The fifth season of Game Of Thrones ended last week, which means another long, cold year of intolerable waiting. For the first time, even book readers are mostly in the dark, with the show all but catching up to the source material published thus far. To round out our weekly recaps, we got together to discuss the high-points and low-points of season five. Was it a successful season overall or has the show jumped the kraken? Here are our (collective) two cents...
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Chris Jager: So, Game Of Thrones Season 6, eh? The show really seemed to divide the audience this year, with the Twitterverse alternating between "too boring" and "too controversial". What was your take?
Campbell Simpson: Look, I really think that GoT S5 played viewers really hot and cold. It was really slow to start off, got pretty damn good for the last couple of episodes, but for the most part it felt like we were just waiting for things to happen.
If you've read the books, I don't think you'd find the show especially controversial — far worse things happen in the fifth book — but at the same time, even readers had some surprises in store for them throughout the last 10 weeks.
I think I sided with the "too boring" folks for the most part, but episode 9 and 10 really stood out — both for the storyline and the production itself — and salvaged the whole thing somewhat. So, mostly boring with a side of "whoa, that was cool."
How do you think the season went? And what do you think about the ways in which the show departed from the books? (Also, you said Season 6, way to jump the gun there, bud.)
Chris Jager: Goddamn it, I just got back from five days of E3 insanity with a side of crippling jet lag - cut me some slack.
Okay, so season FIVE. I think it was a slow burn by necessity. The showrunners spent most of the season lining up all the pieces on the map so that key characters had an excuse to meet without it seeming rushed or implausible. The books suffered from the same problem at this particular juncture. (Die-hard book readers will know this as the "Meereenese knot"; an infamous chronology snafu that delayed the publication of A Dance With Dragons by several years.)
Personally, I've always been a fan of the court intrigue and travelogue stuff, so I didn't mind that nothing "important" was happening. For instance, I could' have spent an entire episode with Bronn and Jaime gallivanting around the Dornish countryside, just chilling and sharing backstory. They made a good double act when the plot wasn't getting in the way.
As for the book changes, the series has morphed into a very loose adaptation which I'm absolutely fine with. It would be infinitely worse if D&D were working off detailed transcripts hand-delivered by George R R Martin — the future books would then be completely spoiled. At least we readers will still have a few mysteries to look forward to (assuming Martin ever finishes writing them, that is.)
You mentioned that you thought this season wasn't particularly controversial. Really? I'd argue that some of the choices made by the show — particularly Sansa's pervy fan-fiction nuptials — were gratuitous in the worst of ways.
The fact that something worse happens to a minor character in the books is a pretty weak justification. This was a MAJOR character who is now a rape victim and relentlessly abused spouse. What was the point of it all? They could have come up with plenty of reasons to delay the wedding - I feel this would have also heightened the tension with the threat of Ramsay always lurking over her head.
While we're on the subject of book changes, what did you think about the shock characters deaths? Barristan Selmy, Mance Rayder, the remaining Baratheon clan (including Stannis), Myrcella Lannister, Maryn Trant and presumably Jorah Mormont are now doomed, despite being alive in the books. Personally, I didn't give a stuff about anyone except poor, sweet Shireen Baratheon. Her screams made my blood run cold.
Campbell Simpson: I have a problem with this slow burn thing, to be honest. It very much telegraphed the moves the show was going to make — Stannis is stuck in snow, he's burned a royal before, who will he burn next? — and every viewer had at least a full week to think about what was going to happen next. It took away from the immediacy and dread of it all a little.
I think I'm going to have to accept the fact that the show and the book are completely different now. I don't like the direction that the show has taken, actually — I think in simplifying some of the ridiculous amounts of storylines, the writers have really dumbed down a few of them and created some plotholes and unnecessary moral quandaries. That whole Sansa thing, for example — completely unnecessary, enough to drive viewers away from the show, and in the end irrelevant because we already knew Ramsay was gross and evil. That's what gets me the most — it didn't really help and it just distracted.
While we're talking about distractions, what about Dorne? Most completely useless and tangential subplot ever. The Sand Snakes were a bit one-dimensional, we didn't really see any character development from Jamie and it ended with a death that sits completely at odds with the attitude that Prince Oberyn tried to champion — "we don't hurt little girls in Dorne" — caused by his lover Ellaria Sand. It's all just a little bit nonsensical if you think about it. (By the way, I still think that Bronn will be the one that ends up sitting on the Iron Throne at the end of the series, to be honest. But we'll get back to that in a couple of years.)
