Game of Thrones’ fifth season left us with more loose ends than any of their prior finales. Given the Season 4 finale, arguably the best Thrones episode of all time, the generally underwhelming reception from fans after Season 5 is understandable. I felt it was another great season, but I see where people were coming from. The vagueness of Arya’s storyline, despite a satisfying taste of revenge near the end, left something to be desired. Sansa reached some new all-time lows, and Ramsay’s bland awfulness prevented him from being overly interesting. The Tyrion-Varys buddy-cop movie teased in the Season 4 finale was completely abandoned, which would’ve brought some much needed levity to an otherwise bleak ten episodes. We finally made some real progress in the Castle Black/White Walker storyline, which is supposedly what this show’s all about at the end of the day. Then they literally stabbed that progress about fifty times in the chest. Everyone loves Hardhome, but the tremendous episode is made less significant (for now) by where Season 5 leaves our scruffy hero. I’ll reiterate, I still loved Season 5, but I don’t think those on the other side of the fence are crazy for expecting more after a near-perfect Season 4. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, Season 6 certainly has some important matters to address over the course of this ten-episode arc.
Right out of the gate, we pick up exactly where we left off. The ambiguous fate of Jon Snow still remains to be seen, but I’m glad the show is using him as a focal point instead of sweeping that mystery under the rug. Waiting an entire season to resurrect him in the exact way we expect, via the conveniently located Red Priestess, would lead to more “I knew it” responses than “wow!” But if his return is almost immediate and completely epic, we may actually be surprised. Of course, if he’s actually dead we’ll be shocked. But when your name is fifth in the opening credits, I’m inclined to believe you’ll be more than a rotting corpse. Oh and based on how the North works, they best burn that body if they don’t plan on waking it up. I already love Davos’ place amongst the Night’s Watch, and had just started to grow tired of his role as Stannis’ “told you so” man. If the bastard son of Ned Stark (or perhaps someone else) wakes up, that immediately becomes the group to watch this season. I could watch Jon, Davos, Ghost and a handful of angry Night’s Watch brothers tear up the entire North all day every day.
Ramsay is as senselessly despicable and stress-free as he’s been for about three seasons now. It’s not the evil that bothers me; I love me some good malevolence on my go-to television. But antagonists are made interesting when they struggle just as much as heroes do. And I’m sorry, yearning for daddy’s acceptance doesn’t qualify as a struggle when you’re permanently defiling a new character every episode. Joffrey was the only other character to fit this evil-without-consequence description and, as fate would have it, the story was only setting him up for a spectacular downfall. It was a nice payoff, but one that I feel was unique to that specific character. If Game of Thrones becomes a tale of continuously raising villains up only to drop them at the last second, I’ll eventually want a little more variety from my sadistic young men. The guy once had to stop having sex only to win a half naked battle against a fully armed Greyjoy assault, after which I assume he continued having sex. Let’s throw a little adversity his way please. Of course any story this show models after the books, books I (full disclosure) did not read, is only a matter of them being faithful and we can’t fault them for that. I’ll say that several times from week to week. It’s more of a commentary on the stories themselves.
Jaime and Cersei deliver arguably my favorite scene of this episode. I was very ready to groan and eye-roll my way through Cersei’s predictable “you failed to protect our daughter” rant. Instead, we’re treated to an emotionally compelling moment between the two. Don’t you love when TV characters abandon clichés for a moment and act like real people? Cersei’s walk of shame did absolutely nothing if it was meant to make me pity her from a viewer’s point of view. Quite frankly, I think a bad haircut, a little nudity and the Westeros equivalent to walking on Legos was a pretty light punishment for that woman. This scene, however, actually made me think twice about her character. The Sparrows are a clear attempt to make audiences somehow side with Cersei and The Mountain, and I wish the group had a little more depth. That way, they could give us even more interesting characters instead of just providing a foil to the royal family. As for Tommen, never has the position of King seemed less powerful. The kid is actually spineless. Say what you want about him, but I’d love to watch King Joffrey’s reaction to this Sparrow presence. The storyline would’ve lasted about fifteen minutes. King’s Landing takes an interesting turn by putting the young ruler’s manhood and dignity on trial, one that can go in two very different directions.
