The knock against Game of Thrones is that it’s only intermittently tried to be more than a soap opera with swords. The finale exemplified that lack of commitment to thematic depth, but so did every other episode of the show…so I’m a little surprised people are so disappointed. It’s like…haven’t we already watched eighty episodes of this?
The show was always, from season one, divided between complex characters who played by real-world rules and fantasy heroes who played by fantasy rules. For every Sansa there was an Arya. For every Ned there was a Jon. By the final episode, all the real-world characters had died, as they inevitably must, and the only possible lesson would’ve been to start applying real-world rules to the fantasy heroes. Inevitably this would’ve come off as a transgression against the terms of the show, and the show, knowing this, pulled most of its punches.
That tension–“Is this or isn’t this a show where the heroes win no matter what?”–is what drove interest in the show. If the show had come down too firmly on the realpolitick side, people would’ve gotten bored. But in trying to walk that line, the themes of the show became very muddled. Although I do think the writing and plotting and characterization deterioriated in the final three seasons, I don’t think that’s the fault of D.B. Weiss or David Benioff. It’s a problem in the underlying source material. There was a contradiction at the heart of Game of Thrones which was always destined to turn it into a garbled mess, and that indeed is what happened.
But it was still fun to watch!