The shock deaths were the best part, but that's not saying much. I was more annoyed at Barristan's death, because he's one of my favourite characters in the book and is supposed to be one of the best fighters in the entire world despite his advanced age. Why should a bunch of pricks in gold masks be able to take him down? I would've chosen Grey Worm to die for sure, but he's around for some tiresome romantic subplot. I don't think Jorah is dead, TBH, he'll be back — the writers wouldn't lose the chance to rekindle that Daenerys flame and create some faux-love triangle.
I know I'm being a bit of a downer on the show, but I want to make it clear I thought the fifth book was pretty boring too. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Chris Jager: Yeah, in regards to Jorah I was referring to the whole grayscale thing. He's obviously going to cark it at some point or why waste so much time bigging up how fatal the disease is? The only question is who he takes with him — the careless jerk has made skin-to-skin contact with Daenerys and Tyrion since knowingly becoming a carrier.
I agree with you about the Dornish subplot — it was mostly pointless and easily the weakest part of the season. Doubtlessly the truncating and wholesale removal of book characters contributed to this. Also, Alexander Siddig wasn't given nearly enough to do. He didn't even get his big "fire and blood" moment from the books.
Perhaps the show would have been better off focusing on what's going in in the Iron Islands? I would have happily given up all three Sand Snakes for more of Yara/Asha. I'm guessing the showrunners didn't want another dreary, damp location — if nothing else, at least Dorne provided some visual variety. Maybe its importance will come into focus next season but as of right now, none of the people in Dorne are likable or compelling. (Especially compared to Prince Oberyn.)
In fact, I think the new characters are a chief reason why many viewers were bored this year — the introduction of previously unknown players meant there was far less screen time for fan favourites. Instead of spending lots of time with Arya and Tyrion we kept returning to the bloody Sand Snakes, the High Sparrow and Dany's boring slaver fiance. Most fans didn't particularly care about this stuff.
Campbell Simpson: I think the Iron Islands would have been a thousand times more interesting than Dorne, actually. To be honest, when a couple of seasons ago we had Stannis versus Renly versus Robb versus Joffrey versus Balon Greyjoy, and basically all those guys have eventually been killed off, it's really funny that Balon kinda won — just by being off-screen and being too boring a storyline to follow.
There were a lot of characters that didn't get enough screen time. Hey, does anyone remember Bran? That kid will have grown up so much in the last season that no-one will recognise him when/if he ever comes back into the show. Oh, and there's that other Stark kid, still sitting in a boat somewhere with the wildling Osha. And there's Gendry. Still rowing. Eh, maybe the next season will focus on these characters a bit more (in the same way that book four and five did).
So, I guess in summary, this season was one of the weaker ones — but that's to be expected when you're building up to what hopefully should be an amazing sixth series full of blood and guts and White Walkers.
Chris Jager: Well, it wasn't the most action-packed season but it was probably the best looking. And when those big moments came, they delivered in spades: the Hardhome sequence wouldn't have looked out of place in a Hollywood blockbuster and the realisation of the fighting pit was equally spectacular. Despite the occasional wonky shot, Daenery's dragons were also pretty impressive.
I think I was less disappointed with this season than you and many others seem to be. Sure, it was a little uneven in places and the "Red Wedding" moments felt cynically concocted, but overall it ticked the important boxes: there were a bunch of sword fights, lashings of court intrigue, dark magic bubbling away at the fringes and plenty of gratuitous naughty bits. What more does a GoT fan need?
It will be fascinating to see where the show goes next year: it will be entirely uncharted waters for book and show fans alike. Here's my hot take — Jon's going to get battle-rezzed by Melisande. He will then join up with his aunt Danny (it is known) and take on the Others. Possibly as a talking wolf.
Campbell Simpson: I know I'm being cynical but my reaction was just "wow, there went 95 per cent of the series' CGI budget" for the dragons and Hardhome sequences. Hardhome was pretty impressive in an emotional sense, to be fair — when you saw all the wights rise up at the command of the White Walker, that was a good feeling, and that I think more than anything else is what is making me excited for Season 6.
I think Jon getting rezzed by Melisandre is almost a certainty, moreso in the show than in the books — her arrival at the Wall a mere scene or two before his gutting seemed like a massive foreshadowing, considering what Thoros of Myr did for Beric (wow, do you remember that? Seems like centuries ago.) That'll be an interesting storyline, at least, and I really hope we find out what Bran is doing up in the north. I'd also love some more northern intrigue, if we can wrangle it — there are some great characters from the book that need on-screen introduction.
Season 6 of Game of Thrones has a huge amount of potential, but for me I think it'll be make or break; I might just give up on the show altogether if it doesn't live up to my expectations. I think I'm cautiously optimistic.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
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