Has Game of Thrones peaked? On a very basic review of the numbers, no. The show’s ratings, for the most part, have done nothing but increased, the finale of the most recent season becoming the most watched episode of the show to date. However, the hype culture that surrounds the show, to me at least, seems to be dissipating. Game of Thrones was one of those shows that was treated like an event every year; April was no longer the month of fooling people and my birthday, it was the month Game of Thrones was back. But a lack of effort in promotion, a two-year long season gap, and a sharp decline in writing quality has made the show hold less prestige and interest.
The build-up to the show's final season seems relatively lacklustre; gone are the days where the show had a clear-cut promotional strategy, where you’d see the iconic posters of the Hall of Faces lining every bus. All I’ve really seen on promotion for the final season is a series of clips of the actors explaining the plot of their characters thus far in the most patronising manor I could imagine, like none of us had seen the show in the first place. I mean, realistically, who’s going to watch these videos if they hadn’t already seen the show? Or alternatively, if you hadn’t seen the show but now had an interest, who would watch them to spoil it for themselves entirely? A very strange marketing strategy to be sure.
The lack of excitement and wonder I once felt about the show isn’t dying just because of some strange marketing, however.
Every year the Game of Thrones gap would be filled with anticipation as we all waited to see where the show would go next, or rather who they’d kill next. But this time it wasn’t just a year wait, it was a two-year one, a choice made in order to go “bigger” and “better” with the final season, despite it being nearly half the size of the original ten episode per season standard. This is something that I’d usually view in a positive light; I’d rather wait a long time for a great product than a rushed mediocre one. However the show's past doesn’t exactly lead me to believe we’ll be getting a culmination of the show for it. Ironically, the only season to have a delay on it before this one was season seven, which personally the word I find that best describes the season is “rushed”, not in terms of production but in terms of plot, likely due to the drop in episodes, a decision that has been made again, for the same purpose. Considering the show's failure to deliver in quality last season, this doesn’t create any confidence that the same approach will result in anything better.
One of the reasons I really enjoyed Game of Thrones in its earlier seasons was due to the authenticity of its characters; for a show with dragons, demon babies and ice zombies, it was surprisingly realistic when it came to delivering its morally grey collection of knights and scheming rulers. This was in part due to the writing but also due to the pretty fantastic acting throughout the show. The plot always felt organic because of this creative portrayal of character throughout, the story was shaped to fit the characters and the plot was not a narrow, predestined path for them to follow. This is why death plays such an integral role in the story, because characters' actions have consequences. The seventh season of the show seems to have forgotten this - a majority of the characters act wildly out of character to fit the narrative, barring Cersei, played by Lena Headey, whose compelling performance and relatively consistent good writing has left me rooting for the show’s most despicable character still living. The rest of them make moronic decisions, but never really end up paying a price of them at all. Something always comes to save them for their mistakes. How many times can they fake kill off Jon Snow, or make you believe he’s about to die? The show has really lost its tension in that regard, even if you haven’t seen Game of Thrones, everyone knows it’s the show where everyone dies, at least not anymore.
In favour of the realistic and gritty, the show’s most recent season, and from the trailer, the show's upcoming season, has taken a focus on the other thing it’s known for: the sceptical, the dragons and the zombies, etc. This kind of fancy, surprisingly well-executed (for television) spectacle has always had its place on the show, but its over-use forgets why the show was ever conceptualised in the first place. To be the fantasy show for people who hate fantasy, now we’re getting a pretty standard fantasy epic that can essentially be described as a standard fantasy action blockbuster, but for television.
That’s why I find my interest for the show dying. The final season of the show looks more like something I’ll watch out of habit rather than love, being 99 percent sure that the show's end will be safe, predictable and pretty boring when compared with the rest of the show's run. I’m not hyped because I don’t think the show will surprise me - a show famous for its shock factor has lost its shock. However, whether the show is actually losing popularity and hype on the whole? Or my preferred phrasing, does anyone actually care about Game of Thrones anymore? We’ll have to see when the show comes back around in a few hours’ time.