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Thread: Why Game of Thrones Ended Early

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    Why Game of Thrones Ended Early

    Game of Thrones ended with season 8, despite plenty of people wanting the show to continue, so why did creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss decide to conclude the series seemingly early? Game of Thrones became the biggest TV show in the world across the 2010s, and so there was a lot of pressure placed on the series when it was revealed back in 2016 that it would be ending after just two more seasons and 13 episodes.

    The decision to end Game of Thrones was a risky one, not least because the A Song of Ice and Fire books were (and remain) unfinished, on top of the difficulties of bringing such an epic story to a close. Unfortunately for Benioff and Weiss, many fans were unhappy with how things went down in the final run of episodes, with Game of Thrones' ending one of the most divisive and controversial in TV history.

    A common criticism of Game of Thrones' final two seasons - and its most deserved - is that the storytelling was rushed, as plots rapidly advanced and arcs that would have taken entire seasons were now over within the space of a single episode. There was plenty of speculation as to why those decisions were made, such as talk that Benioff and Weiss were no longer interested, or were more focused on Star Wars (they were attached to make a trio of movies for Lucasfilm at the time), but the showrunners themselves insist that the story ended up around the length they always planned. In several interviews over the years, they'd mentioned the show running for seven seasons - which ultimately became eight - and lasting for around 70 hours (which became 73, give or take). In James Hibberd's book Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon: Game of Thrones and the Official Untold Story of the Epic Series, they shed a little more light on the decisions they made to wrap up the show. David Benioff said:

    "We didn't want to become a show that outstayed its welcome. Part of what we love about these books, and the show, is this sense of momentum and building toward something. If we tried to turn it into a ten-season show, we'd strangle the golden goose. We wanted to stop when the people working on it and watching it wish we had [kept going] a little bit longer. There's the old adage of 'Always leave them wanting more,' but also when you stop wanting to be there - that's when things fall apart."

    Much of that is an understandable viewpoint, although there was arguably little worry about Game of Thrones outstaying its welcome, given it was bigger than ever in season 8. But it's true that there was a sense of momentum going towards the end - in part because of how much was cut from the novels, but also because, as co-executive producer Bryan Cogman notes in the book, "There are White Walkers and dragons, and once they come together the story has to go where it goes." Similarly, as Hibberd writes, it was increasingly difficult to keep making Game of Thrones and keep its cast together, most of whom were reaching new levels of stardom thanks to the show, but were still spending most of their time on it. Benioff's comments could also be construed as the showrunners being tired of it and simply ready to move on, though Weiss does note "... How bizarre it will be to not be doing this anymore."

    While Benioff and Weiss had decided how much time Game of Thrones had left, HBO had other ideas. This was, as mentioned, the biggest TV show in the world, so the network was understandably hesitant about letting go of it. In Fire Cannot Kill A Dragon, HBO's former programming president, Michael Lombardo, admits that he "pushed back" against the idea of ending after just eight seasons, and did so again when told they were thinking of such truncated runs of episodes:: "[Benioff and Weiss] said, 'We can do it with season six and then thirteen hours, then we think we're done.' I'm all, 'Thirteen hours? Where did you come up with that? Why couldn't it be two seasons of ten?' We pushed, we cajoled. I tried to think of financial incentives. They were dug in. Honestly, it was hard after the books ended."

    Even with HBO pushing hard - and Martin's own belief that it could run for several years yet, which he expressed several times over the years and at one point thought may happen, including thinking that A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons could offer 2-3 seasons of material, rather than just one (and a bit, with some elements used in season 6) - Benioff and Weiss were steadfast that it was time to end. The book cites Breaking Bad as one major influence on going out at exactly the right time, something the showrunners clearly hoped to emulated. Weiss said: "When we gave them the final outline, that helped. They were able to see why taking this and stretching it into another ten episodes would ruin this and make something that's ideally powerful and affecting feel drawn out."

    It's very clear that ending Game of Thrones earlier than many expected was Benioff and Weiss' choice, though whether or not it was the right decision is another matter. Having condensed the books down considerably, the pace did need to quicken to a degree compared to A Song of Ice and Fire, though it's still arguable that there was more than enough to go for another couple of seasons, or at least to do the final two seasons as ten-episodes each. The showrunners, however, with a variety of factors in play - the length and difficulty of production, the cast, the looming finish line, wanting to go out on a high, and more - decided to end Game of Thrones.

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    Thanks @Rhialto for the article. Agree with there idea. Just wish last season was a bit more polished.
    Rhialto likes this.

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