Damon Lindelof should be glad that for the first time in over a decade, his magnum opus Lost will not pop up at the top of Google when you search for the best shows with the worst final seasons. If you believe the incensed fans, Game of Thrones has usurped that crown.
Unlike Game of Thrones, however, the divisive final season of Lost was critically acclaimed. Lindelof, who is perhaps one of only a handful of writers to have created two of the greatest shows of all time – he followed up Lost with The Leftovers, and will soon return with Watchmen – still stands by the series finale.
He told the Independent in 2017, “What’s interesting about the show is it ended in 2010. We’re now seven years out and the legacy is going to change over time. I think what the short term legacy of the show was when it just ended is different to what it is now and will maybe be different 10 or 15 years from now. But I will say that, independent of whether or not you hated or loved the way that it ended, it’s pretty cool that people are still talking about it and have very strong feelings about it.”
Lindelof is right, the legacy of a show – especially one as popular as Game of Thrones – is a living, breathing thing. Simply because a show has ended doesn’t necessarily mean that it is dead. The venomous gut reaction that most fans are experiencing right now towards GoT could change after a few months, when they’ve had time to appreciate certain decisions, or perhaps view the season more objectively.
Certainly, several shows and films have made a case for a reappraisal over the years. Don’t be surprised if a decade down the line, when the sixth GoT spin-off fails to generate interest, fans express nostalgia for the good old days.
For a showrunner to get the opportunity to end their programme on their own terms is a miraculous gift to receive – just ask David Milch, who will return this month to properly conclude Deadwood, more than a decade after it aired its finale.
TV is an especially ‘collaborative’ medium, with several writers working extremely tight schedules to follow the vision of one person, often with sustained studio interference. The competition is so cutthroat, and the market so overcrowded that being great simply isn’t a good enough reason to warrant a renewal. More often than not, the decision to end a show’s run is made by the studio, and depressingly, it is mostly numbers-driven.
Lindelof and GoT creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss didn’t have to worry about numbers, or reviews. They had several years’ worth of path-breaking storytelling behind them, for which they were justly applauded. And yet, here they are, on the receiving end of fandom’s wrath.
Both shows are united by an unfortunate connection – they were aired at the height of Twitter’s popularity, which allowed fans to directly reach out to the creators and voice their disapproval of certain decisions. Lindelof has admitted that fan reaction had influenced certain, very important aspects of Lost. And you’d be lying to yourself if you didn’t believe that Benioff and Weiss aren’t playing close attention to what you’re saying. But it’s too late now.
Ending a show is a delicate matter. It’s next to impossible to satisfy everyone, which is why most finales choose to play it safe. But one thing is for sure now: Game of Thrones can never be counted among the best television shows of all time. This was a tall claim to begin with, but only the most oblivious fans could make it now.
How can it compare to the likes of Six Feet Under and Breaking Bad, to The Sopranos and, as recently as this week, Veep? It can’t, despite still having one round in the chamber. For starters, it isn’t nearly as ambitious as one would’ve liked, leave alone Lost, which ended with a blazingly go-for-broke finale. Game of Thrones, instead, is taking the most rugged path towards a conclusion that isn’t even likely to surprise fans.
But this isn’t Benioff and Weiss’ fault, necessarily. I believe the blame lies on HBO, who must have surely insisted the show maintain its unstoppable momentum, and overtake author George RR Martin’s books. For them to have dropped the ball this late in the game jeopardises not only the show, but also Martin’s novels. God help Benioff and Weiss if he comes up with a better ending in his two remaining books.
It wasn’t supposed to end this way. No one could’ve anticipated, even a month ago, that Game of Thrones could fall. But the fans are the ones who made it into what it is; they reserve the right to break it – as unfair as it might be.