Emilia Clarke stars in ‘Game of Thrones.’

On Sunday, the incredibly popular fantasy series “Game of Thrones” will come to an end.

Depending on who you ask, it will either go down as one of the most consistently pulse-pounding, shocking shows to air or one of the biggest narrative implosions since “How I Met Your Mother.”

Based on the novels by George R.R. Martin, the show built its brand on being ruthless. In a pop culture landscape where shows like “The Walking Dead” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe avoided killing off beloved characters, the protagonists in “Thrones” often were assaulted and murdered.

As the villainous Ramsay Bolton said in what could be taken as the show’s mantra: “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”

But what “Thrones” has struggled with in its past two seasons is writing a not-so-happy ending that fits the motivations of its characters along with big TV moments that satisfy the bloodlust of its audience. In its shortened final season, the show tried to do all of those things and has stumbled hard. I would go into everything that has seemingly gone wrong, but to save space, I’ll just say characters have made some crazy choices at a pace that doesn’t square with the show’s normal beats, and fans were very, very angry.

This is nothing new. The bigger a series gets, the higher the stakes are to find an ending that rewards viewers for investing days of their lives into a show’s characters and storylines. In the final seasons of shows like “Seinfeld” and “Lost,” you could feel the pressure from the writer’s room leak into the scripts. You can feel that same kind of stress in this final season of “Game of Thrones.”

During its run, “Game of Thrones” has morphed from a prestigious show along the lines of “Breaking Bad” and “The Sopranos” to a quicker-paced action series that valued big TV moments and grandiose carnage over character depth. While that may sound like a criticism, it’s not. It did action sequences of massive, graphic violence on a grand scale better than almost any television show.

The penultimate first season episode, “Baelor,” changed the television game when it came to main characters. “The Battle of The Bastards,” where the golden boy Jon Snow and his army battle the relentless Bolton and his soldiers, is a master class in tension, choreography and cinematography. “The Rains of Castamere,” also known as “The Red Wedding,” is outstanding in its brutality and hopelessness.

And I can’t go without mentioning “Thrones’” excellent casting, from Peter Dinklage’s gamut-spanning performance as the tragic Tyrion Lannister and Lena Headey’s scenery-chewing, venomous turn as the scheming matriarch Cersei Lannister to watching Maisie Williams grow in confidence and poise as the teen-turned-assassin Arya Stark.

No one knows what legacy “Thrones” will have until we look at it years later. Even if the ending misses the mark and this final season is seen as a boondoggle, I hope it doesn’t diminish all the things the series did right in its earlier years

— Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live

Andrew Gaug can be reached at andrew.gaug@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @NPNOWGaug