Was Game of Thrones Always Going to Disappoint Me?

It’s the tenth anniversary of Game of Thrones… and I wouldn’t have noticed if not for this video on its ruined legacy. And it got me thinking a couple of things- 1) how did time fly so fast and 2) was GOT ruined or was it always designed to go up in wildfire? Obviously, I won’t be using this post to address the former, just the latter 😉

Before GRRM superfans tar and feather me- I’m not trying to take away the series’ merit. Don’t get me wrong: I love the world building, the characters and fascinating themes. However, speaking to my own personal taste, reflecting on some of the concepts does make me wonder if I was always going to wind up unhappy with the ending.

Game of Thrones was always a divisive series. Barely an episode could go by without some kind of critique or scandal. And this is not an accident or merely the showrunner’s doing. Going off of Martin’s own interviews, much of the series is designed to be a counterbalance to traditional fantasy. The traditional fantasy that I, and many other mainstream audiences, love. Lord of the Rings, for instance, is famously hopeful, inspiring and the prime example of good triumphing over evil. Though it has tragic elements, it certainly does not hinge on them. When we set out from the Shire we are assured of a safe(ish) resolution.     

Whereas GRRM promised us bittersweet. And if it is to be a counterbalance to the likes of LOTR then by golly that must be some BITTERsweet ending. Most of the plot points have tragedy written all over them; there is barely a glimmer of optimism in all the books. The best we could hope for is our favourites not dying and maybe, just maybe getting their revenge! In the words of Ramsay Bolton…

That’s not to say all tragedies are disappointing. In the usual ebb and flow of a tragedy, there is often a highpoint that alleviates the characters’ (and the readers’) suffering. Think Tess and Angels’ blissful summer in Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Of course, we know this lovely moment cannot last, yet we can delude ourselves into thinking it will, and this gives us our catharsis. Game of Thrones never really does that. Romantic moments are often told from another perspective or tarnished by the realities of the situation (eg Daenerys may fall in love with Khal Drogo, but she’s also raped by him first).

There’s a reason every moment of “happiness” is framed this way. And that’s because it’s working from a principle of being *realistic in the postmodernist sense*. It’s fundamentally endorsing the idea that meaning is found where you place its value. In the world of Game of Thrones, there are no heroes and villains, there is no good vs evil, there is no right and wrong. There is no objective truth- merely the matter of where you place your sympathy. GRRM takes the morally relativistic view that all his characters will inevitably fall to the dark side… And frankly none of their struggles matter because of that. No happy ending is/was ever possible in this series- for anyone. Which is not so much tragic as it is depressing.

As much as I can appreciate this for its uniqueness, it’s not exactly satisfying. That’s not the point of this story. Rather, it’s designed to push boundaries, subvert our expectations and make us question the genre. While we like to blame D&D for the subversive elements, subversion is pretty much woven into the fabric of the narrative. And that has its upsides… and its downsides. Because sometimes there can be narrative consequences when you try to challenge an existing idea.

Inevitably you may question the story that’s making you question everything. I for one don’t think every concept in GOT makes sense. The critique of Aragorn becoming king, for example, is flawed. Because, I happen to think that if he’s capable enough to get an army of dead people on his side, then he’s perfectly capable of hiring some plumbers to set up a sewage system (and I have no idea why GRRM thinks otherwise). It is entirely possible for a leader to be strategic on the battlefield and with the treasury (and there are historic examples of this). This may seem like nit-picking, yet this is such a foundational element to the story, that it leaves me questioning will I ever be satisfied with the outcome of this series? These issues nag away at me and could indicate that this series was never for me in the first place.

Of course, this whole post is somewhat premature. No matter what I think I know, I have to add the caveat that I don’t know the actual ending (none of us do). There are some incredible theories mapping out sensational conclusions and GRRM’s finale could end up putting even those to shame. So, this post could be meaningless when the final book comes out. Personally, I very much look forward to being proved wrong 😉

So, what do you think? Are you optimistic about GRRM’s ending? Do you have doubts like me? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

55 thoughts on “Was Game of Thrones Always Going to Disappoint Me?

