Right off the bat, I am so skeeved out at the final pairing of Jon Snow and Sansa Stark. I mean, I was perfectly happy with Jon ending up on the Iron Throne after Danaerys kamikaze-ed herself out of the running, but kissing cousins is really not all that far off from aunt-nephew relations on the yuck index. At least it's clearly a political marriage, and both of them have racked up enough failed relationships over the course of this series that they can surely work out some kind of arrangement if one or both of them actually ever manages to fall in love with someone again.
Okay, now that that's out of my system, lets get to bigger picture. As expected from the previous season's embracing of spectacle over intimate character drama, so much of this season was taken up by battles and other destructive set pieces. And since there were only six episodes, that meant many of the story developments felt rushed, though not as badly as last year. The bigger confrontations and deaths were nicely spaced out and mostly given the room to play out naturally. I was very satisfied with the final fates of Cersei, Jaime, Daenerys, Arya, and all the rest. Tormund had my favorite death scene of lot, and though his romance with Brienne was ridiculously brief, it sure was memorable. I was actually more surprised with some of the characters who made it to the end of the show in one piece. Well, almost in one piece in the case of Theon.
I was less happy with how little time we got with other members of the cast. But then, there were still so many characters left after last season, it would have been impossible to give everyone their due in the end. So a lot of my favorites like Varys and little Lyanna Mormont barely got any time at all, or were gotten out of the way early like Grey Worm and Missendei. I still have no idea what the point of Beric Dondarrion's arc was, since the show was never very good about exploring the spiritual side of "Game of Thrones." And I didn't realize how many of the goodbyes from last year were actually final - we couldn't find any extra time for Meera? Or the direwolves? There were also a lot of places on the map where I wish we could have checked in again, if only for a few seconds. After all, we did spend considerable amounts of time in Braavos and Essos and with characters who are still kicking around.
I do feel that Benioff and Weiss were pandering the to fans pretty fiercely. I mean, there was no reason for the "Cleganebowl" showdown to have taken place, especially in the over-the-top fashion that it did. All that accomplished was to draw out the Euron Greyjoy subplot, which was already drawn out as it was. And we all love Peter Dinklage, but Tyrion's unexpected happy ending was one of the more egregious missteps here. Sure, Sam and Gilly going home with their cute little family is fine, but this isn't the "Lord of the Rings" movies where everyone who survives the big war should automatically get all their conflicts wrapped up with a nice bow on top. One of the pleasures of this universe is how messy it is. I was looking for more loose ends and signs of impending bad consequences in the finale beyond Melisandre's usual boilerplate portents of hazy doom.
The production values were spectacular, of course, and I'm a little regretful that I didn't see some of these episodes in a movie theater, specifically "The Battle of Winterfell" and "A Dream of Spring." "Game of Thrones" may well be the last gasp of the monoculture, and so things like the dragon brawl, Hodor the Wight, and Dany's glorious takedown of the Night King are likely to become cultural touchstones. It really felt like everyone was going the extra mile, from the map sequence updating from week to week, to the surprise cameos, to that epic choral version of the main theme used in the finale.
I have my qualms with some of the dumb decisions that were made concerning specific story elements, and I'm sad that we didn't really get George R.R. Martin's version all the way through, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the hell out of the final six episodes. Even if I think the end result could have been better, there's a lot of work and passion that went into this ending that I'm very grateful for.