NOTE: Major spoilers ahead. Do not read if you haven’t seen the entirety of the final season of Game of Thrones.
After nine long years and eight seasons, HBO’s fantasy mega-hit Game of Thrones came to a halting end on Sunday night.
The series finale, “The Iron Throne“, became HBO’s newest record holder for most-watched show ever.
With 13.6 million viewers tuning in live and an additional six million streams and replays, the show itself claimed the throne from The Sopranos, which welcomed 13.43 million viewers during its fourth season premiere back in 2002.
Although the long-reigning show may have broken a number of records, many Game of Thrones fans were left disappointed after the highly anticipated finale.
The result included a massive amount of negative criticism across social media.
A Change.org petition created earlier this month demanding HBO remake the show’s eighth season spiked dramatically following the episode and, as of this writing, has received more than 1.38 million signatures.
The response to this backlash? Well, some of the show’s leading stars, including Kit Harington (Jon Snow) and Isaac Hempstead Wright (Brandon Stark) — who became king of the now-Six Kingdoms of Westeros — revealed how they really felt about the finale.
Harington, 32, admitted ahead of the finale that he thought it might divide fans.
(L-R) Maisie Williams, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner and Isaac Hempstead Wright at the final Game of Thrones season premiere at the Waterfront Hall on April 12, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
After Daenerys Targaryen (portrayed by Emilia Clarke) destroyed King’s Landing, claimed thousands of innocent lives and temporarily claimed the Iron Throne in the show’s penultimate episode, “The Bells,” Jon decided to murder her — his lover — instead of letting her reign as Westeros’ Mad Queen.
“If you track Daenerys’ story all the way back, she does some terrible things. She crucifies people. She burns people alive,” the actor told Entertainment Weekly in defence of his character’s decision.
“This has been building so we have to say to the audience: ‘You’re in denial about this woman as well. You knew something was wrong. You’re culpable — you cheered her on.’”
He added his concerns about the show being perceived as sexist when Daenerys was killed off as well as Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), who was crushed by falling debris and rocks alongside her brother Jaime in the aftermath of the carnage that took King’s Landing.
“One of my worries with this is we have Cersei and Dany, two leading women, who fall,” he said. “The justification is just because they’re women, why should they be the goodies?
“They’re the most interesting characters in the show, and that’s what Thrones has always done. You can’t just say the strong women are going to end up the good people.”
He added: “Dany is not a good person. It’s going to open up discussion, but there’s nothing done in this show that isn’t truthful to the characters. And when have you ever seen a woman play a dictator?”
This image released by HBO shows from left to right Maisie Williams, Isaac Hempstead Wright and Sophie Turner in a scene from the final episode of Game of Thrones, which aired Sunday, May 19, 2019. (HBO via AP)
“I genuinely thought it was a joke script,” Hempstead Wright told EW. “(I thought that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss) sent everyone a script where their character ends up on the Iron Throne.”
“Good one, guys,” he joked. “Oh, s**t — it’s actually real?”
The 20-year-old actor added that he knew that many fans would not be happy that “Bran the Broken” ended up being the ruler of Westeros.
“Not everyone will be happy,” he said. “It’s so difficult to finish a series as popular as this without p**sing some people off.”
Although Brandon came out on top, Hempstead Wright revealed that he wished his character would have had a “good death scene” instead.
“I’m happy, though I kind of did want to die and get in one good death scene with an exploding head or something,” he said.
When asked her own opinion regarding the backlash, Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) hit back against the “disrespectful” remarks made by many disgruntled fans.
“Honestly, I’m not surprised,” she told the New York Times on Monday. “People always have an idea in their heads of how they want a show to finish and so when it doesn’t go to their liking, they start to speak up about it and rebel.”
Sansa, Thank you for teaching me resilience, bravery and what true strength really is. Thank you teaching me to be kind and patient and to lead with love. I grew up with you. I fell in love with you at 13 and now 10 years on.. at 23 I leave you behind, but I will never leave behind what you’ve taught me. To the show and the incredible people who make it, thank you for giving me the best life and drama lessons I could have ever asked for. Without you I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Thank you for giving me this chance all those years ago. And finally to the fans. Thank you for falling in love with these characters and supporting this show right through till the end. I’ll miss this more than anything.
A post shared by Sophie Turner (@sophiet) on
“The thing about Game of Thrones that’s always been amazing is the fact that there’s always been crazy twists and turns… right from Season 1 with Ned’s beheading,” she said. “So Daenerys becoming something of the Mad Queen — it shouldn’t be such a negative thing for fans.”
She continued: “It’s a shock, for sure, but I think it’s just because it hasn’t gone their way. All of these petitions and things like that — I think it’s disrespectful to the crew and the writers and the filmmakers who have worked tirelessly over 10 years and for 11 months shooting the last season.
“So many people worked so, so hard on it, and for people to just rubbish it because it’s not what they want to see is just disrespectful.”
Meanwhile, Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), was quite happy to sit back and join in the fun.
“Just here for the memes,” she wrote on Twitter following the Game of Thrones finale.
Since the premiere of Season 8, many fans of the show have been creating and sharing memes pertaining to popularly questioned writing decisions and plot loopholes.
Williams, 22, won fans over in the season’s third episode, “The Long Night,” after her character assassinated the villainous Night King and ended the long-standing Great War.
Although many were left wondering why she befriended a horse at the end of the show’s fifth episode, which aired on May 12.
The horse neither returned for the finale or showed any signs of clear significance relative to the plot.
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