Winter's gone - but realm of Thrones far from finished

| ASSOCIATED PRESS 22 May 2019

Winter has come and gone, the last of the heads have been lopped off, and last of the dragon fire spit, as Game of Thrones aired its 73rd and final episode.

With ratings predictably huge, the results of the game were a split decision, as they often were in the show's eight seasons, and fan opinions were deeply divided, as they so often are for big series endings, from Seinfeld to The Sopranos to Lost.

But this finale at least brought some clear winners, at least one clear loser, and a major upset.

It was the endgame of a heel-turn from a week earlier that brought more fan outrage than any other moment in the always provocative show. The negative reaction spilled into the finale, with fans on Twitter in particular expressing outrage about the outcome, even if many agreed it was reflective of the way the unjust real world works.

And the episode's leaps from big event to big event in an attempt to tie up its many plot threads did nothing to quiet criticism that the show that made its name on carefully meandering storytelling had given that up in the final two seasons in favor of attempts to please.

Critics were genuinely divided. The episode had a 57 percent fresh score among reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes, and even positive reviews acknowledged the impossibility of pulling off an ending that would be broadly satisfying.

Regardless of how fans felt, they never stopped watching. The finale attracted 19.3 million viewers across HBO's platforms, topping the previous episode's 18.4 million to make it the most-viewed episode of any kind in HBO history.

Just after it aired, nine of Twitter's top 10 trending topics were related to the show which had a full-circle ending of sorts.

While the night brought a big end for Thrones fans, its universe was far from over. Author George RR Martin still intends to finish and release two more books in the series after the show passed him by years ago. And spinoffs are in the planning stages.

One pilot in production takes place in the same realm thousands of years earlier, and the finale might have hinted at another possibility. Arya Stark, who saved humanity early in the season, decides to sail to unknown lands, and her departure is among the series' final images.

"What's west of Westeros?" she asks her Stark siblings."No one knows. It's where all the maps stop. It's where I'm going."

TV comedy writer Bess Kalb expressed a common response to this idea on Twitter: "Will watch Arya the Explorya."

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