If more than three-quarter of a million disgruntled “Game of Thrones” fans had their way, dragons would unmercifully torch the eighth season of the HBO hit, screaming an endless stream of firestorm upon the story line of the show’s final episodes.
A Change.org petition demanding that the final season be remade “with competent writers” has transformed this week into a fire-breathing dragon of vitriol aimed at showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss ahead of Sunday’s series finale. The petition, started last Sunday by a user named Dylan D. from Fort Worth, Texas, has collected about 850,000 signatures as of early Friday, reflecting how strongly a vocal section of fans want to say “Dracarys” to the whole season.
"David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have proven themselves to be woefully incompetent writers when they have no source material (i.e. the books) to fall back on," the petitioner wrote. "This series deserves a final season that makes sense."
The user added: "Subvert my expectations and make it happen, HBO!"
The wild success of the petition is the latest sign that disgruntled fans of the nation's most popular show are ready to take matters into their own hands, whether by begging HBO for a do-over, duping Google's algorithm into having a picture of Benioff and Weiss show up under the search term "bad writers," or re-cutting death scenes to the delight of thousands online.
Among the complaints about the truncated six-episode season are a perceived lack of care in editing, from the Battle of Winterfell being so dark that people had a hard time seeing it to Jon Snow’s indifference toward his beloved direwolf, Ghost, being a product of visual effects limitations. (And that’s not even mentioning the coffee cup that made it into a scene.)
But more significant concerns have marred this season, which carries the story beyond the source material of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire.” There was a strong female leader essentially attributing the shaping of her character to the rape and torture she suffered in past seasons. The death of one of the show’s few characters of color came while the person was in chains. A knight’s seasons-long redemption arc was reversed with no reasoning, which was, as the Ringer’s Jason Concepcion described it, “the right outcome presented in the wrong way.” And, of course, the swift heel turn of a former hero that made thousands of parents possibly regret naming their kids after the character.
"I understand it's GOT but don't trash 8 yrs of character building for what they think will shock and awe us," one upset fan said.
"The last season was supposed to be about killing characters, not killing their story arcs," another wrote.
"It's not that hard to do better than this!" one user exclaimed.
Even some of the show's cast appears to have joined the chorus of discontent, thanks to a YouTube compilation of stars giving uncomfortable or cryptic responses to how things wrapped up in Westeros. At HBO's Emmys Party in September, Emilia Clarke was asked whether she was pleased with the series' conclusion. Clarke offered nervous laughter and paused before giving a less-than-rousing endorsement.
"Best season ever!" Clarke exclaimed, unable to stop laughing.
But plenty of others, like Peter Dinklage, were a little more straight-faced in their support.
"There are no better writers in television than Dan Weiss and David Benioff," Dinklage said to "Entertainment Tonight." "They ended it brilliantly, better than I could have imagined."
The backlash hasn’t stopped fans from sending off “Game of Thrones” with its best ratings ever. Three of the five episodes this season have set records, including Sunday’s “The Bells,” which brought in 18.4 million viewers, according to HBO. Entertainment Weekly reported that the show is averaging 43 million viewers per episode in total audience this season, factoring in DVR playback, streaming and repeat viewings - a weekly increase of 10 million viewers from last season.
As for Benioff and Weiss, who were officially announced this week as the writers and directors for a new "Star Wars" film coming in December 2022, they've made it known they wanted fans to be satisfied with the ending.
“We want people to love it,” Weiss said to Entertainment Weekly. “We also know no matter what we do, even if it’s the optimal version, that a certain number of people will hate the best of all possible versions ... I’m hoping for the ‘Breaking Bad’ [finale] argument where it’s like, ‘Is that an A or an A+?’”
Benioff added: "A good story isn't a good story if you have a bad ending. Of course we worry."
Whatever criticisms have haunted the show's final episodes shouldn't overshadow what they accomplished in adapting Martin's original work, The Washington Post's Everdeen Mason wrote.
"The show may be (much) different from the books set out to be, but it is at its best when it follows Martin's lead by twisting traditional tropes in unexpected ways," Mason wrote Thursday. "No matter what happens in this week's finale, Martin's legacy lives on."
But as some die-hards made clear in this week's viral petition, they have already made up their minds about the showrunners and their next endeavor.
“I don’t want these two anywhere near Star Wars, either,” one fan wrote in the top comment of the petition. “This was abysmal.”