It’s 2019, spring has sprung and you have just finished the season finale of Game of Thrones on HBO. Still finding it hard to recall? Allow me to really jog your memory. ‘Anger’ cannot begin to describe the fury you feel at how dirty they’ve done Dany, and you’re feeling all ‘head empty no thoughts’—except for thinking ‘Bran, really?’. Your mind begins to malfunction as you find yourself almost breaking the ‘skip forward’ button on your remote. You completely miss the credits, because you believe you have missed an episode or two—or entire seasons. You’re left thinking that The Matrix was a true story and you must be living in it, because surely this ending is a wild part of a simulation designed to distract you and harvest your organs.
But this wasn’t the outcome that writer and author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, George RR Martin had in mind. Maybe some shock was anticipated, but definitely not this. If Martin had his way, we could’ve had 100 episodes in total, which was known well before the dreaded finale even came to be, according to a new book.
Game of Thrones blog Winter is Coming shared an excerpt from the recently published book Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers by investigative journalist James Andrew Miller, in which Martin explained his fears about where the show was heading.
I think a warning is in order actually, not just for spoilers, but for the inevitable can of emotional worms that you’ll open from revisiting what I can only call the biggest let down in TV history. And no, I don’t even think that’s dramatic enough.
Although it’s been two whole years since the initial debacle of the show’s ending, the reason I have brought you back here (trauma in tow) is because it wasn’t actually supposed to be this way. In fact, sources spilled some beans this week that we really could have had a great ending, with two extra seasons building up to it. All the memes of ‘the show villain’ Daenaerys and her sudden shift to the dark side versus ‘the real villains’ (the showrunner duo of David Benioff and DB Weiss) were correct. Recent news reveals the real reason why fans didn’t get the 10 season run of Game of Thrones that we truly deserved.
‘Justice for George’ is my lifelong campaign and I’m sure a lot of you have felt the same since the show premiered in the US on 17 April 2011 on HBO. It’s safe to say, the infamous American fantasy TV series had a chokehold on us during the 2010s—spanning 73 episodes over multiple seasons and including a beloved cast of famous faces to get us hooked onto the genre again. According to Insider, however, Martin reportedly “begged” the network to make the show 10 seasons long, but alas, the showrunners opted for cutting it short at eight, with a measly six-episodes.
While the world’s current obsession with death game TV is expected—and has even been predicted—by the pandemic hellscape we are currently in, I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the insatiable thirst for a fantasy inspired by Game of Thrones. The show broke boundaries with the added dash of crude and nude content that changed television and the world itself forever. Opening up realms like LARPing, the fictional land of Westeros had its ups and downs like any show—only to crash and burn on a horizon that even it’s most devoted fans couldn’t stand to support.
It’s time for me to get out all of my gripes as a Game of Thrones fan. Though there are many reasons why we stan, I think the reason for the attraction to the programme is entirely understandable. I mean who doesn’t like twisted deaths and dragons? Despite my disdain for the show, the end of season four and The Long Night episode, that really lived up to the name, I wasn’t an OG fan. Instead, I’m what you’d call a late-blooming binger—which I am now incredibly thankful for—and I raced through the entire series just before the hot garbage ‘finale’ aired in May 2019.
But back to our scheduled programming, the show’s first seasons easily hooked audiences. Game of Thrones was even regarded by many as one of the greatest television shows of all time initially. The series was the ‘it girl’ of TV award celebrations, receiving high praise across the board for its writing, directing, design and costuming. It also managed to pull in record viewership numbers staggering at millions while sweeping the Grammys with 160 nominations and awards in total—an astounding 59 Primetime Emmy wins (making it the most for any drama series) and four-time champ for the Outstanding Drama Series award—and even amassing five glossy Golden Globes to its name.
All of this, however, faded into the abyss with the culmination of the last season. To be honest, the last installation of the series went down like a led balloon in all its dragon blazing, plot-holed glory. And it wasn’t just the fans who were disappointed in this tragic ending, the creator behind it all desperately tried to avoid what he perceived as the inevitable chaos of the last season.
I, and many many others, have more than a bone to pick with whoever was behind the show’s shortened lifespan. It’s been revealed that the internet’s laser focus on the showrunners isn’t exactly unfounded. Benioff and Weiss strategically steered clear of slander devolving online as they rarely use social media—despite trying to trick theorists with twists and turns in the finale. This roller coaster from hell pretty much made us all want to barf at the end.
