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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. This sets the stage for a potential multi-episode (if not whole season) arc in which the Unsullied's numbers slowly dwindle from attrition as Daenerys struggles to liberate them from the Lannister's trap. Instead 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.

The fall of Daenerys that we all saw coming

I'm not going to complain that Daenerys has become a "mad queen". I saw that coming at least as far back as Mareen. This should not be a surprise to anyone. And to the show's credit, her frustration with the lack of trust and support that she's received in Westeros has been firmly established.

What I dislike is how Daenerys suddenly flipped a switch in her head, and how nobody (except Varys) made any effort to do anything about it. At this point, both Tyrion and John have seen enough of her darker impulses that their foolishly-blind loyalty just looks ridiculous. Well, maybe not John's. John has always been kind of meek and a poor judge of character. But Tyrion should be more clever than this.

I expected Daenerys to become a villainous "Mad Queen", just not so suddenly.

In any case, Daenerys completely shot herself in foot by snapping, and I don't know why the writers didn't give any more screen time to discussions between Jon and Daenerys about marrying in order to unify kingdoms and gain further support for Daenerys in the north. She definitely won't have anybody's support now. If she was going to snap as a result of Missandei's death, then she should have snapped right then and there; not days later during a supposedly planned and calculated attack.

This season seems to be trying so desperately hard to replicate the successes of season five. But it lacks the slow build-up, consistent pacing, and sense of legitimate threat that prompted those characters (in season five) to take the self-destructive actions that they did.

There is no more Iron Throne

So now that Dany is the bad guy, Benioff and Weiss only have a single episode left to resolve things. Sigh...

Here's what I suspect is going to happen.

I believe Sansa will become ruler of Westeros by default.

Arya is going to try to assassinate Daenerys, but will be stopped and killed. Maybe by Grey Worm, or maybe by the last dragon -- I don't know. Furious at Arya's death, and at the insistence of Tyrion, John will attempt to overthrow and kill Daenerys. He will succeed, but at the cost of his own life. I don't think they're going to give us the "happy ending" of seeing John claim the Iron Throne.

... Which would be impossible anyway, since King's Landing (and the Iron Throne) has been destroyed by Daenerys. With Cercei, Daenerys, and John all dead, and with King's Landing being no more, the center of power in Westeros shifts north to none other than Winterfell. This would make Sansa the effective queen of Westeros by default.

"By default" doesn't do her justice though. Sansa has earned her power. She is probably the single person in this story who is most qualified for the job -- or at least she should be if the writers weren't constantly undermining her character as well. Her experiences have given her a thick skin and taught her how to be ruthless and cunning. But her experiences have not jaded her such that she has surrendered her moral compass or given into blind greed or power hunger. She's still capable of compassion, and is also a much better judge of character than John ever was (especially since the writers went out of their way to retro-actively make her right about Dany). She has experience at statecraft, and she can navigate the waters of politics.

Maybe Tyrion even travels north, and the two renew their former marriage. It's not that Sansa needs a husband to legitimize her rule, but a marriage between a Stark and a Lannister would unite the houses and stabilize the kingdoms.

Or maybe Dany kills everyone and becomes the Mad Queen of Rubble.

How I would have done it

Again, my problem isn't that Daenerys turned into a "mad queen" after all. That's how I would have written it as well. I just wouldn't have executed this transition in the sudden and jarring manner that Benioff and Weiss did. They did spend a little bit of time developing the fact that she doesn't trust any of the families of Westeros and that she knows she'll never earn their loyalty. But instead of working extra hard to earn their loyalty -- the way she's done throughout the entire series -- she crawled into a shell, with victory in her grasp, and gave into her family's hereditary paranoia.

Daenerys should have won the Iron Throne, only to
slowly lose control of it and give in to paranoia.

What I would have done instead is to make this much more gradual. I would have had Daenerys successfully capture King's Landing -- without burning it down! Prior to the attack on King's Landing, Jon and Daenerys should have married each other in order to unite the north in support of Dany. The last episode of this season should have ended with Daenerys taking her place on the Iron throne and being crowned Queen of Westeros. However, we've established that she doesn't trust the families of Westeros to be loyal to her, and the final shot of the season should have been of citizens of King's Landing (and elsewhere) whispering that John Snow is the true heir.

There should then have been a ninth season, in which insurrection builds within King's Landing, Daenerys is unpopular with the citizenry, and she begins falling back on increasingly Draconian measures to keep the populace in line. The leaders of other houses should routinely disobey her, or ignore her and get their instruction from John or Sansa instead. Eventually, she loses the trust of John and Tyrion, who plot to depose her.

