What it’s like to write a finale your fans hate. (Interview with Battlestar Galactica showrunner Ronald D. Moore in the context of the controversial Game of Thrones ending.)
The most interesting part of this article for me is how Moore deals with criticism. It's one of the hardest things about being a writer: you need outside perspectives to improve and understand your work, but even constructive negative feedback can be emotionally damaging. Social media can amplify this feedback and anything you write, good or bad, can result in a torrent of passionate negativity directed your way.
Reading between the lines a little it looks like Moore's strategy is to protect himself by finding excuses for why it's not actually his writing that's at fault when people complain about his writing. People were upset because:
This is important because as a writer you need a way to push past the negativity (and you are often your own biggest critic) and just get something written that you can share with the world. It's a double-edged sword, though. There are very legitimate complaints about the ending of Game of Thrones (or BSG for that matter) and taking an attitude that your own writing is above reproach can make it difficult to see those problems in your own work. You also lose the opportunity to learn from your mistakes when you put something out to the world that's poorly received.
Also, as someone on the other side of this as a viewer rather than a creator, it can feel frustrating to be told that my opinions about what I like or don't like are invalid. If I don't like something that someone else wrote (even if I have liked their work previously) it is apparently my fault and indicative of some flaw in my character, rather than it being any sort of problem with a show's writing. That's not a major problem (I've not been personally insulted, rather I'm just part of a large group that's been generally attacked out of defensiveness) but it does shade my view of certain creators somewhat and lessen my enthusiasm for their projects in the future.
When Jon saw Ghost in the finale it was clear why, in retrospect, there was no big goodbye scene earlier: a tearful goodbye might feel unnecessary considering that Ghost and Jon were reunited just two episodes later. That's kind of indicative of the problems the show had at the end, though. The characters themselves didn't know what would happen and instead of behaving in a way that was natural for them in the moment they simply did whatever the plot required of them. As a writer who knows the story backwards-and-forwards this can be a problem that's easy to miss but as a viewer who's experiencing the story as it unfolds these sorts of problems are glaring.
David Nutter also said this shit about that episode:
There's nothing to look at in retrospect that would make this explanation any better. This guy is just a shitty director with no respect for why people gravitated to the show in the first place. He's all spectacle, and no sense.
It shows how far the quality of the show fell that the writers and directors have explained odd character choices with reasoning like "he's not paying that much attention" or "she kind of forgot about".
"he didn't pay attention" or "she forgot" is a valid reason for character choices. But at the same time, it's the writer's responsibility to show us that and not simply assume we know.
It's valid if within reasonable context. The memes around that explanation for GoT only took off because they were given as answers in unreasonable contexts.
Dany was frequently the one who had a fixation on the Iron Fleet while everyone told her not to worry about them. But she's the one who suddenly forgot about them later?
A tense parlay where every little bit of dialogue was important, and we've seen that Euron is capable of paying attention and following along at previous ones...but he's just off daydreaming at this one?
There are plenty of fans of other TV shows that were perfectly happy with the well-written finales for their shows. Babylon 5, for one, or The Americans for something more contemporary. This "fans will be upset no matter what" is a lazy and insulting cop-out.
Eh, I wouldn't take advice from the person who wrote the garbage fire that was the BSG ending on anything to do with writing at ALL.
The BSG ending was written the way it was for a reason I suspect applied to GoT as well: some stupid need to have an ending that nobody guessed yet. Which is flat out retarded.
No, nobody guessed the BSG ending before it happened. But that is not a marker for quality in an ending! When you have that many people guessing that many things, the best ending, AND all the good endings are going to be contained in that set of guesses. Picking something not in there is almost guaranteed to be a piece of shit ending. I would have hoped LOST would have taught people that, but no. Have the courage to pick the best ending whether or not people have guessed it already.
The trick in things people say ended well is that you have an overall ending that is guessable, telegraphed a little, not guaranteed but within the realm of possibility - and throw in a quirk or 2 that are not guessable. Case in point, LotR. The ring gets destroyed, Frodo and Sam live, Gollum dies. Guessable ending, with the quirks out of left field that are the way it happens with Gollum biting off the finger, and the eagles. Another one would be Breaking Bad (guessable overall, quirks you wouldn't have guessed) but I won't spoil that one in case people haven't seen it yet.
I'm the exact opposite. I loved the BSG ending when it aired, so this was a very interesting read for me.
I'm a big fan of BSG and was pretty damn disappointed with how it ended, and just kind of confused.
But having recently re-watched the show, it's grown on me and I actually quite like the ending, it gives all the characters a nice send off and ties things up nicely.
Also notably for the re-watch, I listened to a podcast that follows the series episode by episode, the hosts where also fans and hearing their comments and occasional interviews with actors and show writers, made the whole thing more interesting/enjoyable.
I think the weirdness that lost fans didn't just happen in the final episode, but I guess the finale is a convenient thing to dislike.
Ultimately it was Ron's--and more generally a show writer's--story to tell and it's up to them to decide where they take it, as a viewer you either have to accept this and try see if from there perspective, or stay mad and wage war in a forum somewhere.
EDIT: This quote--from Ron Moore--talking about GoT fans going in to finale is just perfect:
I thought BSG went downhill starting in season 3, so I wasn't particularly disappointed in the ending any more than I was in the entire rest of the series.
I just finished BSG last week, and at first I was unsure of how I felt about the finale, but after thinking about it, I really like it. The series could not have satisfactorily ended any other way. Aside for a few minor nitpicks (like the "Daniel" story not leading anywhere and a few cheesy moments), I don't see what there is to dislike about it!
I was ready to rage about it until right at the end when Baltar said, "You know it doesn't like that name." Then I was much less annoyed with it. It's not that BSG's finale was something awesome - it was just adequate... and that's still better than the endings of almost every show out there. Adequate is practically heroic.
Definitely. I'm not a writer, but it does seem like it's much easier to pull on threads here or there in the middle of a story than to tie em all up in a neat little bow at the end of a story. Intrigue is always more exciting than explanation.
And people may not have been happy with the general plot of the BSG finale, but the character moments were mostly perfect. Adama and Laura's final scene together in the raptor, for instance.