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What the Hell Were Weiss and Benioff Thinking While Writing the Final Season of 'Game of Thrones'?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 14, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 14, 2019 |


I am not an expert on Game of Thrones; we have plenty of folks who cover that well. I have never read the books. I don’t know all the theories. And I could not tell you the exact line of succession.

But it doesn’t take more than a casual viewer to see what a trainwreck these last few episodes of Game of Thrones have been, and I think most folks agree that the biggest problem with it is that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have tried unsuccessfully to cram two (or more) seasons of television into six episodes, two of which are all battles. That makes for little character development and a lot of whiplash.

So what the hell happened? Honestly, I keep circling back to 2015, when George R.R. Martin suggested that ten seasons of the HBO series were necessary to tell his entire story, and HBO agreed. “We started this journey with David and Dan. It’s their vision. Would I love the show to go 10 years as both a fan and a network executive? Absolutely,” said HBO programming president Michael Lombardo.

And the thing is, HBO really wanted ten seasons, which — in 2015 — felt kind of unnecessary given the fact that Dany had spent much of her time walking around. But it might have been nice while Dany was doing all that walking around to foreshadow some Mad Queen tendencies. At any rate, HBO made a plan to sit down with Weiss and Benioff to discuss the future of the series, and they went into the conversation thinking, “If they weren’t comfortable going beyond seven seasons, I trust them implicitly and trust that’s the right decision—as horrifying as that is to me. What I’m not going to do is have a show continue past where the creators believe where they feel they’ve finished with the story.”

At the time, Weiss and Benioff were insistent that they were not going to do more than seven seasons. And apparently, there was some conversation of continuing the series with new showrunners, which I suspect may have been the leverage HBO used to convince Weiss and Benioff to create a six-episode eighth season to wrap it all up with them at the helm, lest HBO replace them (Martin himself, at the time, suggested a feature film was necessary to wrap it all up).

In other words, Weiss and Benioff only begrudgingly took on the eighth season and that begrudgingness shows. It feels like they’d already checked out, and started pitching Confederacy, which drew immediate backlash from the Internet. While HBO initially had Weiss and Benioff’s back, the network quietly abandoned the project I assume in the midst of Weiss and Benioff writing the final season of GoT. It may have engendered bad feelings, on top of HBO’s possible strong-arm tactics to get Benioff and Weiss to extend another season.

Add to that the fact that Benioff and Weiss were tapped to guide the next Star Wars trilogy in early 2018, which probably took focus away from shooting the final season. All of which is to say: The attention of Weiss and Benioff may have been divided while they were writing a shortened final eighth season they didn’t want to write for a series that needed 10 full seasons and a movie to properly wrap up and Weiss and Benioff may have also felt a little betrayed by HBO because it didn’t fully support their terrible idea of a show about an alt-history in which the South won the Civil War and were also looking ahead to Star Wars, all of which resulted in this half-assed, haphazard, too-short final season of Game of Thrones.

And the thing is, I know that Benioff is a better writer than this, and not just because of the first seven seasons, but because 25th Hour was a brilliant f**king movie and his novel City of Thieves is one of the few that I’ve actually read twice. If the two had really and truly been committed to writing a proper ending to the series, they certainly have the talent. I think they may have lost patience and in doing so have tarnished the legacy of the series and dampened enthusiasm for future Game of Thrones spin-offs.

The good news, I guess, is that their divided attention has paid off because their Star Wars trilogy is next in line:

Congrats, Weiss and Benioff! I look forward to two very good Star Wars movies followed by a bed-shitting end to the trilogy once you lose interest in this project and start looking ahead to your next one.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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