Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica: When Good Shows End Badly

Game of Thrones and Battlestar Galactica were huge shows with a global following in their times, but since they ended, hardly anyone talks about them anymore. This seems to be due to their endings. Fans hated them. At their prime, they generated intense discussion on the internet and countless memes on social media. But their finales were considered so bad, so disappointing that the public quickly abandoned them. It's quite a sight to behold.

Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica: How Bad Endings Kill Shows
Poster for Game of Thrones, HBO

Battlestar Galactica: The Reboot That Could… Until It Couldn't Anymore

Battlestar Galactica was the little reboot that could. It completely reconfigured the cheesy and flawed 1970s cult show into a dark, grim allegory about America's anxiety post-9/11 and posed moral and ethical questions about the War On Terror and the consequences of xenophobia and endless war. It recreated its core cast into a microcosm of a fragile America and ran its characters through the emotional wringer as they faced extinction from an unstoppable enemy they had created. It took up Erich Von Daniken's theory that its spacefaring humans were in Humanity's original ancestors who came from the stars and settled on Earth rather than that we were descended from primates. It put the SyFy on the map as a cable channel that produced serious drama that tapped into the zeitgeist. It was intense and visceral, and set up for major revelations in its endings.

Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica: How Bad Endings Kill Shows
Battlestar Galactica, SyFy

Instead, its finale was full of plot holes, mawkish soap opera payoffs, muddled messaging, and an utterly anticlimactic ending. To say it was disappointing was an understatement. Hardcore fans might still defend it, but the vast majority of the viewing public just rolled its eyes and moved on. General interest in the series and franchise has largely died out despite news of yet another reboot in the pipeline.

Game of Thrones: From The Biggest Show on Earth to The Biggest Disappointment

Game of Thrones became the biggest show on the planet during its run. The original novels were already multimillion-copy bestsellers worldwide but were still considered niche until HBO adapted it to television, which legitimized the grim and gritty medieval fantasy genre to the general public where it was previously considered a geek niche. The show opened the audience's eyes to bloody, intense allegories for life's struggles. Love vs. Duty. The yearning for the good king. The price of revenge. The long road to reuniting a family torn apart by betrayal and war. The turn from idealism to despotism. All the good stuff in dramas and big freaking dragons. Remember the memes? "You know nothing, Jon Snow." "Khaleesi" became a feminist rallying cry. The Red Wedding. The Rains of Castermere.

Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica: How Bad Endings Kill Shows
Game of Thrones, HBO

Then came that final season that screwed it all up. Fans turned against the show in the biggest outcry on social media against a show ever. The heel-turn that killed all love for "Khaleesi". The rushed endings to virtually every subplot and story arc. The crushing sense of disappointment and anticlimax (again) that sent fans into fits of betrayal, disappointment, and rage. Nobody talks about the show anymore, and it's only been a year since it ended. That fall from grace was swift and harsh. Even now during the lockdown, very few people talk about rewatching or binging it. The disappointment was deep, and the word-of-mouth must have been unforgiving.

The Perils of An Ending Fans Hate

Bad endings can totally tank a hit show. In this day and age when a show is worth tens of millions of dollars in revenue, the stakes are high. In basic dramatic writing, we are taught that every story needs to have a proper ending that pays off its setups in a thematically and dramatically satisfying manner. The ending is the consolidation of the themes. If the ending doesn't work, it can kill the entire story no matter how many great moments it had on during its run. Battlestar Galactica and Game of Thrones are prime case studies in that lesson. They failed to stick their endings and paid the price. To this day, The Sopranos, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad are still discussed and debated with as much passion and fondness by fans. Those shows managed to stick the landing with their finales and fans felt satisfied enough to still be able to consider their individual moments and ideas with as much enthusiasm as when they were still new. There are valuable lessons in storytelling in the failures of Game of Thrones and Battlestar Galactica.

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About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist who just likes to writer. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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