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GAME OF THRONES Season 8 Review & Episode Scores

November 15, 2019
Game Of Thrones Season 8 Review

Game of Thrones: Season Eight

With this Season 8 review, we’ve scored every Game Of Thrones episode and there will be a master ranked list of the episodes forthcoming. The episodes were broken down at the granular level. Each storyline within each episode received score from 1-5 in each of the following areas: Story, Worldbuilding, and Entertainment. The component scores were then combined and used as the basis for the Episode Scores. With some time to reflect on the final season, we’ve completed the task. Read the Season 8 Review and stay tuned for the full ranked list of all 73 Game of Thrones episodes.

Previous Entries:

Introduction & Rationale

Season 1 Review

Season 2 Review

Season 3 Review

Season 4 Review

Season 5 Review

Season 6 Review

Season 7 Review

Without further ado…


First, a brief excerpt from our review of the previous season:

This is still Thrones, but with a shorter run of seven episodes and an overall breezier approach to storytelling, it often felt like a dragon of a different color.

This was the last sentence of the opening paragraph of our Season 7 review. With the series finale now in hindsight, that sentence now serves as a quaint reminder of just how much Game of Thrones seemed to contort itself in its final two seasons, seemingly in a rush to cross the finish line. Seasons 1-6 comprised ten episodes apiece. Season 7 delivered seven. Season 8 had six. Despite less screen time, there was never any shortage of story left to tell. Ultimately, Season 8 was a similarly uneven experience that doubled down on the storytelling headaches of Season 7. This is not to say that Thrones’ final season is of poor quality as a whole. Indeed, the season features some of the most striking Thrones scenes of all time with the unfortunate garnish of some of the series’ worst. Bring on the episode blurbs…

Winterfell [8.01]

Winterfell Episode Game Of Thrones

Episode Score: 74

Season 7 ended with the vast majority of consequential characters either residing in Winterfell or on their way there. Winterfellthe season premier, confirms that the primary dramatic hub has officially relocated from King’s Landing to the seat of northern power. Cersei is biding her time in King’s Landing with no one left to challenge her, which means we must look elsewhere for the series’ signature machinations and confrontations. Sure enough, Daenerys and company are not greeted with quite the warm Winterfell reception they were hoping for. The final scene, a visit to Last Hearth delivers genuine horror movie thrills. The episode is an effective table-setter for the season, even if it feels like the lesser half of the double-bill with A Knight of the Seven KingdomsAs is the case with almost every Thrones season premier to date, there are many characters to catch up with and a limited amount of screen time available. Establishing all of the necessary baselines diffuses the overall impact of this season-opener.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms [8.02]

Knight of the Seven Kingdoms Episode Game of Thrones

Episode Score: 84

This contemplative second chapter feels like both the second half of the premier and a stage-setter for the battle to come. It’s like the early scenes from Blackwater expanded to full episode length. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is overflowing with endearing characterizations — reckoning with Jaime’s past, Sansa and Daenerys attempting to reach an understanding, Brienne finally getting her due, and Arya resembling an actual human character for the first time in a while. The action never leaves Winterfell, and there’s no real reason to do so. Nearly every scene is satisfying — even without any action-oriented scenes — and this installment lands among the very best of the series to date. The premier was fine, but this felt more like the episode we were all waiting two years for. Better late than never.

The Long Night [8.03]

The Long Night Episode Game of Thrones

Episode Score: 82

Among the truly great Thrones episodes, The Long Night might be the most frustrating. The longest episode of the series is a thrill ride from start to finish and punctuated with iconic callbacks including; the return of the Catspaw dagger, Melisandre echoing Syrio Forel, and the Night King raising the dead. This installment shifts effortlessly back and forth between combat and horror, navigating the extensive battle by taking direct cues, famously, from the Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. It’s wonderful in many ways, including a series of unforgettable hero moments, particularly for Lyanna, Jorah, and of course, Arya. Many heroes were killed in this episode; Edd, Lyanna, Beric, Theon, Jorah and Melisandre. Interestingly, a popular complaint about this episode is that too few named characters perished. This nitpick has merit, as there are a distracting number of shots involving other characters (Sam, Brienne, Jaime, etc.) with no realistic chance of survival. If there’s one fault in the direction of this episode, it’s that too much screen time is devoted to the impending death of these secondary characters that never pays off. This is not a case of unchecked audience blood lust — it’s an unnecessary misdirect. You’d be forgiven for calling The Long Night the “Plot Armor” episode. Plot armor aside — and maybe some questionable military strategy (e.g. sending the entire Dothraki horde charging toward the unseen enemy) — this is a tremendous episode and the good far outweighs the bad. It also contains “The Night King,” perhaps composer Ramin Jawadi’s greatest contribution to the eighth season. It’s an eight-minute dirge accompanying the climactic montage, and you might want to listen to it on repeat afterward.

