Back when I was fourteen, three years felt like an awful long time, much longer than it seems these days when the weeks, months, years seem to slip by in a hurried rush leaving me wondering what happened. So back then, having seen The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 with its tease for whatever would happen next with the various threads it left in place, it seemed I had a long, long time to daydream and fantasize about what would happen in the next Star Wars film- especially when its original title Revenge of the Jedi leaked out. I would imagine such grand events. I imagined an opening scene in which Darth Vader stormed into the Emperor’s throne room, killed him and became Emperor himself. Vader was still a terrible Dark Lord to us back then, quite irredeemable- the idea he’d turn back to good and save Luke would have been laughable. Back then Star Wars was Luke’s story, far as we were concerned, and certainly not Anakin Skywalkers. It was also a 9-part saga, and the idea that the next film would see the Empire defeated and no Vader or Emperor alive, and all finally well and done, well, that was preposterous. How little we knew.
At this point no-one had any idea who or what Jabba the Hutt was, except that he was a big bad crime lord and Han Solo was in big, bad trouble. I imagined Boba Fett was as mean and tough as anyone we’d met in Star Wars so far, and that he and those other bounty hunters working for Jabba would be a big handful for Luke and his friends. I imagined a whole movie spent searching for and rescuing Han Solo, while Vader resumed his search for Luke… or maybe the ‘other’ that Ben had remarked upon. Back then it was such a big canvas, and Star Wars seemed to be getting just bigger and bigger, such a wealth of possibilities with Episodes 6 – 9 ahead of us (Episode 7 in 1985, Episode 8 in 1988 etc… I and so many other fans had it all mapped out). We thought Vader and the Empire would be around for many years of movies. How little we knew.
When Revenge eventually arrived in the guise of Return of the Jedi, well, I really did feel let down by it. Vader was suddenly a bit of a stooge, the Emperor a cackling crazy old wizard who talked and boasted too much, Jabba a giant slug easily thwarted in what was reduced to almost a prologue, and as for those bloody teddy bears… This wasn’t the ‘even darker’ sequel to TESB that I had dreamed up over the years in between. I felt let-down. With TESB, Star Wars seemed to have grown up with me, become a more serious and teen-adult Star Wars and I’d expected it to carry on as I became 17. I’d forgotten that Star Wars was a kids film, really, and I wasn’t actually its intended audience afterall. Lucas, although I didn’t know it at the time, was already leaving Star Wars behind as he suffered a divorce and his real life became more pressing than a saga in a galaxy far, far away…
Back then of course, my negative view was left for me to stew over with my friends. I had no Internet or social media to rage on, to share my indignant wrath and sense of betrayal by George Lucas. We lived in much smaller worlds, little bubbles of geekdom. There were no petitions to get George Lucas to reshoot Return of the Jedi as a darker film with Wookies instead of Ewoks and leave the door open for the Episodes 7 – 9 that we fans had dreamed of and felt entitled to.
Naturally the world is so very different now. Those old Star Wars films that only existed in my teenage dreams, though, have returned to mind over the past few weeks as I have watched season eight of Game of Thrones and witnessed the almost hysterical drama being enacted online and in social media. Dedicated fans have been outraged by a perceived lack of thought, originality and care that is evident within the final eight episodes of this huge saga. Characters acting completely out of character, logistics of geography and time and distance, such a big part of the show in earlier seasons, now being ignored, awkward plot holes just being left there for fans to rage upon.
The brutal truth is that most of the fans complaining would struggle to organise a six-year olds birthday party, nevermind a tv show costing anything up to $100 million to make, being made across continents, a scale of production the details and difficulties of which we cannot imagine. Game of Thrones is a remarkable achievement, an event we rarely see. I appreciate the old term ‘tv show’ hardly means what it used to, years ago, but watching some of the scenes in Episode 5, The Bells, and its huge scale… well, I had to keep telling myself, this isn’t a movie, its a bloody tv show. We forget what has been done here when we become so accustomed to tv of such scale. This stuff isn’t easy, and I think we ridicule it to our peril. Its too easy to sit in our armchairs and sofas and pretend we are experts and believe our opinions carry any weight with the behemoth that is HBO or anyone making millions from Game of Thrones.We are consumers, on the sidelines.
Yes, there are obvious issues with season Eight. Could it ever match the hopes, fears and expectations of fans, especially with the lengthy delay between seasons seven and eight? So many theories have rampaged across the internet for the past two years, some crazy, some profound. If there was a perfect season eight or ending for the show, we’ll never see it, but I think we got near enough.
I’m well aware that I sound too much of an apologist when I simply offer my own opinion that it could have been worse. But it could have. I honestly am totally thankful that it is as good as it is. It would have been intolerable for it to have led to a total let-down after so many years and such promise and ambition. But of course, some fans really do feel it was a total let down, and I feel for them- it’s probably awful to feel so angry about something so dear to them. God knows I felt pretty angry about The Last Jedi and very disappointed by Avengers: Endgame. It is so easy when you’re passionate about something to feel so personally affronted by something.
But fans are not entitled to their dreams being given form. Those dreams that take flight in film and tv and books, they are the result of hard work and craft, and unless its us doing that hard work, well, how entitled should we really feel? We do not own these tv series or movies. I did not deserve as if by some God-given right to have that huge dark Return of the Jedi of my dreams, nor those episodes that should have followed on in the rest of that decade. Its great of course when a film or tv show or book lives up to hopes and expectations (praise be BR2049) but we should always contain those hopes and expectations- hope for the best, fear the worst, something like that. Babylon 5 didn’t manage a saga across five perfect seasons, it rather stumbled after four but I’m glad we got what we did. Its sadly a fact that many shows get cancelled before their time. In the real world, it’s awfully difficult to make a perfect movie, and God knows Lucasfilm has been trying to better TESB since 1980 to no success, Sometimes it’s simply getting lightning in a bottle- get it once, like in Game of Throne‘s Red Wedding episode, and it’s magic, but it’s a deal with the Devil to get it twice or thrice.Eight perfect episodes is treat enough, but eight perfect seasons?
At least the show got made and finished. Its anybody’s guess if ever the books will get written and published. I wonder sometimes if George RR Martin’s (apparent) lack of activity at the typewriter is simply caution, letting the tv show forge ahead and test the waters so to speak, and that he’ll tweak his original intentions per the fan base reactions. That’s rather the long game that Littlefinger might have taken. Evil clever bastard, then.