Why The Game Of Thrones Season Finale Was Predictable, Like All Good Late-Season Finales

So Game of Thrones’ season finale was yesterday, and as usual I have thoughts – but unusually, the first thought is completely spoiler-free, so I can talk about it in public!

Bart Calendar has complained that a lot of what happened in the finale was both predictable and predicted.

The same could have been said of Breaking Bad’s finale – we all saw it coming, as long as you count “all” as “those of us who read the spoiler theories.”  And that wasn’t bad, either.

The problem is, we’re rapidly reaching the end of season-ending surprises for long-term shows.  Because now, we have literally thousands of people who’ve inhaled the show so they know it better than the writer – seriously, George R.R. Martin has a couple of people he calls upon for reference, because he can’t remember all the details of his own world – and they’re like a crowd-sourced spoiler Sherlock, gobbling up every clue and intuiting what’s about to happen.

That’s good.  By the time you get to season four or five, what happens should be predictable on some level.

Because the alternative to that is that you go the J.J. Abrams route and all your clues actually mean nothing, they’re just a big cloud of red herrings tossed casually into the air because we don’t really care about cause and effect, and the big surprise literally comes out of nowhere.

With this many people analyzing and expositing, your clues either mean something tangible – in which case it’s entirely possible to spoil yourself – or they don’t, in which case the narrative is total bullshit and you’re going to be sad.

We are now approaching the end game of Game of Thrones, at a time when viewership is as high as it’s ever been.  That means the big surprises in the early seasons will winnow down as the reasonable alternatives condense into a couple of paths, and viewers will spend hours refining their theories until they align fairly closely with what happens.  That’s actual goddamned storytelling instead of some X-Files spaghetti-plotted clusterfuck – and good storytelling rewards diligent reading.

Yes, it’s less satisfying than, say, the big shocks of the opening season.  Payoffs are always less predictable than setup, but that’s because payoffs rely upon setup.

If you don’t want to blunt the payoffs, then you gotta stop reading fan theories.  Otherwise, well, the results are equally as predictable.

1 Comment

  1. Alexis
    Jun 27, 2016

    I read fans theories like crazy and love seeing some of my predictions come true! Besides, I think it’s possible GRRM has more surprises in store. We don’t know exactly how Sansa’s going to handle Littlefinger, for example. Personally, I’m hoping her and Tyrion end up together at last. She’s seen enough of evil men to appreciate his decency and kindness, and they are still technically married. It would be strange for her to end up the Lady of Casterly Rock, since I think Bran will be the Stark in Winterfell (or maybe Arya).

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