We’ve known that winter was coming since the very first episode of Game of Thrones, but few fans expected it to be in terms of writing quality. With the books now mostly behind on all of the storylines, the show has had little to no original text from creator George R.R. Martin to work from, and it shows.
This season hasn’t felt like true Game of Thrones. Much of this season played out as a standard TV drama that just happens to be set in Westeros.
In case it wasn’t obvious already, massive spoilers lie ahead (and a Daenerys nudey GIF).
Last season ended the same place the last published A Song of Ice and Fire novel did, with Jon Snow being betrayed by his remaining Night’s Watch men. Did everyone pretty much know that he was going to be resurrected? Yeah, pretty much.
But book readers had the pretense of Lady Stoneheart to allude to that possibility. Game of Thrones viewers just wanted Snow to be a day-time soap character who can never die because of their love for him.
The first few episodes did a great job of giving fans what they wanted and making it feel earned.
There was no need to have Jon Snow jump back from the grave in the first episode.
These episodes delved into the true nature of the mysterious Melisandre, the Iron Isles kingsmoot, revealing that the Children of the Forest created Whitewalkers to defend themselves against the first men, Tyrion and Varys holding down Mereen in Daenerys’ absence, and Daenerys learning more about the Dothraki and their ways, even potentially finding a way for her to gain power without her dragons.
After that, Game of Thrones started pushing too much cheap fan service, the first one being Daenerys torching Vaes Dothrak. I love women setting the patriarchy ablaze as much as the next guy, but this was a shortcut that didn’t need to happen.
For the first few episodes of the season Daenerys had to learn to respect a culture that looked down on her. She had even just discovered a way that women make decisions for the men by becoming part of the Dosh Khaleen.
But instead of putting her through some more Leadership 101, they burned down the male leaders and had her walk through the flames boobs akimbo, before a horde of stunned Dothraki.
Why? I’d imagine because it would look cool. By the way, this is ignoring the fact that in the books, Daenerys is not impervious to fire.
Shortly after, Mereen becomes under siege by the masters. Tyrion, Missandei, and Greyworm are at a loss over how to rebuff this attack.
And wouldn’t you know it, Daenerys arrives on Drogon’s back just in time to save the day.
This was such a surprise to people who have never seen an episode of television before.
To add to show-viewers’ fan service cavalcade, Game of Thrones saw the return of Sandor Clegane aka The Hound. A fan-favorite for his blunt and dark sense of humor, many fans expected his return.
What’s wrong with that? Well the last time anyone saw him he was bleeding out on the side of a hill after a skirmish with Brienne of Tarth and Arya Stark.
Another case of character wish fulfillment, he returns to avenge a sept that was killed by rogue members of the Brotherhood Without Banners. Yes, it is fun seeing him kill, but in a show where many characters of note die, it feels cheap when characters feel bullet-proof.
Which brings us to Arya Stark. She was one of my favorite characters early on; brash, strong-willed, defiant, and self-assured, she was more than just a tomboy with a sword.
Her journey to Braavos has yielded little narrative fruit. She trains with the Waif and tries to become a girl with no name. Her pride gets in the way, causing her to seek revenge instead of sticking to her training.
After being tasked with assassinating an actress, she instead chooses to let the woman live for seeming nice. This leads to Jaqen sicking the Waif on Arya for not doing her job.
Much has been said about how Arya can be stabbed several times yet outrun and overtake the Waif on a Terminator 2-like chase. But when it comes down to it, it was just bad writing.
The reveal was the worst, schmaltzy, corny TV-show ending; with Arya facing Jaqen and declaring “A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell, and I’m going home.”
This is some Party of Five, Dawson’s Creek, Thirtysomething, Melsrose Place level writng here. We’re also led to believe that Jaqen planned for Arya to kill the Waif and do all of these tasks all along? Please.
After that, she seems to take the express flight to Riverrun to murder Waldor Frey, while feeding him his sons Lothar and Black Waldor. This scene was too short, not plotted out, and could have easily been held over for next season, to when she could plausibly travel that length.
This scene should be one of celebration. Instead, they play it for cheap chills as Arya removes her false face.
But Arya wasn’t the only bulletproof Stark in Westeros.
There was no real excitement to have when there was no doubt as to who would win. It was so predictable, even Sansa knew that we shouldn’t give a rat’s patootie about Rikon. I mean, did anyone, really? For gods-sake, zig zag formation.
When Jon rushes into the field alone and draws his sword? That Leeroy Jenkins mash-up could not have been more apt.
No one doubted during the entire battle that Jon’s forces would be saved by some sort of hail-mary. I’m sure no one (besides Sansa) expected Lord Baelish and the Knights of the Vale, but it was still predictable.
As built-up a vile villain Ramsay Snow was, and as brutal as the battle was meant to be, There should have been more named tragedies than Wun Wun. We get it, the effects budget needs trimming, we all noticed the missing direwolf.
Since last season, Margaery and Loras Tyrell have been held prisoner in King’s Landing thanks to Cersei’s folly of a plan that got her incestuous self caught in the crossfire. She also gave the church too much power.
Margaery spent all season learning their ways and building a plan to free herself and her brother. The House Tyrell words are “Growing Strong” after all.
The finale carelessly undoes all of this narrative. I think writer/director Max Landis put it best with this tweet:
MARGE TYRELL: ok here's my plan-
WE BUILT THIS CITY
MARGE TYRELL: wat
*cersei arrives in monster truck*
WE BUILT THIS CITY ON ROCK AND ROLL
— Max Landis (@Uptomyknees) June 27, 2016
Like a stampeding elephant in a china shop infested with mice, Cersei blew up those plans, literally. As with surprising events from much of the season, fans guessed right, and Cersei firebombed the sept with wildfire.
This felt like a cop-out in a few ways. The most obvious cop-out is that it took a storyline that developed over two seasons and ended it in the least rational way possible.
The other cop-out, is making Cersei the queen, and dominant ruler. Yes, it makes sense given the lienage and claims. But, she’s been too easy a heel since the first episode.
They may as well have had her say, “I only care about two things, my family and unyielding power. And I’m all out of family.”
Enough of the bashing for now, Game of Thrones still delivered some greatness.
Through Brann, the series confirmed L+R=J, revealed Benjen’s fate, and gave us one of the most heartbreaking character deaths in television history.
I dare you not to cry during that scene. Double dog dare.
Daenerys is sailing the sea with her army. Theon and Yara are staging a coup of the Iron Isles with Daenerys. Tyrion is Daenerys’ Hand of the Queen. Olenna and Varys use some sort of TV magic to teleport to the beginnings of the She-Ra Cersei-Haters Club.
In the books, we only hear of her refusing to bend the knee to a King of the North who isn’t Stark. The show really outdid itself with making Lyanna such a scene-stealer in just three episodes. Sometimes she didn’t even need to speak.
So with a few more positives than negatives, Game of Thrones is still a really good show. But it needs to stop resting on its laurels or we might start hate-watching.
How did you feel about the season six?
Should the Game of Thrones writers pace themselves and let George R.R. Martin catch up?
Are you still waiting for Clegane-Bowl?
Let us know in the comments.