- The “Game of Thrones” season eight episode “The Last of the Starks” had scored a 57% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of May 13, one week after it aired.
- This the second-lowest score for this show, replacing the previous week’s “The Long Night.” Only “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” from season five has scored lower among critics.
- This post contains spoilers for season eight, episode four.
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The final season of any show can be tricky to navigate, and for a show as highly anticipated as “Game of Thrones,” it can be nearly impossible to please every fan.
Still, the final season of “Game of Thrones” has been plagued with bad reviews and fan reactions, with dipping critic scores each episode.
‘The Long Night’ became the 2nd-lowest-ranked episode in ‘Game of Thrones’ history last week – but ‘The Last of the Starks’ now stands 2nd in line for the throne
It still doesn’t top season 5’s ‘Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken’ as the worst
That episode – one of the most controversial in the show’s history, as it includes a rape that exists only in the show and not in the books – garnered a score of 54%.
While critics and fans alike considered that episode to be the weakest in an otherwise strong season, it’s worth noting that the episode directly following “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” obtained a critical rating of 83%, seemingly signifying a rebound for the show’s storytelling fortunes.
But so far, the show’s final season, with four episodes aired so far and two to go before the epic story is complete, is the lowest-rated season, at 75%. Every other season scored between 91% and 97%.
The four episodes of season eight that have aired so far show a downward trend in ratings, going from the lofty heights of 92% for episode one, “Winterfell,” and sliding down to the lowest for “The Last of the Starks.”
Reviews of ‘The Last of the Starks’ said the episode returned to some of the worst aspects of the series’ writing – especially in how poorly it treated its female characters and people of colour
The Battle of Winterfell may have seemed huge and momentous, and it was – but fans knew it was only a precursor to the true battle that would conclude the series.
Julia Alexander from The Verge wrote of the episode:
“Eight years ago, ‘Game of Thrones’ began as a story about a mediocre man sitting on the Iron Throne. It’s set to end as a ferocious battle between two of the most badass women in television history: Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen. That is, of course, if the writers don’t mess it up. Two weeks ago, that wasn’t a concern. After last night’s episode, however, when recently knighted Brienne of Tarth turned into a pile of tears because her boyfriend was leaving town to see his twin-turned-girlfriend and Missandei was killed off as a war prop, I have a little bit of hesitation.”
One plot point that seemed to stick in the collective craw of reviewers across publications was Missandei’s kidnapping and death.
Allison Keene wrote for Collider:
“One of the most egregiously hurried subplots was the capture of Missandei, who the show has barely used except to occasionally hold Grey Worm’s hand, setting one of them up to die. But almost no TV time passed between Missandei being captured, used as a pawn, and then killed. It was sad, but mostly because her character was wasted.
“There wasn’t nearly enough time to consider the implications of what Cersei was doing for Dany’s team of advisors, and the moment – which included a former slave being put back into bondage and used as a plot point – was turned into nothing more than a reason to make Dany look ‘crazy’ because she was favouring emotion over reason.”
And Princess Weekes at The Mary Sue wrote:
“The optics of this scene are gross. Not only have we just watched almost all the Dothraki get destroyed in the last episode, but we lose Missandei in a way where she has no agency. I didn’t expect her or Grey Worm to live, but if she had to die, would it be so much to have her last scene not be where she is in chains? I would have preferred if instead of getting her head chopped off, she chose to jump to her death free rather than just die chained. It’s bad.”
The mishandling of Missandei aside, the episode furthered the season’s greater overall plotting problem, according to The Verge’s Tasha Robinson:
“Season 8 continues to have a problem with ignoring time, space, and some significant plot movement. Despite the longer episode run times in season 8, Game of Thrones has regularly felt crowded and clipped in a way that doesn’t suggest urgent action, so much as corner-cutting. The latest episode, ‘The Last of the Starks,’ is particularly bad about skimming across events in a way that confuses the action. In some cases, even a couple of extra shots or a fill-in line or two would have cleared up what seems like mysteriously sloppy plotting. Other omissions are more complicated and speak more clearly to the things that do and don’t interest showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.”
Still, there were some positive points about the episode
Michael Walsh wrote for Nerdist:
“At its best, ‘Game of Thrones’ creates tense and gripping television by way of complex characters with competing desires and interwoven histories. At its worst, the show sacrifices logic and reason to reverse engineer big spectacles and forced excitement. (Usually by having everyone act stupidly.) The fourth episode of the final season, ‘The Last of the Starks,’ featured a lot of the best and worst habits of the series.”
Caitlin PenzeyMoog summarized in her AV Club review:
“‘The Last Of The Starks’ is grounded in some classic ‘Game Of Thrones’ political intrigue.”
Spencer Kornhaber mused in The Atlantic:
“Watching the gossip spread is as fun as it is ominous. Varys and Tyrion have been sidelined all season, but now that intrigue is back as the main event, they’re essentially holding a talk show within ‘Game of Thrones.’ But are they as savvy puppet masters as they once seemed to be?”
And Shirley Li responded in that Atlantic article:
“The thing is, I was ready to accept whatever this episode proposed. Last week’s ‘The Long Night’ proved so disappointing on so many fronts – the confusing direction, the heavy plot armour, the messy narrative – that I couldn’t be more primed to welcome back the political intrigue.”