Game of Thrones Season 5 – Season Review
I didn’t have any grand epiphanies about Game of Thrones this year.
Even more than season 4, season 5 felt like just another brick in the wall for what is supposed to be the world’s premier wow factor TV series.
Which means it’s becoming more like its network television lessers.
Which means I like it more now.
TL;DR Seven episodes of tedious padding eventually give way to two-and-a-half episodes of bombastic action and status quo-shifting development. Which Game of Thrones has desperately needed. I look forward to snoozing through the first seven episodes of season 6.
Maybe they could cram in some forced love triangles? Or at least some obvious ship-tease.
So season 5 tightens things up over season 4’s signature, HBO meandering. Of our major players, Jon ends up becoming the most relevant, as he is reluctantly elected leader of the Night’s Watch. He successfully leads an evacuation of the Wildlings to escape the imminent White Walkers, who themselves finally show up in force in spectacular fashion (after all these years, the series’ first scene bears fruit). But then he gets killed by disgruntled Crows. Such is life in Game of Thrones. Meanwhile, Daenerys is still employed as a boring bureaucrat in the endlessly fickle Meereen. She snag’s the season’s best sequence when she summons one of her dragons to defend her when Meereenese rebels besiege her in a colosseum. Cute. Meanwhile, Jamie tries to rescue his daughter from Oberyn’s home country, but Mrs Oberyn is like “Oh no she betta don’t;” Cersei falls victim to a religious zealot uprising that she facilitates in a bid to grief Margaery; Arya trains to be a shapeshifting assassin or something; Brienne fails yet again at offering the Stark women her services; Sansa learns some Ramsay hospitality; Theon is finally happened upon by an ally (Sansa, eventually); Jorah gets back in Daenerys’ good books; and in the true triumph of the season, Daenerys finally encounters someone from the actual plot lines when Tyrion (and later, Varys) join her in Meereen.
She, of course, promptly flies off on a dragon. But they had a drink that one time, so.
As much as I yearn to resist their charms, the closing episodes of this season won over my cynicism.
And hell, at least it isn’t as unrewarding and dour as The Walking Dead.
Game of Thrones may not be the spectacle its True Believers would have you believe (save for the White Walker sequence and Dragon Rage At The Colosseum), but it is still a fabulous, and fabulously expensive, soap opera.
And if I can still be watching Once Upon a Time and Pretty Little Liars without rage quitting, I can certainly endure Game of Thrones.
Why I hate this season:
Still, it is no hyperbole to describe the first seven episodes of the season as mere setup for the final three. Which harkens back to one of my earliest criticism of Game of Thrones: it just feels like a ten hour movie that’s been chopped up. A third act payoff to brooding setups from the first two acts can work in a single-sitting movie. But it’s too much to demand your audience to sit through almost two months of “build up” just to give them a last minute taste of what they could have been seeing had there been better attention paid to pacing. Not every single episode has to include a White Walker war sequence, but you gotta keep us wanting to stay on the line, HBO.
Daenerys continues to remain a weak link for this show. She has to deal with, unbelievably, even more political red tape in bloody Meereen. Just fucking leave, honey. Go shred the Lannister army with your Unsullied and dragons and take over Westeros. If you’re going to be trapped working the complaints hotline, you might as well do it in your true homeland. That’s still your goal, right?
Arya is doing her part to fill time with inconsequential plots. The shapeshifter stuff was cool when it was mysterious. But I don’t need Arya doing her little orphan Annie impersonation at Magic Boarding School. The payoff to her arc this season is to murder some paedophile guy from her list who I don’t remember, and then get punished by her teacher. Wasteful.
Sansa takes baby steps into having agency and/or a personality, but fumbles. She willingly goes along with marrying Ramsay despite knowing that he’s an evil bastard, and that marriage will require consummation. Because she wants to be a stoic Stark and help watch over the North. You know, that idealistic stuff. But then she finds out sex with Ramsay is totally shit, and reneges on that plan pretty much immediately. Wishy washy.
Mrs Oberyn and her Charlie’s Angels are a joke. Their scuffle with Jamie and Bron over Myrcella is dumb. They’re surprised that a melee in the royal gardens would attract the attention of the royal guards? What?
The High Sparrow stuff is obnoxiously didactic as an allegory for the evils of Christianity. And what low-hanging fruit. HBO can do better.
I would have expected Cersei to be more apathetic to her walk of shame. She should have been telling those peasant cunts to get fucked right back.
Why is Tyrion, lifelong enemy of the Targaryens (because he’s a Lannister) and only a very recent acquaintance of Daenerys, appointed steward of Meereen in her absence? “Ah, it’ll be orright, I s’pose.” Is that it?
Oh, and Jon better not come back to life. This is Game of Thrones. Not The Vampire Diaries.
But it’s not all bad:
The White Walker siege tops the full-episode Wildling/Night’s Watch battle from last season. The White Walkers were promised in the opening scene of Game of Thrones’ first episode. And while we’ve had whiffs of them every now and then, we were long overdue for some White Walkers on this scale. They are magnificent (the Four Horseman image was a bit naff, though). It’s almost Peter Jackson-level. I loved it.
The colosseum battle was a little more special in my opinion. While the White Walkers have been teased, we’ve had the dragons pretty much in our faces the whole series. And up until now, they haven’t been that impressive. But now, I will happily concede, I am impressed. I think the word “awesome” may have escaped my lips during that sequence. Jorah’s redemption was also a little bright spot that I was happy to have. RIP Lionel Richie, though.
Daenerys finally fucking encountering someone from the rest of the show was a goddamn miracle. And Tyrion, Jorah, and Varys only took a handful of episodes to reach her when they actually tried. Makes you kinda miffed that Daenerys has spent five seasons pretending that Westeros is so far away.
Stannis’ devolution is hilarious. He goes from reasonable-but-determined to “will execute own daughter arbitrarily” with little prompting from Melisandre. Bonus points when Melisandre quietly slinks away after Stannis’ soldiers desert him in wake of the sacrifice. He’s a real winner.
Sansa (with Baelish in her ear, natch) brutally rebuffs Brienne after Brienne finds her. You’ve wasted your life, Tilda.
After much poor communication, Theon admits to Sansa that he didn’t kill her brothers, and so they end their season trying to escape Castle Bolton. Together. Aww.
Arya is punished for her impudence. If was a welcome consolation to a season of nothingness from everyone’s new least favourite Stark (good news, Rickon!).
Cersei may have crumpled under her walk of shame, but that only means her vengeance will be divine. Look at how badly she treated Tyrion, and he didn’t throw poo on her.
I wasn’t bothered by the Internet-imploding Sansa “rape” scene. In case you were wondering. I actually enjoyed the furore, because all the third-wave feminists and White Knights’ outrage simply implied that they were otherwise okay with four and a half years’ worth of previous rapes and sexual atrocities. And hypocrisy keeps me young, you know.
Varys and Tyrion make would make a great buddy show. Spinoff idea?
Oh, and Jon gets killed. I suspect that Melisandre will use her Lord of Light powers to resurrect him, but I’ll take this victory while it’s fresh.