In the wake of Game of Thrones
’ divisive eighth and final season, a wealth of fans (and even the actors themselves) expressed a lot of displeasure or disbelief with how the series concluded. After the likes of Kit Harrington (Jon Snow), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) and Conleth Hill (Varys) all weighed in, it now seems that it’s Emilia Clarke’s turn, and it seems she feels the most for showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
In an interview with Daily Telegraph, Clarke spoke at length about her reaction to fan criticism of the final season, and how she’s found the mental strength to move on to other projects.
“I was too busy focusing on my own reactions to really pay too much attention, if any at all,” Clarke told DT. “The only thing I felt truthfully sad about was that [executive producers] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] are my really good friends, and so it’s for them that I feel heartbreak, because it’s theirs.”
Check out our final thoughts on Game of Thrones season 8
Showrunners Benioff and Weiss were undoubtedly the target of much vitriol following the release of season 8, which was criticized for what fans called poor storytelling, questionable character motivations, and overall a stranger sense of rushed pacing. Benioff and Weiss canceled their San Diego Comic Con 2019 appearance shortly before the event, although it has never been confirmed if fan reaction played a role in the decision.
When asked about fans who felt cheated about the ending, Clarke remained measured in her response.
“Everyone is going to have their own opinion and they’re fully entitled to them,” Clarke said. “It’s art and it’s to be dissected and taken on in whatever individual way you wish. And if you’re sad that the show is done and you’re sad because you enjoyed watching it, then that’s sad. It sucks this wasn’t the perfect ending that people were hoping for, but I truly believe we would never have made everyone happy.”
Check out which shows we think could be the next Game of Thrones:
8 Shows That Could Be the Next Game of Thrones
Of course, all of the response to the show’s ending has only been amplified in the era of internet fandom. To avoid coming across more painful comments, Clarke says she refuses to Google herself and doesn’t read reviews.
“[It] makes it sounds like I’ve got my sh*t together, but it doesn’t help me to hear someone say, ‘You’re great,’ and it doesn’t help me to hear someone say, ‘Hey, you piece of sh*t, why are you so fat?’ Those are the extremes you deal with when you read about yourself on the internet, so I simply don’t,” Clarke said.
Despite all the negativity and her efforts to avoid it, Clarke adds that Game of Thrones (and by extension its ending) has given her a significant amount of freedom to move on with her career.
“It really was the greatest moment of my life, but there is an absolute freedom that Thrones has given me — a gift-wrapped present in a little bow saying, ‘You’re now financially secure enough to not have to panic, so what do you want to do?’ That kind of freedom is wonderful,” Clarke said. “I could never see it during the time I was filming, because I was too close to it.”
Check out how the GoT cast has aged over the years:
How Game of Thrones’ Main Characters’ Looks Have Changed Over the Seasons
Of course, every fantasy fan alive is wondering what the next Game of Thrones will be, and if an actor like Clarke might ever return to the franchise or a similar one. At least when it comes to Game of Thrones, Clarke seems well beyond trying to reinvigorate it for one last ride.
I don’t feel pressure to follow up the show because it’s unfollowable,” Clarke said. “I’m not going to go off and be like “Oh well, dragons are my thing…” I can’t be a crazy woman demanding dragons forever! “These aren’t as good as my last dragons!” Can you imagine?”
Clarke certainly seems more restrained on her feelings about Game of Thrones’ ending than some of her co-stars. Actress Lena Heady said that she wanted her character Cersei to have a better end. Actor Kit Harrington, who played Jon Snow alongside Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen for much of the past two seasons, said he has yet to watch the final season. As for the books, author George R.R. Martin has said fan backlash won’t change how he approaches the rest of the written series.
Check out our report on the Game of Thrones prequel series
Despite the backlash, Game of Thrones still won an Emmy for best drama series this year, and we’ve still got a prequel series to look forward to.
Joseph Knoop is a writer/father of doggos for IGN.