The Game of Thrones finale has finally aired, and we know exactly what happens to all of our favorite characters that are still left alive. The last episode is in many ways a lot better than everything we saw this season, but the writing is, yet again, this show’s Achilles’ heel. As a long-time Game of Thrones fan, it’s not the destination that I’m not happy about. To quote a different Stark, “part of the journey is the end,” and this ending is just fine for these characters. It’s the journey that’s not that great, especially this season.
The showrunners have rushed through pivotal scenes that could have dramatically altered the way fans reacted to season 8, and eliminated logic and common sense all to needlessly shock the audience. It’s not surprising to see poor reviews for the final three Game of Thrones episodes, and hear that over 1.2 million people penned a petition for HBO to redo season 8 with “competent writers” in just a matter of days. While some stars aren’t happy with the way fans reacted, Emilia Clarke, whose performance as Daenerys is easily one of the highlights of season 8, wouldn’t mind getting more context from the season.
The actress told The New Yorker that she wasn’t aware of the petition to redo season 8. When asked what would she want out of a reshoot, she didn’t shy away from the answer:
Oh, my goodness. Well, I can only speak to my own character, and the people that I interact with on the show. But I would’ve loved some more scenes with me and Missandei. I would’ve loved some more scenes with me and Cersei.
Yeah. I would’ve loved some more scenes between Grey Worm and Missandei. I would’ve loved to see a bit more between Cersei… I feel like there was… The genocide was there. That was always going to happen. And I just think more dissection and those beautifully written scenes that the boys have between characters—that we are more than happy to contently sit there and watch ten minutes of two people talking, because it’s beautiful. I just wanted to see a bit more of that. But I’m in no position to critique the geniuses that have written eight seasons’ worth of wonderful stuff.
Oh, yes, Khalessi, you are very much in a position to critique the geniuses exactly because season 8 is so lacking.
In a separate interview with Entertainment Weekly, Clarke touched on how she learned the fate of the character she’s been playing for a decade on Game of Thrones, and from the way she tells it, it came as a shock:
Emilia Clarke read a paragraph in the final script for Game of Thrones.
She read it again and again. Seven times, she says, she read the words that revealed the devastating fate of Daenerys Targaryen, a character she’s portrayed on the HBO global phenomenon for nearly a decade.
“What, what, what, WHAT!?” the actress recalls thinking. “Because it comes out of f—king nowhere. I’m flabbergasted. Absolutely never saw that coming.”
One of the many criticisms regarding season 8 concerns Dany’s arc and the fact that the audience isn’t given enough hints where this is all going. Therefore, the moment she torches King’s Landing comes as a total surprise.
Clarke’s initial reaction further proves that critics are somewhat correct. If the actor playing one of the leading characters of the show didn’t see this coming, then how are we, mere mortals and HBO subscription payers, supposed to? Later in the interview, she does concede that she’s been receiving notes from directors and showrunners to act differently in certain scenes over the years. So, retrospectively it may make sense to her. But, again, it’s not all that clear to the audience:
Regardless of the final season’s narrative’s origin, the Thrones writers have planned Dany’s fate for years and have foreshadowed the dark turn in the storyline. In previous seasons, producers would sometimes ask Clarke to play a scene a bit different than what she expected for a seemingly heroic character. “There’s a number of times I’ve been like: ‘Why are you giving me that note?’” Clarke says. “So yes, this has made me look back at all the notes I’ve ever had.”
The EW interview also reveals one other interesting anecdote from filming the season. While Clarke knew going into the initial table read what was going to happen to Dany in the finale, Kit Harington, who plays Jon “Queenslayer” Snow, did not, preferring to experience it during the read. The two shared a plane ride to Belfast, and Clarke was annoyed at him for not being able to talk about the finale:
At the table read, Clarke sat across from Harington so she could “watch him compute all of this.” When they got to their final scene together, recalls Harington, “I looked at Emilia and there was a moment of me realizing, ‘No, no…’”
And Clarke nodded back, sadly, ‘Yes…’
“He was crying,” Clarke says. “And then it was kind of great him not having read it.”
Both interviews are worth reading, revealing Clarke’s views on her character, the hardships that came with the role, and the personal problems the actress had to face while playing the Mother of Dragons, including the two brain hemorrhages she had to deal with early in her Game of Thrones career.