No, The Finale Didn't Kill Game of Thrones Interest
Among some, there’s been this belief about Game of Thrones following the failure of an ending: The show was become completely unrewatchable. “It was my favorite show,” say various people, “and now, I can’t bring myself to watch even the best episodes, knowing how it ends. It was the biggest cultural phenomenon of our time, and now, no one’s talking about it at all!”
If you’ve heard this yourself, know those are the opinions of a small bubble of people. And we’re not just talking about the bubble of online people who stream versus everyone who watches NCIS and FBI on network TV. An analytics firm tracks in-demand shows (their metric combines combine both audience ratings and online discussion) and has found that Game of Thrones remains one of the most in-demand shows of this year, 2022.
It varies a little from month to month, but the most in-demand shows of the year include Stranger Things and ... SpongeBob SquarePants. Thrones ranks behind those but beats out shows with new seasons like Better Call Saul and Obi-Wan. And if you look over at illegal downloads, Game of Thrones is currently estimated to be the single most pirated show. Euphoria is number two, while most of the other winners are older favorites, like Friends.
There’s a reason for this, and it’s not just that large numbers of people agree the journey matters more than the destination. Game of Thrones structured itself so that many of the storylines were surprisingly self-contained and you can appreciate them on their own regardless of what happens next.
There were exceptions (all the buildup over the White Walkers, for instance), but the story differed from so many counterparts because at its best, it didn’t follow setups and payoffs. It followed characters doing stuff and then experiencing consequences—consequences you didn’t predict and which could come at any time. That made for unsatisfying resolutions based on traditional narrative rules, and that’s exactly why people appreciated them as so refreshing.
When (spoilers) Ned Stark died at the end of season one, that wasn’t interesting because it set up his family eventually taking revenge; it was interesting as a capper to the mistakes he’d made by that point, so you can enjoy it even if you watch no further. Same deal with the Red Wedding. The first several seasons are a war between a bunch of aspiring kings who will all die years before the series ends—if you care about how their stories end, fear not, each ends abruptly before the last couple seasons.
Try watching the series and quitting after season four. Many threads remain dangling, but you’ll be shocked at how satisfying it still is ... and maybe you’ll then decide to watch the remainder after all.
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Top image: HBO