The conniving Cersei Lannister once said, “When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” – a quote that best describes the onus of the fantasy series’ success. The intricacies of political backstabbing and calculated manoeuvring between human morality, familial loyalty and the brutality of wars were the driving force which hooked the audience to the folklore.
The series established a massive fanbase that even the Ruler of the Seven (now six) Kingdoms would have been mightily proud. With the broadcast of the final episode, did fans rejoice at the finality of the folklore or did they have to reluctantly accept its end as closure to the series? With over 6.1 million social mentions of the series, fans made their voices heard louder than a Dothraki army battle cry.
With more than 1.9 million social mentions for the Mother of Dragons, fans were left in shock and grief when firstly Daenerys scorched the innocents of King’s Landing with Drogon’s flaming breath and subsequently received the pointy end of Jon Snow’s dagger. Like Nietzsche’s quote on gazing into an abyss, Daenerys’ character development has changed from meek princess to merciful Breaker of Chains and finally to the vengeful bloodlust despot. Despite fans showing disdain of her demise, many fans remained loyal to her reign and were satisfied with the character’s ascension to the throne.
Many fans were left upset that Jon Snow, the new Queen-Lover-Auntieslayer, was tasked to carry out the unforgiving deed of ending the Mother of Dragons. There were more than 150,000 social mentions on the Targaryen romance. Fans were also annoyed that the protagonist of the whole epic did not get a satisfying end and was even banished to the icy glaciers of the North instead of taking over the throne. Jon Snow’s whimper off to the chilly horizon left fans distraught as it did not reflect their hero’s resolve.
Based on Cersei’s quote, we know many have died in the Battle of Bastards or the Red Wedding. Amongst the living, the houses mutually agreed that Bran ‘The Broken’ Stark should succeed the throne – a democratic decision to choose a leader. Blessed with Tyrion’s oratorical influence, he shone a light on the events Bran had to experience, the stories that accompanied him and his ability to foretell the future and know everything in the past, the houses (sans his blood kingdom) proclaimed him as the new King.
But what did the fans had to say? There were 885,000 social mentions of Bran and they were not particularly encouraging. Majority of social media responded with resounding mockery character and words such as “disappointment”, “useless”and “nowhere” were used generously among fans. It can be said that fans may be partial to how they want their favourite characters to turn out but for Bran, there was no love lost and even highlighted that no one cared when his character did not even appear for a whole season.
Fans were more satisfied with the final chapter of another favourite, the impish schemer with a heart, Tyrion. There were more than 713,000 mentions of Daenerys’ Hand who gave up his position after her destruction of the city but eventually reclaimed it under Bran. Many fans were in consensus that despite all the travails he had to endure in his life and adventures in Westeros, Tyrion was a key player of the Game of Thrones. He had manoeuvred so much to find himself in a lofty position in King’s Landing and even talked himself out of execution by the Unsullied.
Like the council that voted on Bran’s ascension to the throne, fans sought to find a democratic solution to solve their unhappiness. Even before the discussions on the final episode had even died down, a petition to remake the series’ end was set up and more than 1.5 million people have signed it. However, it would not be too surprising if this fell on deaf ears as the producers have the support from the cast and even the creator George R R Martin gave a thumbs up, citing differences to his canonical books should have been expected.
For eight long years, HBO’s adaptation of Martin’s fantasy folklore has enthralled the audience with heroism, moral ambiguity, insane amounts of bloodletting and gore, suspense, hypersexualised imagery, notorious villains, interweaving realpolitik, and impressive interpretations of dragons to date. Despite the uproar on how series ended, fans have to acknowledge it has, for the best parts (undeniably the first four seasons), been an immovable force within the realms of popular culture.
Disclaimer: All data and insights provided by Meltwater were analysed for the period between and after the final two episodes.