Game of Thrones is, right now, gearing up for their final season. Emilia Clarke has finally taken the plunge of bleaching her hair to a dragon-queen white, and the directors for the final episodes have been announced. Miguel Sapochnik, who directed the excellent “The Battle of the Bastards,” will be back as well as David Nutter, who directed the Red Wedding. The finale episode will be directed by Benioff and Weiss themselves. Given that directors usually direct more than one episode, and there are six episodes next season, it seems clear that those are all the directors for Game of Thrones’s final season. Which means that after eight seasons and a total of 73 episodes, there will have been exactly four episodes directed by a woman (all by Michelle MacLaren, in seasons three and four). The writers for the final season haven’t been confirmed, but it seems likely that the episodes will be mostly written by Benioff and Weiss, following the pattern of the last few seasons. The last episode with a woman writer was in season 3, with Vanessa Taylor’s “Dark Wings, Dark Words.” Taylor is the only solely credited female writer for the show; she has three episodes to her name, all in the second and third seasons. Jane Espenson also has a teleplay credit she shares with Benioff and Weiss for “A Golden Crown” in season one.
Some of you might think that this is me stirring up an issue when there isn’t one, but Game of Thrones has placed a lot of weight on the shoulders of its female characters for the entire series and I think it’s worth pointing out that for the vast majority of episodes, there has not been a woman’s creative perspective shaping the story, and it shows. Particularly the last few seasons, as they’ve been working off book, I’ve noticed a definite decline in how well the stories of the female characters are handled. Last season I was torn between being furious that we never saw the Stark sisters truly confront each other about what they’d been through and rip through the layers of self-defense and history they’d built up to learn how to understand each other, and glad that I didn’t have to see what the men running the show would do to that kind of conversation. Daenerys had one personal conversation with Missandei all season, a woman who’s been by her side for years and who is considered her most trusted advisor. I know some of that was due to Nathalie Emmanuel’s filming schedule for Fast 8, but in a season where Daenerys has been challenged in new and uncomfortable ways, seeing her and Missandei talk through her fears and uncertainties would have gone a long way to clarifying her state of mind. She doesn’t have that level of trust and intimacy with Tyrion yet, and shouldn’t, but it would have given a depth to her experiences on Dragonstone that seemed missing. But conversations where two women are talking to each other about something other than a man seems to be something the writers and directors of the season seemed uninterested in giving us. Even Cersei, who is mostly isolated from other female characters, is going into the last season as a mother who has lost all her children but is pregnant again. I am positive that a woman’s perspective on that character and her current mental and emotional state would be creatively interesting.
Here, I will say something that I’m sure some of you will disagree with; I think that having a diversity of perspectives in a writers’ room cannot make a show WORSE absent other problems. I’m not saying that you have to go out and create an exact microcosm of social demographics to make sure all your bases are covered, but the greater range of people you have in that room, the greater the range of perspectives. You will have people with a greater variety of experiences, emotions, relationships, and all of the insight that comes with those things. By limiting the people in charge of the creative direction of your show to any one demographic, you are eliminating a huge amount of possible inspiration from your show. It simply is not possible for any one group of people to be so creative as to have all possible valuable insights into a creative property. It’s not possible for every one of those valuable insights to make it to screen either, but having the perspectives there in the creation of the final product does make a difference. For a show that prides itself on its “strong female characters,” the fact that Game of Thrones isn’t bringing in strong women to speak for those characters behind the scenes is hurting those characters and their stories. It made the Stark sisters look snappish and stupid this past season for the sake of a single satisfying scene centered around Littlefinger instead of their reconciliation. It reduced Daenerys to two moods; warm and inviting with Jon or brittle and demanding with everyone else. It’s entirely possible that it’s not as easy for the showrunners to stumble across great women writers or directors in the course of their regular work, but just because finding only men to write and direct the show is the easiest option does not by any stretch of the imagination make it the best option.
I want Game of Thrones to be great. It IS great at times, and that’s what makes it so frustrating to see Benioff and Weiss limit the final season in this way. These are the men who talked about how “cool” it was to see Dany’s war council made up of mostly women at the beginning of Season 7, yet they seem entirely uninterested in seeking out women to come sit at their own table. I will watch through the final season, obviously, and keep all of you apprised on my thoughts. Frankly, this isn’t surprising given the fact that the show hasn’t made a point of hiring female writers or directors in significant numbers thus far. I’m not really mad, I’m just disappointed.