(WARNING: The following contains major plot SPOILERS for Game of Thrones Season 6, all the way up to the very end of Episode 2. If you aren't yet all caught up with the show, then proceed with whatever level of caution your innate sense of greensight suggests is wise.)
Now, as anyone who's read the series' source novels can tell you, Game of Thrones is currently well into unfamiliar territory, having now ventured past the books in pretty much every major plotline bar what's going on in the Iron Islands. Which, since we'd been outright told that would happen — what with George R.R. Martin's next novel, The Winds of Winter, having not yet been released — isn't all that surprising. What is, however, a little more unusual, is the fact that...
Game Of Thrones Season 6 Is Changing Everything We Think We Know
Specifically, it seems as though the latest season of Game of Thrones — not content to meekly overtake the books — is currently engaged in a wholesale rewriting of the rules of the game.
(And note, this is where those aforementioned major plot SPOILERS really kick in.)
The Show Seems To Be Pulling Away From Some Of Its Classic Tricks
The first two episodes of Season 6 of Game of Thrones featured virtually no gratuitous female nudity — and what there was seems to have been used to make an unusual point about the nature of aging (and of centuries-old magic). This apparent evolution could well not last, but in the meantime it sure does seem as though the show is moving away from its widely derided habit of using sexposition to cloak drier plot moments in nudity.
What's more, it seems as though something similar might be taking place for the show's trademark brutality, with the most shocking (and horrifically violent) moment thus far being not Ramsay Bolton's murder of his father Roose, but his subsequent killing of his stepmother and newborn brother. However, where previous seasons would have used such a moment as a big emotional beat — a shock to reinforce the brutality of Westeros — Season 6 instead turns it into something cruelly inevitable. Ramsay — and, indeed, much of the population of Westeros — can no longer surprise us by murdering a child, and so the show instead turns his kin killing into something far more mundane, and perhaps even more troubling.
A Whole Lot Of Characters Have Just Had Their Core Beliefs Turned Upside Down
During Season 6's first two episodes, we've already seen a whole lot of changes — with many of our favorite heroes (and villains) having changed course dramatically in both emotional and geographical terms. For some of those characters, however, the changes have been far more than skin deep.
Take Ser Davos, for example. Once Westeros's most loyal knight (bar Brienne, perhaps), and the show's main bastion of R'hllor-refuting cynicism, Davos now finds himself set adrift from his loyalties and inciting the magical resurrection of Night's Watch commanders. His onetime nemesis Melisandre, meanwhile, has (perhaps temporarily) lost her once character-defining faith and can no longer see the future in the fire. Sansa Stark is in complete control of her own destiny, Brienne of Tarth has actually fulfilled part of a vow, Theon Greyjoy is trying to be a hero, Jaime Lannister is showing restraint and political guile, and Ramsay Bolton no longer gives a damn what his father thinks of him.
Things sure have changed here on Walton's mountain, and a whole horde of major characters have been left in as yet entirely unexplored emotional territory. Not least Jon Snow, who seems to now be a R'hllor-powered fire zombie.
Speaking of which, and perhaps most importantly of all...
Game Of Thrones May Finally Have Evolved Into The Straight Fantasy Show That It's Always Tried So Hard Not To Be
Tyrion is now the proud stepfather of two distinctly unchained dragons. Ser Davos Seaworth has embraced miracles and successfully arranged for the resurrection of Jon Snow. Bran is seemingly set to show us a whole lot of Westeros's past in the form of flashbacks. A giant is now guarding Castle Black, alongside a direwolf, a zombie lord commander and the centuries-old magic-wielding priestess who resurrected him. Cersei, meanwhile, has a zombie of her own working for her, and that's arguably the least magically charged element of the entire show at this point. After all, there's an entirely different zombie army preparing to attack from the North, but they're going to have to overcome a 700-foot wall in order to do it.
The point being? Where once Game of Thrones was a show that could shock viewers by having Daenerys emerge from a burning funeral pyre unscathed and accompanied by baby dragons, it's now a show in which the magical resurrection of Jon Snow is so plausible to us all that we've been arguing over exactly how it would happen for the best part of a year. Where once it was as grounded and realistic as a fantasy-themed show could be while still featuring dragons, Game of Thrones has finally, with Season 6, embraced its fantastical roots, and become something very different from what it was when it first arrived on our screens.
The night, it seems, is darker and more full of terrors than it ever was before, and winter is still coming — but the show's heroes might just finally have some means with which to fight through to summer and to (magically) kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight.