Emilia Clarke as Daenarys Targaryen in the penultimate episode of HBO's "Game of Thrones." Daenarys was one of several female characters on the show who were mistreated in their portrayal.

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8 Mistreated Its Female Characters

The final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones came to a rather controversial end when it aired on Sunday, May 14, 2019. Despite setting a viewership record of 19.3 people, the finale received mixed reviews from fans. And that would include me. While I loved the show and the books, this season and its rather terrible treatment of the women characters was very disappointing.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones, so read at your own risk.

Let’s rewind to the past

Liking the fantasy genre

Star Blazers
Credit: Claster Television, Sunwagon Productions

I grew up watching Star Blazers, Star Wars, The Dark Crystal, and reading the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings. But I was always an outsider as a girl who liked fantasy. It was literally my brother, his friends, and me watching Star Blazers every day after school. Being a geek girl wasn’t easy. And then it seemed like fantasy got relegated to the boys’ basement with Dungeons & Dragons and with movies like Warcraft and the remake of Conan the Barbarian.

Enter A Song of Ice and Fire books and Game of Thrones

Then, I heard about Game of Thrones and its diverse cast of characters. And that’s one reason why I was so drawn to the books, and then the show. The best characters in season 1 to me were women. Cersei Lannister was the most conniving, and the most inspiring was Daenerys Targaryen. So I felt like Game of Thrones was bringing fantasy back to women with these strong characters and women-driven storylines.

Season 8 was terrible for our women

Welp, I feel like that got plucked right out of our hands with Season 8. I wrote an article prior to season 8 about how women actually drive the story of Game of Thrones, and then the showrunners/writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss dropped those story arcs like a hot potato. And I stupidly expected some breakthroughs for the women of Westeros, given how the writers exploded tropes and expectations in seasons 1-7. But no… Season 8 wasted the women and was also borderline offensive to women.

R + L = J storyline

Starting with how this season handled Lyanna Stark, the woman so important to the whole series, that it was a guiding question for the show’s creators. When Benioff and Weiss met with George R.R. Martin, he asked who Jon Snow’s mother was. They answered correctly that it was Lyanna Stark, which is hinted at but never mentioned in the books. Martin was pleased with this and gave them the show.  And so this season, I hoped for an expansion of her story. How did she and Rhaegar meet?  Can’t Bran reconnect to the Westeros wi-fi and give us some more information? Any affirmation of how much she loved Jon by protecting his identity?  Alas, the only mention of her the entire season was Joń´s curious decision to tell Dany about his true heritage right before the Battle of Winterfell. So much for the R + L = J storyline.

Let’s talk about Brienne

Brienne basically updating Jaime Lannister’s Wikipedia page in the The White Book is not what I wanted at all for this storied heroine.  Brienne starting her own page in the book with her name as the first woman knight of Westeros would have been amazing and affirming. And why didn’t she stay with Sansa and become head of her Queensguard? I guess Bran asked for her to serve him but again, discounting how cool it would have been for her to stay with the daughter she swore to protect. And what is a knight but the honor of her oaths? Out the window, I guess. I still have no idea what even the point was of having her one night stand with Jaime. Having Brienne reduced to a typical heartbroken female was a trope I could have done without.

Daenarys vs. Cersei

I also felt short-changed because you have all these empowering women leads competing for the throne and yet there was not one meaningful conversation between any of these women. The only conversation between Daenarys and Sansa was super awkward and was interrupted, not even allowing for some sort of meeting of the minds. And then Dany’s condescending smile was immediately turned into a meme. A conversation with Dany and Cersei would have been powerful,  or actually any conversations with Cersei would have been great.

Cersei did NOTHING this season

It literally seemed like all Cersei did this season was stand at the window and drink wine. She did that for at least two episodes. The devious woman who masterminded blowing up the Sept of Baelor and all her enemies in one fell swoop was reduced to canoodling with Euron Greyjoy. The Cersei I knew would have had Euron Greyjoy for lunch.

The Small Council

Credit: HBO

And was it entirely necessary for absolute last spoken lines in Game of Thrones be about brothels?? Brothels?? Really?? Literally the last lines of the last episode of this once superbly written show center around Bronn talking about the brothels needing to be rebuilt and Tyrion again trying to tell his “donkey and the honeycomb” joke, which takes place in a brothel.

My dudes, the entire city is still decimated so I would assume the Master of Coin and the Hand of the King have more important things to address? Or was this just to harken back to the the first season of Game of Thrones when key scenes and conversations were in the brothel amidst nubile naked women? Do we need the naked women back for a plot device?  Aside from this whole tone-deaf attempt at humor, it again reaffirmed for me that fan service is for the boys only apparently.

Conclusion

And for me, that’s what this final season was… fan service in the most banal ways. A letdown of what could have been. I am sincerely hoping that in the last two books, George R.R. Martin is able to give these women much better and plausible character arcs. And I guess I am Boo Boo the Fool for believing we could have had a strong woman leader as Queen of Westeros.  

Geeks, let us know in the comments below or on Twitter what you didn’t like about the treatment of women during this final season of Game of Thrones.

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Featured image credit: HBO

4 thoughts on “‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8 Mistreated Its Female Characters

  1. Agree with all of this! I was so disappointed with how they handled all of the female characters this season and Jon Snow as well.

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