My hopes for Season 8 of Game of Thrones (HBO)

It’s been a few days since I watched Episode 1 of Season 8 of Game of Thrones. This is it. The end. The final season. And we’ve been waiting for two years! So anticipation runs high. For such an epic, expensive series, I think fans are justified in having high expectations.

I know the season opener didn’t satisfy everyone. A New York Times critic compared it to Downton Abbey because it was “somewhat soapy” and served up a big helping of “high-stakes melodrama”. Of course, many fans of GoT love the show precisely because it usually avoids sentiment. Not one but two reviews by writers from Vulture actually compared Episode 1 to the The Bachelor, where Jon and Dany have a cinematic one-on-one date, riding dragons (for too long) and having a “moment” by a waterfall.

I agree that Episode 1 felt a little off in tone and I experienced that same disconnect. Several scenes seemed to lack urgency despite the fact that the White Walkers are coming, but I understand that there were many reunions the writers needed to get out of the way. I’d give it a solid B as far as a season opener goes. Let me talk about what I didn’t like first, and get that out of the way.

I was super excited when the show began, and loved the new spin on the opening credits. But once Episode 1 was over, none of my friends texted me in shock and awe. Episode 1 was to some degree a summary of what had come before; and the writers set up future action, moving characters into place like pieces on a chessboard before the game begins.

My daughter, who isn’t a GoT fan, watched with me and was decidedly not impressed with the dragons. She actually chuckled and asked if we were watching Merlin. (Don’t get me wrong. We absolutely loved Merlin when we saw it on Netflix. But Merlin did have “Star Trek-the-original-TV-show” level of special effects. Which is to say: cheap.) I think the dragons on GoT are more impressive if you just see short, ominous cuts of them flying overhead. I didn’t agree with the choice to have a dragon staring at and interacting with Jon Snow; it’s never a good idea to give a dragon too much to do unless you can bless that dragon with the voice and acting skills of Benedict Cumberbatch (as in Smaug of The Hobbit). Otherwise, it comes across as too cutesy. And the scene where Jon Snow rides a dragon with Dany was out right out of Peter Pan—”We can fly! We can fly! We can fly!”

Back on the ground, I didn’t love the Housewives of Westeros sniping between Sansa and Daenerys. The sarcastic comebacks reminded me of the one-liners that are periodically thrown into a superhero movie. I love when Tyrion is clever or snarky, but this was just corny. I would’ve preferred arrogance and pride from Dany, and anger and distrust from Sansa. The jokes felt contrived and far from the real emotion those scenes could have and should have provoked.

The Vulture article I mentioned above also calls out the show for putting three naked women in a scene with Bronn while he gets ready to have sex while clothed, apparently. It felt extraneous and not as interesting as I imagine the writers thought it would be.

Okay, enough about the downsides. On to what I’m excited for in the rest of Season 8.

There are many theories about who will end up on the Iron Throne (presumably someone…rather than the Seven Kingdoms being split up). I don’t think it will be Jon or Daenerys. That would be too predictable, and it’s hard to imagine a universe where George R.R. Martin would allow it. I can’t imagine a Happy Ever After ending of any sort, so I don’t think it will be Jon and Dany’s baby either. (Dany reminding everyone repeatedly about the prophecy that she cannot bear children [stating that only the dragons are her children] has led some to believe this might be somehow setting up her eventual pregnancy by Jon. I don’t quite see it, but…you never know with this show.) There’s also speculation that they’ll have a baby and then sacrifice it to the Night King. The conspiracy theories run wild.

Personally, I’ve always had my money on Gendry, as the son of Robert Baratheon, and I wouldn’t mind if Arya joined him as queen. I’d also be satisfied if Sansa took the throne for herself, with or without Tyrion by her side (as husband in name only or as an advisor), bringing a Queen Elizabeth fierceness to the role. And if the writers decide to go in a completely different and utterly unpredictable direction, then I’ll bless that ending, as long as it makes sense as part of the bigger picture. The Washington Post recently described the fan theory about Bran and the Night King somehow either being or becoming the same person and taking the throne…Yeah, it gets complicated. And somewhat weird. But this is a major reason why I favor GoT as a show—it keeps me guessing.

I hope the much-promoted long fight scene against the White Walkers has moments of rest and connection or dialogue in-between the battle action. I don’t like when the climactic fight scene runs on too long in superhero movies. I start to tune out. So I’m cautiously hopeful for the GoT battle. As long as there is some strategy involved and it’s not simply a free-for-all in hand-to-hand combat that goes on for 80 minutes, I think it will be okay.

One aspect that will keep me glued over the next few episodes is seeing who lives and dies. Surely, based on past seasons, we will see the death of major characters. And hopefully not all will perish simply in battle with the White Walkers; there must be some scheming left to be done among the once rivalrous humans.

The only character I would truly be surprised and disappointed to see die is Tyrion. I remember when he spoke to young Jon Snow in Season 1 when they were both feeling like outcasts. I have the hunch that if any character is going to endure, it will be Tyrion. But we’ll see. Maybe he’ll end up sacrificing himself for some greater good.

I also wonder if George R.R. Martin has some bigger world-building conclusion in mind…meaning, perhaps the ending won't be as simple as defeating the White Walkers and putting someone on the Iron Throne. Will the world be plunged into a 100-year winter despite the defeat of the WW? Or will the humans kill them all, robbing the world of winter and plunging the Seven Kingdoms into heat and drought, setting up a new challenge for a future leader? What if “Summer is coming”—and that’s not a good thing? I’d love to see some unexpected, off-the-wall (forgive the wall reference) consequences after the epic battle to come.

Many terrific TV shows have come to unsatisfactory conclusions. My greatest hope is that GoT maintains its’ traditional excellence and lets the writers take this thing to whatever messy conclusion seems natural—I’d rather not see everything tied up in a neat bow.

Do you have your own hopes and dreams for how Game of Thrones ends?