Will Game of Thrones’ legacy be saved?

With Emmy wins bagged and spin-offs on the horizon, it’s possible that history will remember Westeros more kindly

The season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones was illegally streamed 55 million times

It’s fair to say that critical and audience reaction to Game of Thrones took something of a nosedive during its final season, with its last few episodes rated among the series’ worst – the final three were designated ‘rotten’ on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, while the finale had a series-low rating on IMDB.

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The general consensus seemed to be that showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss had delivered a rushed and unsatisfying ending to George RR Martin’s epic fantasy narrative.

But will this disappointing conclusion be the series’ lasting legacy? Well, possibly not – because there are already signs that history is remembering the HBO series a bit more kindly.

This week, Game of Thrones pocketed an impressive Emmys haul including Best Supporting Actor for Peter Dinklage and – crucially – Outstanding Drama Series for Game of Thrones’ last season as a whole.

This decision (along with other nominations for the divisive final episode ‘The Iron Throne’) has attracted some censure by fans on social media, but it could be taken as a sign that, now that the dust has settled, people (specifically Television Academy people, but still) are starting to re-evaluate Thrones’ final impact. Or at least, they’ve started to remember the series as an impressive whole, rather than just for its weaker moments towards the end.

At the same time, the internet news cycle continues to churn out more and more details about Thrones’ multiple in-development spin-offs, from the already-shot pilot Bloodmoon [working title] that stars John Simm and Naomi Watts in a period of long-ago Westerosi history to the untitled Targaryen spin-off that’s set to bring awesome dragon combat back to screens.

Whether these series are good or not, it seems like Thrones will benefit with the benefit of hindsight. Assuming they’re turned into full series and become worthy successors to Thrones at its height, we’ll be reminded of the series at its best. On the other hand, if they’re terrible cash-ins with limited artistic merit, we’ll remember the purity and focus of the original TV Westeros with greater fondness than we may do now.

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Peter Dinklage accepts the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series award for 'Game of Thrones' during the 70th Emmy Awards on September 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 17: Peter Dinklage accepts the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series award for ‘Game of Thrones’ during the 70th Emmy Awards on September 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/FilmMagic)

In time, when tempers have cooled and the pop culture conversation has moved on, it may be that even the most disappointed of fans can regard Game of Thrones’ legacy with more magnanimity than they could when the disappointment was still fresh.

After all, the only reason the series was able to attract so much red-hot hatred at the end was because of the love and high expectations its standards had previously inspired – and one day, it could be that the latter will once again outweigh the former.

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When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die – there is no middle ground. But when you watch and remember it? Well, there might be *something* between absolute devotion and virulent hatred after all.