More than half a million Game of Thrones fans are demanding that HBO “remake Game of Thrones season eight with competent writers,” just days before the season — and series — finale. While the online petition has rapidly racked up signatures since it went viral just one day ago, the number represents a small fraction of the series’ immense fan base. But what it does provide is a stark glimpse at just how fierce the larger fandom-wide backlash over the final season has grown.
A Game of Thrones fan created the petition on Change.org on May 9 — several days before the cataclysmically divisive, penultimate episode of the series, “The Bells,” aired on May 12. But the petition didn’t pick up traction until it garnered media attention on May 15. At that point, it was gaining momentum and had almost reached an earlier target of 15,000 signatures. As of this writing, on May 16, that number has leaped to nearly 500,000 signatures.
The rate of signatures seems to be slowing, and it’s important to understand that Change.org petitions are typically performative and rarely actionable. Half a million signatures is also hardly a significant number next to the average viewership of Game of Thrones, which has typically drawn around 17 million viewers per episode in season eight. But the fact that so many people are angry enough to ask for a complete do-over indicates that the fandom’s overall level of discontent is quite high.
Throughout the season, fans and critics have admonished Game of Thrones’ showrunners for everything from poor character development to bad pacing and rushed storylines, and for production issues ranging from dark lighting to wayward coffee cups. “The Bells,” however, helped crystallize much of this fomenting dissatisfaction around a hugely polarizing twist in which Daenerys Targaryen effectively morphed into the villain of the series, after a full eight seasons of being presented as an unconventional savior and heroic figure — even a feminist one.
“Justice for [Daenerys’s] character assassination and the characters’ poorly rushed story arcs,” exclaimed one of the petition’s signatories.
“It’s the fact Season 8 was rushed with so few eps,” wrote another. “[E]verything just felt so sudden and fast with no build up! It was just Bang Boom White Walkers beat, Bang Boom suddenly Danny is the Mad Queen!”
The request for a do-over may seem entitled at a glance, but perhaps it’s not that unreasonable, especially considering that we’re living in an age when superhero franchises reboot themselves every few years or so. Rebooting or releasing a new adaptation also happens often with anime, especially if the manga a show is based on goes somewhere different than its initial anime did. It’s very plausible that this scenario could come to pass if George R.R. Martin ever finishes the Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novel series on which Game of Thrones is based, considering how much time the author has taken to release each installment thus far. So the idea of a remake that attempts to capture some of the threads and characters that the show omitted isn’t entirely out of left field.
But even if HBO were to reboot the series, there’s a good chance fans would take issue with the new vision of the series, too. That’s because at this point, Game of Thrones fandom is a fractured fan base, not a united one. Viewers include die-hard book fans who’ve been in the fandom for more than 15 years at this point. There are also Targaryen loyalists who have built their fandom around the idea of Daenerys as a feminist queen. There’s a whole subculture of fans who still want Stannis Baratheon to be king (seriously).
Some people are mainly watching because they’re invested in certain ships; and then there are casual fans who don’t have any deeper attachments but want to see their favorite characters get happy endings. There are hardcore show fans who refuse to go anywhere near the books or spoilers, and hardcore book fans who obsess over the differences between the show and the novels. Entire forums have been devoted over the years to tracking down, discussing, and analyzing spoilers from upcoming seasons and individual episodes, to the extent that Game of Thrones spoilers practically have their own sub-fandom.
In essence, whenever you have a fandom this big, the culture of that fandom will be divergent and multifaceted. Game of Thrones fandom is, in essence, like a microcosm of the internet at this point — something as far from a monolith as civilization itself.
So while it can be fun to watch the petition’s number of signatures go up, it’s worth remembering that Game of Thrones fans don’t exactly have a unified vision of how their beloved show should end. What is clear, however, is that while fans may not all be mad about the same things, many of them are definitely mad. After eight seasons, Game of Thrones is going out in a blaze — but maybe not of glory.