*Warning: spoilers ahead.
Whew. That was…something.
In case you’re new to the Game, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, utilizing creations from George R. R. Martin’s brilliant mind, have managed to weave together one of the most intricate tapestries of modern TV. we’ve seen for some time. As such, Game of Thrones has captivated audiences since 2011 with unpredictable (and often bloody) plot twists.
We’ve weathered dozens of shocking storms together—from the Red Wedding to Reek’s journey—all of it leading up to Sunday night’s episode. Of course, we’re interested in what we’ve just finished watching (see opinions from our team below), but we also want to talk about what made season 8 a television phenomenon unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
Watching this show was a deviation from our now-normal consumption habits.
Let’s face it: streaming culture has changed the way we watch TV. We want it all, seasons at a time, the second it becomes available. And then, we want to binge-watch it until our eyes bleed—amirite, Oberyn & The Hound?
But for Thrones, we all sat down together at 9:00 p.m. on a Sunday night to catch it live on HBO. We waited 7 days for answers (or disappointments) while navigating ludicrous fan theories and leaks, instead of just hitting “Next Episode.” That’s devotion, and this new-age “Appointment TV” is contrary to how we prefer to consume our content.
Their marketing strategy—and budget—blew us all away.
In the months leading up to season 8, there wasn’t a corner of the world immune to the lure of Thrones. Brands undoubtedly saw this season as their last chance to cash in on the craziness surrounding the cultural phenomenon—and man, did they push it far.
Game of Thrones & HBO had an arsenal of nearly $20 million to cast its spells far and wide in an attempt to bring Westeros to the world, but outrageous brand collaborations were what really drove this madness home. Thrones was everywhere; creating their own GOT sneakers, curating an original album featuring Travis Scott and A$AP Rocky, distilling house-specific whiskeys, managing a Red Cross blood drive, killing off the Bud Knight, and even on both sides of America’s favorite cookie (which tastes better when dunked in giant’s milk—don’t you agree, Tormund?) Much of this brand collaboration was cringeworthy (looking at you, @GameOfThrones and @MrPeanut Twitter thread).
But even with all these placements, HBO and Thrones never reached the point of dilution. And for that, I’ll raise my chalice filled to the brim with the Wines of Westeros.
Crawford Strategy’s Take
Now, for the good stuff.
The final season’s real winner? Vegas, baby. Before the final episode aired, Bran was a -500 favorite to end the series perched upon the Iron Throne. His all-seeing visions and ability to hop freely through past and future made him a clear choice for bettors and, apparently, for Tyrion too, who played the odds one last time to save his own life (and cashed in big time). The two most important characters of Season 8 ended up on top—just as everyone predicted, right? For that, we have to give them a hand.
Our team had some mixed thoughts on the outcome of the final season. We all agreed on how beautifully-shot virtually every scene of every episode was (misplaced plastics aside), from the Cleganbowl’s apocalyptic staircase to Dany’s sendoff wings. We’re sure even “The Long Night” was a cinematic masterpiece—although we couldn’t see much of it. We also agreed that an Arya spin-off would be must-watch for Thrones fans, along with a retelling of the tale from the perspective of our beloved creatures: Ghost and Drogon.
From Samwell’s outrageous suggestion of Democracy to Jon Snow’s life sentence in the North, we felt marginally okay about how each character’s chapter in this story ended—but we certainly can’t wait to read the ending George R.R. Martin conjures up for those desperate to relive this Swan Song of Ice and Fire.
Until then, we’ll resume our regularly scheduled binge-watching marathons.