It is the end of their watch. After eight epic years, 47 Emmys, two dead dragons and oodles of sex, the curtain has come down on Game of Thrones.
The blood-spattered tale of noble families vying for the Iron Throne wrapped with the 73rd and final episode of the ratings’ juggernaut that has demolished audience records worldwide and redefined weekly “event TV” for the Netflix generation.
And while millions watched at home, thousands celebrated and mourned the show’s denouement in bars, banqueting halls and backyards from Boston to Beijing.
Cries of joy, sobs and applause followed the peaks and troughs of what many regarded as a poignant but disappointing finale.
“This kind of junk scriptwriter should be killed by a dragon,” one Chinese viewer messaged on the Twitter-like Weibo, echoing the disappointment expressed by fans worldwide over the final season.
One of the darkest and most controversial primetime series made, Game of Thrones has been targeted over the years for its senseless violence and its repeated use of rape as a dramatic device.
The scriptwriters have brutalized women, killed children, depicted graphic sex and had their characters hacked, stabbed, flayed, poisoned, decapitated, burned alive, eye-gouged and eviscerated … all in glorious close-up.
Yet the adult themes have not deterred fans, nor the industry awards circuit, which has seen fit to make the HBO show the most decorated fictional series in history.
Aired in 170 countries under its portentous tagline, “Winter is Coming,” the show is also the most expensive with a budget of US$15 million per episode.
Season six was also the first to move beyond the source material, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, and carve its own path.
Critics said it marked a return to form, but the shortened final two seasons have come under fire from fans and critics alike.
Chief among the controversies has been the rapid descent into mass-murdering madness of Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen, arguably the lead character in an enormous ensemble of talent.
But the biggest question of all was who would be sitting on the Iron Throne when the show ended?
In many ways that turned out to be a red herring. Suffice to say the new ruler of Westeros had to bring his own chair.
The episode itself, poignantly entitled “The Iron Throne,” proved to be as divisive as the rest of season eight.
“It was hacky; it was cliched. Every character left standing received a saccharine coda,” Kelly Lawler, a critic at USA Today, said.
The New York Times’ Jeremy Egner called it “a mishmash of poignant moments and puzzling turns,” and “plagued by the same incoherence that has inspired abundant Twitter rage this season and at least one effigial petition.”
That petition, which called for the final series to be remade, has now passed 1.1 million signatures.
“To be honest, I’m not very satisfied with [the finale] and a bit disappointed,” Chinese “GoT” fan Ji Yuan said on Weibo.
Still, the show’s ending was too much for its stars, including Sophie Turner, who first appeared as Sansa Stark as a young teenager.
“I fell in love with you at 13 and now 10 years on … at 23 I leave you behind, but I will never leave behind what you’ve taught me,” she wrote on Instagram of her character.
Clarke also took to Instagram, describing how the “mother of dragons chapter has taken up the whole of my adult life.”
“This woman has taken up the whole of my heart,” the 32-year-old said. “I’ve sweated in the blaze of dragon fire, shed many tears at those who left our family early, and wrung my brain dry trying to do Khaleesi and the masterful words, actions [and names] I was given, justice.”
– reporting by AFP