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In retrospect, now, it seems painfully obvious: There was never going to be a satisfying ending to Game of Thrones.
Though it may have featured Aaron Rodgers, the series’ penultimate episode Sunday night left many ardent fans furious. Some characters acted like totally different people than they were just a couple weeks ago, and others we assumed would die in the spectacular and gruesome fashions we’ve come to expect from the show instead went out with relative whimpers.
I actually enjoyed the episode for its chaos and its dizzying volume of violence. And I suspect the actual reaction — to Sunday night’s episode specifically and to the final season at large — is a bit less harsh than it is being portrayed online, because people in the business of publishing stuff online too often conflate the loudest voices on Twitter with public sentiment. The same angry internet mob that came for me when I called Game of Thrones dumb last month is now fuming mad at the show’s writers for making it so dumb. But most people are not part of angry internet mobs.
This is a weird comp, but the response to the final season of Thrones honestly reminds me a bit of Derek Jeter’s final season, when a few months’ worth of poor play at the end of a Hall of Fame career drew haters out of the woodwork (myself included) to point out the ways he had always been overrated. And just like great athletes, great TV series rarely go out on top.
(Helen Sloan/HBO via AP/Game of Thrones)
The best and most obvious example from semi-recent TV history is Lost, which was a lot like Game of Thrones in its ability to inspire both wonder and fantastical speculation at its peak. One time in 2009, I lost my keys and needed to endeavor a dangerous climb up a fire escape to break into my own apartment, and I remember thinking, “I hope I don’t die right now because then I’ll never find out how Lost ends.” But then it turned out the creators of Lost didn’t really know how it should end, either, and I’m still mad about it nearly nine full years after the finale. And rare is the transcendently popular television show that ends in any truly satisfying way.
The Walking Dead had me hooked for years, then dragged on so long I had to stop writing about it here. It now fills up my DVR, unwatched. The ending of Dexter was memorably bad. Same for Seinfeld. Sons of Anarchy spiraled into ridiculousness. The finale of The Sopranos was notably, divisively perplexing, and the finale of Breaking Bad was notably, divisively tidy.
A big part of the problem, I suspect, is that American TV series typically do not open with an end date or endgame in mind, allowing market forces to dictate the length of their runs.
But for Game of Thrones especially — like Lost before it — the disappointment now associated with its final season might counterintuitively reflect its success: Its creators built a world so big and so richly rendered that it is impossible to wrap up in any neat way. A big part of Game of Thrones‘ appeal was the breadth of possibilities for its conclusion, but approaching a conclusion requires eliminating many of the potential outcomes that we so enjoyed speculating about.
Sunday’s big winner: Kawhi Leonard
(Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Leonard put an unbelievable cap on an exciting seven-game Eastern Conference semi-final series by getting a shooter’s bounce on a buzzer-beater to pull the Raptors past the Sixers. The photos are incredible. Philadelphia center Joel Embiid left the court in tears after the loss. It’s wild that there are still three more NBA playoff series to play after how emotional this last round seems to have been. But I can’t say for sure, honestly; I was on vacation with a 19-month-old who goes to bed before basketball games get exciting, and it would’ve felt pretty rude to ditch my wife with a sleeping baby to go watch sports alone in bars.
Quick hits: Currys, Kanter, Power outage
– After Portland ousted Denver in their NBA playoff series, Blazers big man Enes Kanter mocked the Nuggets for prematurely advertising a Western Conference finals ticket offer after Game 5 of the set.
Enes Kanter (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
– The NBA’s Western Conference finals between the Warriors and Blazers will also be a Curry-on-Curry matchup. Andy Nesbitt explains why the Curry family should be pulling for Seth over Steph. I’ll take massaman, lol, get it?
– Sunday’s game between the Yankees and Rays at Tropicana Field was delayed due to a power outage, so fans tried to light up the park with their cell-phone flashlights. It didn’t work, but it was pretty magical nonetheless. I love when stuff like that happens organically, and hate that pro sports teams are now inevitably going to see this and goad fans into imitating it with sponsored jumbotron prompts, like, “it’s time to Miller Lite up the night!”
– Finally, a big thank you to Andy for filling in for me on this newsletter while I was out last week and keeping you all updated on my status. I take back all the nasty things I’ve said about him. I understand he got threatened by a stranger for a too-hot Kentucky Derby take, and I volunteer to crew up with him if he wants to track down that stranger and mete out scathing horse logic.