Beginning of the end for Thrones

People | 16 Apr 2019

Devoted Game of Thrones fans who've watched and re-watched all 73 episodes of the HBO series, and read and reread all 4,000 pages of the books by George R R Martin, will at long last get the ending they've craved with the series' eighth and final season that started yesterday, Hong Kong time.

But will it be the "real" ending?

The plotlines of the show have long since shot past what's in Martin's books, whose own finale may be years away. While the endings will likely be similar, Martin could take a very different path to get there, making the coming end of the HBO show with its showdown between the humans of Westeros and invading White Walkers possibly just a preview.

For some, it all just means twice the fun.

"It doesn't bother me. I don't think they need to be one and the same," said Adonis Voulgaris, a fan of both formats. "For me, it just means more content I get to immerse myself in."

The show premiered in 2011, the same year Martin's fifth book in his A Song of Fire and Ice series was released.

Fans have been waiting and waiting for the sixth - The Winds of Winter - ever since, and many wonder whether the 70-year-old author will manage to finish all seven planned books.

"George is not a fast writer," said book-and-show devotee Andrew Stachler, 44. "So if you were following along, I think it was pretty evident early on that the show was going to get ahead of the books."

That did indeed happen, and by season six, warrior and king-in-the-making Jon Snow (played by Kit Harington) had been resurrected, while he still lies stabbed to death in a mutiny in the books.

Martin, an executive producer on the TV series who has written episodes but is sitting this season out, gave HBO showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss an outline of where his long-planned plot goes, including the fates of characters like Snow, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Arya Stark (Maisie Williams.)

So Benioff, Weiss and other writers have been telling the tale without books to back them. Fans are divided about the results.

"It doesn't seem any less planned out to me," Stachler said. "It's absolutely a continuation of his vision. I always felt like the show cleaned up the narrative in tighter, better-paced ways anyway."

Other readers feel the showrunner's vision and style have taken over.

"I think you've seen that in the last couple of seasons where you don't have the book as guide, you just go from one big event to another to another, without that feeling of the backstory," said fan Gabriela Perez, 44. "It's sort of like drinking a Diet Coke; it has all the flavor and all that, but you can tell the difference."

Voulgaris, 27, said "last season was absolutely on fast-forward. The rate at which people would travel from one place to another was incredible. But that makes it fun to watch, it makes it accessible to any viewer."

Some 12.1 million viewers tuned in to the season seven finale, with many millions more streaming it the same night or following days.

The May 19 series finale is sure to draw a bigger audience.


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