It’s fair to say that Game of Thrones had a fairly controversial finale, with the smash-hit fantasy drama’s final six episodes attracting a lot of criticism (and low review ratings) when they debuted in 2019.
While some fans loved the all-action spectacle of Westeros’ greatest war, others still complained of rushed storytelling and unconvincing character choices – and in a new book the series’ creators have responded to these criticisms, noting that they might have made a few mistakes after all.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly’s James Hibberd in his new book Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon, an official history of the HBO/Sky Atlantic TV series, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (along with some of their colleagues at HBO) were asked about the response to the finale, saying that, in hindsight, they might have made different choices.
“There definitely are things [over the course of the show] we would do differently,” Benioff said. “I don’t know if there’s anything I would want to discuss publicly.”
His co-writer Weiss, meanwhile, was more circumspect, noting the amount of hard work and time that went into the series.
“Prince once said something about how any record you listen to that you think is terrible, somebody worked themselves to the bone to make it,” Weiss told Hibberd.
“So many people work so hard on any aspect of a thing. So when you say something critical it can sound like you’re blaming somebody else. And really the only people who are to blame are us – and I sure as hell don’t want to blame us.”
Elsewhere, other executives were more defensive of the series. Executive producer Carolyn Strauss notes in the book that the final season was a “very tricky balancing act,” and that “there’s always going to be somebody in their comfy chair who has the better ending”.
“There were a lot of practical and storytelling factors that were never considered by someone doing a theoretical finale,” she continued. “If other people have a better idea, well, they can go do it themselves.”
And producer Christopher Newman, in contrast with Benioff, said he had “no regrets” about the final season.
“I thought it was the best work we had ever done,” he said. “Once everybody gets over the anger of the internet, they will see they wrote some fantastic stuff.
“The criticism doesn’t seem to fairly consider what an extraordinary achievement the whole thing was. When people say ‘I wasn’t happy with the ending,’ I think ‘If you wrote the ending you wanted, I bet nobody would have been happy with your ending either!’”
Or perhaps, as suggested by original book author and executive producer George RR Martin, we’re still a long way off knowing the true legacy of Game of Thrones – and whether the TV series really did take a big swerve from the quality of his novels.
“I hear both extremes,” Martin said. “There are people who say they hate the show and say, ‘George, write your books and ‘fix’ things.’ And there are people who love the show who say, ‘I don’t care about George’s version anymore, it’s a novelisation, it’s fan fiction, who cares.’
“When I finish my books people can argue which is right, which is wrong, and which is the ‘real’ story.
“None are the real story. These are fictional characters. Which one resonates with you more?”
Fire Cannot Kill A Dragon: Game of Thrones and the Official Untold Story of the Epic Series by James Hibberd is on sale from Tuesday 6th October, and you can buy it here. Want something to watch? Check out our full TV Guide.