For those of you who don’t want any spoilers, I’m not sure why you even clicked on this link, but here’s another warning TO STOP RIGHT NOW.
If you’re still with me, it’s time to answer the question that’s burning through the public consciousness after that trainwreck of a Season 8 Episode 6 finale: Why did David Benioff and D.B. Weiss do us this way?
It’s more than just a question of which characters ended up living, which ones ended up dying, and also the details of the plot turns that got us into this mess. It’s about something even more significant (and even more nefarious).
Problem #1: They rushed through EVERYTHING.
Problem #2: This is the farthest we’ve ever gone into the saga without George R. R. Martin’s help.
Why does this matter? Because a combination of Problem #1 and Problem #2 broke so many audience expectations, quite a few fantasy genre tropes (the wizard figure can NEVER be king), and ultimately, despite being a beloved story created from a stellar team, has many people feeling betrayed. And there’s really an easy fix for it all.
Ready for it?
Truth bomb: Benioff and Weiss needed more time, and they needed more background information to keep people from searching “Game of Thrones bad writing” in Google immediately after the season ended.
I’m a content writer, so of course I’m looking at this through the eyes of someone who does what I do for a living. But no matter which way you slice it, the problems with GoT are the exact same problems businesses face with their poor performing content and a disgruntled audience: The expectations were too high for the time and background research given. Let me explain.
1. More time = better content = happier customers.
There are already millions of threads talking about how rushed the storyline of season 8 is — and even more theories about how the plot twists that felt broken would be better stretched out over ten episodes.
Even despite all of the resources in the world, the lack of time really screwed the story. Why? Because quality storytelling takes time. It’s plain and simple, and there’s no way to get around this fact. You can have all the special effects in the world — here’s looking at you, CGI masters in charge of bringing the burning of King’s Landing to life — but great storytelling is something that can’t be fabricated with smoke and mirrors. If your content is lacking, it’s because it needs more time to explain. That’s it.
When you’re writing, or even getting started with an idea, and it’s just not getting to the place that you need it to, my advice is this: Put it down. Come back to it. Stop trying to make it fit your timeline. If Benioff and Weiss had stepped back from their crushing schedule and just taken a few more months (and a couple more episodes) to explain exactly why Dany went bat shit crazy at the end, we would all feel better about one of the strongest female characters ever written in television becoming the stereotype we kind of all knew she would be.
So, be kind to the content you’re producing for your clients and take the time to do it right — even if that means going back and asking for an extension. It’s way better than getting this kind of response after turning your work in.
2. The secret to life is simplified information.
I remember when Games of Thrones started. I was in college, and for the second time in my life, something incredibly nerdy that I loved made it to the big screen and I discovered one of my fantasy favs was beloved by the rest of the world. Because when the world first tuned in for GoT, the storylines moved slowly, they followed the book, they didn’t make many branches off from the original tale. When they did, it was because it was a dead end, or a spin-off, that didn’t look like it was really going to contribute all the much to the bottom line.
Why is this important? Because George R.R. Martin has spent YEARS doing the research on this story, crafting the character arcs, and making sure all the pieces end up fitting the puzzle. It’s one of the reasons the last few books haven’t been able to keep up with the show — TV has been moving faster than Martin, and without the strong background foundation, Benioff and Weiss were untethered in a complicated soup that didn’t clear up when the show ended. Where Martin is taking the time to make the pieces fit because it’s all very involved — so involved that he may never finish it at all — Benioff and Wiess didn’t get that luxury, and it resulted in a storyline that didn’t quite make it.
There are a lot of clients out there with convoluted solutions that content writers have the task of making simple. That’s normal, and one of the reasons they hire marketing firms — to make sense of the complicated. Where is the first place a good marketing firm starts? With an information dump that helps the team understand every single aspect of the business. When a final campaign finally gets delivered, the simplicity reflects hours and hours and hours of background because simplicity and clarity take information. Lots of it. All of it.
When Benioff and Weiss confirmed that Martin had spilled the deets of how some of the characters end when the tv show finally surpassed the books, it was probably a long, excellent conversation (or many, many of them). But it wasn’t a bunch of books, which is what Martin had provided in the past, and what the writers had been going off for many seasons. Left to their own devices, the writers simply couldn’t deliver what fans who had come to expect, and it was because they didn’t have the information to.
Your takeaway: Information is the key to clarity. If you’ve got a difficult problem, learn as much as you can about it, even the tiniest details, because only then can you provide a solution that is clear, understandable, and memorable for the right reasons. If you don’t have the information, don’t plow ahead — wait until it can be answered if it’s important to the solution. That way everyone’s happier and nothing is overlooked.
There’s a silver lining to the sage known as Game of Thrones: Bad writing can be fixed. But will it?
At the end of the day, Game of Thrones has been incredible — it has changed the trajectory of made-for-tv content — and all of the talent that went into it deserves praise and to be remembered forever. Not just because it was this huge feat, but because we’re all so mad about the last season because they made us care about it so much. Overall, the story was real, made us believe in ice zombies, and dragons, and the power of revenge, and the little guy rising up. That’s what we need stories to do, and Game of Thrones did it in a tremendous way.
BUT — and this is a big “but” — if the writers had been a little more considerate of time and the background research, I’d never be able to say: “Don’t do me like GoT Season 8” and indicate that it was something that left people murderous thanks to plot holes the size of the Grand Canyon, claiming they’d wasted ten years of their lives. And wouldn’t we all be a little happier living in that alternate reality?
Looks like the hopes of a better storyline are back on George R. R. Martin’s shoulders. God help us all.