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Dragon showdowns and more shocks: what we want from the Game of Thrones finale | Television & radio

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Considering what a bunch of entitled, vegan sausage roll-eating brats we apparently all are in 2019, there’s a fair chance the final season of Game of Thrones will satisfy exactly no one.

Finales, after all, are notoriously tricky to get right. Some shows nail their farewells with a flourish (Breaking Bad, The Sopranos). Others bisect their fanbase right down the middle (Battlestar Galactica, er, The Sopranos) and become the launchpad for petty online spats with strangers for decades to come. Given that season seven of Game of Thrones was its shakiest yet, season eight could feasibly fall into the latter camp.

In order to prevent a backlash of such magnitude that it may knock the Earth off its rotational axis, Game of Thrones must ensure it sticks the landing, for the sake of us all. And it can, if it keeps to some very simple principles.

Bring back the logic

Game of Thrones



These characters used to feel real … Kit Harington as Jon Snow. Photograph: Helen Sloan/HBO

For everything it did well, season seven required whopping suspensions of disbelief, as characters zipped around the world in the blink of an eye, or acted entirely against their established personalities in order to further the plot. If you’re desperately invested in a show with dragons, zombies and Kit Harington being northern, and it’s geographical inconsistency that is getting you riled up, something is very wrong indeed. The characters and world used to feel real, constrained by rationality and reason. They need to again.

Use those epic battles sparingly

Ian Whyte as Wun Wun



A chaotic tour de force … the Battle of the Bastards. Photograph: HBO/2016 Home Box Office, Inc. All

Tentpole action sequences are what Game of Thrones does better than any other TV show in history – and most movies, for that matter. The Battle of the Bastards remains the zenith, a chaotic, claustrophobic tour de force, with last season’s Battle of the Goldroad or season five’s Hardhome not far behind. But as anyone else who overindulged on creme de menthe and stilton over Christmas will attest, too much of a good thing will make you quite sick. Battles need breathing space. We don’t need one giant face-off an episode. Rein it in.

Be more like old Game of Thrones …

Jaime and Cersei Lannister



OMG moments used to be based on human drama … Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister. Photograph: Helen Sloan/HBO

If you cast your mind back to season one, there were no epic battles whatsoever. This, admittedly, was for budgetary reasons, but working within such a rigid framework forced the show to get creative. Battles occurred off-screen. “OMG” moments were based on human drama. Plots were knotty. Backs were stabbed. Skulls were duggered. One of the best scenes of last season consisted of an old lady drinking some wine. This scheming and politicking is what made people fall in love with Thrones in the first place. Hopefully there’s still room for it among the wars, fire and widespread incest of season eight.

… but not too much like old Game of Thrones

Ros and Littlefinger



All a bit embarrassing … Esme Bianco and Aiden Gillen as Ros and Littlefinger. Photograph: HBO

If you cast your mind back to season one again, barely a conversation could be uttered without someone flashing their delicates at the nearest camera. At one point, Littlefinger had some exposition to get out of his system, but was in his brothel at the time, so inexplicably did so over the sound of Ros and Armeca groaning upon a chaise longue. It was gratuitous, and all a bit embarrassing. Luckily, the show has come a long way since “tits and dragons” could be hurled at it as a pejorative, and isn’t as desperate to prove its adult credentials these days. Hopefully it won’t backslide too much.

Give us our showdowns

Jon v the Night’s King. Cersei v Dany. Theon v Euron. An ice-zombie dragon v a non-ice-zombie dragon. A direwolf v literally anything, we don’t mind. And the Hound v the Mountain. Come on, we’ve been waiting for that since 2011. Cough up.

And shock us

Sean Bean as Ned Stark



The death of Ned Stark, played by Sean Bean, remains one of the most shocking scenes in Game of Thrones. Photograph: HBO/Everett /Rex Features/c.HBO/Everett / Rex Features

Another criticism lobbed at more recent seasons is the show’s reluctance to mercilessly cull its cast in the laissez-faire way it did in its pomp. There hasn’t been anything as shocking as Ned’s death or the Red Wedding for what seems like an age. Not all of our main players are going to be around to the bitter end; that much is certain. But the show needs to bring back the constant tension of no one being safe. What if the good guys – or as close as Thrones gets to good guys – don’t win? What if the world just, well, ends? What if Bronn murders everyone and claims the Iron Throne for himself? Give us the unexpected. It’s what we want, whether we know it or not.

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