What bothers me most about this season is how, as I see it, the story seems negatively impacted by budgetary decisions.
Throwing the Dothraki and Ghost out into the night for a suicide attack against the walkers makes zero plot or strategic sense, and it makes me consider that they wanted to avoid the cost of another prolonged cavalry battle scene like the Battle of the Bastards. It did also serve to speed the plot along and get the walkers into Winterfell, but it rubbed me the wrong way that they were just removed from the episode because they were an expensive inconvenience.
The darkness in E3 that everyone has been commenting on also serves the same purpose. The harder it is to see anything, the less background action there needs to be. So in this giant battle that has been building up for 10 years, I tend to agree with people who feel that we have been robbed of some good action.
Similar to the darkness serving to limit the amount of action required, quickly moving the battle into the courtyards and hallways of Winterfell essentially bottle-necked the action, limiting the scope and complexity of the scenes. I'm not too critical of this aspect, since most of the scenes were well done and served to advance the plot, but the speed at which they forced the action into the confinement of Winterfell kind of reduced the feeling of imposing doom that the sight of the walkers crossing the wall at the end of S7 created. I had the same complaint about the final battle scene in Harry Potter, where they constricted the fighting into a small courtyard and the hallways of Hogwarts, when Rowling's original narrative, while much grander, would have been easily translated to film.
Poor Ghost. The internet is rightly upset that Jon didn't even give him a proper goodbye when he has Tormund agree to take Ghost north with him. And again, I see it as a budgetary decision influencing the story. It would have put a much higher price tag on the scene for Jon to actually interact with the CGI-enhanced wolf, but it would have been a much better scene had he done so.
And then we have Rhaegal's death. I mean, I understand that they want Cersei to feel like a huge threat, and having Dany lose the second of her dragons definitely tips the scales even farther in Cersei's favor. But oh, the cynic in me couldn't help but think that when Rhaegal fell into the ocean, they had effectively halved the most expensive part of their CGI budget.
This mainly bothers me because, while there is always the inevitable degradation when translating a book into a show or movie, when you're dealing with such a massively popular, money-making title like Game of Thrones, the most important thing should be the sanctity of the story. Decisions like throwing away the Dothraki make it feel like they backed themselves into a corner and decided to take the easy way out, instead of moving forward in a consistent and plausible manner.
According to Variety, each episode of S8 cost at least $15 million to make. That seems like, and in reality is, a mammoth budget for a show. But when compared to the earnings that GoT creates, which the New York Times says is just over $1 billion annually, it doesn't seem all that unrealistic to expect a fully developed product with no shortcuts, no plot holes, no Starbucks cups, lots of dragons, and a hug for a direwolf.