It’s no secret that the Game of Thrones Season 8 ending didn’t delight fans or critics. However, those who hated watching Daenerys Targaryen’s destruction of King’s Landing or Bran Stark becoming the King of Westeros may have more reason to look forward to the long-awaited novel The Winds of Winter, the sixth (and penultimate) book in the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. Why? Author George R.R. Martin recently hinted at an alternate ending for the books that’s quite different than its HBO counterpart.
Martin has said the Game of Thrones ending was not "completely faithful" to what he envisioned for the books. It’s also possible the poorly received final season of the HBO show made him change his mind about the conclusion.
“People know an ending—but not the ending. The makers of the TV show had overtaken me, which I didn't expect.”
It’s not exactly confirmation, but Martin's comment subtly suggests the backlash from the Season 8 finale may have prompted to him reconsider the direction of certain storylines. For example, if Bran was always meant to become King of Westeros in the books, Martin might tweak that, or at least offer a more robust set of reasons and supporting circumstances.
After all, hindsight is 20/20 and knowing fans’ reception to certain endings may have been a gift in disguise for Martin. He has said that he would “write the book I’ve always intended to write” regardless of public opinion, but it's hard to justify ignoring fan reactions completely.
At this point, however, any intended changes to The Winds of Winter might delay the book’s release even further. The novel’s release date has been pushed back several times over the last several years. Though it was scheduled for a November 2018 release, The Winds of Winter was delayed to make room for Martin’s Fire & Blood, which documents the history of House Targaryen and is now the premise for HBO’s upcoming Game of Thrones prequel spinoff, House of the Dragon.
In a post on his personal blog last year, Martin wrote that his last two books, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, will “fill 3000 manuscript pages between them” before all is said and done. Fans can only hope that a more satisfying ending awaits the characters in the novels than on the show, though we have to wait quite a bit longer to find out.