Many outlets, including The Independent, have recently reported that Martin’s doubts about the series crept in as early as Season 6. NME further delved into how the show went down the beaten path by straying away from the books and Martin’s carefully laid out template after the fifth season, bringing key events forward such as Tyrion’s meet up with Daenerys—and just generally making an absolute mess of things.
Within the 757 interviews conducted for the book, Miller spoke with everyone involved including Martin, his agent Paul Haas, and HBO’s former head huncho Richard Plepler. Leaving his precious child in the hands of Benioff and Weiss to end the story on their terms, made Martin uneasy, according to Complex.
“George loves Dan and Dave, but after season five he did start to worry about the path they were [going down] because George knows where the story goes,” Haas told Miller. “He started saying, ‘You’re not following my template’. The first 5 seasons stuck to George’s roadmap. Then they went off George’s roadmap,” he continued.
“George would fly to New York to have lunch with Plepler and beg him to do ten seasons of ten episodes because there was enough material for it and to tell him it would be a more satisfying and more entertaining experience,” Haas added.
Ultimately, the troublesome twosome wanted to move onto bigger things. “Dan and Dave were tired, rightfully so,” Haas said. “They were done, and wanted to move on, so they cut it short and then and then negotiations became, how many seasons can we stretch this out? Because of course HBO wanted more,” he concluded.
Back in 2019, Martin shared with Entertainment Weekly that he had no plans to change the ending of the last two books based on the backlash received from fans. Even though the original series ended sourly, I think the internet’s habit of making lemonade out of lemons is good enough for me. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll actually get the long-awaited sixth book, The Winds of Winter?
Harry Potter: a staple in the starter pack on how to spot a millennial muggle, the film franchise that brought the fantasy genre back for children and adults alike, remains a mainstay in the festive season. 2021s holiday season is topping the previous yearly Potter marathons with a Harry Potter cast reunion anniversary special taking place on New Year’s Day. It’s been 20 years since the first film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone graced our screens and changed film fandoms forever.
Try not to feel too old though weary youngsters, even though nostalgia is everywhere and social media is catching on to remind us that we’re actually kind of old. The holidays are simply not complete, no matter how old you are, without bingeing the adventures of fresh faced Harry, Ron and Hermione as they traverse the world of dreaded dementors, deathly hallows and you know who.
According to a recent announcement, the special will be released on HBO Max. Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts is set to stream on 1 January 2022 in the US, with its UK air date and broadcaster yet to be confirmed. The feature will “tell an enchanting making-of story through all-new, in-depth interviews and cast conversations,” as mentioned in its teaser trailer. All eight Harry Potter films are already available to stream on the network.
With a new range of funky new Funko POP toys to mark the anniversary, the star-studded cast will be coming back to where it all began, at the home of Hogwarts (aka Warner Bros Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter). Celebrations appear to be in order as our Gryffindor trio are set to reunite on screen, along with Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets director Chris Columbus, ten years after the last film in the franchise—which was based on JK Rowling’s books and took in some $7.8 billion at the global box office—was released.
The tribute to the first film will debut with the premiere of the bracket-style quiz competition Harry Potter: Hogwarts Tournament of Houses on 28 November on both TBS and Cartoon Network, according to Variety. Oddly enough though, there seems to be no mention of the writer that made one of the greatest—and thankfully fictional—villains in history, Rowling. In fact, in all mention of this wonderful occasion, it’s only been revealed that the writer will not feature in the special at all. Hmm, we wonder why…
“It has been an incredible journey since the debut of the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone film, and witnessing how it has evolved into this remarkable interconnected universe has been magical to say the least,” Warner Bros’ president of global kids, young adults and classics Tom Aschiem said in a statement.
“This retrospective is a tribute to everyone whose lives were touched by this cultural phenomenon—from the talented cast and crew who poured their heart and soul into this extraordinary film franchise to the passionate fans who continue to keep the Wizarding World spirit alive 20 years later,” Aschiem continued.
The special will bring back famous faces from all eight films with a discussion of the monumental Potter legacy. There are even talks of this nostalgic stroll down memory lane including never before seen clips and behind the scenes said to be part of the retrospective. Back in the boarding school sets, we will see our original darling leads Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, which is all the rage since the three have never reunited in an official capacity since the franchise ended in 2011.