Until I find it at all interesting, I don’t need to see much more of Arya than what we saw here. There is always the fine line between mystery and “now I don’t care”, and the many-faced nonsense has yet to stand on the right side of that line for me. I could use more vigilantism from the young Stark, but her one exciting moment was severely frowned upon by the powers that be. I once said the same thing about the three-eyed-raven arc, and it looks like that’s about to get very interesting. I hope this is a similar dynamic, and that Game of Thrones just paces out their stories so that some take a backseat and wait while others thrive in the spotlight. The series is brilliantly paced, and my nitpicking is easily countered by the fact that they can’t have ten different stories flying off the rails at once. That’s how you run out of ideas. The real loser of this week’s episode? Dornish men. The shocking manner of their deaths didn’t hit quite as hard as it could have because we don’t really care about these characters. But the political implications of a Dornish war on King’s Landing could be very interesting, especially in the throne’s weakened state.
I’m hoping for a more interesting Essos than we’ve seen in years past. Tyrion sits somewhat comfortably in Meereen, and should make for a more interesting ruler. Daenerys isn’t quite as exciting as she was back in the good old days yet, but I like the way her story this season is set up. She’s a character who, I believe, is at her absolute best when backed into a corner. I more or less like when bad things happen around her, because she becomes very compelling and ambitious. I understand why her part took the direction it did, based on the story’s movement away from her in the books throughout that time. But given the fact that I’m judging the show, I can safely say she got a little too comfortable on that throne. Audiences must’ve rolled their eyes when the show took any chance of her coming to Westeros and literally set it on fire. But I am nonetheless excited for what will hopefully be her return to relevance. Let’s spend less than 90% of her time sitting this time around.
My favorite Game of Thrones moments, outside of the obvious choices like epic action or major deaths, are when two storylines collide. It feels like characters from two of my favorite shows are crossing over to meet and hang out. For that reason, Lannister lovebirds did not create my favorite scene. Brienne finally accomplishing something and finding a Stark girl was a joy to watch. Side note, Brienne is the coolest character on Game of Thrones. In most fiction, the cool one has a bad attitude or is some form of edgy scoundrel. This is because, in general, people are good and somewhat straight laced. So the person who isn’t all-good stands out as unique. But in a world overflowing with corruption and treachery, Brienne of Tarth is about as edgy as it gets. Her nobility goes against the Westeros grain. She is filled to the brim with integrity in kingdoms that have none. And she provides a strong, female hero without bluntly shoving it down our throats in 2016’s politically correct fashion? Sign me up. Her victories in battle are constant, but her arc as a character is mirrored beautifully by how her combat plays out. Early on, she wins the clean fight against Loras for Renly’s Kingsguard position. After Westeros takes its toll on her, she wins the dirty fight against The Hound for pure survival. She faces the world’s murky waters and adapts to them without compromising her own character, and that’s just genius. Brienne is my favorite character because, like the bad boys of other fiction, her attitude stands out as different from everyone around her. Oh no…I think I just killed Brienne. If George R.R. Martin or any HBO producer asks, I can’t get enough of Ramsay and his antics. Anyway, this is a storyline I can get into. I appreciate Sansa accepting Brienne’s services despite the fact that her résumé as a protector is pretty terrible by now. You can feel a renewed sense of purpose from a character that, for five seasons, has been nothing but a victim or an object used in someone else’s game. Sansa can finally, if this situation holds, call her own shots. As for Theon, it’ll take a lot more than some recent heroics to land him on my good list. But the effort is appreciated.
This level of ongoing speculation and analysis from fans everywhere can only mean one thing. Game of Thrones is back! I couldn’t possibly dedicate an entire post per week to any other show, but for this one I find myself condensing all the thoughts provoked by a single episode just to make this readable. It wasn’t the most eventful opener, but the stage is set beautifully for what will hopefully be the epic series’ best season yet. My wish list for next week? Explain what in the seven hells is going on with Bran, initiate a royal beat down on the Sparrows, and let that hot/hideous naked lady bring back Jon Snow.