The Last of the Starks [8.04]

The Last of the Starks Episode Game of Thrones

Episode Score: 67

In a TV series rife with fraught sexual situations, deeming The Last of the Starks to be the most cringe-worthy episode of them all is saying something. And yet, this 71st frame has a legitimate claim to the throne  reserved for the series’ worst episode. While the funeral scenes following The Long Night and the subsequent frivolity work just fine, the wheels begin to fall off when Jaime and Brienne engage in an inebriated hook-up. It was awkward the first time (and not in a cute way), and it does not get any better after repeat viewings. There is a strategy scene in which Daenerys butts heads with her new allies. While interesting, this scene muddies the consequences of the previous episode. Jon’s parentage, in some ways the crux of the entire show, is revealed off screen and then almost immediately shrugged off. Shortly after that, Euron inexplicably reveals himself to be the master of giant crossbows when he kills Rhaegal. This was supposed to be a shocking moment. It was a shock, but not the good kind. My notes after the initial viewing of this episode began with, “immensely frustrating episode,” followed exclusively by questions interrogating the storytelling choices and logic of the episode. Not every scene was a disaster. The first two were strong. Bronn’s reappearance, while frivolous, may be the most enjoyable highlight. There was potential intrigue in characters grappling with Jon’s past, but it was squandered. Like all Thrones episodes, The Last of the Starks is watchable, but as a pivotal episode in a grander story, it arguably does more harm than good.

The Bells [8.05]

The Bells Episode Game of Thrones

Episode Score: 80

Just one episode ago, Daenerys lost a dragon to a series of improbable scorpion shots (the aforementioned giant crossbows). In The Bells, she destroys dozens of scorpions and an entire fleet of ships with a single dragon. One could probably live with either of those scenarios, but to sandwich them together in back-to-back episodes feels like an insult. It’s a microcosm of the wobbly storytelling that has plagued Seasons 7 and 8. This is all to say that The Bells is difficult to evaluate on its own merits. It’s a stunning episode in some ways, but feels negated in others. Daenerys’ destiny of fire and blood is appropriately complicated, and it’s a treat to behold. Cersei’s uncharacteristic passivity, not so much. Arguably, Thrones has never been about fan service, but Cersei is in some ways the show’s signature villain and she goes out like a lamb. For better and worse, the action focuses on the ground-level desperation of people trying to avoid dragon fire and falling debris. Jon and Arya’s parallel missions are well dramatized. The long-awaited showdown between Sandor the Hound and Gregor the Mountain was grotesque and hugely satisfying, elevated by the apocalyptic spurts of dragon fire all around. Cleganebowl delivered. The Bells is more good than bad and, with caveats, it seems likely to stand out as a bright spot among late-period Thrones.

The Iron Throne [8.06]

The Iron Thrones Finale Episode Game Of Thrones

Episode Score: 72

If Dany’s heel turn in The Bells was ever challenging to accept, it’s still nothing compared with her lack of reflection in The Iron ThroneFor her to go out having never contemplated that she may have become the thing she was fighting against feels off by several degrees. Still, the scenes between Jon and Tyrion do most of the leg work needed to sell the first half of the finale. This portion — concluding with Drogon melting the throne and flying off with Daenerys’ body — feels like a reasonable conclusion to the series. The latter portion is harder to defend. There is no honest accounting of what is to become of the Seven Kingdoms nor what Jon’s true role in it should be. The case for Bran as King is unconvincing. Did Bran know it was all going to work out this way? Similar to The Last of the Starks, the back half of the series finale is defined by the unflattering questions it leaves us asking. There are literally too many of them to simply roll with the ending. The flippant handling of some of these larger issues harms the overall story. Bifurcated in this way, The Iron Throne gives us a satisfying conclusion to the series with a confounding coda.

Analysis

Game of Thrones’ final season earns the second lowest overall score, finishing a few tenths of a point better than Season 7. In terms of episode scores, the premier was middling, but was immediately followed by the two best episodes of the season, rounding out a strong first three episodes. Episode two, A Knight of the Seven Kingdomsis the highest-scoring episode of the season and holds its own even among the best overall episodes of the series. The Long Night comes with a few reservations, but it still delivered a level of spectacle typically reserved for mega-budget blockbuster films. Episode four, The Last of the Starks is as close as Game of Thrones gets to a complete disaster. We have it as merely tied for the lowest overall episode score, but at the tail end of a series, the stakes are higher which makes this episode extra disappointing. The Bells was a strong rebound and its placement as a slightly better-than-average installment feels about right. As for the finale, the first half was promising and the second half was less so. The finale ultimately falls in the bottom quartile.

Minutiae

Season 8 Episode Averages:

— Episode Score= 76.08

— Story= 88.67

— Worldbuilding= 53.17

—Entertainment= 86.67

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms was the season’s top entry, with a score of 83.33 as well as the highest scores in both Worldbuilding (80) and Entertainment (100).

The Long Night trampled all in its way for the highest Story score, with a perfect 100.

Perhaps it isn’t fair to judge the worldbuilding of a series’ final episodes, as the show was by necessity narrowing its scope rather than expanding it, but either way, the final four episodes of this season earned the four lowest Worldbuilding scores of the entire series (50, 40, 52, 35 respectively).

Season 8 Episodes Ranked By Episode Score

  1. [8.02] A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (83.33)
  2. [8.03] The Long Night (81.67)
  3. [8.05] The Bells (79.33)
  4. [8.01] Winterfell (73.81)
  5. [8.06] The Iron Throne (71.67)
  6. [8.04] The Last of the Starks (66.67)

Season Scores Ranked (1-7)

  1. Season 6 (80.11)
  2. Season 4 (79.70)
  3. Season 3 (78.62)
  4. Season 1 (78.38)
  5. Season 2 (76.99)
  6. Season 5 (76.93)
  7. Season 8 (76.08)
  8. Season 7 (75.81)

This concludes the season-by-season review portion of our Game of Thrones obsession. There will be a master list of episode rankings, and probably some more Game Of Thrones stuff in general.

I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.

What is dead may never die.

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