Title: Game of Thrones
Release Dates: 2016
Number of Episodes: 10
In the brutal winter of 2015, I idly decided to give this Game of Thrones show a chance (my wife is a huge fan of the books) and ended up binge-watching all four seasons then in existence. Medieval fantasy is not usually my thing and the violence on this show can be overwhelming, but I got sucked into the stories and the performances, particularly by Maisie Williams, Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Rory McCann, Conleth Hill, John Bradley, Jerome Flynn, Liam Cunningham, Gwendolyn Christie, and Natalie Dormer. So then I listened to all five of the audiobooks, and was ready just in time to watch season five as it was broadcast.
And I was disappointed. The show not only went off-the-book, it went off the rails. The Dorne plot – a dull tangent in the books – became even more pointless in its tv adaptation. Ramsey Bolton was repeatedly depicted as senselessly cruel turning a menacing character into a caricature. And interesting characters like Brienne, Arya, and Daenerys tread water for much of the season. So I was not looking forward to season six.
Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised. Season six sees an improvement in writing, several startling revelations, and most impressively some really fantastic directing and cinematography. This is particularly true of the final two episodes, “Battle of the Bastards” and “The Winds of Winter,” both directed by Miguel Sapochnik. This season also re-introduces the Greyjoy story on the Iron Islands and the story of Bran and his companions north of the wall, although both stories felt rushed, it was good to see these characters again. In retrospect, I think it would’ve been wiser of Game of Thrones to spend more time with these stories sprinkled over seasons 5 and 6, rather than their half-assed attempt at the Dorne story (which they literally killed off in season 1.
Some highlights of season 6:
- The rise of the High Sparrow in King’s Landing (Jonathan Pryce does a great job of making a religious fanatic seem to be the most reasonable person around)
- The return of Jon Snow
- The reunion of Jon and Sansa
- Bran’s visions of his family’s past
- Theon reuniting with Yara and supporting her as Queen
- Daenerys victory over the khals
- The death of Hodor – “hold the door!” – <sniff>
- The return of The Hound and the Brother Ray’s pacifist community
- Lady Mormont in every single scene she appears in
- Arya recognizing her identity and purpose
- The “Battle of the Bastards” is an amazingly filmed and choreographed with scenes unsettlingly reminiscent of the Hillsborough Disaster but with swords and pikes. It was amazing work of film, but so disturbing I don’t think I’d ever want to watch it again
- The building tension of the scenes leading up to the destruction of the Great Sept and the heartbreaking simplicity of the depiction of Tommen’s suicide
- Sam’s joy at seeing the library at the Citadel
- The revelation of Jon’s parentage
- Daenerys making Tyrion the Hand of the Queen
There are still moments of the season that missed the mark, with some poor leaps of logic, but overall this season showed the best of what Game of Thrones can be and established the setting for the climactic final seasons.