We’ve reached the end of yet another “Game of Thrones” season and boy what an emotional packed and controversial ride. This fifth season, in the cultural phenomenon that has taken the world by storm, proves that with or without the book’s help this show can continue to deliver smart and thoughtful storytelling and entertainment. This season still doesn’t reach the heights of the third or fourth season but can still pack a mighty punch and at the very least equal to the bar that the previous four seasons set for not just the show but TV in general.
(Warning- we are going to be talking Spoilers! Short Answer, I loved the Season! Now Go Watch It and Come Back)
This fifth season opens upon the aftermath of the season four ending. Tyrion is on a ship leaving King’s Landing, Arya is off to join the men without faces, and Jon Snow is picking up all of Castle Black after the great battle on the wall with Stannis Baratheon and the Red Women marching straight for Winterfell; attempting to retake it from the Boltons and also tempt Jon into leaving the Night’s Watch. Meanwhile in King’s Landing the Lannisters are reeling from the loss of not just Joffrey but also Tywin, killed by his own son Tyrion. Cersei Lannister attempts to hold whatever power she has left over King’s Landing and takes it so far that even she herself is danger. Meanwhile over on the other side of the world, Daenerys Targaryen is fighting for control over the city as the freed slaves and the rich owners are at odds with each other; leading to an internal revolt from a group called the Sons of Harpy.
As with any season of “Game of Thrones” this set of 10 episodes is riddled with many plotlines and arcs that carry throughout the show and all battle it out for screen time. There are plenty of other subplots I haven’t mentioned (one concerning Jon Snow that we’ll talk about later). Still nearly all of them are well balanced and also well written. Some storylines start off really slow in the beginning of the season (like Arya in her training and Jamie in Dorne) and you start to be bored of it. Yet storylines like that really come into play later in the final episodes that make it all worth it (so hang in there and you will be rewarded in spades).
Unlike other seasons of “Game of Thrones” this is the first season where the show has started to pass from where author George R.R. Martin has currently written in the books. Since Martin is still currently writing book 6 (“The Winds of Winter”) this has led the show to veer off into its own direction. Of course both the show and the books will be telling you the same story just in different styles. But, book readers may be discouraged with this season because it’s actually spoiling parts of the next book that hasn’t come out yet.
This is perhaps the most shocking, dark and controversial season yet. Even for a season that is without the unforgettable moments of the Red Wedding, this season has sparked much debate from some viewers feeling that it may have gone too far in a few places. It’s sort of hard to believe (for me personally) that a show that has shown on repeat grotesque and horrific events for our main characters that this season can be seen any different (in regards of it going too far). Perhaps it’s because nearly the entire season felt like a dark exercise that looked to see how much punishment the viewers could take. The off screen rape of Sansa Stark perhaps boiled the most anger in me since the Red Wedding while the burning alive of Stannis’s daughter, Shireen, is perhaps among the most heartbreaking moments ever shown on Television. All of this leading up to the brutal season finale. There are moments of Levity but perhaps the least amount of any of the other seasons. Then again that could be just my knee jerk reaction talking as well.
However if you thought that this show exceeded everything it could show us in terms of spectacle you’d be dead wrong. Two episodes, episode 8 and 9 both have some of the best set pieces this show has ever offered us. In episode 8, “Hardhome”, Jon Snow (now Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch) attempts to make peace with the Wildlings (the group that the Night’s Watch has fought so against) and move them behind the safety of the wall to fight against the impending White Walkers. After a fierce political debate something horrific occurs. The Wildling village is attacked by a huge army of the undead and the White Walkers make their presence known in a battle sequence worthy of the big screen. Winter is confirmed to have arrived in that episode with Jon and Co narrowly escaping whilst being able to witness one of the White Walker commanders raise all that had been killed in the battle and join their side of the fight. It’s a moment that is haunting and one I won’t soon forget.
Then in episode 9, “The Dance with Dragons”, we are treated to a huge coliseum battle with Daenerys as looking in horror as men battle out for her honor (even the exile Sir Jorah). Then out of nowhere an assassin attempts to take her life with Sir Jorah narrowly rescuing her. They look around the coliseum and see they are surrounded by Sons of Harpy as they start slaying and laying waste to everyone in their coliseum. A great battle takes place to save the queen when it appears the Sons of Harpy are too numinous Daenerys’s dragon, Drogon, come roaring into killing as many as he can before flying off with Dany in tow. A huge collection of emotions flood you as this is perhaps the most joyous moment, seeing Dany fly with her Dragon, in the entire season. This could have been another red wedding moment but instead the writers did what “Game of Thrones” normally doesn’t do, give our heroes a recues in their greatest moment of need.
One of the most tragic moments of this season however is the loss of Jon Snow. After trying to make peace with the Wildlings, the Night’s Watch betray him and stab him in the back (not literally it’s actually the stomach) as each Night’s Watch member take turns stabbing him ending with Ollie, the little boy, delivering the final blow. It appears that Jon Snow is just the next victim in the show’s murderous ways. He tried to do the honorable thing and make peace with their sworn enemy for the greater good but old prejudice of other members caused his death. I am still holding out hope that he survived (as he become one of if not my favorite character) but things look….well…..dead for Jon Snow; one of the final Starks left. The filmmakers and writers really hit this pivotal emotional moment so well.
I wish the finale was longer it felt that some elements took a backseat to others as the showrunners looked to cram in everything they possibly could before the end of this season. The siege of Winterfell by Stannis I felt ended too quickly. Perhaps just an extra 15-20 minute long episode would helped? Never the less the series continues to deliver top notch entertainment and writing. “Game of Thrones” is still the best show I am currently watching on TV and I have no doubt Season 6 will continue this path of success.