Game of Tones: Did the show's final season spark joy for reviewers?

The final season of Game of Thrones aired its last episode in May 2019 and inspired some of the worst episode ratings of the show’s eight year run. While many fans were keen to see the conclusions to the show’s many story-arcs, the plot of the final season spurred mixed emotions. To better understand this, Ampere Analysis has analysed the language used in over 16,000 IMDb reviews using IBM’s Watson Tone Analyzer. The seven most dominant tones expressed by reviewers over the 8 seasons - Anger, Fear, Joy, Sadness, Analytical, Confident and Tentative, have been compared against the average ratings of each seasons’ reviews.

Through the first seven seasons, the dominant tones interpreted were Joy, Analytical, Sadness, and Tentative – with minor changes from season to season. Following the airing of the last season – the sentiment strength of Joy dropped by a third, dropping below Analytical, Sadness, and Tentative. This drop is also evident in the average ratings of the season, dropping from 9.2/10 to just 6.6/10 – echoing the decline in the Joy sentiment.

The fifth season shows a more subtle negative correlation between the average ratings and the strength of the ‘analytical’ sentiment. In that season, the TV show caught up with the plots in George RR Martin’s books, with some character stories overtaking that revealed in the published works. As more character arcs diverged, the show ended the season on a dramatic cliff-hanger, prompting speculation among the show’s reviewers. However, this break from canon appears to have left some reviewers critical – leading to a drop in average ratings.