  1. Personally, I believe that GRRM is NEVER going to finish the series. I think either the pressure or the fame or whatever got to him, and he’s simply avoiding writing more in the future of Westerna, because A) the show has already created a plausible ending (despite its unpopularity), and B) too much time has passed now since writer’s block or whatever hit, and it’s like the world and concepts and characters have already run their course. You may know that he’s released a prequel, focusing on Dany’s grandfather (?) (I’m pretty sure), and to me it really justifies the idea that he’s is ready to let the series rest where it was as of the finale of the show. The tales revisited and expanded in the prequel definitely sympathized with Dany’s family and their reasons for doing (terrible) things, and although I didn’t finish it (honestly it couldn’t maintain my interest), I think it really says more about the whole publishing situation regarding GoT than any official author statement.

    Just my two cents! Great discussion on the point of fantasy being a place where we find hope!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ahh yes I think I should’ve acknowledged that! (I kind of wanted to assume he would so I could have this discussion). Yeah I don’t know why he hasn’t finished- it’s not really something I can relate to or understand- I suspect that at some point the TV show detracted from his purpose. Yeah he keeps writing other (really long) books, which I’ve lost track of and have no desire to read.

      Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Not to be antagonistic here, but considering his statements about the tv show ending, AND his track record of regularly abandoning things (literary and in real life), why do you think he’s going to finish the books? Your whole post is based on the supposition that he IS going to finish it but there’s no foundation supporting that supposition.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. and just realized I didn’t actually answer your question 🙂

      I think that YES, got was always going to disappoint fans because Martin is who he is and writes as the man he is instead of the author people want him to be.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hehe yeah that is a good point! I think that I don’t align with his worldview, but I guess I only realised that after my own worldviews had formed (I got into the series quite young) and after I listened to more of his interviews

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Hehe that is fair- I guess I was being optimistic on that score. I decided to work from the assumption (rightly or wrongly) that this series is going to end up finished, cos I guess I wanted to discuss any potential ending/the ending we got in the show. And I guess you can’t really have that discussion if you assume that we’re going to be left without an ending full stop (which would also be disappointing, but in a different way)

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I think I am kind of over Game of Thrones at this point? The wait is not enjoyable anymore and I haven’t even finished the last book, because it didn’t really include any characters I liked very much. I’ll probably resort to just reading summaries for my preferred characters should the books ever release. (Also, I might have forgotten what happened in the book vs. what happened on the show and I am not in for a reread at all)
    Even more annoyed am I by the fact that HBO has THREE Game of Thrones prequels in planning. Does anyone even still care? I personally don’t and would have rather see them invest in other fantasy properties. There’s so much good material out there and even finished series that won’t leave them struggling to piece together an ending for themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes I get that! I think most (sensible) people feel the same way 😉 I actually think that’s a good idea. I think if I valued my future free time I’d promise to do the same, cos I don’t love the writing style anyway, but I think I’m too much of a glutton for punishment! Although I’m definitely not interested in a reread, so undoubtedly I’ll get really lost (which is another reason I should probably do what you’re planning on doing!)
      Oh yes! I agree! I’ve zero desire to watch those (and since I have trouble committing to any TV, I know I won’t bother with those) absolutely agree with that!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s all a big mess when it comes to this series haha it had potential (although I was also never a huge fan of the writing style). I hope you’ll find a way to not punish yourself too much should the books come out haha

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This post was great! I didn’t know it was the 10 year anniversary, I agree – damn times flies! I’m curious to see how the story will end, it has to be better than the TV show though, right?! Although if I’m being honest, I didn’t actually mind the ending… after I watched a few times, haha! But I look forward to re-reading the series when the last book comes out!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, by the third watch (yes I watched it three times 😅) I could see why they would take the show in the direction that they went in. It does leave me really curious how much it’ll differ from the book ending, once we get it!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. First, I’m not entirely sure Martin will finish anything at that point 😉 Secondly, I think he was always going to disappoint fans, from one side or the other of the divisions he had purposefully created in GOT. Thirdly, I think he became so fixated on being “unpredictable” in his plot resolutions and character motivations that he became very predictable indeed – basically misery for everyone.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. haha yeah I think I might be too optimistic on that score 😉 Oh that’s a good point! I don’t think it would be possible for him to please two opposing fans… or even fulfil every single thing each fan wants! And that’s very true as well! I think that’s what I came to a conclusion about as I was writing this!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So let’s hypothetically say Martin finishes the series (I know, I know) I don’t think it will disappoint me as much as the show did because to be honest the show started doing that in season 2.

