TLDR: Game of Thrones fans are masochists who want to be punished by watching their favorite characters suffer for their choices.
Criticizing Game of Thrones right now is like spitting in a river, but there’s something to learn from comparing the earlier “good” seasons to the later “bad” seasons.
It’s been said that Game of Thrones subverts fantasy tropes, but all it’s really doing is doling out logical consequences, that have been established in the story, for the decisions the characters make.
In standard fantasy, the hero chooses love over wisdom and still wins because he’s the hero. In Game of Thrones, he gets a red wedding.
The charming rogue who chooses to fight the evil team’s champion gets his head crushed like an over-ripe cantaloupe.
The loyal servant is left holding the door.
(SPOILERS FOR THE SEASON FINALE INCOMING)
But those things happened in earlier seasons. In just the very last episode of the show, two people betray the Mad Queen. One gets sent on eternal spring break with the wildlings and the other is appointed Hand of the King.
No major consequences, even though we’re told that the Unsullied are furious with Jon and Tyrion.
Actions should have consequences. George R.R. Martin has done this brilliantly, but in the later seasons the writers are simply playing ping pong with our emotions. Without tying terrible events (such as Rhaegal’s death) to any obvious prior choice that the characters made, the audience is shocked, but has no emotional or intellectual response.
What GRRM did is difficult. He walked a fine line, sometimes using contrivance to keep a character alive (looking at you Tyrion), but he made enough characters suffer or die that we believed that choices had real consequences in this fantasy world.
Readers want consequences. We want to scream “No!” at the page and at the television. We want to suffer. We want senseless beheadings of noble heroes because the president is a narcissist (oops, I meant King). We don’t want redemption. We are masochists and I think this is a fundamental oversight on the part of the Thrones television writers.