One of my pleasures on a Sunday evening has been watching HBO’s Game of Thrones season six. This is the first time that the show has outpaced George R.R. Martin’s books which made it a particularly fascinating season. The season was for me a mixture of highs and lows, with more highs than lows. I will split the post here for those who don’t want any spoilers about season six.
Given that this is the first season off book, a big question is how many of the twists revealed/confirmed in the show will happen in the books? For many of them, there has been enough foreshadowing in the books to assume that they will happen, even if not quite in the same way. By the start of the season I don’t think there were any viewers, book readers or not, who believed that Jon Snow would remain dead. Whether Melisandre revives him in the book or whether there is some warging involving Ghost or a mixture of the two remains to be seen. Similarly, the apparently confirmed R+L=J theory has considerable grounding in the books as does the return of The Hound if not to the same extent. Some events are not, to my knowledge, foreshadowed in the book, but I fully expect them to show up in the books at some point. These include the origin of Hodor’s name and Cersei’s crowning. Others are complete inventions of the show writers as it conflicts with what is happening in the books. I’m thinking of the deaths of Doran and Trystane Martell or Arya’s serving Frey pie.
As I mentioned, the season had its ups and downs for me. Let me talk about the downs first. These generally come under two categories; inability to suspend my belief at what they were trying to make me swallow and character assassination. Under the first category I include things like Arya’s surviving a knife attack resulting in a gut wound and being able to parkour about Braavos and kill The Waif the following episode. Seriously, guys? Come on. Also under this category comes Varys’ apparent ability to travel from Meereen to Dorne AND BACK AGAIN in only a couple of episodes. Right…
The character assassination is a more serious one in my eyes. I understand that they need to make cuts and speed things along for pacing, but I would have hoped they’d try to at least follow the basic beats of certain characters’ arcs. I’m specifically thinking of Jaime and Doran Martell here. Admittedly, Jaime’s arc for this season – the Riverrun siege – is drawn from an earlier book, but even at this point, the loss of his sword hand and his friendship with Brienne should have had Jaime well started on his arc to regain his lost honour. What Benioff and Weiss gave us was pure season one Jaime, the incestuous kingslayer who threw Bran out of a window. No. Just no.
The decision to kill off Doran Martell in the premiere cut off the revelation that the Prince of Dorne is one of the great masterminds in the series, on a par with Varys and Littlefinger. His death at the hands of Ellaria Sand gives the TV viewer that he is nothing more than a weak man who should not be allowed to govern. No, no, NO. The show further compounds this assassination by giving Doran’s famous speech – “Vengeance. Justice. Fire and Blood” – to Varys of all people, in which he hints at the Dornish Masterplan (warning: don’t click unless you have a couple of hours to spare.) <Sigh>. The Dornish scene did allow for an epic putdown of the generally reviled Sand Snakes y the Queen of Thorns so yay for that I guess.
So, onto the highlights. The Stark siblings had some awesome episode-ending one liners. After his resurrection Jon announces his intention to leave the Night’s Watch by stating “my watch has ended” referring to the Night’s Watch oath which states that a Watchman’s oath only ends with his death. Perfect. I loved Arya’s statement to Jaqen that “a girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell and I’m going home.” Yay. You go, girl. Sansa’s revenge on Ramsey Bolton was also great – it proved that she has the strength to rise above what he did to her.
Hodor’s backstory really hit me in the feels. That was so sad, and perfectly executed. Poor, poor Hodor. That was probably the death that hit me the hardest this season. I felt it was a very Martinish thing to do, and the showrunners confirmed that Martin himself is the source for this development. I suspect it will happen differently in the book, but that Bran’s warging and ‘hold the door” = “Hodor” will feature.
Another real highlight for me was Ramin Djawadi’s soundtrack. Season six contains some of his best work to date. The accompanying music to Hold the Door and the preparations for Cersei’s trial really heightened the emotions beautifully.
The season finale was simply wonderful Definitely the strongest season closer yet. I had been spoiled for a few things, or at least some things had been so heavily foreshadowed, that I was not surprised by Cersei’s burning of the Sept of Baelor taking out many of her foes. Tommen’s suicide was also not a surprise to me, nor was the confirmation of R+L=J. My friend and I had a list of likely final scenes, one of which was Dany and entourage setting sail for Westeros. Again, that was not particularly surprising.
There were definitely a few surprises though – mainly the coronation of Cersei, First of Her Name – and wasn’t her black battle dress gorgeous? I loved seeing Sam in the Citadel library and the shot of the white ravens announcing winter was come was shiver inducing.
What did astound me about the finale was the excellence of the execution – it was breathtaking. Everything from the pacing to the visuals, costume and music was pitch perfect. Everything came together for a brilliant hour of television. Kudos team Game of Thrones.
What do I expect from Season 7?
I understand the next two seasons are going to be shorter – six or seven episodes each. I expect next season to focus on consolidating a unified force to fight the White Walkers. This means I doubt Cersei will survive the season – nothing on earth will convince her of the threat of the White Walkers, so an alliance of Dany, Dorne, the Greyjoys and the Starks will have to take her down. True to the prophecy though I expect Jaime to be the one to kill her, an act he won’t long survive. Some viewers predict that Cersei will try to continue her burning spree as the Mad Queen and that Jaime will have to kill her as he did the Mad King. That sounds plausible to me.
It’s likely that both Bran via weirwood internet and Sam at the Library at the Citadel will be on fact finding missions. Maybe it will be how to bring down the White Walkers, maybe it will be more of their culture given that Martin doesn’t seem to go too much for a good vs evil dichotomy.
I expect the Wall to be breached/come down in the last episode of the season, leaving season eight to focus on the War for the Dawn.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments.