‘Now our watch is ended’: history-making ‘Game of Thrones’ wraps

Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) in “Game of Thrones.” (Helen Sloan/HBO)
Updated 19 May 2019
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‘Now our watch is ended’: history-making ‘Game of Thrones’ wraps

  • The blood-spattered tale of noble families vying for the Iron Throne has just one episode to go and buzz is at fever pitch
  • One of the darkest and most controversial primetime series ever made, “GoT” has been the target of criticism over the years

LOS ANGELES: After eight epic years of chivalry, sex, death and dragons, “Game of Thrones” fans worldwide have just 79 pulsating minutes remaining Sunday to get their final fix in one of the most hotly anticipated events in TV history.
The blood-spattered tale of noble families vying for the Iron Throne has just one episode to go and buzz is at fever pitch for a ratings juggernaut that has demolished audience records like a Dothraki barbarian finishing off a skillet of horse meat.
“We want people to love it. It matters a lot to us. We’ve spent 11 years doing this,” Dan Weiss, who directed the 73rd and final episode with fellow showrunner David Benioff, told Entertainment Weekly.
While many will watch at home, perhaps with a goblet of Dornish red wine and a punnet of Braavosi cockles, thousands will celebrate and mourn the show’s denouement at viewing parties in bars, banqueting halls and backyards from Alaska to Armenia.
One of the darkest and most controversial primetime series ever made, “GoT” has been the target of criticism over the years for senseless violence and its repeated use of rape as a dramatic device.
The scriptwriters have brutalized women, killed children, depicted graphic sex and had their characters hacked, stabbed, flayed, poisoned, decapitated, burned alive, eye-gouged and eviscerated — all in glorious close-up.
Even principal character Jon Snow (Kit Harington), whose fellow Night’s Watch troops would chant “And now his watch is ended” at comrades’ funerals, suffered the indignity of being briefly dead after a particularly violent quarrel.
The adult themes have not deterred fans, however, nor the industry itself, which has seen fit to make it the most decorated series in history, with 47 Emmy Awards.
Airing in 170 countries under its portentous tagline, “Winter is Coming,” the show is also the most expensive ever, with a budget of $15 million per episode in its final run.
The season seven finale set an all-time US record for premium cable TV with 16.5 million people watching live or streaming on the day of transmission and 15 million more tuning in later.
Viewing records also tumbled across the world, with Britain’s Sky Atlantic and OCS in France showing episodes in the middle of the night in sync with their US premieres.
Season six was the first to move beyond the source material, George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels, and carve its own path.
Critics said it marked a return to form, with the narrative allowing female characters to demonstrate complexity and moral agency lacking in some of the earlier seasons.
The shortened final two seasons have been more of a mixed bag, with many fans furious over what they consider poor writing.
Most controversial has been the rapid descent into mass-murdering madness by Emilia Clarke’s fan favorite Daenerys Targaryen, arguably the lead character in an enormous ensemble that has called on the services of such luminaries as Charles Dance, Sean Bean, Jim Broadbent and Diana Rigg.
A Change.org petition called “Remake Game of Thrones Season 8 with competent writers” had passed one million signatures with more than 24 hours to go until Sunday’s finale.
Assuming there is no do-over, the biggest mystery of all remains who will be sitting on the Iron Throne and ruling Westeros when “Game of Thrones” comes to an end.
To throw hackers and pirates off the scent, Benioff and Weiss shot several versions of the final episode, a tactic already used for “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad.”
Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark, has admitted that even she was fooled into believing a fake version of the ending.
Martin will himself discover the on-screen ending of his long-running masterwork before he has had a chance to conclude the fantasy on paper.
The plot lines for his long-awaited final two novels in the series — “The Winds of Winter” and “A Dream of Spring” — were adapted to the screen based on outlines Martin gave the show’s writers. But there is no guarantee they will stick to his plan.
“Obviously, I wished I finished these books sooner so the show hadn’t gotten ahead of me. I never anticipated that,” Martin once told an interviewer.
The “Game of Thrones” finale premieres on HBO at 9:00 p.m. in the US on both coasts (0100 GMT and 0400 GMT).


