George R. R. Martin handed HBO an unfinished series that he determined should be a narrative arc on the scale of Lord of the Rings while subverting the genre and J. R. R. Tolkien’s established expectations. There shouldn’t be happy endings and traditional myth making should be upended.
The problem with this is that Tolkien had it right and Martin had to paint himself into a series of corners to subvert what Tolkien and others, like C S. S Lewis, were doing.
As a result, Martin has been unable to finish his work, but he did give the show runners at HBO an outline that laid out key narrative points and his ending. And how did it end? More Tolkien than Martin.
Martin could not finish his work because he boxed himself in and left it to HBO to fix himself. The ending that we saw, however, was where Martin intends to go.
To the extent it had an end that was not a happy ending and not a fairy tale, no one should have expected it to be. But to the extent it had happy outcomes for certain characters, there really was no escaping it. People expect it and ultimately, the story of the world that is woven into our narratives for good reason is that good triumphs, even if difficult and unhappy. Unquestionably, that happened.
I found the final two seasons rushed. I found the final episode rushed. But I found the series fantastic.
I went in like many Christians — hesitant to watch it and needing to watch it in delay to skip so much of the sex and violence. But I found that however hard it tried to subvert expectations, it wound up capturing essential truths about the human condition. I don’t watch much television and Game of Thrones has been not just a must watch series for me, but a must-watch-live series.
And now it ends. I am very, very appreciative for this television show and am sad to see it go. It needed more time and I get the sense the show runners were ready to leave it sooner than I was.