If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you are definitely aware of all the controversy going on around it at the moment. The highly anticipated final season received mixed reviews, causing a clash between the people who are still hyped about it and people who are simply not happy with how things are unfolding. And of course, there was the highly memed coffee cup moment but it somehow fell into the shadow as fans directed their attention to the actual storyline.
The Game of Thrones writing team found itself in the middle of this real-life drama, with a petition being raised, claiming that David Benioff and D.B Weiss are incompetent writers. The petition, in the moment of writing of this article has surpassed 880.000 signatures and it is closing in on the 1 million mark.
But do the writers really deserve one such backlash?
If you have never worked as a writer, then you might think that they are to blame. But if you know what it takes to be a writer, then you might have a different view on the matter.
Understand the Writing Type
To explain this in the best possible way, it is best to turn to George R. R. Martin himself and how he explained the types of writers. According to him, there are two types: architects and gardeners. While the architect writes the story according to a previously designed plan, the gardener plants “seeds” which develop together with the story. The gardener is not initially sure what the seed will turn out to be in the end – they nourish it and develop it and then adapt the storyline around the seed as best as they can, trying to avoid any misconceptions and illogical developments.
In fact, George R.R. Martin describes himself as a gardener. In his own words, he stated: “when I go architect, when I try to outline something, if I’m successful in doing it, it almost feels like I’ve written the book, and now I don’t wanna write the book anymore.”
If you want to put it differently, he likes to be surprised when he writes something in the same way that the reader will be surprised.
The gardener and architect are generally known as plotter and pantsers. The plotters create the entire timeline of events, then they write the story to fit the plan. The pantsers, on the other hand, develop the story as they go. Both of these writing styles have their advantages and their disadvantages but what happened with Game of Thrones can be called a conflict of writing styles.
Why Is This The Case?
There is a danger of creating a TV series based on an unfinished saga. This is exactly what happened with Game of Thrones. As a gardener, George R.R. Martin could not be rushed to complete the books. On the other hand, the TV series grew to have such a large fan base that delaying production was simply not possible.
The material for the TV series stopped at season 6 when the writers exhausted the entire plot in the books written so far. That being the case, to continue production, the writers of the scenario needed to become the writers of the actual storyline with only a little information on what they need to write about.
This is a case of trying to fit the inspiration of a gardener into the highly structured planning of an architect. Up until season 6, the storyline developed in the gardener principle. However, faced with the lack of material, tight deadlines and only the basic storyline from the main gardener himself, the writers needed to take the plotter approach and try to untangle all of the events in as little as six episodes.
So David Benioff and D. B. Weiss knew where they needed to get, they just needed to figure out how to get there – and fast. It is a normal thing for many events from a book to be left out in the TV adaptation. We have seen this on numerous occasions. However, it is worth noting that an episode should only last as long as its defined period is and at the same time it needs to carry the story forward while ensuring the watchers’ satisfaction.
Why Does it Feel Different?
Game of Thrones characters have deep and complex background stories that up until now were revealed as the plot progressed. But on this occasion, the development of the background stories needed to be pushed to the side so the plot can continue.
The characters have developed the storyline so far and the biggest surprises throughout the series did actually come from the background stories. However, in the last season, the characters needed to be tweaked to follow the part the writers have outlined for them so they could get to where they needed to be for the conclusion of the TV series.
Fans learned soon enough into the TV series that there is no good guy – bad guy division between the characters. The ones who were initially regarded as bad turned out not to be so bad after considering the background stories. So the audience realized that every good or bad move should be taken with a pinch of salt. Ultimately, it was safe to place all characters in the gray area where labeling them became simply impossible.
However, in the final season, the gray area disappeared as the characters are now falling into the black and white slots of this battle that is reaching a boiling point. They are not serving themselves – they are serving the ending.
The Daenerys Dilemma
The newly named Mad Queen was probably one of the most surprising things in this season. Daenerys was commonly regarded as the good ruler who would not turn to savage ways of slaughtering civilians. Throughout the series, we could see her standing up to her words and then season 8 happened.
However weird it seems, the background story was kind of there the entire time yet due to the attitude of the character we simply failed to see it.
To start with, Daenerys has a predisposition for madness – after all, her father was the Mad King who wouldn’t blink an eye when burning people alive. Her brother, Viserys also had the fixation of presenting himself as the one not to mess with. He wanted the crown and in the end, he got it – only not in the way that he hoped he would.
Further on, Daenerys tried to wage peace with Cersei on multiple occasions. But even when they made a treaty, Cersei was quick to break it and even beheaded Missandei.
Provided all of these circumstances combined with the madness predisposition Daenerys has, can we really say that we did not see this coming? We didn’t, but not because it wasn’t there but because Daenerys was constantly proving herself that she was the good one until it became too much to bear with and something finally clicked.
Killing civilians is wrong, yet there is one more thing worth noting here. Game of Thrones has been a story filled with violence and savage killings. However, you need to remember that even though this is a work of fiction, a lot of the things are based on history. History also paints a very devastating story of civilian being slaughtered for no reason whatsoever, good rulers gone bad and madness taking over. Daenerys didn’t make a good move here but looking at history such things have happened on numerous occasions. This is a great plot twist since hardly anybody see this coming.
Or to express it by a non-Game of Thrones reference which everyone will get – You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
What Can We Learn From This About Content?
Three simple words – don’t rush it.
Content marketing, similar to TV series is not a spring but rather a marathon. The finish line is where you want it to be. In the Game of Thrones case, the writers set the finish line a bit too close for them to develop full speed. Don’t do the same but rather allow your content strategy to develop naturally and cover the story from all angles.
You, as a business, have already presented yourself to the world in a certain way and you have set the standard for yourself. Going below that standard is not going to be taken lightly by your customers. You can learn that from multiple other companies that were exposed to backlash from furious customer just because of one slip. Don’t slip because you are in a rush. Think of your decisions and campaigns rationally and critically and evaluate the possible future implications.
And there is one very important thing to remember – just because they got your back at the moment, that doesn’t mean that they will always be there. Building an army of loyal customers is difficult and losing them all is the easiest thing in the world – one careless content marketing decisions and you might see your brand being on fire worse than the one caused by Drogon.
So What’s the Verdict?
In simple words, if you are quick to blame it on the writers, think again… TV production is an incredibly complex field where a lot of aspects need to come together to achieve success. Game of Thrones undoubtedly achieved success becoming one of the most popular TV series of all time.
The final season might not have been the closure we wanted or expected but as Lili Reinhart stated “This is not how television works. It’s ridiculous of people to think they can demand creative change from artists”.
At the end of the day, it is unfair to judge the entire TV series by its final season. We witnessed something incredibly complex that we have never seen before from a TV series with shocking plot twists and highly entertaining storyline and to be fair, the final season still contained a lot of brilliant moments and breathtaking events – and we still need to see the season finale!
Being a writer of any kind is definitely far from an easy job. The writers of Game of Thrones had the fortune to be the ones standing behind this masterpiece but also had the misfortune to be put in a position to try as replicate the work of one of the greatest fiction writers in the history. The expectations were set high from the beginning of the TV series as George R. R. Martin set the bar at the level that only he can reach. That still doesn’t mean that the final season of Game of Thrones is not a good watch.
Now it is time to buckle up since the season finale is just around the corner. The night is dark and full of terrors.