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?