Game of Thrones (opens in new tab) is a show we can’t seem to get enough of. Heck, the season’s been over for weeks and I’m still writing about it.
Well, my meandering thoughts about the Seven Kingdoms look to have an expiration date, as HBO’s Game of Thrones is set to end after season 8 (opens in new tab). This has led some to scream to the heavens, demanding the show continue because, as they put it, ‘There’s so much more to tell (opens in new tab).’ While there are plenty of stories (opens in new tab) that haven’t been explored (Lady Stoneheart, anyone?), I for one am relieved Game of Thrones only has two more seasons.
This isn’t because I don’t like the show. I’m not one of those ‘above it all’ hipsters who likes to be contrarian about popular things because it makes me feel unique (‘Dorne (opens in new tab) is seriously underrated you guys!’). It’s because I love the show so much, I want it to stand as one of the best television shows of all time. Much like Breaking Bad, Parks and Recreation, or Battlestar Galactica, when a show ends on its own terms, it has a greater chance of becoming legendary.
There are so many ways a television show can go wrong in later seasons, especially when they don’t quite know where to go. A perfect example of this would be How I Met Your Mother. The show kept getting extended to the point where they had an entire season that took place over a weekend, because that’s how few original story ideas they had left. Also: Ted was a monster person and I didn’t want him to find happiness ever in his sad little douchey life.
You’ve also got The Office, by which I mean the American one. While the British version smartly ended after two seasons, The Office US dragged the story way past its expiration date, turning its best characters like Jim and Pam into narcissistic, pretentious know-it-alls because they didn’t know what to do with them. Steve Carell was smart to leave when he did, but not before they’d strawmanned his Michael Scott into a shred of the complex character he was before.
Game of Thrones showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff have said (opens in new tab) they have about 10 to 15 hours of story left to tell, encompassing primary storylines from both The Winds of Winter and The Dream of Spring.
"The thing that has excited us from the beginning, back to the way we pitched it to HBO is, it’s not supposed to be an ongoing show, where every season it’s trying to figure out new story lines,” Benioff told Deadline. We wanted it to be one giant story, without padding it out to add an extra 10 hours, or because people are still watching it. We wanted to something where, if people watched it end to end, it would make sense as one continuous story. We’re definitely heading into the end game now."
There will surely be storylines from the books that won’t make it onto show - especially because many of them haven’t actually been written yet. But do we really need all that? We’ve got the Queens of the South, the Kings in the North and the resurgence of Dorne because seriously, guys, that storyline was soooooo much better than we give it credit for.
One of the biggest things I’ve heard fans say request, ‘Why not show more travel time?’ One of the biggest criticisms for the later episodes of Game of Thrones, especially the season 6 finale (opens in new tab), is that less time is spent on travel (opens in new tab). And I will admit, that part’s starting to make less and less sense. In what kind of world does it take Samwell half a season to meander to the Citadel, but Arya can journey from Braavos to The Twins in less time than it took for her to cook Walder Frey’s boys in a pie? And don’t get me started on Varys, who I’m pretty sure is winning the actual game of thrones because he’s discovered magical portals and hidden them away somewhere.
I’m sure the creators could pad out a couple extra episodes by showing more of the journey time, thus giving us more Game of Thrones to enjoy before the series is over. However, that would severely damage the tone that’s been growing over the seasons. The beginning of the series was slower so we could bond with the characters and understand their relationships. That way, once winter came (and it has, folks), we could see what these characters do when faced with something intense, immediate and devastating. The show needs to be fast because the threat they’re facing is fast. The dead are coming, and they don’t have time for promenading at the cotillion.
And of course, if the story were continued past the titular game of thrones, what could they possibly show? Let’s say Dany and her dragons win everything and she’s sitting on the Iron Throne. Then what? We’d probably get another season or two of glorified “Meereen in Westeros,” where she struggles to lead her people (and we struggle to pay attention).
There’s also the issue of money. Game of Thrones has brought in a ton of new viewers to HBO, especially to their online-only subscription service, HBO Now. In 2014 (opens in new tab), as many networks were losing money, HBO revenue climbed up to $1.4-billion. But technically, Game of Thrones is only part of that. It doesn’t have ads and it’s only now getting licensed to other networks. And while Game of Thrones ratings have been increasing just about every year, there’s always the chance that they could drop, especially if they lose focus from not having a conclusive end game.
When shows start to lose their popularity, like with Lost and 24 (opens in new tab), their budgets run the risk of shrinking. One of the biggest examples is Heroes, which saw its budget collapse from $4-million per episode to barely $500,000 over the course of four seasons. Can you imagine what Game of Thrones would look like if it couldn’t spend $6-million per episode on its locations, costumes or special effects? And let’s not get started on special episodes like Battle of the Bastards (opens in new tab), which cost a whopping $10-million. All of the horses would have to be stop-motion figurines. Even that might be too expensive.
By all appearances, Game of Thrones’ season 8 will be its last, creating a complex and thoughtful story with a beginning, middle and, most importantly, an end. But fear not, Game of Thrones addicts! Season 8 may not be the end of the cinematic GoT adventures. There’s always the chance we could be getting a spin-off series (opens in new tab), or at least a couple made-for-TV movies. Weiss and Benioff have said they probably won’t do it, HBO said they probably won’t do it, but George RR Martin has said (opens in new tab) he’s on board. Finally, we can get that ‘A Year in Dorne’ prequel we’ve all been waiting for.