I’ve experienced almost every emotion that exists during season five of Game of Thrones. Scepticism became hope, which became disgust, which became hope again before very quickly returning to disgust, and has now settled down with a state of blissful nirvana. Because Game of Thrones has finally jumped the shark. Any semblance of a story as deep as A Song of Ice and Fire is gone, and in it’s place is a clusterfuck of scenes designed to provoke shock and outrage, characters forced together for no logical reason, characters contradiction themselves and making brainless decisions, and the complete death of character development.
S P O I L E R S
Jon and the Night’s Watch
Jon is one of very few, perhaps the only, character to emerge from this season in a better-than-terrible state. Most people’s highlight of the season is his dramatic battle with the white walkers at Hardhome, which is possibly the only change made which improved on the books. Jon’s arc in ADWD isn’t one of my favourites, and another glimpse of the real enemy would have certainly livened it up a bit, as there have been precious few thus far. Also, a long-standing theory that Valyrian steel can be used to kill the walkers was confirmed.
In other episodes, we had the death of Maester Aemon, which was the most moving moment of the season. Peter Vaughn has been an underrated actor on the show and will be missed. Mance Rayder was burnt by Stannis, and it was seemingly the real deal, not Rattleshirt wearing a glamour as in the books, rendering Mance’s character on the show basically pointless. We had our unnecessary Melisandre nude scene when she bared all to seduce Jon, and failed. Sam came to the rescue of Gilly, who was going to be raped by some more disreputable watchmen (because they just love using rape as a catalyst for male character development), and she rewarded him with sex! Yay! Except no, just no.
The climax, which everyone had been dreading, came in the final scene of the season. The Benjen tease in the ‘previously on’ turned out to be nothing more than bait for Jon to come out into the courtyard and get stabbed. Olly had the last stab, in the most heavily foreshadowed event possibly of all time.
Plotline Overall Rating: 6/10
Oh, it all started off so well. The Stannis scenes in the first few episodes gave us all hope that he was finally getting the treatment he deserved as one of the most beloved characters. A bonding moment with Shireen had us all delighted, and when Melisandre suggested burning her, he told her to get to fuck. And then he burned her. In the next episode. Because he lost some supplies.
Stannis LOVES Shireen. He may not express it often, but he told his knights to seat her on the throne of DIE TRYING if something should happen to him. And when she was burning, it was SELYSE who came running to her and fell to the ground crying. And then there’s the fact that Stannis Baratheon, the finest military commander still alive, was somehow thwarted by Ramsay Snow, a bastard with no military training. Did he not have guards posted? How did twenty men just ride into his camp and burn his supplies?
Selyse promptly hung herself in the next episode, in a frankly pathetic reason to get her off screen now that they had no further use for her. Stannis and his forces marched on Winterfell, having no idea that the Bolton’s were charging straight for them, and were routed. Stannis fought off a couple of soldiers before collapsing to the ground wounded. And there was Brienne, who must have some kind of GPS given that she can track down any character she pleases. A far cry from the Brienne who spent a whole book walking around hopelessly looking for Sansa. She also seems to be acting as some sort of eraser for D&D, removing characters they no longer want. And that was that. Stannis Baratheon was dead. It’s fine though, because Book Stannis won’t be anywhere near as incompetent.
Plotline Overall Rating: 3/10
Sansa, Theon, and the Boltons
After Sansa’s transformation to Darth Sansa at the end of season four, all the build up focussed on how she was going to become a major player in the game of thrones. She would learn from Littlefinger, and finally gain some agency after being constantly at the mercy of the series’ cruellest characters. So how did that turn out?
She was married to Ramsay Snow by Littlefinger, in a move that made absolutely no sense for him, and had him force himself upon her in the most harrowing piece of television I’ve ever seen.
Even the rape scene, horrendous as it was, focussed more on Theon’s reaction to it, because rape is only there to develop male characters. And given that it was Theon who rescued her in the end, and not Sansa herself, it’s clear that it was there purely for shock value, not as a catalyst for her to develop agency. Their story ended with Theon chucking Myranda off a wall, and then the two of them leaping from the same walls to an unknown fate. Book readers will know that they land in a deep patch of snow, but show watchers are probably assuming that they’re dead, or at the least have broken bones. Ramsay meanwhile, seems to have become D&D’s favourite character, having a ridiculous amount of screen time. They’ve really gone overboard with the whole ‘bad guys always win’ thing.
Plotline Overall Rating: 2/10
Dorne is one of my favourite plotlines in the books. Arianne is the strongest female character in the series, the Sand Snakes, while cartoonish, are pretty badass, the unveiling of Doran’s plot led to an insane amount of hype, and Ellaria’s impassioned plea for peace was a welcome relief from all the lusting for vengeance.
None of that made it in.