After conquering Broadway, ‘Hamilton’ eyes global tour

Updated 16 June 2019
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After conquering Broadway, ‘Hamilton’ eyes global tour

  • Created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show charts Caribbean-born Hamilton who rises through his smarts and determination to become a key military aide to George
  • The push for more overseas performances comes as “Hamilton” mania remains as strong as ever in its home market

NEW YORK: After triumphing on Broadway, the lower 48 states and London’s West End, “Hamilton” is eyeing its first non-English production as well as tours throughout Europe and Asia.
The much-decorated musical, currently being staged nightly in London and New York as well as four other US cities, last month announced plans to launch in Sydney in early 2021 in a production expected to tour Australia before going to Asia, its producer said in an interview.
The “Hamilton” team is also working with a German hip-hop artist and playwright to develop a German-language version of the work.
The show, which is performed by a mostly non-white cast and mixes pulsating rap numbers with ballads and traditional musical numbers, has been credited with invigorating Broadway, thrilling audiences of all ages and across the political spectrum.
Producer Jeffrey Seller told AFP he sees a lot of international interest in the show. Australians frequently stream its soundtrack, Germany has long been receptive to American musicals and a Mexico City show, perhaps in Spanish, is also a possibility.
“My hope is that our story is resonant to people all over the world as a story of revolution, as a story of ambition, as a story of self-realization,” said Seller, who has been called the “CEO of Hamilton Inc.”
“I think Alexander Hamilton’s journey is universal.”
The push for more overseas performances comes as “Hamilton” mania remains as strong as ever in its home market.
Created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show charts Caribbean-born Hamilton — introduced as “a bastard, orphan son of a whore” — who rises through his smarts and determination to become a key military aide to George Washington during the American Revolution and later the architect of the US financial system in the republic’s early days.
Hamilton was killed in a duel in 1804 by Aaron Burr, a foil throughout the show and the character who sings “The Room Where It Happens,” a jazzy show-stopper about political horse-trading.
Nearly four years after its Broadway debut, the show completely sold out during the just-ended 2018-9 season, garnering almost $165 million, or nine percent of Broadway’s total in a record-setting season.
Business is also brisk for three national touring companies, which typically perform three- and four-week stints in American cities of varying size.
The “Angelica” touring company — named for Hamilton’s sister-in-law in the musical — made its Louisville premiere earlier this month at the Kentucky Center. The venue seats 2,400, about 1,100 more seats than the musical’s Broadway home at the Richard Rodgers Theater.
Anticipation for the show boosted subscriptions for touring Broadway shows in Louisville this season by nearly 20 percent, said Leslie Broecker, Midwest president for Broadway Across America, who calls the show a “catalyst” in attracting new audiences.
Shannon Steen, a University of California professor specializing in performance studies and race theory, attributes the show’s domestic success to Miranda’s skill at blending musical genres while appealing to diverse political constituencies.
The show “confirms this idea that America can serve as a city on a hill for global democracy,” a theme that resonates with conservatives, Steen said.
At the same time, signature lines such as “immigrants get the job done” have emerged as applause points for critics of US President Donald Trump’s harsh immigration policies, which parallel similar debates in other markets.
The show’s themes about immigration “will likely not resonate in the same way (as in the US), but it will be interesting to see how those things are taken up by audiences in other countries,” Steen said.
International investments will be tailored by market. Seller expects an English-language version of “Hamilton” to play in Paris perhaps for an eight- or 10-week run as part of a European tour around 2022-23.
He said the French have not shown much hunger for past American musicals, but that this show — which features a prominent French character in the Marquis de Lafayette — could spawn a French-language version if it sells well.
But Germany has for years been a robust market for US musicals, including “Wicked” and “Lion King,” and “they have the population to support it for a long run,” Seller said.
Stephan Jaekel, a spokesman for Stage Entertainment in Germany, which has been overseeing auditions for “Hamilton,” said the aim is to open in the fall of 2020 in Hamburg, but that a final deal has yet to be signed.
“We much look forward to presenting it to German audiences and hope to be able to start ticket sales soon,” Jaekel said in an email.
Seller hopes to announce the show in the coming months.