"In story and sweep, ambition and execution, heart and mind, Game of Thrones is, quite simply, the greatest show on earth," says Mary McNamara. But what about Breaking Bad, The Wire, The Sopranos and other Peak TV faves? Those are "all great, successful, significant shows, none of which even approaches the visual, thematic or difficulty level of Game of Thrones," says McNamara. Pointing out the nudity, the rapes, the brutal violence and reliance on CGI, McNamara says "great" is not synonymous with “perfect.” Game of Thrones, says McNamara, is "the only television series that can be truly described as epic. No other series has ever built such a deeply detailed and far-flung world, with a geography as varied as its social constructs, religions, languages. No other series has propelled such a massive yet impeccably individualized cast through such an impossibly intricate cat’s cradle of story lines that honestly should have collapsed long ago but didn’t. No other series has so organically grown and changed along with its characters and its audience. No other series has better harnessed the industry’s wild unruly technological advances while never ceding the basic rules of storytelling and the deep human need for coherent mythology. And don’t get me started on Ramin Djawadi’s haunting, exhilarating theme song, the ever-changing Steampunk gadgetry of the opening sequence or Khaleesi’s magnificent braid strategy."
Game of Thrones is a once-in-a-lifetime show -- the right show for a very wrong decade : "You can cite all kinds of reasons Thrones became a global phenomenon," says Alan Sepinwall. "...It operates on a mammoth scale, with production taking place across multiple continents, not to mention visual spectacle the likes of which we never expected from television. It has a wealth of memorable characters, all of them impeccably cast, even if none of the actors were quite as familiar as Ned himself, Sean Bean, when the show began in 2011. But Ned’s execution — and the infamous Red Wedding, where Robb and company got stabbed in the back (and front and side) by supposed allies — looms incredibly large in the HBO drama’s legend. Some of that is the fundamental surprise of it: the idea that, even after The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Breaking Bad and more had seemingly shredded the rule book, there were still places a scripted drama could go that had once seemed impossible. But Thrones was also the right show for a very wrong decade. As our own world seemed to make less sense with each passing year, there was something cathartic about journeying to the fantasy realm created by author George R.R. Martin, and adapted for television by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. The world of Westeros seemed just as rage-inducingly capricious as our own, but it had dragons and giants and magical ice demons."
Game of Thrones may be the last popular show: "In penetrating the public’s subconscious, Thrones has risen to a new level of global monoculture and become the de facto water-cooler topic of the decade," says Alyssa Bereznak. "The series’ mix of detailed mythology and historically influenced political intrigue makes it a worthy story topic for both a subredditor and The New Yorker’s television critic. And its characters and themes have grown so recognizable that they’ve proved as effective at selling Johnnie Walker as they have in communicating foreign policy, however politically horrifying that may be."
It might be a good thing if Game of Thrones is the last true water-cooler show: "Water-cooler TV of generations past was grounded in the particulars of contemporary American life; even Seinfeld sparked debate over social norms," says Judy Berman. "But authors from Edgar Allan Poe to Octavia Butler have long since proven the myopia of genre snobbery and demonstrated that genre fiction can speak just as eloquently to the human experience as realism. What’s frustrating is how narrow the brand of entertainment populism that elevated Game of Thrones to such an exalted plane of cultural significance, and kept it there even as the quality of its storytelling slipped, tends to be. As in the movies, it seldom seems to benefit genres or audiences that aren’t predominantly white and male."
Game of Thrones has been bad for motherhood -- Gilly is the only mom on the show who hasn't lost a child: There's a subtle conclusion to draw from mothers losing their children on the HBO series, says Anna Nordberg. "Cersei and Daenerys have both shown they can survive unthinkable loss, and that gives them legitimacy as leaders, a price men in power are not asked to pay. And even when they are—Jaime has, no less than Cersei, lost all three of his children—it’s not treated as crucial to their characters. It reminded me of the research suggesting a disproportionate number of female politicians are breast cancer survivors because it confers respect on a level equivalent to a war wound. It seems that in both Westeros and our own society, the bar for women to reach leadership positions is disturbingly high."
Must we watch Game of Thrones' final season?: "Why do I feel this dread?" asks Dan Kois. "Well, in part, it’s because I feel fairly certain that the final episodes will be bad. The series has definitely trended in that direction in recent years, and that was while all avenues were still open to Game of Thrones. Now the show must attempt to wrap up an enormous, complicated, long-running story avidly followed by millions in a manner that is both artistically successful and narratively satisfying, a nearly impossible task. (Arguably it’s only been accomplished by two people in human history.) If the past 10 years have taught us anything, it’s that the actual pleasure of watching the end of a prestige television series cannot match the anticipation of doing so."
Game of Thrones' most potent fantasy was a dream of global community: "The sheer vastness of Thrones’ fan base makes each individual fan more anonymous," says Kyle McAuley. "Forget trying to stand out with a perfect fan theory or the hottest take. The show has seen every take known to the living and the dead. But anonymity in the face of Thrones’ ubiquity isn’t a bad thing. In fact, after a disappointing seventh season and nearly two years of waiting, I’m convinced it’s the best remaining thing about the show."
Hopefully, Game of Thrones can remember its family drama roots: "Years from now, Game of Thrones may be most remembered for its (literally) explosive moments," says Caroline Framke. "I get it; a zombie ice dragon blowing a hole through a frozen wall is a tough image to shake. But hopefully the show can remember in its final days that its most effective storytelling choices always came from its examinations of how families come together, fall apart, and begin anew."