifth season was tightly unified by its consistent themes of futility and self-destruction, as each of the major players slowly succumbed to their most fundamental impulses and took actions that ended up undercutting their own goals.

Season five had a consistent theme of self-destructive leaders.

Seasons seven and eight, however, have been much less defensible.

Season seven cut the episode count from the usual ten down to only seven, which resulted in the season as a whole feeling rushed and under-developed. Characters began to act more rashly, with little attention paid to building up to those actions. They travel great distances in what seems like no time at all. Plot threads would be left dangling, or would be set up and never paid off.

The Unsullied were left at Casterly Rock with no supplies,
only to show up a few episodes later no worse for wear.

For example, mid-way through the season, the Unsullied Army travels to Casterly Rock to fight the Lannister army, only to find that the Lannisters have abandoned the castle, destroyed the grain reserves, and salted the land. The episode makes a big deal of the fact that the Unsullied are now stuck there with no provisions and no hope of receiving reinforcements or supplies. Then we don't see or hear from them for, like, two episodes, before they suddenly show up again at Dragonstrone no worse for the wear.

Season eight seems to have doubled down on most of these problems. The season has been reduced further to only six episodes, and events are happening with even less build-up or set-up. Scenes are being added for shock value without any rhyme or reason. Characters are behaving out of character, or suddenly having changes of heart at the flip of a switch. Characters who used to be clever are acting like bafoons.

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Game of Thrones - season 5

I've been seeing a lot of mixed reaction to the most recent season of HBO's Game Of Thrones (season five). Many sources on the internet have referred to it as the slowest and most boring season of the series so far. And episode six (Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken) has been reviled as one of the worst episodes of the series due to the sexual assault of poor Sansa. Anecdotally, the people who I know who watch it (including my girlfriend, who got me into the show to begin with) have been disappointed by the apparent uneventfullness of this season. Another friend even said he was likely going to give up on the show completely because he's sick of the show dragging on and then suddenly doing things apparently only for shock value. I think his reaction is a bit extreme.

On the other hand, this season's eighth episode, Hardhome has been received as the best episode of the series so far.

But now that the season is over, and the shocks have been given, it puts the entirety of the season into perspective - at least for me.

The whole of Game of Thrones' fifth season has an over-arching theme of fatalism and futility. And the final episode shifted both of those themes to full-blown self-implosion. Every major character in every theater of operations made very self-destructive choices. And they all suffered for it, and those that survived will continue to suffer into season six. This season also may have shifted long-standing opinions on who are the favored characters and factions, which could be a deliberate attempt to ramp up the tension for a more conflict-filled sixth season.

Season five started with numerous characters and factions at the height of their power. Daenerys, Stannis, Ramsey, and John Snow all had enormous successes at the end of season four and start of season five. The Lannisters may have suffered a severe blow at the end of last season, but their grip on King's Landing was still firm at the start of season five. They all manage to blunder these successes into utter failures by the end of season five.

Probably the most immediately obvious case of self-destruction is Stannis. While most of the season looked as though he was putting himself in a position of strength and was primed to recapture Winterfell, he was also falling victim to the classic Napoleon / Hitler mistake: he tried to invade a tundra empire at the onset of winter. As successful as his actions were in the first half of the season, there was always a feeling of impending dread and desperation hanging over him and his army.

Even those of us who were won over by Stannis' actions at the wall, and his hearftful defense and expression of love for his deformed daughter, must've recognized that he seemed fated to fail.

Game of Thrones (season 5) - Stannis sacrifices his daughter
How could anyone follow a man who would do what Stannis has chosen to done?

Stannis cements his doom with quite possibly the worst, and most heartless decision that any character has made in the show to date...

CAUTION: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD

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