Alright Iggles, Game of Thrones Season 5 is officially over, what do we think? Honestly this season was hard for me to get through. There was a lot less action and physical fights, and a lot more verbal sparring with varying degrees of subtlety (I’m looking at you Cersei’s left eyebrow!) This wasn’t my least favorite season, but it definitely wasn’t my favorite. Let’s go through the high points and the lows.
Any book spoilers will be in italics and prefaced by *BOOK SPOILERS*
Violence and Character Development
We all know my thoughts on the 7th episode, but in case you missed that you can read it here. That was a definite low point in the season for me. Before that, there weren’t really any huge big moments that I really enjoyed. There were a few little ones; I really loved the conversations between Cersei and Margaery, and between Varys and Tyrion, but besides a few memorable conversations, there wasn’t a whole lot that I can even remember off the top of my head.
The 9th episode was a tough one to get through. It came right after Hardhome, which was so good. I knew that Shireen was in danger of being burned, but I really didn’t think that Stannis would burn his own daughter. *BOOK SPOILERS* in the books, Melisandre is suspected of wanting to burn Mance Rayder’s child, who doesn’t exist in the show, but Shireen is still alive at the Wall with Selyse. My poor sweet Shireen. I had to pause the scene twice, and ended up watching it without the sound.
In no way am I advocating violence against women or the burning of children, but I do want to briefly discuss how Shireen’s death was different than Sansa’s rape in episode seven. Shireen’s death has furthered the plot. From it, there was character development from Stannis and his wife Selyse, and the audience and characters all learned something. Selyse had always been cold and here we learn that she does in fact love her daughter and is not completely devoted to her religion. We also learn that Stannis indeed does not have a limit to what he will do to gain the crown; Stannis is briefly the most dangerous man in Westeros.
Shireen’s death also served the dramatic arc. In the season finale it looks like Shireen’s sacrifice pays off magic-wise, but then we watch Stannis loose absolutely everything. Game of Thrones’ “thing” (or one of them) is that this is a terrible world where there are no limits. In my mind this is a limit. Sacrificing your children = bad. Shireen’s death served as a major development for the storylines of Stannis, Davos, Selyse, and Melisandre. It kick-started a huge series of events that have destroyed Stannis, broken his army, and put Davos and Melisandre at the wall. Oppositely, in my mind, Sansa’s rape served no plot purpose. As I’ve previously stated, I do not think that it was the correct way to tell Sansa’s story. Shireen’s death was horrible and awful, but it served a purpose. I am not saying that makes it okay; as I’ve said, I watched it without sound because it made me feel physically ill, but it makes it different.
Right now, 90% of why I’m watching the show is for Arya, Jon Snow, and Dany, but mostly Jon Snow. As such, I must say that the battle of Hardhome was absolutely fantastic, without a doubt the highest point of the season for me, and the storyline I am most looking forward to next season.
Let’s touch on a few major characters.
Arya: This is one of my favorite parts for her in the books. My verdict is they’ve done a solidly alright job, but they did not need to make Ser Meryn Trant a pedophile to remind us that he was a horrible person. Besides that, I did actually really like her storyline this season. I know a lot of people found the House of Black and White confusing, but it’s one of my favorite things from the books, and I like how they handled the blindness. (*BOOK SPOILERS* in the books she wakes up blind, and while the shot of her eyes opening and being white would have been incredibly dramatic, I also think it was powerful to see her ripping off the faces and seeing her own before her sight was taken away).
Cersei: Goodness Cersei was amazing this season. This part in the books is so intense and I think they captured that in the show perfectly, from the mental games of the High Sparrow to the anguish of Cersei’s walk of atonement. I found out after the fact that they used a body double for the walk, and apparently CGI’d Lena Headey’s face onto the double, but since I didn’t know that at the time I did not find it distracting. But I thought that her walk of atonement was very powerful, and it made me feel so much pity for a character that is a Bad Person that it made me think a lot about public shaming in general. In a Cast of Kings they mention an article comparing her walk to Twitter, and I think there is definitely something to be said about our culture’s addiction to outrage. I am also extremely excited the The Mountain is back in business, and cannot wait to see how Cersei uses the remaining leverage she has in Kings Landing.
Jon Snow: The threat at and beyond the Wall is actually the greatest threat to Westeros, and they’ve done a fantastic job of reminding us of that this season. A lot of people have very strong opinions about Olly, and while I don’t really like his character, someone close to Jon needed to be the final one to stab him, and he got the job done (though maybe not in the most elegant way). I will say this right now, I do not believe John Snow is actually dead. There are too many things that are able to raise the dead surrounding him for him to stay dead. We know the White Walkers who just reanimated an entire army are right next door, we know Melisandre has the ability because from her conversation with Thoros a few seasons back (and why would she have gone to the wall if not for Jon?) and *MAJOR BOOK SPOILERS* there is also the possibility of Jon warging with Ghost, who was strangely absent this season. So, I am going to be closely monitoring Kit Harington’s hair length online (his GoT contract states that he cannot cut his hair), and as soon as he gets a buzz cut is when I start MAYBE admitting that Jon is actually dead.
Sansa: I hate everything they’ve done to her. Why give her all the agency they did to only make her a victim again? When she stole that corkscrew thing, I was really hoping she would stab someone, but apparently no one got my memo.
The Sand Snakes: Huge disappointment. These characters are so amazing in the books and their plotline was simplified so much that it turned them into boring one-dimentional characters.
Dany: I love her and Tyrion finally being on the same team. Speaking of Tyrion, they skipped over a lot of boring book stuff, so no complaints about that! I wish that we could have had the dynamic duo together a little longer even though I am SO HAPPY that she finally flew away on her dragon and said peace out to Maureen. I don’t think anyone was sad to see her husband-to-be get stabbed, although I did enjoy guessing whether he was involved with the Sons of the Harpy or not. I will say that Dany has a good circle of friends. Not a good circle of advisers, they all suck besides Tyrion, but she has so many people who will stand in a circle around her facing certain death. Those are good friends. But now she’s with the Dothraki again, and Tyrion and Varys have control of Maureen which should be incredibly interesting. I am a little tired of her being all the way over across the sea and would very much like to get her to Westeros sometime soon. I will admit I got very excited for a split second when I saw her walking by the cliffs after she flew away with Drogon, because I thought they looked like the cliffs by the Eyrie from last season when Brienne and the Hound fought and I thought that somehow Drogon had carried her all the way to mid-Westeros.
Most of my greatest frustrations this season came from when the show went completely off-book. I’m not a bookreader who demands that everything be exactly as it was originally written, part of what I love about adaptations is seeing the changes and compromises between book and screen, and analyzing the choices that were made. I do think that a lot of problems stemmed from the fact that the next book has not been finished yet. I’m sure George RR Martin knows where his story is going, and I’m sure that he has looped the show runners in to that to a certain extent, but since no one has the hard copy in their hands yet, and certainly didn’t when this season was being written, a lot of characters got put into a holding pattern as a result. It’s like the writers said “Ok we like you, but we don’t know where you’re going or what’s going to happen to you, soooo just stay here for a while ok?”. That’s why I think Dorne, Sansa, and Brienne this season all fell flat for me; none of those characters were doing what they were originally doing, so they ended up not really doing anything to minimize the ripple effect they would have on the other story-lines.
So overall, not my favorite season, but I don’t think my least favorite either. Game of Thrones isn’t a show that I enjoy re-watching immediately, but I am already itching to watch Hardhome again.
What did you guys think? Let me know, and stay tuned as I swiftly descend into madness guessing what will happen next season.