    You can say what you want about Martin but for me I believe well let’s say a lot of the book characters were hella lost in translation if I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. So if I give Martin the benefit that he hasn’t completely lost the thread (hard at this point) I’m still hopeful. Jaime for instance I mean they seriously changed his character before they ran out of book. So it’s the little things that matter for me. Will he die with his sister? Never doubted that. Will he realize she’s his true love and that he can’t change and go back and try to save her and their unborn 30 month old fetus? Nah.

    Is Arianne going to probably lead Dorne to doom? Maybe. Will it end with Ellaria losing her mind and killing Doran cause of weak men or one of the snakes shoving a speak through Trystane’s head? Not a chance. I actually think the show was bleaker than the books and if Marin can finish I don’t think I’ll be disappointed but well we can see how that’s going. Been a lot of years since Dance of Dragons 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha yeah I think you have to assume he will in order to have this discussion 😉 Ah that’s fair.

      And that’s a good point. I definitely think Jaime’s a great example of that. Hahahaha!!

      I do think the Dorne story is going to be *very* different (my god the showrunners were lazy with that).

      Great points! I think that no matter how I feel about the ending, the quality and logical consistency will certainly be better if the books are ever published!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Well, after the disastrous ending of the tv series, the books have become the only hope for us readers. But it’s been a long time and I don’t see the series ending anytime soon. The more time GRRM takes ,more people have given up on the series ever ending. I personally want a bittersweet ending but i have lost all hope of ever getting there.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I really relate to that! I think immediately after finishing the series, I wrote about how I hoped the books would “fix” certain issues. I guess as time goes on, I wonder if that’s going to happen if/when the books are finally out. Yeah I really get that.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s so hard to imagine going back to the books at this point — and that’s assuming that GRRM actually finishes them, which I have my doubts about. I do get the impression that he’s lost interest and is just leaving fans waiting without actually making an announcement that he’s done. I’d still like to know the ending he’s had planned, but I wonder whether we’ll ever feel satisfied, even if the books get published eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post. I am with on you the issue of when there is no objective right or wrong, everything is boring and there’s no point to anything.

    I haven’t tackled this series yet. I’ll get to it some day (probably). From what everyone says, even if it is heavy it sounds like it’s compellingly written enough to be page turners, which means I could have some hope of going through it fairly quickly even if I hate it.

    And can I just say I am insanely jealous of Martin? Some of us FINISH our books, and give our characters RESOLUTION even when we kill them, and DON’T take our readers for granted …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes- thank you. I think it does start to lose its purpose if you know that everyone’s just going to end up losing.

      Hmm honestly I don’t know if I’d call them pageturners (I’ve never been a fan of the writing style though) but there are interesting plot points. For me though, it all depends on how the ending will be executed (I’ve massively gone off writers in the past who can’t stick their landings) so I have a lot of conflicted feelings about the series.

      haha yeah I have to admit I’ve never fully understood GRRM- I think most writers would kill to have fans desperately waiting for the next/last instalment. He has that, but he constantly writes things most people aren’t all that interested in. Then again, I also can’t relate to the pressure he’s under, which must be immense

      Like

  10. Another great discussion post.
    I’m a fantasy fan but I admit that GOT was not for me. I watched the first series, realised, as you so eloquently put, that no one would get a HEA, the horrific things that people did wouldn’t be stopped by a hero and would, in fact, continue. I want my entertainment to entertain me and GOT was too depressing. I didn’t watch anymore and probably never will.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I personally have doubts that GRRM will EVER actually finish the series, so…

    I enjoyed the TV show well enough though. I even liked the ending (prepares to duck and hide), it made sense to me… The only issue I had was that it was crammed into a single season. They rushed it. If they’d split it into a couple and added some depth I’m convinced it would have worked. Instead, it felt like they sprinted for the finish line and forgot all the things that happened to get them there and in doing so failed to carry the audience along with them like they did in the beginning. *shrug*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha I’m not sure either!

      Hahaha that’s ok- I’m glad some people actually enjoyed it! It sucks that so many people were disappointed. But that is fair- I think there were parts of the ending I could’ve been ok with (dany going mad/setting fire to kings landing) though there were other bits I didn’t like at all and never will (bran as king and everything around that). I completely agree with you- it was much too rushed.