Other fan favourites said to appear include the marvellous Bellatrix Lestrange herself (Helena Bonham Carter), shaggy-haired Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) and the terrifying he who shall not be named (Ralph Fiennes). Other cavalry cast members on the list are Sirius Black’s Gary Oldman, Draco Malfoy’s Tom Felton, Dolores Umbridge’s Imelda Staunton and Neville Longbottom’s Matthew Lewis. Even the Weasleys—Oliver Phelps, James Phelps, Mark Williams and Bonnie Wright—have managed to weasel their way into this grand get-together. On the sets are also the iconic (and my favourite character) Luna Lovegood played by Evanna Lynch and Dean Thomas played by Alfred Enoch. However, Rowling—the mind behind all of these characters—won’t be there.
Rowling isn’t set to make a personal appearance, which may make some of us jump for joy. While the best-selling author won’t be present in the reunion festivities, she is expected to feature in archival footage—alas, it seems we can’t get rid of her entirely as she did create Harry Potter in the end. Sources have told Hollywood Reporter that the special will focus on the creation of the film and the “central” team behind it. But, isn’t Rowling (unfortunately) part of that? Well, it seems Hollywood is finally taking a stand against transphobic comments, and not asking fans to push past their valid feelings against the writer for the sake of the franchise they oh-so-dearly know and love. About damn time.
I think it’s pretty obvious why Rowling is going to be a no-show at this celebratory special. Her absence is a result of many controversies surrounding her views on gender identity and comments she has previously made about the transgender community. All of which sparked rightful backlash from fans and even the film’s cast members. Rowling’s transphobia is not just poorly worded Twitter musings either, they were deliberate and insulting. The writer did even more damage by knuckling under in a series of tweets—one read: “It isn’t hate to speak the truth”—to defend her horrible points against the trans community.
This debacle included Rowling taking a stance on the definition of what it means to be a woman, particularly relating to menstruation, tweeting that she had issues with the phrase ‘people who menstruate’. When the writer came under fire for her comments on sexuality, she didn’t back down, stating, “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased.”
She kept digging her hole deeper by continuing, “The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women—ie, to male violence—‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences—is nonsense.”
Rowling has stated that she “respects every trans person’s right to live in a way that feels authentic and comfortable to them,” but added that it’s not “hateful” for her to discuss that her life “has been shaped by being female.” In further defence of her harmful tweets, she released an essay in 2020, where she stated that her trans issues stemmed from being a survivor of abuse, which gave her concerns about single sex spaces. Still way too hung up on other people’s bodily functions, Rowling shared the article online and wrote, “‘People who menstruate’. I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” Numerous outlets like The Cut, Glamour and Deadline have since dissected this piece and the willfully ignorant transphobia it continues to push.
“I’m mentioning these things now not in an attempt to garner sympathy, but out of solidarity with the huge numbers of women who have histories like mine, who’ve been slurred as bigots for having concerns around single-sex spaces,” Rowling wrote.
Radcliffe was among the first to slam Rowling’s vocabulary choices in an article for The Trevor Project. In response to her tweets he said that “transgender women are women.” The actor gave a heartfelt apology to those whose experiences with the Harry Potter books were tarnished by Rowling’s words. Watson—UN Women Goodwill Ambassador—wrote a series of tweets to her 29.1 million Twitter followers quickly after Rowling came under fire: “Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are.” Grint joined his fellow castmates by choosing to release his own statement on the furore in 2020, where he stated: “I firmly stand with the trans community.” He went on to tell The Times: “Trans women are women. Trans men are men. We should all be entitled to live with love and without judgment.” In a separate interview with the publication, he also addressed why he waited so long to stand up against Rowling’s hate speech.
Even Eddie Redmayne, who starred in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, chimed in to make it “absolutely clear” that he did not agree with Rowling in a lengthy statement to Variety.
Regardless of Rowling’s controversial commentary, this train to Hogwarts is chugging on without her. The TV special is one of several 20th anniversary events planned by Warner Bros, including a TV quiz contest for Potter fans hosted by Helen Mirren. “The excitement is palpable as they prepare to take their fans on a very special and personal journey, through the making of these incredible films,” Ascheim stated about the upcoming celebration.
So dust off your wands and grab your capes because the wizarding world we missed so much is opening its doors for fun all round, and luckily, without JK Rowling trailing right behind.