Instead, we had the Sand Worms wearing matching costumes, an Ellaria who seems to have gone a little bit mad, giving Myrcella the kiss of death just one season after she said ‘We don’t hurt little girls in Dorne’, a passive Doran who seemingly has no plan at all, and a vomit-inducing romance between Myrcella and Trystane. What was the point of recasting Myrcella if she was just going to die?? Every Sand Snake scene was awfully cringeworthy, not least the farcical battle in the Water Gardens when they happened to show up at exactly the same time as Jaime and Bronn. Oh yeah, Jaime and Bronn are in Dorne. No one really knows why.
A complex and fascinating plot featuring multiple strong female characters was totally discarded for a buddy comedy with two characters who deserve better. I’m done here.
Plotline Overall Rating: 0/10
King’s Landing has been at the heart of Game of Thrones’ best storylines so far. This continued in AFFC, with Cersei’s ascent to power and following descent into madness and imprisonment, made for great reading. By contrast, Cersei seemed to have her shit together more this season than ever before. Littlefinger rocked up, for… reasons unknown. Meanwhile, Margaery and Tommen…
Yeah, that scene was as weird as you can imagine.
Loras was finally punished for the heinous crime of being a token gay character. The High Sparrow apparently has more power than anyone in Westeros. Olenna had a half-hearted attempt to have her grandchldren set free, but he put her in her place. Then there was another highly anticipated scene, Cersei’s walk of atonement. It certainly captured the spirit of the scene from the books, and Lena Headey put in surely the acting performance of the season. An acceptable effort. And we got a glimpse of Robert Strong. Hype.
Plotline Overall Rating: 5/10
Tyrion, Daenerys and Meereen
Tyrion seemed at a bit of a loose end this season. He spent most of the season travelling to Meereen, forming a short lived partnership with Jorah Mormont. It wasn’t a patch on meeting the long-thought-dead Aegon motherfucking Targaryen, and exiled lord Jon Connington. He finally met Daenerys, something long awaited, but they weren’t together long before Daznak’s pit, the scene I had been most eagerly awaiting,. It came immediately after the burning of Shireen, and I wasn’t paying much attention due to my disgust, but it was a huge let down. Whereas in the book, everything was going swimmingly before Drogon showed up, and he began burning innocents by the dozen, in this adaptation he arrived as a deus ex machina to save Dany from a random Sons of the Harpy attack. Despite the fact the whole reason Dany married Hizdahr and re-opened the fighting pits was to achieve peace, but what is logic. Dany flying away on Drogon’s back was badly CG’d, and her story ended with her surrounded by Dothraki while Jorah and Daario set off on a merry quest to find her. The buddy comedy is sorted for next season, have no fear. Jorah was incredibly annoying this season, btw.
Oh, and then there was Barristan’s death. The most noble and celebrated living knight, cut down by some randoms in masks while the Unsullied continued to be more useless than the Stormtroopers from A New Hope. What was the point in even reintroducing him?
Plotline Overall Rating: 6/10 (only because the dragons look so cool)
Arya, Braavos, and the Faceless Men
This storyline actually turned out alright.
Having Jaqen back was cool, even if it completely contradicted the point of the Faceless Men, there were some very impressive special effects on show, and the hall of faces looked awesome. Arya spent a lot of time training, before Meryn fucking Trant showed up with Mace Tyrell. Apparently we didn’t have enough reason to hate Meryn yet, so we got to see him picking out young girls to fuck (he’s a pedo apparently?) and then knocking them about a bit. Lucky us. Arya killed him in predictable bloody and psychopathic fashion, and then she was blinded. I actually have hope that this story could turn out ok, because they really love Arya on this show.
Plotline Overall Rating: 7/10
To sum up, the show is now so far removed from believability, enjoyability, and the canon of ASOIAF that I don’t have it in me to get angry any more. They’ve tossed out depth and complex plots for cheap shocks (raping Sansa, burning Shireen), having characters contradict themselves (Stannis, Ellaria), and giving us CGI heavy action sequences to make up for it. The simple fact is that D&D are poor writers. Good writers let the characters drive the story, whereas they are trying to force characters into the book storylines that they want, no matter how illogical they are. Next season we enter the complete unknown, as we’re at the end of the the book’s timeline. What will happen is anyone’s guess, but I’m not too worried about the possibility of The Winds of Winter being spoiled, because we’re now so far away from what most of the characters are actually doing. Sansa is in the Vale, flirting with Harry the Heir. Theon and Asha (remember her?) are captives of Stannis, who all agree is likely to defeat the Boltons. Jaime and Brienne are headed for deadly showdown with Lady Stoneheart (who??) in an encounter that keeps me up at night with worry. Euron is ravaging the Reach, with a potential dragon on the way. Barristan is marshalling the defence of Meereen against all the scum of the world. The storylines of major characters, especially the big four (Tyrion, Dany, Arya and Jon) most likely will be spoilt however, and for that reason I’ll be giving next season a miss.
Overall review of Season Five:
I’ll conclude with a formal congratulations for Balon Greyjoy, sole remaining contestant of the War of Five Kings. Long may he reign!