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  12. I’ve been asking myself this same question for a while now, and you’ve put into words what’s bothered me so much about this series. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever end up reading the last two books whenever they manage to publish, and a lot of that is because of the subversion and bittersweet realism. Though I’m not even sure I’d call it bittersweet–perhaps just bitter? That, and the level with which GRRM has come down on Tolkien has sent my hackles right up and put me straight in fight mode, so I’ve teetered past maybe reading to unhauling my current books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that’s really fair. I think it occurred to me when I saw that it was the anniversary that I’m not excited about the ending anymore. I don’t think I want to read the books cos I’ve got high expectations, just to see if it’s a bit better. Yeah that’s fair! I don’t think there was much (if anything) about that ending that made me happy. Ah YES! I agree do much. I’ve seen so many interviews of him doing that… And I don’t get it?! Tolkien’s vision was perfect, makes sense and brilliantly executed! I can understand being inspired to do something different, but not because it’s somehow “wrong”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When the show ended, I was a big advocate for saying that GRRM could convince us that that ending made sense, given that he still had two 1000-page books to write. But the more time passes, the more of a bad taste it leaves in my mouth, and I’m just all set, I think.

        AND YES! Sure, say “oh Tolkien did this, which inspired me to do this”, but don’t get down on him for creating an optimistic and hopeful world. We need more of that! Realistic, gritty stories are all well and fine, but we’re already living in a pretty grim reality most days that it’s refreshing to see such heart-warming stories like LOTR. Even beyond that, Tolkien was a phenomenal writer, and there’s a reason he’ll stand the test of time and GRRM won’t.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah I was absolutely the same when the show ended… But now I’ve had time to think about it, the less likely I think that is.

          And yes I completely agree! I do get wanting to do his take… But why does that mean Tolkien was wrong in some way?! And all that makes me think is how much I’d prefer to immerse myself in Tolkien’s world. Really agree!!!

          Liked by 1 person

  13. I remember all the hype for this series as it was coming out, and then all the uproar when it ended. I used to think that i would watch it at some point, but after all that, I’m not sure. Like you said, the postmodernist relativism isn’t necessarily a component that is awful, but if its episode in and episode out, and integral to the storyline, the characters, and the development of all of that–I just don’t know if I could stomach that. And the Tolkien criticism always makes me fighting mad lol–he’s literally the FATHER OF FANTASY. Anyway…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honestly I can’t recommend it after that ending 😔 and yes exactly. I find it just a bit too depressing (I think there’s probably a reason a lot of lit fic in this vein is much shorter! It must be hard to sustain that level of pessimism! Which is perhaps another reason grrm hasn’t finished the series). Haha AH YES!! SAME!!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. GOT was always a source of disappointment for me. I never got what I wanted from it. You felt a sparkling of hope only to have it ripped away soon after. And the ending was just the last drop. I have zero intentions of reading any of his books and I really couldn’t care less about his ending.

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  15. In all honestly, I doubt that he’ll actually finish the series. I was expecting to love the books, but I’ve actually struggled to get into them and have basically all but abandoned the series after the first book. The shows ending was as disappointing as it gets, and I think this tendency to create countless spin offs just makes me further distance myself from the GoT world because it’s just going to get oversaturated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe yeah I hear you- I’m being very optimistic assuming he will. I completely understand that. And yeah it really was. And I’m also not keen on all these spinoffs. I just wanted a good ending to the original tbh 😔

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  16. I stopped watching the show where it ended with the books, because I knew it was going to completely divert (most likely) from what GRRM was going to write. I mean it already diverted at the point where I stopped watching. I did accidentally see a lot of the series finale and can definitely see why many didn’t like it.

    I’m still holding out hope that he’ll try to finish the series so that we can the ending that he thought of when he started the series; but like someone else said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the fame or writer’s block or whatever got to him. Or if he sadly dies before finishing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yeah it definitely has done that in some ways (though grrm has said some things will be the same- which isn’t very reassuring, since they’re some of the things I don’t like). I’m sure his execution will definitely be better quality. And that’s true

      Liked by 1 person

  17. As someone who never read GOT or watched the tv series, this was a really interesting essay to read! I have vivid memories of a friend drunkenly crying about GRRM never finishing the series in like idk 2009 and steered clear (not to mention I am just not a fan of adult fantasy written by cis white men as a rule). I don’t think he will ever finish this series though and he should just say so to let people move on.

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