This culminates in a battle that results in the destruction of the Red Keep and Iron Throne, and the death of Daenerys and her remaining dragon(s).

A more gradual loss of psychological stability from Daenerys, over the course of multiple seasons, would have made Jon and Tyrion's obstinate loyalty to her more believable. As it stands, they've only known Daenerys for a short period, and Jon in particular has never known her to not be ruthlessly single-minded in her desire to be queen at all costs. Seeing her be merciful and a competent ruler (as opposed to simply a military leader) would give Jon (and maybe even Sansa) reason to trust her.

Not wanting to be king, John and Tyrion
could set up a ruling council.

With neither John nor Tyrion wanting to be king (and with the Iron Throne itself being destroyed), they (with the support of Sansa) instead found a governing council made up of representatives from every house in Westeros. Nobody wins the "game of thrones", and instead, a makeshift democracy emerges in Westeros. The overall message of the series (in addition to the message of "we need to unite to battle common threats [such as global warming]"), thus being that "absolute power corrupts absolutely" and that "anyone who seeks to rule, is unfit to rule".

Heck, perhaps if HBO hadn't reduced the episode count of these past two seasons, they wouldn't have needed an extra season to do what I just outlined. They may have been able to cover all this ground over the course of the seven episodes that were cut!

But who am I to tell the writers at HBO how to run their show? I'm not a writer, I'm just an amateur fool with a blog and a YouTube channel. What do I know...?

Season eight has a lot of problems, buy Arya ain't one of them

Are people honestly suggesting that Arya is a Mary Sue?

As an aside, I'm also seeing a lot of social media posts insisting that "Arya is not a Mary Sue!". I haven't seen any actual posts or blogs seriously claiming that Arya is a Mary Sue, so I'm not quite sure where these reactionist posts are coming from. Are the SJW's pre-emptively going on the defensive because they expect a strong female character with a game-changing role in the show to be accused of being a Mary Sue? Or are there actual accusations floating around out there that I'm just not seeing because I don't frequent those parts of the internet?

I'm all for diversity in pop culture media, but not if it comes at the cost of well-written story. I'm someone who wrote a lengthy blog defending the position that Rey from Star Wars: the Force Awakens crosses the line over into Mary Sue territory. The case of Rey is a frustrating example in which I have to begrudgingly stand on the side of sexists, MRAs, and other such toxic fanboys, and just hope that I'm not perceived as one of them. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, I guess?

But Arya Stark being a Mary Sue?! Not at all!

You can maybe complain about plot armor for Arya leading up to her meeting the Night King, but not that she's a Mary Sue. Plot armor, by the way, has also been a big problem with the last couple seasons of Game of Thrones in general, and can be levied against virtually everyone after the battle with the Night King.

From the start of the series, Arya showed an interest in swordsmanship and becoming a soldier or military leader. She was given her fancy rapier, Needle, and started receiving sword-fighting lessons as early as season one. She spent several seasons training with the Faceless Ones to become an elite assassin -- not to mention a master of sleight of hand and hiding in plain sight. She then left that organization because she couldn't let go of her attachments to her family. We've seen her grow from a naive little girl into a hardened warrior and assassin over the course of more than seven years!

Arya has spent the entire series training to be an elite assassin and master of sleight of hand.

Killing the Night King in order to protect her family is an absolutely proper culmination of Arya's character arc, and I can think of no one more fitting to vanquish the Night King. I mean, the writers could have set it up better, but poor set ups and pay offs has also been a recurring problem in the last two seasons, and especially in this final season.

Those years of development (and a thematic arc) are what separate Arya from a legitimate Mary Sue contender like Rey. Arya didn't have a switch flipped in her head that suddenly turned her into a badass assassin the way that Rey is suddenly able to use advanced Force powers, like the Jedi Mind Trick, without any training, and in stark contrast to everything we previously knew about how the Force and the Jedi work in the Star Wars universe. There is a case for Rey being unjustifiably-capable, depending on what you consider to be "unjustifiably capable" in a fictional work about magic space wizards.

There is no such case for Arya.

Arya is a dynamic, well-written character. Rey is sloppily-written wish-fulfillment. Well, in The Force Awakens anyway; she was actually a well-written character with a solid arc in The Last Jedi.

I'll defend the idea of Rey being a Mary Sue, but not Arya!

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